1.42 pm

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): It is a pleasure to propose the amendment in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. It is also a great pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). He talked earlier in his contribution about the bizarre events in Scotland. We tend to call it democracy. In the same way as the Chancellor spoke about the good sense of the British people, I might say that, with 56 out of 59 MPs and half the vote, we celebrate very much the good sense of the Scottish people—a true one nation in every sense.

The Chancellor spoke about the challenges the Scottish economy may face. He spoke about fiscal autonomy and what he called a massive hole. I just say gently to him that any challenges on the Scottish current account are as nothing compared with a £1.6 trillion UK national debt built up by Labour and Tory alike.

The Chancellor laid out his plans today. For our part, the last thing that the country needs, that the economy can afford and that those who have suffered most over the past five years should be expected to bear is another austerity Government. Yet that is exactly the direction of travel laid out today: a continuation of vague talk about a long-term economic plan, where none really exists; hubris about so-called economic success, most of which is contradicted by fact and a litany of broken promises; and a complete disregard of the impact his policies have had, are having and will have over the next five years on people through the UK—and that is before we even start to talk about the impact on investment for growth and on our vital public services.

We know the impact those policies have had throughout the UK. We know what has happened in Scotland specifically since 2010. We have seen the budget cut by about 11% in real terms and capital expenditure down by 34%. As a result of decisions taken by this Chancellor, the budget in Scotland has been cut by a staggering £3.5 billion in real terms. The plans announced throughout the election and reiterated today—before the bombshell of in-year cuts, which we will analyse further later—will result in a cumulative share of cuts to day-to-day spending over the next five years for Scotland worth about £12 billion at today’s levels. Those cuts to Scotland and elsewhere are the consequence of the Chancellor’s economic failure.

It is worth reminding ourselves what the Chancellor said when he took office: debt would begin to fall as a share of GDP by last year; the current account should be in balance this year; and public sector net borrowing would fall to £20 billion in the same year. Debt did not fall as a share of GDP in 2014-15, the current account will not be back in the black until 2017-18, and public sector net borrowing—the Chancellor can smirk all he likes—was not the barely £20 billion he promised: it was almost four times that at £75 billion. The Chancellor failed to meet every one of the key targets he set himself. Tory policy stifled recovery from 2010 for years into the previous Parliament. With a cumulative £146 billion of cuts still to come, we are all on track for a decade of austerity.

We know where the pain of this has been felt and we know where the pain of it will be felt. In Scotland, 145,000 households affected by changes to incapacity benefit will lose about £2,000 each.

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Mr Osborne: If the hon. Gentleman, who speaks for the Scottish nationalists, opposes these spending cuts, why does he not increase taxes and use the powers available to the Scottish Government? He could then spend more money.

Stewart Hosie: We do not need to increase taxes in the way the Chancellor describes. He knows perfectly well, and I will come on to it shortly, that there is a way of managing the economy in a fiscally responsible way that allows an increase in spending while the debt and the deficit continue to fall. He may disagree with me—I respect that—but he had better respect that this is a genuine alternative vision to the cuts coming from his party.

The pain will be felt by the 145,000 households affected by changes to incapacity benefit, the 370,000 who have seen tax credits reduced, and the 620,000 families hit by child benefit freezes. It will be felt by the 120,000 people who have lost an average of £2,600 as disability living allowance was removed. I am glad the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is here to hear this. He can perhaps begin to understand that this is not a theoretical cut in a back office, but a real cut to real people’s living standards throughout the UK. It will be felt by the 835,000 households hit by the increase in the benefit cap. Why are these decisions wrong? There is now a substantial growing body of opinion, as the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) said, that we do not simply need a growing economy to fund our welfare provision; we need to squeeze inequality out of the system to provide a solid platform to grow the economy.

Andrew Bridgen: The hon. Gentleman rightly basks in his electoral success and that of his party. Is he as relieved as I am that the right hon. Member for Doncaster North saved the best speech I have heard him give until after the general election? Will he join me in offering the right hon. Gentleman some solace, regardless of the right hon. Gentleman’s son’s remarks that he used to be famous? He will be very successful again in the future and it is far better to have been a has-been than a never-was.

Stewart Hosie: I would be slightly more gracious than that. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will make a contribution to his party’s policy development. Let us hope that it moves to somewhere progressive rather than sticking to the kind of austerity-lite position that it had before the election.

We need to squeeze inequality out of the system. The December 2014 OECD report told us that rising inequality in the UK had cost it 9 percentage points in growth between 1990 and 2010. It is an obvious fact: it is not possible to squeeze inequality out of the system at the same time as the squeeze is being put on the poorest in society, and once again this Government are swimming against the tide of informed public opinion.

The alternative to the Government plan is clear; it is the alternative economic plan that we pursued, rather successfully, in Scotland at the election. It is a plan aimed at balancing deficit reduction with increased investment in public services. We argued rightly that with a modest 0.5% real-terms spending increase between 2016-17 and the end of this Parliament we could release

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£140 billion for essential spending and investment over and above the Government’s plans. The alternative for Scotland is £11 billion of spending compared with £12 billion of cuts. Our plan makes sense. It is a fiscally responsible plan that protects public services, protects investment, really ends austerity and lifts the squeeze off ordinary people, but still sees the debt and deficit fall.

Iain Stewart: May I repeat the question put by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor? The Scottish Parliament already has significant tax powers and it will gain more in this Parliament. The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, has pledged not to have tax rates in Scotland that are higher than in the rest of the UK. Will the hon. Gentleman meet that pledge, or does he want to pursue his expansionary agenda and raise taxes?

Stewart Hosie: I do not think that Scottish people should pay tax twice for services that we would have if we simply had full fiscal autonomy.

The UK Government have advocated an approach that will result in further spending cuts in the coming years to achieve the fiscal targets set out in the budget charter, but those cuts have not been spelt out in full. The Tories have not said where the axe will fall. The Chancellor said some things today, particularly about in-year cuts and asset sales in certain Departments, but nowhere near enough to explain what he plans to do. Perhaps he or one of his Ministers might decide to come clean with this House later today and tell us where the axe will fall.

Will they really restrict carer’s allowance to those eligible for universal credit, so that 40% of claimants lose out? Will they really increase means-testing for the contributory element of employment and support allowance, or of jobseeker’s allowance, which would see 30% of claimants—300,000 families—lose £80 a week? Will they remove the tax-free status of disability benefits to save £1.5 billion? Will this Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions really take the axe to those most in need to deliver £8 billion of tax cuts, which right now, and I have heard nothing today to change my mind on this, are completely unfunded?

I said that the UK Government plan is designed to achieve the fiscal targets set out in the charter for budget responsibility, but we know that the scale of the spending cuts plan, as set out in the March Budget, significantly exceeds what is required for the UK Government to meet their targets. There is therefore flexibility for the UK Government to meet those objectives without implementing in full the spending cuts that are currently planned for the coming years.

Based on plans set out in the March Budget, public sector net debt is projected to begin falling in 2015-16, and a cyclically adjusted current budget surplus of £35 billion is projected for 2018-19, rather than simply returning the adjusted current account to balance. Therefore, the UK Government have the flexibility to cut spending by less than currently planned while meeting their fiscal targets. I hope the Chancellor uses that flexibility wisely.

I want to move on to the real economy. As our First Minster, Nicola Sturgeon, said, there are three areas where we seek to achieve outcomes at a UK level that will benefit the economy in Scotland. First, we will continue to oppose spending reductions of the scale

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and speed that the Government have suggested. We believe that those would slow economic recovery and make deficit reduction more difficult.

Secondly, we do not think it is desirable for trade or business for there to be an in/out referendum on membership of the EU. However, since a referendum now seems inevitable, we will protect Scotland’s interests. We propose a “double-lock”, meaning that exit is only possible if all four nations in the UK agree to it, which would quite rightly prevent Scotland from being dragged out of the EU against the will of the Scottish people. [Interruption.] I think we have worked out what the Government mean by “one nation”, and they will need more than one nation to take the state out of Europe.

Thirdly and finally, we will seek greater powers for Scotland, to ensure, at the very least, that the recommendations of the Smith commission are met in full. However, we are seeking additional responsibilities, beyond those that the Smith commission identified, in particular greater power over business taxes, employment law, the minimum wage and welfare, to enable us to create jobs, grow the economy and lift people out of poverty. That was the manifesto on which we were elected.

Those powers will allow us to tackle one of the challenges that the First Minister, and indeed the shadow Chancellor in his speech today, have raised: that of productivity. Those comments are important, not least because they chime with what Mark Carney, the Governor of the central bank, said recently at the launch of the quarterly inflation report. He said that

“productivity growth…is the key determinant of income growth. Our shared prosperity depends on it.”

However, the Bank of England also highlighted the extent to which the UK as a whole has a productivity problem. Output per hour is below pre-recession levels; it is 13% below that of Sweden and 20% below that of Germany. In Scotland we know, and I suspect that the figures are the same for the UK, that if we can boost total factor productivity by 0.1% over a decade, we can see 1.3% additional GDP growth and additional tax yield of around half a billion pounds a year. With better productivity, living standards would be higher and the budget deficit lower.

In Scotland, we have set out how we intend to do that, based around the “four I’s” of innovation, internationalisation, investment in infrastructure and skills, and promoting inclusive growth, but we have also made it clear that promoting a more equal and inclusive society is an important part of building a stronger economy.

The Scottish Government are mitigating the consequences of this Government’s welfare reform, promoting gender equality, investing in early years education and care, and setting targets to ensure that everyone—irrespective of their background—has the chance to go to university. Essentially, that economic strategy sets out a vision of an economy based on innovation rather than insecurity; on high skills, not low wages; and on enhanced productivity rather than reduced job security. We want to climb the global competitiveness rankings on quality, rather than racing to the bottom on costs, and we want to deliver positive change in the real economy to drive changes in the big fiscal numbers. So we have to improve productivity, we need to encourage innovation and exports, and we must support business growth and job creation. There are a hundred things on

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which we must take specific action, not least delivering fairness in electricity connectivity charges across the grid and certainty in the tax code, and ensuring that businesses have access to bank lending.

I hope that there will be scope within the enterprise Bill to replicate many of the ideas contained within the Scottish business pledge, whereby in return for support from agencies businesses must commit to innovation, to seeking and taking export opportunities, and to paying the living wage. I also hope that there will be scope within the national insurance contributions Bill to continue to bear down on employer costs, to encourage more businesses to create jobs. There must be scope within the energy Bill to end the inequity of a £25.50 per kW charge to connect to the grid in the north of Scotland and a £5.20 per kW subsidy for any old chugger to connect in central London.

I hope that the Budget will support business investment. We have gone from an industrial buildings allowance, done away with in 2007, to an annual investment allowance of £50,000 in 2008, which increased to £100,000 in 2010; decreased to £25,000 in 2012; increased to £250,000 the following year; and increased to £500,000 the year after that. It was then temporarily maintained, but will come to a cliff edge and a grinding halt at the end of the year and revert to £25,000 on 1 January. That is not tax certainty; that is a shambles, and I hope that the Chancellor undertakes to fix it, even at a little cost, in the Budget in July.

We will be a constructive Opposition. We will support individual measures, where they merit it, and seek to mend and improve provisions where they do not. We will also be a principled Opposition, because we oppose the Tory programme of cuts. We wish to see growth and fairness in our economy and more power for Scotland, and we want to support aspiration and deliver help for those who need it most. As well as being a principled Opposition, unless or until our friends in other parties work out what their economic policy actually is, we will be the principal opposition to Tory cuts in this Parliament.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. Just before I call the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Sir Alan Haselhurst), I advise the House that the six-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches will now apply. Droves of colleagues wish to contribute, including a number of potential maiden speakers. The Chair will do its best to accommodate colleagues, and I absolutely understand why maiden speakers wish to speak, but, once and for all, may I ask Members not to come to the Chair inquiring where they are on the list or pointing out exactly how many members of their family are present? I understand these considerations, but there are wider considerations of which the Chair has to take account. We will do our best, but I am afraid that it is part of parliamentary life that, at the end of a debate, some colleagues are content and others are not. That, I am afraid, is the reality, but we will do our best.

2.2 pm

Sir Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden) (Con): I apologise to the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) if I do not directly follow his remarks, tempting though that might be.

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Transport has not so far been a major focus in the debate on the Gracious Speech, yet surely it is a key component of a successful economy. The speech talked about

“bringing different parts of our country together”,

which suggests to me that transport has an important role to play, as was confirmed by reference to the Government’s determination

“to legislate for high-speed rail links”—

I note it was in the plural—

“between the different parts of the country.”

I find it odd that there was no mention in the Queen’s Speech of airport capacity. It is the elephant in the Chamber. The recommendations of the Davies commission are imminent, so perhaps a decision on this matter, which is judged by many people to be vital to our economic success, will be among the other measures to be laid before us. I have great respect for Sir Howard Davies, and I am sure that his report will be accomplished and thorough, but if the Government have not steeled themselves to accept whatever he proposes, and at the same time given no indication that their decision will come before Parliament this Session, they might be subject to criticism from those in the industry concerned about the country being insufficiently open for business. I might also add—somewhat facetiously—that the sooner the decision is made the better, for otherwise the main airport operators might bankrupt themselves with the amount of advertising and promotion they are doing.

In reflecting on past years, I find it astonishing that we have allowed ourselves to get into this multi-airport situation. If it is judged too late to start again, it is certainly not too late to rebalance the economy, which is why enormous importance attaches to the concept of the northern powerhouse. I was born in Yorkshire and represented for a period a Greater Manchester seat, so I feel strongly about the need to rebalance the economy, and I feel every bit as strongly about it having served as Member for Saffron Walden for 37 years, because rebalancing will take pressure off the south-east.

Apart from a decision on airport capacity and the south-east, I would like to see Manchester airport promoted as a major port of entry into this country. It is important for business and tourism. I am afraid, therefore, that I might disappoint some of my right hon. and hon. Friends by saying that I strongly support High Speed 2 and what the Gracious Speech said about it. Also on rebalancing, it was interested to read that HS2 would bring Birmingham airport within 36 minutes of central London, given that the average time from Stansted airport in my constituency is 47 minutes. I sympathise with colleagues whose constituencies are in the path of HS2, but I remember seeing the M62 driven through the constituency of Middleton and Prestwich, and I saw Stansted airport imposed on the rural charms of north-west Essex. We can get over these things.

I suggest to the Government, however, that there is another powerhouse—the powerhouse of East Anglia—that is nevertheless served badly by both road and rail. I do not begrudge our new colleague in the House, the Mayor of London, for increasing his grip on the rail services in inner London, but I insist that we need serious levels of investment in transport, especially rail, in East Anglia. The Great Eastern and West Anglia

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lines out of Liverpool Street are a disgrace, and the trains that run on them are scarcely less so. I congratulate the Government on the rail revolution—no less a term is justified—that they have helped to engineer, but that revolution has still to reach East Anglia. As the economy improves, I hope that they will pay full attention to the voices of East Anglia Members, augmented as they are by representatives of industry, business and commerce, and deliver soon the improvements that our region demands. In return, the East Anglian region—the East Anglian powerhouse, as it could become—will deliver further enhancements to bolster the national economy.

2.7 pm

Mr Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab): I pay tribute to the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), in terms of both content and statesmanship. He was a fine leader who was largely misrepresented and misunderstood, and I think he had admirable vision and conviction. He will be sorely missed, but I hope that many of his principles, convictions and values will be incorporated not only into the Labour party leadership contest but into the political debate over the next years.

I have a rather different message for the Chancellor. Underpinning the whole of the Government’s programme, which he set out today, is the theme that the Tories inherited a recession caused by Labour overspending, that they set in place a strong economic recovery, that they are within sight of dealing with the deficit and that austerity has been vindicated. All those are false. First, the recession was caused by the international recession triggered by the banks’ financial crisis; it was not caused by Labour profligacy. In truth, the Blair-Brown Government, in the 11 years before the crash—1997 to 2008—never ran a budget deficit larger than 3.3% of GDP, which was roughly the same as Germany’s, whereas the Thatcher-Major Governments racked up deficits larger than this in 10 out of their 18 years.

Secondly, we have seen the slowest and feeblest recovery for more than a century. The economy was recovering in 2010, but it was brought to a juddering halt by the Chancellor’s successive austerity Budgets—so much so that after two and a half years of stagnation, he was forced to reverse engines, to go easy on austerity and generate an artificial recovery based on a housing asset bubble, via Help to Buy. That artificial recovery lasted just 18 months until the middle of last year, and has now been punctured like a deflating balloon. In the last nine months, growth has nosedived by two thirds, from 0.9% in the third quarter of last year to just 0.3% in the first quarter of this year. If that continues, we will have an annual growth rate of just 1.25%—lower than in the eurozone.

Then there is the deficit. The Chancellor likes to claim he has halved the deficit since 2009-10. He has not. The deficit peaked that year at £157 billion. Given that the Budget measures take 12 to 18 months to work their way through the economy, Alistair Darling, in his last two expansionary Budgets, had reduced the deficit to about £118 billion by 2011—a cut of nearly £20 billion a year. The present Chancellor, by contrast, has reduced it over the last three years to its current level, which I remind the House is over £90 billion—a cut of only about £9 billion a year, which is less than half the rate of reduction of the previous Labour Chancellor.

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Now we are being told that the Chancellor will eliminate the structural deficit altogether by 2018, at an average rate of reduction, according to the Red Book, of some £25 billion a year. I ask hon. Members: is that remotely credible? He promised in 2010 that he would eliminate the deficit by 2015; in the event, it has ended up at over £90 billion. The Chancellor is achieving form in his fantasy projections, or is it that the real Tory primary aim is not to shrink the budget deficit, but rather to shrink the state, shrink the public sector and transfer all public services to the private market—back to the dimensions of the 1930s?

Has austerity been vindicated? Since, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, austerity reduced GDP growth by 1% in both of the first two years of the coalition Government, that indicates, at the very least, that austerity led to a cumulative output loss, which will never be recovered, of 5% of GDP or about £75 billion—some little short of the whole of the deficit.

What else has austerity brought about? Wages are still nearly 8% below their pre-crash level, while productivity, on which all agree our future living standards depend, is slack. Private investment is anaemic, which shows that even business itself does not believe that the Chancellor’s recovery is sustainable. The trade deficit in manufactured goods at over £100 billion a year is the worst in British history, unemployment is still nearly 2 million and household debt is now tipping £2 trillion.

It against that background that the Chancellor now forces through his cuts target, as he set it out. Growth will collapse as even the IMF today is warning. Without, this time, the adventitious halving of the international oil price, Britain will soon be at serious risk of a third recession. So much for the Government’s ludicrous “long-term plan”!

2.13 pm

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech. Before I do so, I pay tribute to the speeches of right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken so eloquently, leaving me with a hard task to follow. I also pay tribute to my predecessor as MP for Bexhill and Battle, the right hon. Greg Barker. Greg worked hard for his constituents over his 14 years as their MP, and left his mark in government as a Minister of State for Energy, working tirelessly to tackle climate change. I thank Greg for the advice and kindness he has given and continues to give me.

The Bexhill and Battle constituency nestles on the East Sussex seafront at its southern face and the beautiful Weald at its northern ridge. It spans over 200 square miles where my 100,000 constituents reside in 100 towns and villages. Mine is one of those constituencies that lists just two of the place names in its title. When I promised in my election literature to put the residents of Bexhill and Battle first, this raised questions about why I was de-prioritising the needs of the 50,000 constituents who did not live in either of those two towns. The use of the word “constituency” in literature is often overlooked.

My constituency borders the East Sussex constituencies of Hastings and Rye, Lewes, Wealden and Eastbourne. As the only male MP in this cluster of blue constituencies, I pledge to be the champion for other minority groups in East Sussex.

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Many in this House will be unaware that Bexhill is the birthplace of British motor racing, having staged the first ever automobile race on British soil in 1906. This race was orchestrated by the eighth Lord De La Warr and the organisation that latterly became the Royal Automobile Club. Bexhill was also the launch-pad of another engine of progress and mobility, being the location where the Prime Minister launched his leadership bid to the membership of the Conservative party in 2005.

Next year, we face a battle against the aggressors of Europe who intend to march over our land, vanquish our sovereignty and replace it with French-based custom and rule. Will our nation rise up and repel this threat, or will we be defeated and be ruled for generations from Europe? I refer, of course, to the re-enactment to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the battle of Hastings, when William the Conqueror triumphed over King Harold and his army in a field that now adjoins Battle abbey. I believe there will be another key determination on Europe during this term, and I welcome my Government’s commitment to give people a say in a more civilised manner than that accorded in 1066.

It is customary in a maiden speech to bestow the title of “the most beautiful constituency” on to the area where one serves. Having lived in this wonderful area for almost 10 years, this is an easy case to make. I am, however, conscious of my upbringing for the first 19 years of my life in the noble constituency of Buckingham. As this House knows, this is your constituency, Mr Speaker, where my mother, sisters and wider family still reside as your constituents. I think it best to surmise that the most beautiful constituencies are entitled by the first letter of their description.

I hail from a family of Labour-leaning trade unionists. Having crossed the dining room floor of 5 Gawcott Fields, Buckingham at the age of 16, I know what it takes to stand for the courage of one’s convictions and to suffer the harsh consequences of washing-up sanctions as a result. Yet while my family and I may differ in the means, the ends of giving people hope and support via an education, a job, housing, support in ill-health and strong community are the reasons I sought election to this noble House. It is also the reason I am grateful to be able to deliver my maiden speech in the segment of the debate of the most Gracious Speech that is dedicated to the economy.

For the last seven years, I have led a team of lawyers who have been unwinding the Lehman Brothers estate in Europe. This was the largest bankruptcy in world history. From a starting position of bankruptcy, £35 billion-worth of cash and assets have been recovered and distributed by our small team; the books have been balanced with creditors paid in full; and we now focus on paying a surplus. I am aware that a much more challenging turnaround has been performed by the Government team, led by those on the Front Bench. I support the balancing of the national books, returns to taxpayers and the desire to record a surplus.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister and Chancellor visited our region to announce the south coast plan. This is a plan that has already started with the delivery of a new link road between Bexhill and Hastings. When it opens this year, it will stand ready to deliver thousands

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of new jobs in a 42-acre business park, with 3,000 homes to attract new labour and give local people the chance of their own home and with a new country park bringing economic regeneration to my constituency. Thanks to the investment delivered by this Government, the future is positive for my constituents in Bexhill and Battle.

However, some of the most vulnerable and troubled of my constituents will always need a safety net, always require a defender and always need to rely on someone who will bat for them in their time of need. I pledge to work with all Members of this House in order that we may together provide this role—not just for my constituents in Bexhill and Battle, but for all constituents represented in this noble House.

2.19 pm

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me early in this debate and for selecting the Liberal Democrat amendment in my name and those of my hon. Friends.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) on delivering a flawless maiden speech, and I thank the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) for delivering such a gracious speech, particularly given that he has not had much practice over the last nine years when it comes to delivering a speech from the Back Benches.

I want to speak briefly about a couple of matters that are mentioned in our amendment. First, I want to try to clarify the reason for the Conservative party’s opposition to the Human Rights Act. I think that it boils down to just two issues: foreign prisoners and prisoner voting. Members will know that the Home Secretary famously tried to kick-start her own leadership bandwagon with a Tory conference speech in which she promised to deport an illegal migrant whose removal was said to have been blocked by the courts on the basis of article 8 of the European convention on human rights, which concerns the right to a family life. She said:

“We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act...about the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because, and I am not making this up, he had a pet cat.”

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): She was making it up.

Tom Brake: Hold on. “But”, we are told,

“a spokesman for the Judicial Office at the Royal Courts of Justice, which issues statements on behalf of senior judges, said the pet had ‘had nothing to do with’ the judgement allowing the man to stay.”

So, unfortunately, it was just that: a story about the Human Rights Act—a story which just happened not to be true. If there are other aspects of the Act that the Government want to get rid of, such as the right to life or the right to privacy, I think we are entitled to know that, but at present there is no real clarity about the nature of their concerns.

I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) is no longer in the Chamber. I do not agree with him that it makes no difference how much a party spends on its campaign, particularly if

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there are ways of spending that get around the constituency spending limits, but I do agree with what he said about the European convention:

“I personally think it is unthinkable to leave the European convention on human rights…It is the way we uphold the values we strive for which are the rule of law, individual liberty, justice for all, regardless of gender. The convention is the bedrock of that.”

I also agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) that the European Court of Human Rights is,

“on a daily basis, producing decisions of great importance in improving human rights in Europe which are inevitably ignored here because they tend to concern countries in eastern Europe”.

I agree with those respected Conservative politicians that scrapping the Human Rights Act and leaving the convention would be a disaster for the United Kingdom’s credibility. It would send countries such as Belarus and Russia the message that it is possible to take or leave, or pick and choose, human rights as if they were favourite dishes on a Chinese restaurant menu.

Let me now say something about the snoopers charter, which clearly has business implications. Start-up businesses would be required to collect and store data in a way that would not be in their interests. As we know, David Anderson has been examining the current surveillance and intercept laws. He handed a report to the Prime Minister on 6 May. I wonder whether the Government had time to take it into account when they presented their proposals for an investigatory powers Bill. We need to see what is in that Bill, and we also need an explanation of why the United Kingdom Government are proceeding with proposals that the Americans have just rejected. The Americans have no mandatory communications data retention requirement for communication service providers, and I think we need to know why this country has such a requirement. Do the Government believe that the Americans are putting the lives of their civilians at risk?

I fear that the new report by Sir Nigel Sheinwald may well not be released, but I urge the Government to make a copy available to the public, even if it has to be redacted. It is quite possible that the report will show that there is no need for a snoopers charter, and that an international treaty could be used instead, allowing countries to agree to release data if required to do so by the security services.

Finally, let me touch briefly on the issue of the right to buy. During the general election campaign, there was clear agreement that we needed to build more homes, but I am afraid that the Government’s proposals are very unlikely to achieve that. When asked about the right to buy, the Mayor of London said that it was

“obviously one of the issues…that it would be potentially extremely costly to this body”,

meaning the Greater London Assembly. He added:

“We would have to make up the difference. Housing associations are private bodies, as we all know. It would involve massive subsidies.”

However, in a tweet—I think that he was tweeting as the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip rather than as Mayor—he said that the right to buy was a very good policy, and that the Conservatives’ proposals were

“a good way of ensuring it is funded.”

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We need some clarity, but I suppose that those with two jobs often have to contradict themselves, and that is obviously what the Mayor has had to do.

Time does not allow me to touch on other matters, such as the Liberal Democrats’ free childcare and tax threshold. I should love to have an opportunity to discuss them on another occasion.

Mr Speaker: I call Chris White.

2.25 pm

Chris White (Warwick and Leamington) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker—not least for putting me higher up the list than you intended to yesterday.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) on a fabulous maiden speech. I hope that, like me, he will grow to cherish the double-barrelled nature of his constituency.

I am grateful for the opportunity to support the Queen’s Speech, and, in particular, the measures that will build on the work done in the last Parliament to secure the continued growth of our economy. Whether we are talking about big manufacturing brands and household names such as Aga Rangemaster, Dennis Eagle and National Grid, or the new and exciting creative industries and companies such as Freestyle Games and Radiant Worlds, Warwick and Leamington is clearly a good place in which to do business. I also welcome Tata Technologies, which has unveiled plans to build its new European headquarters in my constituency next year.

I am delighted that the Government have announced plans to continue our economic growth by supporting business and encouraging job creation, with the ambition of achieving full employment. We have a fantastic record, on which we continue to build. In Warwick and Leamington, for example, the number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants has fallen by 74% over the last five years, and the number of youth claimants has fallen by an astonishing 82%. Tribute must be paid to employers and employees for that achievement..

Warwick and Leamington is part of a region that has a tremendous manufacturing heritage. During the last Parliament, we saw a renewed and extremely welcome focus on manufacturing and the re-shoring of that vital sector of the economy—in the words of the Chancellor,

“the march of the makers”.

Manufacturing is growing in the United Kingdom, and in the midlands in particular. It makes up 54% of UK exports, and directly employs 2.6 million people. Growth has been positive in recent years. In 2014, sales in the UK car industry in the UK were the best for nearly 10 years, which was a particularly encouraging development. In manufacturing overall, there is an average productivity increase of 3.6% a year.

I believe that the Government must ensure that the United Kingdom continues to be a place where things are designed and made. That means supporting businesses, large and small, particularly those in the supply chains. We must also address the skills shortage, and focus on training young people to be equipped for the workforce. One way of supporting businesses is to create an environment in which we can foster collaboration and support between businesses. We are already seeing examples of that in the establishment of local enterprise partnerships

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and the growth of city deals throughout the country. The all-party parliamentary manufacturing group, of which I am co-chair, recently published a report about skills I am delighted to see that the other co-chair, the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), is in the Chamber.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris White: I will give way to my near neighbour.

Mr Cunningham: The hon. Gentleman’s constituency abuts mine. We share an interest in research and development, and in both small businesses and major companies such as Jaguar Land Rover. Does he not welcome this development?

Chris White: I welcome it very much. I also recognise that the hon. Gentleman and I share a university. The students live largely in my constituency, but the University of Warwick is based in his. It is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has reported that the country will need an additional 800,000 graduates in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM—sectors by 2020. Encouraging students—boys and girls—to study STEM subjects at school and providing clear career advice to students from a young age will help to address this serious skills gap. We must ensure that our technical and further education colleges are given the recognition and assistance they need to achieve this.

We are particularly fortunate in Warwick and Leamington to have Warwickshire College, one of the best further education institutions in the country. We are also home to many students from Warwick University which, after only 50 years, is already one of the top 100 universities in the world. I have been privileged to see the quality of the training and education that both those institutions provide. Over many years now, this has reinforced for me the importance of tertiary and further education in providing the skills and training that young people need to succeed.

In terms of further education, Warwickshire College has entered into partnerships with local employers such as Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover to provide work experience and ensure that students are exposed to the workplace throughout their education. This collaborative approach provides the best of both worlds for students. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the new principal of Warwickshire College, Angela Joyce, to her post. I would like to reiterate the importance of support for our economy to create an environment that supports job creation and business growth. Additionally, giving our young people the skills that they need to get those jobs is just as vital, not least as we see existing and new sectors develop and grow.

2.31 pm

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): I should like to start by congratulating you on your successful election yesterday to the post of Chairman of Ways and Means, Mr Deputy Speaker.

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In the debates on the Queen’s Speech, I have heard “oneness” and “togetherness” mentioned on a number of occasions. That is music to my ears as a Unionist. I feel very much a part of this nation and I want to ensure that its economy grows with a spirit of togetherness. Binding us more closely into the Union will bring us closer together, allowing us to share our strengths and ensuring that our weaknesses are not made greater. Those concepts of oneness and togetherness are therefore welcome and heartening; they give us a sense of belief in the potential of what this new Government are offering us.

I am a proud to be a Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland, and from North Antrim, and as such I am bound to ask what the Queen’s Speech will specifically mean to my constituents, my people and my community. In the last Parliament, I welcomed the fact that the Government put their neck on the line and pursued a change in corporation tax specifically for Northern Ireland. They gave us the power to reduce our corporation tax rate, and I hope that the Assembly will use that power wisely and allow us seriously to compete with the nation with which we share a land border—the Irish Republic—whose corporation tax rate stands at 12.5%. I hope that the Assembly will take up that challenge and make that change, and I welcome the fact that Westminster gave us that power.

There are other things that this Government could do to enable Northern Ireland to increase its economic competitiveness and to be a stronger part of this nation. The tourism sector provides an example. I have the joy of having the Giants Causeway in my constituency. It is one of the finest natural locations for people to visit; indeed, it is the single largest visitor attraction on the entire island of Ireland. I welcome many people there each year; I just wish that they were all my voters. That attraction creates and stimulates employment and opportunity. Attracting more tourists to Northern Ireland is therefore part of the business plan for our country.

We currently have 60,000 people directly employed in the tourism sector, and a £1 billion a year spend in a country with a population of 1.7 million. That comprises £600 million being brought in by visitors to Northern Ireland and spent there, plus £400 million going out with people leaving Northern Ireland for tourism purposes. The Government could help by reducing VAT in the tourism sector, and I hope that they will look at my proposal, possibly even before 8 July. I would welcome that change, which would help small businesses in the sector.

I would also like to see air passenger duty removed altogether from domestic flights. The Government kindly reduced it for long-haul flights, which helps the airport in South Antrim, the constituency next door to mine, but I would like to see it removed from local flights. If you are really serious about togetherness, do not tax us when we fly to our nation’s capital!

The Government have done well in appointing a Minister for the northern powerhouse. Speaking as someone who represents the real northern powerhouse in our country—Northern Ireland—I hope that that Minister’s remit will be extended to allow him to look at the economic opportunities that flow from Ulster. Indeed, he could link in with Invest Northern Ireland and with

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our tourism, enterprise and trade to create great connectivity between the economic powerhouse being built in the north of England and the economic power base that could exist in Northern Ireland. That was certainly one of our priorities in the election campaign, and I look forward to that link being created.

The largest economic sector in Northern Ireland is agri-foods, and I hope that the Government will take a serious look at the opportunities created by our exporting our finest product—namely, food produce. One possibility could involve agricultural licences for the export trade with Asia, the far east and the middle east. Restrictions on exports are incredibly high at the moment, and I hope that our Government will make a serious effort to say to China and the middle east in particular, “Here is an opportunity for us to increase our trade and expand our agri-foods industry in Northern Ireland.” I hope that the Government will consider that opportunity.

In the weeks ahead, Northern Ireland will face a political crisis relating to welfare reform. I hope that the Government recognise that they have a serious responsibility to hold firmly to the line that the Prime Minister expressed yesterday when he said that we want to see the full implementation of the agreement that was struck in Belfast in the latter part of last year. Only by having economic sense and recognising that we cannot spend beyond our means will we be able to take Northern Ireland out of the way of the economic harm that those opposing welfare reform in our country wish on our land.

2.37 pm

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak this afternoon. I congratulate you on your election. I am delighted to speak after my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman). I, too, have a specialism in insolvency, but neither of us can claim to be as expert in that subject as Gordon Brown. I am also pleased to have spoken after the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley), who spoke so well about the value of unity.

I have listened with much admiration for a number of days to the eloquent and passionate maiden speeches on both sides of the House. It is an absolute privilege to be part of our British democracy. South East Cambridgeshire, the constituency I am fortunate to represent, has not troubled this House with a maiden speech for 28 years. It has been well served by the distinguished Sir James Paice for all that period. Sir James is an honourable, loyal and principled man, who has throughout his career stood up for farmers both within and outside the constituency. I know that he will be sorely missed in that community and many others.

Many presume that South East Cambridgeshire is a safe Conservative seat. I am not sure that there is such a thing as a safe seat of any kind any more, but even if there were, that is not a term that should be used to describe my constituency, which has had a chequered, even colourful, political history. The Isle of Ely, which falls within it, was the seat of Clement Freud. He was a man of many rare attributes, being a night club manager, a dog-food commercial actor and a Liberal Democrat, all of which fit together surprisingly well.

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The constituency was represented by Francis Pym—yes, a Conservative, but not always a supporter of his Prime Minister—who once said, “Landslides do not on the whole produce effective government.” So our Prime Minister can rest assured of an effective and smooth five years. And it was the home of Oliver Cromwell, who defeated the Scots at Dunbar, incorporated Scotland into his protectorate and transported the Scots as slaves to the colonies. Now, there is an answer to the West Lothian question—but not one, of course, that I would recommend.

Standing in the shoes of such colourful and distinguished predecessors is difficult, but it has been made much easier by the charm and friendliness of the people of South East Cambridgeshire. The constituency includes the city of Ely, the town of Soham and many villages. It is the only constituency in the country that contains a racecourse, a science park and a thriving farming sector. The businesses in these areas are leaders in their fields, competing successfully on the international markets. They are part of our growing economy in the east of England. Our Government have an opportunity, if not an obligation, to support and nurture such successes, and I am delighted that our Government are doing precisely that.

But I am also mindful that economic success is not universal throughout the constituency. As the daughter of a teacher who taught in a state primary school in a very deprived area in Leeds, and the granddaughter of a headmaster who founded a technical school in Leicester, recognising as he did that academic education is not the right route for all children, I know that education can transform lives, that education is a driver of social mobility, and that ambition and aspiration are not and should be the preserve not of the few, but of the many.

Equality of opportunity is at the heart of any respectable democratic country. A good education should be available to all, no matter what background they come from or where they live, which is why it is so important that we have a fair funding formula for our education nationally—a formula that provides per pupil funding which is more consistent across the country. Ambition and aspiration are now being talked about by both major parties, and rightly so, but that should not be limited to aspiration for individuals alone. It should encompass our vision for our country. A small but great Britain has played a disproportionate role in world affairs for centuries. A strong Britain should continue to play a key role in our international affairs.

My great-grandparents fled to this country with nothing, with no possessions and no money, not even speaking the language, and Britain gave them a home. It gave them hope and it gave them a future. They integrated into our society, such that my grandfather was awarded a CBE for services to education. I am so proud to be part of this great country and to be in a position to give back to our communities. It is a huge privilege to have been chosen to represent the people of South East Cambridgeshire and I will do my utmost to serve them.

2.43 pm

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. and learned Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer). One of the few things I like about this new Parliament is the sight of more women on all the Benches around us.

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As my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) reminded us, the Queen promised last Wednesday that the Government would adopt a one-nation approach, yet in practice this Government’s approach to the economy has divided our nation. What brings a nation together? A sense of fair play, underpinned, in my view, by universal human rights, and a sense that everyone can depend on good public services when they need them. We can be united by confidence in a fair tax system and spending that is efficient, where our money is not wasted. When I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I was constantly struck by how many voters watched our hearings, praising my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge) for her determined defence of the taxpayer’s pound. Their enthusiasm showed that when we in Parliament stop the Government wasting citizens’ hard-earned money, they are not in the least turned off by politics.

But politicians must be scrupulously honest about what we do. The plan to make it illegal to increase taxes looks like a rhetorical device. What is the penalty going to be? Will the Chancellor go to jail if, for example, he increases VAT on books to equalise the treatment of electronic reading material and printed books? The trumpeted plans to exempt the lowest paid from any form of income tax are an example of a policy that divides rather than unites. It has been dressed up as help to the low paid, but every study shows that the majority of the benefit goes to families in the top half of earners, whose tax bill as a share of their income will fall further than that of the poorer half of the community.

My objection to this policy is that it divides society, separating us into givers and takers—those who pay into the system and those who take out—breeding a culture of blame and suspicion. Of course, we all pay tax. We all pay VAT when we buy things, but the greatest proportion of tax, and often the most resented, is income tax. It is fairer than other taxes, all of which take up more of the household budgets of the poorest people than of those who are wealthier. Paying tax, as we too often fail to remind citizens, is a symptom of social solidarity. It is our subscription to civilised society where we can all enjoy public parks, send our children to schools where they have an equal chance to learn, and have a health service we can rely on when we are ill. One of the defining characteristics of Britain is a strong sense of fair play, but if no one explains the unfair consequences of plans to change tax thresholds, the one-nation label that the Government claim will camouflage this unfairness.

I represent a successful town. It attracts inward investment to the United Kingdom. It is an immigrant town. Slough residents are aspirational, work hard and generate wealth. It is the third most productive town in the United Kingdom, contributing approximately £8 billion to the national economy—double the UK average. However, that growth generates losers as well as winners. In our local housing market, rising prices push up GDP figures while the rest of the economy drags, and as a result home owners see their assets grow while everyone else spends unsustainable proportions of their income on rent or on struggling to buy.

The plans to sell off housing association properties at a discount—properties that are already occupied by secure tenants—is a gross example of taking assets available to the many people who have housing need,

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destroying the legacy of philanthropists and mutual aid societies who created those housing associations, and giving those assets to a few sitting tenants who can raise a mortgage. That is the Conservative way—to take from the many and give to the few.

GDP does not tell us how the benefits of growth are distributed—who wins within the population and who loses. Some people get no financial benefit at all. It is estimated that unpaid childcare contributes nearly three quarters of GDP. Carers of ill and disabled relatives save more than the entire spend of the national health service. Yet UK workers who are employed and paid now receive only half of GDP, whereas in 1976 the figure was two thirds. That rate of decline is unmatched by any developed economy or any other industrialised economy. The employees’ share of the economic pie is now the lowest ever recorded and it will keep decreasing because of this Government’s plans to cut in-work benefits. Other countries, most notably Scandinavian countries, have worker representatives on company boards so that meaningful discussions about sharing corporate wealth can take place. Sharing wealth equitably should be part of corporate social responsibility, and those eschewing it should not be given taxpayer-funded contracts.

I urge the Government to match their one-nation rhetoric with action. If they do, we could have an economy where hard work is well rewarded, whether it is work by a mum bringing up babies or a banker borrowing and lending. If everyone is confident that their aspiration will be rewarded, they will do as my constituents do: invest in their skills, work hard and grow our whole nation’s economy.

2.49 pm

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): It is a pleasure to contribute to the Queen’s Speech debate today and to congratulate all those who made their maiden speeches, particularly my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer). She made a fine maiden speech, true to the traditions of those who have gone before her in that constituency. She talked about what is at the heart of this Queen’s Speech and this Government—mobility and aspiration for all. We will continue to strive for that throughout this Parliament.

Like my hon. and learned Friend, other hon. Members have paid generous tribute to their predecessors. One tribute, however, has not been paid, and I have given the right hon. Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan) notice that she made no mention of her predecessor. I am going to correct that wrong—that omission—and pay tribute to Nick de Bois, my former colleague, a neighbour and friend. He was a great asset to this House, and Members on both sides can recognise his contribution to this House and to his constituency. It is appropriate to pay tribute to him in this debate on our economy, because it is right to recognise his contribution to supporting our growing economy. It was Nick de Bois who initiated the jobs fairs that many colleagues have taken up throughout the country. They have provided great results, and he championed jobs and apprenticeships in Enfield. He also championed trade envoys. Again, that has been taken up by the Government and we have envoys to many different countries now. The fruits of

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his labour are having great effect, with us at last turning around the legacy of decades of underinvestment in exports and working with UK Trade & Investment to produce great results.

Nick de Bois has left a great legacy, as I saw when we co-hosted our latest jobs fair, at Southbury leisure centre in February. We saw hundreds of people benefiting from hundreds of jobs and having their lives transformed. We are talking not just about the stats or about plans, but about real lives that have been transformed. Many people responded to that jobs fair and told us how much they had benefited, not least from the hard work of Nick de Bois. He has left that legacy and he can be proud of it. Our Government can also be proud of that legacy, as we strive towards full employment.

The right hon. Member for Enfield North did talk about our local Chase Farm hospital, another thing Nick de Bois championed and campaigned hard on. Although she mentioned it, she missed a number of points. There is a contrast to make here with the previous Labour Government, who were full of broken and empty promises. Before the election, Nick and I secured the business case, which was signed off by the Treasury. We secured £270 million for redevelopment at Chase Farm hospital. That is significant because it means that we will have a modern, 21st-century local hospital with eight operating theatres. We will have all the existing services put together in a 32,000 square metre building.

That is very important, and what is the contrast with it? It certainly contrasts with what we heard from the right hon. Lady, who said that this was going to gut Chase Farm hospital. Far from gutting it, this is going to breathe new life into decrepit buildings left behind by the last Labour Government. The contrast is very clear: we need a strong economy to be able to have a strong national health service. We needed the strong economy to be able to ensure that this was based on taxpayers’ money—£120 million-worth of taxpayers’ money, as part of a wider £270 million deal—and not on the private finance initiative. Our local hospitals have been beset by that. The millstone around the necks of Barnet hospital and of North Middlesex University hospital was PFI. That is typical of the previous Labour Government. They maxed out the credit card and now we are paying off those debts. Sadly, our health service is struggling and challenged because of it.

I wish to highlight two areas that will have a big effect on our economy and our society. They will be a litmus test of something we talk about a lot: a one-nation party and one-nation Government. The first of those areas is the family. We now have a family test, introduced by the Prime Minister last August. It means that every Department will be held to account for the impact of its policies on the family. Will the Minister say what the impact was of the whole Queen’s Speech? A summary of that might be useful. It is important that we do not just have a tick-box exercise; the Government have had tests in the past, but this needs to have real meaning. It would be good to continue to work with The Relationships Alliance to ensure that there is real meaning and to show that we are true on our deep commitment to the family. We all know that family breakdown costs—it has been estimated at £48 billion a year, perhaps more—and it is the poorest households that get hit.

Two thirds of 15-year-olds in the poorest 20% of society no longer live with both parents. Our party, however, supports marriage loud and clear. Towards the

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end of the last Parliament, there was the welcome introduction of the marriage tax allowance. It is small, at £212, but it is a start and I want the Government to go a lot further. At the heart of our one-nation concern is a concern for others. Nowhere can we see that better than in our concern for strong marriages and strong families. The good support for childcare is welcome, but let us broaden that understanding and support marriage as well.

Another test is how we support complex needs. I welcome the fact that in the autumn statement there was real support for the troubled families programme, which has transformed many lives and saved a huge amount of money. We can work that model into cases with multiple needs. By working hard for strong families and those with the most complex needs, including housing, addiction and educational needs, we will pass the test and truly be a one-nation party and one-nation Government.

2.55 pm

Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to participate in this debate and to make my maiden speech. I congratulate you on your re-election and praise the maiden speeches we have heard so far today from the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) and the hon. and learned Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), despite our political and, as has been outlined, historical differences.

I hope that you will be patient with new Members, Mr Deputy Speaker, as we get used to our new surroundings. As a trade unionist, I am getting used to the rules not just of this House but of this great city. That fact was underlined to me when I was on the London underground and my hon. Friends told me that I had to stand to the right at all times. I retorted, “Never.” However, I have been assured by many experts that that is to do with health and safety and regulation, so I can assure the House that I will comply with that request—on the tube, not in this place.

I thank the voters of Glasgow South West for giving me the honour and privilege of representing them in this Parliament. I pay a genuine and gracious tribute to my immediate predecessor, Ian Davidson. Ian Davidson served this House for 23 years, latterly as Chair of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. He was a strong champion for workers’ rights, including his work on blacklisting, and I pledge to take on that work during my time in this place. He was a robust debater and he was always civil and respectful to me although, as they say in Glasgow, there was always a fair bit of banter. Indeed, in his maiden speech, he said of his immediate predecessor, Jim Sillars:

“I think my predecessor made a contribution to Scottish politics which should not be underestimated or overlooked even by those who disagree with his content or style, or both.”—[Official Report, 19 October 1992; Vol. 212, c. 264.]

Let me gently but firmly associate myself with the words of my immediate predecessor, about my immediate predecessor. I wish Ian well in whatever he decides to do next.

Glasgow South West is an area rooted in the history of the struggles of the working class, with a long tradition of representatives who fought for the underdog

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and gave voice to the voiceless. The constituency stretches from Govan to Pollok, featuring Ibrox Stadium, the home of Rangers football club. As a proud Partick Thistle supporter—a pleasure I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Ms Black)—I recognise what Rangers football club means to its supporters around the world as well as in Glasgow.

The constituency also includes Bellahouston Park, with the beautiful House for an Art Lover, designed by the world-famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is a site where not one but two Popes have celebrated mass, which I was privileged to attend on both occasions. The Govan shipyards are iconic and serve as a reminder that heavy industry and manufacturing should have a place in our economy.

My constituency is rich in history, but I want to highlight just one more point. Over the next three years, all the nations of the UK will commemorate the sacrifices our forebears made in the first world war. It is my belief that all aspects of that period should be taught and remembered. In Govan, the great Mary Barbour led rent strikes fighting against unscrupulous landlords who increased rents on the home front during that time of sacrifice on the western front. That might have been a century ago, but we have come full circle as the exploitation of one of the most basic human needs, shelter and a place to raise a family, is once more a key issue in this Parliament. The Remember Mary Barbour Association does fantastic work.

There is not enough time for me to tell all the stories and outline all the hopes of the people in my constituency, but I was struck by the fact that they all want the message delivered loud and clear that they and their families deserve better. We have heard much about the importance of fostering aspiration and celebrating wealth creators. I believe that everyone has aspiration, and it concerns me when the welfare debate is reduced to judging who is deserving and undeserving, seeking the politics of grievance and envy, sowing the seeds of division within our communities.

Welfare sanctions are dragging people to the point of despair, food banks are the only growth industry in too many communities, and the daily grind of low-paid workers on insecure but highly flexible contracts is a world away from the privileged workplace I now find myself in.

I was elected to speak truth to power in this place and to stand up for the real wealth creators—the low-paid, long-hours, insecure workers who keep the economic wheels turning despite the poor treatment too many receive at the hands of their employers.

I come to this House after 25 years working in public services, and almost 20 serving as a Unison activist, representing working people on a daily basis. The trade union movement gave me a political education and the confidence to stand for election, and I know that this experience is shared with other Members who did not have a privileged start in life.

We live in a global world, and I believe that a different approach needs to be taken in the 21st century. We need to step away from the 19th century world of work and the devil-take-the-hindmost approach to social security. That is an economic illiteracy that is not only immoral but ends up costing more in the long run in damage to individuals, families and communities.

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We in the SNP come to this House to argue that social justice must be at the heart of the economic debate—that we should put people before profits and bairns before bombs—and, as the STUC puts it, that a better way is possible.

3.1 pm

Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con): May I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens) on his maiden speech, as well as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman)? They all included brilliant eulogies to their predecessors’ political careers. Mr Speaker, you will not get that from me, but for the very best of reasons. Every Conservative Member of this House will be delighted to hear that the political service of my predecessor, now transformed, butterfly-like, into the noble Lord Maude of Horsham, continues in rude health in another place. I have no doubt that his distinguished career in the Treasury, the Foreign Office and latterly in the Cabinet Office will get yet more distinguished as Minister for Trade. If he is as effective at boosting exports as he was at cutting waste, we can look forward to a sustained and ever-growing trade surplus.

In addition to the wise advice of the noble Lord Maude, I am indebted to one of my constituents, the right hon. Sir Peter Hordern, for his advice. He is one of a trio of Conservative MPs who for no less than 93 years represented Horsham during the last century. Major Freddie Gough held the bridge at Arnhem. Lord Winterton went, over a career of 47 years, from being the baby of the House to being the Father of the House. I see she is in her place, Mr Speaker, and I hope that she will accept the compliment when I say that I sincerely hope that the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Ms Black) will still be gracing this Chamber, for the sake of our country, in half a century’s time.

Horsham is an ancient town, represented here since 1295, but on occasion it has fallen into bad habits. “A Parliamentary History of Horsham” recalls how in the epic struggle between the Tories and the Liberals it moved on from the more prosaic forms of electoral vice to the mass kidnap of each other’s voters. The situation was improved by the addition to the borough constituency of large swathes of rural West Sussex, which we still enjoy. From Rudgwick in the west it sweeps down to Billingshurst and over to Balcombe and Ardingly, the site of the South of England Show. It contains Wakehurst Place, the country home of the Royal Botanic Gardens and the largest seed bank in the world. The north takes in Crawley Down and Copthorne, once the haunt of prize fighters and smugglers, now home to far more respectable residents.

A whole series of opinion surveys consistently rates Horsham as a great place to live and work. There may be some cynicism in this House about opinion polls these days, but I can assure the House that these, at least, can be relied on. The constituency is proud of its economic independence and benefits from a burgeoning small business sector with a vast range of entrepreneurial and innovative industries. It has prospered in no small measure from the economic success fostered by the

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Government. The growth in the number of new businesses over the past few years is matched in steepness only by the fall in the number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants.

I am one of few new Members who can honestly claim that, no matter how reviled the status of being a Member of Parliament, I have managed to improve my standing in the world, because I was previously employed by an investment bank. However, I have also spent time in Her Majesty’s Treasury, and would like to pay tribute to the Government’s handling of our economic recovery. The robust underpinning of the country’s economy over the past five years gives confidence to the small businesses in my constituency that under this Government they can continue to invest, expand and prosper.

Alongside economic success, Horsham has a strong social conscience; it is home to many charities and is determined to ensure that this and future generations can continue to enjoy our countryside and benefit from excellent services. The area has been subject to substantial recent development, and residents are concerned about the impact on the environment and the supporting local infrastructure, not least the provision of NHS services. That is why we welcomed the Conservative manifesto commitment to encourage brownfield development and why we were delighted to see the trenchant support for enhanced primary health care services. The current building and infrastructure concerns would be as nothing, however, were Gatwick airport to be permitted to build a second runway, the impact of which would be profound right across the constituency and far beyond.

Horsham has real concerns on which I will engage in the coming years, but at least it is certain that under a Conservative Government its economy will flourish and that, as outlined in the Gracious Speech, this Parliament will be focused on ensuring that the increasing wealth created will benefit all and that all our citizens can aspire and prosper.

3.6 pm

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab): May I start by congratulating you, Mr Speaker, on your re-election? I also congratulate the three Deputy Speakers, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel), who I think will be an excellent Deputy Speaker, fulfilling the potential she showed in the previous Parliament as an excellent Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin) on his eloquent maiden speech and wish him luck in his work of representing his constituents and his party in this place. I pay tribute to all the new Members who have made their maiden speeches so far. We have heard some excellent maiden speeches, delivered confidently and with real style and polish.

Today’s debate is broadly about fiscal issues relating to the deficit and debt, but growth, of course, has a key part to play in reducing the deficit. Indeed, our nation’s prosperity depends on robust economic growth. We in the Opposition absolutely understand the need for economic growth based on wealth creation. While the majority of Opposition colleagues were fighting hard for manufacturing in the previous Parliament, my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), joint chair of the all-party group on manufacturing, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) were also

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making the case for an industrial strategy to underpin and help manufacturing to grow its share of the economy. That has to be a key part of the way forward.

In that context, I welcome the Government’s northern powerhouse initiative. Indeed, I have long argued for the devolution of powers in England and believe that this country can be one nation only on the basis of a properly thought through devolution settlement for England. However, the real danger with the northern powerhouse project, as it currently stands, is that devolution, as promised by the legislation on the table, will become discredited unless it is accompanied by changes to the distribution of funding by central Government.

We all know that the north of England and large parts of provincial England lose out on local government funding. There are huge disparities in how local government is funded. The issue affects transport as well: transport funding from central Government is distributed on a really unfair and uneven basis—London enjoys transport investment way beyond anything enjoyed by the north of England. The danger affects the regions of the UK that are already disadvantaged in trailing behind London on GDP and economic growth; the disparities could become even more deeply entrenched unless there is an effective Government strategy to address the issue properly. We cannot ignore the danger. The north of England, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and the west riding of Yorkshire will not grow as they need to unless the Government address those disparities.

Finally, I want to develop a little further the argument for a more comprehensive, better thought through approach to devolution, because the other danger is that rural areas, as well as suburban areas, will feel increasingly alienated and left out by concepts such as the northern powerhouse. Every Member needs to take cognisance of that danger, and we need a non-partisan approach to dealing with it.

Let us take Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire as the classic example. Between those two city regions, there is the Peak District national park—what we call the “Dark Peak”. Nothing is on the table at the moment to integrate that area into a devolutionary settlement, yet it has a key role to play in the economic growth of the north of England. That issue must be dealt with. Of course it is true that big cities will always be the motor of our economy, but that must not mean that we ignore the contribution that smaller towns and rural areas can make or their potential for economic growth.

I finish with a good example of how this can be achieved. Among the biggest contributors to the manufacturing activity of this country are food and farming. Food manufacturing is a huge player that contributes billions to our GDP. There is no better example of how activities in rural areas and the produce of the land are transformed into the food on our plates. Those two activities, properly integrated in a devolutionary settlement, can help deliver for the economic growth of this country in future.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Hoyle): Order. I am going to reduce the time limit to five minutes, so that as many Members as possible can speak.

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3.13 pm

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): Many congratulations on your re-election, Mr Deputy Speaker. I also congratulate all the new Members who have made such excellent maiden speeches.

I support the Queen’s Speech because of its ambition and direction of travel. The Prime Minister has rightly stated that every part of this country has a stake in our economic success. Much good work was done by the previous Government, but there is a great deal more to do and there will be plenty of potential pitfalls along the way.

The Bills in the Queen’s Speech provide the framework for developing sustained prosperity right across the country and it will be important to scrutinise them closely as they progress through this House and the other place. In some cases, the devil will be in the detail; no stone should be left unturned in the pursuit of good legislation that works for the whole United Kingdom.

For too long, economic policy in the UK has been centralised and top down. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is correct in his assessment that the model of running everything from London has failed and created an unbalanced economy. It has become clear that the man in Whitehall does not know best. I support the ambition and determination to create a northern powerhouse, but it is important that all other parts of the country should have the same opportunity and access to the necessary funds.

For my part, I wholly endorse the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Sir Alan Haselhurst) in wanting an East Anglian powerhouse. British people talk about the weather; we East Anglians talk about infrastructure. That is because we do not have very much of it, and what we do have does not work very well. In my Waveney constituency, the nearest motorway is in Holland; our railways resemble an elephants’ graveyard where trains come to die; and there are some very rural areas where broadband coverage is spasmodic, at the very least. I commend the Prime Minister for stating:

“We will make sure everyone has the infrastructure they need to succeed.”

In the previous Parliament, he and the Government that he led put their money where their mouth was. In this Parliament, we have to deliver, and get these roads and bridges built and superfast broadband made available to all.

The projects for which funding has been provided must be built on time. The preparatory work for upgrading the A47 must be carried out promptly. The 16-month period that has been suggested before any construction work begins is not acceptable. We must use the opportunity presented by the rail franchise tender to deliver better railways with reliable, fast and comfortable trains that run on time. With the third crossing project in Lowestoft, locally we will complete the necessary studies that the Government have enabled us to do and then work with them to get this very important piece of local infrastructure built.

I shall briefly mention three industries important to Waveney that have the potential to contribute a great deal to the local economy but need to overcome a variety of obstacles. First, the oil and sector faces significant challenges created by the dramatic fall in

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crude oil prices. Jobs are being lost, including at AKD Engineering in Lowestoft, which closes this month. The Government have recognised the problem and came forward in the Budget with proposals that restructure the taxation regime. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that that should boost North sea oil production by 15% by the end of the decade. That is welcome, but I urge the Treasury to work closely with the industry to bring in further measures in next month’s Budget if necessary.

The offshore wind industry can bring significant benefits to the Waveney economy, and in the past five years work has been put in place to enable it to do so. We need to get those wind farms off the East Anglian coast built during this five-year term.

The fishing industry is also in need of support. My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) helped to reform the common fisheries policy. We now need to ensure that the small fishermen who make up the Lowestoft fleet have fair access and a fair share of quota.

The proposals announced in the Queen’s Speech are welcome, but there is much work to do. No parts of the country must be forgotten. On infrastructure, we must press on to get roads and bridges built. There must be no no-go areas as regards policy, particularly in fishing.

3.18 pm

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous). As he described infrastructure in his constituency I began to wonder whether it had been transferred to the north-east, because we have very similar problems.

At the beginning of this debate we heard an intense political exchange about the right speed of deficit reduction. We will continue to see a big political debate about the appropriate size and scope of the public sector, but where we have consensus is on the importance of effective and efficient use of public money. Everyone wants the taxpayer to get good value for money.

We all have our stories of Whitehall waste. My low point was when I was a Minister. I was sitting in my office and two men came in to water the plants. They watered two plants, and then I pointed to another one on the windowsill and said, “What about that one?” They went over and looked very carefully at it, felt the leaves, and then said, “That’s not ours”, because plant watering had been contracted out. Before Government Members suggest that that was confined to the Labour years, I have to tell them that after tabling a series of parliamentary questions in the spring, I found that Departments are renting desks, including one Department that was paying the fabulous sum of £10,309.63 a year per desk.

If we are to get to grips with these problems, we must ask why they happen. It is important to root out waste in individual programmes, but we will succeed only if we look at the underlying patterns and problems. There are recurrent issues, including in large information and communications technology projects. For example, in past years the Rural Payments Agency and tax credits were a problem, and this Government are now running into similar issues with universal credit. Procurement

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capacity in Whitehall needs to be improved. It is not good, because the route to the top is through being able to write clever policy papers, not through doing good deals.

The transparency of value for money when services are contracted out is another problem. We have to hold to account the Sercos, Capitas and G4Ss of this world, because they now control billions of pounds, and they cannot hide behind the excuse of “commercial in confidence” any longer. We are seeing unnecessarily complex financial arrangements, excessive returns to bankers and consultants, and not the cheapest deal for taxpayers. Only this week, problems were highlighted in the health service, with rip-off agency fees for doctors and nurses who are being paid more than those on regular contracts, and the revolving door for senior executives. No one thinks it is acceptable for someone to retire on a Monday, collect a lump sum on the Tuesday and then go back into the same job on the Wednesday.

As a country, we are now spending £740 billion. If we can achieve an efficiency improvement of 2% on that £740 billion, the savings would amount to £13 billion. Some people would want to use that for tax cuts, whereas some would want to use it to bolster public services, but it is definitely money worth finding. Parliament, including the Select Committees, has a key part to play in that. By fulfilling our role, we can improve Government’s long-term capacity to deliver their plans to set out and do what they intend to do.

If we work in an incisive, open and transparent manner, we can raise trust in the political process. By shining a light and not being afraid to challenge those in positions of power, we can make a real difference. By doing so in an effective way, we will raise confidence in politics, Parliament and the political process, as I am sure all Members of this House want to do.

3.23 pm

Amanda Milling (Cannock Chase) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech as part of today’s debate. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) and I would like to congratulate all the Members who have also made maiden speeches today.

It is a real honour to be standing in this most historic Chamber, representing the residents of Cannock Chase, a constituency in Staffordshire—the county in which I was born and brought up—and to join one of the former Members of Parliament for Cannock Chase, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth).

My immediate predecessor, Aidan Burley, won the seat in historic fashion in 2010. Since that time, Aidan has worked very hard on behalf of Cannock Chase residents, and I would like to thank him. His successful jobs fairs helped to contribute to the significant fall in unemployment. He spearheaded the campaign to save our fantastic Cannock Chase hospital, and he campaigned for the investment that will lead to the electrification of the Chase line. I wish Aidan the best of luck for the future and for life with his wife, Jodie.

The constituency takes its name from the forest, much of which lies within the parliamentary boundaries of Cannock Chase. The Chase was designated an area

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of outstanding natural beauty in 1958 and comprises a wide range of landscapes and wildlife, including a herd of fallow deer. Over the years, the Chase has become a destination for visitors. Whether one is a mountain biker, a runner or a walker, there is something for everyone. Every November, the Cannock rotary holds a 10 km run through the Chase. I would welcome any Member who wants to join me on that run—the scenery is stunning.

Bordering the forest are the constituency’s three main towns: Cannock, Hednesford and Rugeley. Each has a unique character, but they have one commonality: a strong history and proud heritage in coalmining. One of Cannock’s best-known former residents and miners is a well-known Member of this House: the Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Mr McLoughlin). He is well loved and highly regarded by the residents of Cannock Chase. Our mining heritage helps to explain the incredibly strong sense of community that is felt in Cannock Chase. I am proud to say that we have a wide variety of local charities, voluntary groups and community groups.

The skyline in Rugeley is a reminder of the past and a sign of the future. I am pleased to say that it demonstrates the extent to which the area has evolved and adapted to industrial change. Once, there stood two power stations and a colliery; now, there is one power station, with new industrial and business parks opposite it. It is home to one of Amazon’s distribution centres, as well as to many small and medium-sized businesses. Such small and medium-sized businesses are the engine of our economy and, more particularly, of Cannock Chase in the 21st century.

Before being elected, I had a career in business. Business is in my blood, which is why I chose to speak today. I am sure that my late father, Humphrey Milling, who was once the managing director of a local tool manufacturing business, Britool, which had its own connections to Cannock, would have been pleased that supporting local businesses is one of my key priorities. He would also have been delighted to see the election of a pro-business Conservative majority Government.

It is thriving local businesses that have created jobs for local hard-working families and that are giving opportunities to our young people. I look forward to working with local businesses, training providers and young people to help get as many of those young people as possible into work.

The Cannock Chase that I have described today is one of aspiration and opportunity. I look forward to representing the area in this Parliament to ensure that it becomes an even better place to live and work.

3.28 pm

Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech. I offer my congratulations on your re-election. It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Amanda Milling). I pay tribute to hon. Members on both sides of the House who have made their maiden speeches today and commend their excellent contributions.

For new Members like me, speaking in this Chamber for the first time is a deeply humbling experience. It is made all the more humbling for me by an awareness of

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the formidable predecessors who have represented the area that I call home and that I now have the privilege of serving in this place. It was on Blackheath in 1876, in an open-air meeting attended by 10,000 of his Greenwich constituents—“those rabid cockneys” in the words of Disraeli—that Gladstone first announced the Bulgarian horrors, and in so doing reforged his links with popular radicalism and set himself on a journey towards a second Ministry.

It was in Woolwich in 1903 that Will Crooks, the son of a ship’s stoker who had endured the privations of the workhouse, won a spectacular by-election victory over his Conservative and Unionist opponent to become the fourth ever Labour Member of Parliament. It was Woolwich in February 1950 that gave Labour’s greatest Foreign Secretary, Ernie Bevin, a final berth from which to serve out his days as one of the chief architects of our post-war world.

Over the course of 23 years of distinguished service, my immediate predecessor, the right hon. Nick Raynsford, more than earned his place among such illustrious company. I would like to pay tribute to him, not just because it is customary but out of a deep sense of gratitude and respect. Nick’s efforts over many decades helped transform Greenwich and Woolwich, and his contribution to our national life was no less impressive. As well as an effective Minister and a skilled parliamentarian, Nick was a diligent and caring constituency MP who fought tenaciously to better the lives of his constituents. He was, I know, admired on both sides of the House, and it is both an honour and an enormous challenge to take on his mantle.

Greenwich and Woolwich has an extremely rich history, as the millions of tourists who visit my constituency each year discover. The historical centre of Greenwich is a breathtaking blend of history, science and architecture. It has been the residence of Tudor kings, was the birthplace of classical architecture in England, is the spiritual home of Britain’s maritime past, was the place where the heavens were first comprehensively mapped out, and is where the world’s prime meridian runs across an ordinary London pavement.

Yet as imperceptibly bound to its maritime and monarchical past as my constituency is, it has another proud history—one that is far too often overlooked, but which is just as inspiring. It is a history of industry, innovation, progressive social change and self-organisation, and above all of people who have come from every part of these islands and beyond living together and looking out for one another in diverse and tolerant communities.

The area was once a great manufacturing hub that teemed with the noise of shipbuilding, engineering, Europe’s biggest glassworks at Charlton and the colossal Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, birthplace of both the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers, which employed 70,000 people at its peak during the first world war. It has been a centre of research and discovery, which in the 1850s produced the earliest telegraph cables and the first to be laid across the Atlantic, by Brunel’s vast ship the Great Eastern. It has been a breeding ground of progressive politics, which gave birth to one of Britain’s first building societies, the Woolwich Provident, one of its first co-operatives, the Royal Arsenal co-op, and the first mass membership Labour party. It is a place whose people, confronted over the years by hardship, industrial

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decline, violence and sadly even terrorism, have none the less remained resilient, vibrant and optimistic for the future.

My constituency is now undergoing rapid change. Much of that change is extremely positive, but significant challenges remain, and not just how we get Charlton Athletic back into the premiership. Inequality, deprivation, poverty, endemic low pay, long-term and youth unemployment, strained public transport services and a chronic lack of genuinely affordable homes to rent or buy—all these issues will need to be tackled in the years ahead if we are to have an economy that is sustainable and works for all my constituents. I am determined to do everything in my power to make sure that they are tackled in the years ahead, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that I have been given by the people of Greenwich and Woolwich to be their voice in this place and the champion and servant of this great constituency.

3.33 pm

Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): May I be the first to congratulate you while you are in the Chair on assuming your position, Madam Deputy Speaker? As it happens, this is turning out to be a Parliament of firsts for me. Last week I think I was the first Member in this Parliament to be granted an urgent question, and I am the first Member to have been called by you. I am tempted to ask whether you can enjoin the House not to interrupt me, on the basis that this is perhaps a maiden speech. I say that because, after I was granted the urgent question last week, someone at Sky kindly tweeted that a new Member had been granted an urgent question. I have obviously made an extraordinary impact on the media over the course of the past few years.

May I also congratulate all the Members who have made their maiden speeches today? They are my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens), my hon. Friends the Members for Horsham (Jeremy Quin) and for Cannock Chase (Amanda Milling) and the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook). They will all obviously have fine parliamentary careers, although I remind them that in 1837, when Disraeli, whom we have already heard about twice in this debate, made his maiden speech, he ended it, after a considerable amount of barracking, with the words:

“I will sit down now, but the time will come when you will hear me.”

Well, the House has heard from all those Members today, and it is much better for having done so.

I have sat through the entirety of the debate, and if I may I would like to commend the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) for one of the finest speeches I have heard during my five years in this place. It was a speech that, in common with my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen), I am pleased he did not make before the election. It was a speech that, essentially, could have come from the Conservative Benches, because it was a speech about one nationism. One nationism is what this

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Government and this party stand for. The Gracious Speech, on which we are debating the Address, is a speech about one nation. It is a speech about this country over the next five years, and about what the Government’s plans, on which we were returned with a significant majority, are going to achieve.

Time is very limited in this debate given the number of speakers, but there are three areas on which I wish to very briefly focus my remarks. I understand that this is principally a debate on the economy, but the first area relates to the Human Rights Act 1998. A rumour has grown up on the Conservative Benches—or at least that is what I hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), who is now the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice—that I am somehow going to be difficult in relation to the Human Rights Act, given my background and role as a lawyer. That rumour is misplaced.

I stood on a manifesto—I want to remind Conservative Members that we all stood on a manifesto—that said we would replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. That does not need to involve our withdrawal from the European convention. What we have said, and what we said in the manifesto in 2010, is that the Act can and should be replaced by a British Bill of Rights which is justiciable in the courts of this country, whether they are the courts of England and Wales, or of Scotland or Northern Ireland. That, as was made crystal clear by an editorial in The Sun last week and by what we were told on the doorstep during the general election campaign, is what the British people want.

The other thing that the British people want in relation to Europe, albeit unconnected with the European Court of Human Rights, is a referendum on the European Union. It is this party that is going to deliver that referendum. I remind everybody in the House—all right hon. and hon. Members, whether they are the most fervent Europhile or the most ardent Eurosceptic—that we are all here because we were elected in a democracy. If we believe in democracy, as we all ought to do, then giving the British people a say on whether they want to continue to be part of what the European community has become is absolutely the right thing to do.

I have already said that the right hon. Member for Doncaster North mentioned Disraeli in his speech. Disraeli also said, in a very famous passage, that he was

“a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad.”

This is a Government who have my support in relation to the Gracious Speech, because they are Conservative in relation to what is good in our constitution and they are radical in relation to what is bad.

3.37 pm

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): What a pleasure it is to be the first Member on the Labour Benches to be called by you, Ms Engel. You and I have been friends since you came to the House, and what I love about you is that you are passionate about this House. You were a great Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

I have been sitting here since 9.30 am and have heard many excellent speeches and interventions today. There have been too many maiden speeches to mention. The secret

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of this place is to use it, serve the apprenticeship and then enjoy it. It is the place for hon. Members to make their reputation, hone their skills and show that they are real parliamentarians.

I wanted to talk about austerity, productivity, schools and skills, the north-south divide and the danger of withdrawing from Europe, but I probably will not be able to touch on a lot of that. I will instead start by being a little serious. Mr Speaker is sometimes very ageist and points out how long I have been in the House of Commons. My wife is just as bad. I was making my acceptance speech in Huddersfield on election night and said that I had just fought my ninth campaign. My wife said, “Darling, it’s your tenth. You fought Taunton first and didn’t get in.” I looked it up and found that I am the last Labour candidate to come second in Taunton. We came in behind the UK Independence party this year. That is quite a long history of fighting 10 elections.

However, this is the most worrying election I have been involved in. I say that not because the Labour party got a drubbing, or because there was a spectacular surge in Scotland by the Scottish National party. What was really worrying was the electorate’s lack of enthusiasm for any of us. They do not like us very much. Only two thirds of them voted and they did not vote with the great passion, saying they wanted to get to the polls, they wanted to get a Labour party or a Conservative party, or anybody else in Government. I found it very worrying that there was so little enthusiasm for the election as I knocked on doors. This is a country in which people such as the Luddites, the Chartists and the Suffragettes fought for the vote, but now we knock on people’s doors and are told, “We’re not voting—you’re all the same.” That is a terrible comment on where we are in our democracy today.

I found that the electorate were confused and depressed, and they resented and distrusted us. They wanted the leaders of our parties to be better, and I also think that all three leaders could have been a darn sight better. There was a feeling that there was no legitimacy about the election. Only 66% of the electorate voted, 71% in Scotland. As I said in an intervention on the Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier, “Don’t let’s crow about how well we represent everyone, when even the Government party is only representing such a small percentage of the British and the UK people.”

This is a year of really important anniversaries: 800 years since Magna Carta, and 200 years since Waterloo. However, I want to dwell for a moment on world war two, as it is 70 years since it ended. Faced with the challenge of rebuilding a devastated country that had been at war for six years, we picked ourselves up under a Labour Government and made the basic institutions that were to provide the foundations of the good life for so many people for 70 years. There was the national health service, which meant everybody getting the best medical treatment on the basis of need and not the ability to pay. There was the welfare state—okay, it was started after the first world war by Lloyd George, but it was made much more comprehensive after 1945 by a Government that said there should be a welfare net and that no one should fall below that level of poverty and need. Then, “welfare” meant something wonderful and not what it has been turned into now, partly sometimes in this country by the Government but particularly by the Republicans in the United States. I believe in the welfare state, and I believe in a great state.

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We have a great challenge now to regenerate our economy and our country, and we will only do that by making our people happy and contented, and giving them the good life that they deserve.

3.42 pm

Marcus Fysh (Yeovil) (Con): Madam Deputy Speaker, many congratulations on your election, and I am glad to have caught your eye on this occasion, so as to make my maiden speech.

I am very pleased to rise today as the first Conservative since 1951 to be newly elected to serve the people of the Yeovil constituency. Therefore, this is the first of Her Majesty’s Gracious Speeches since then to be welcomed by an incoming Yeovil Conservative, a task made easier by the fact that the people of Yeovil, in making their choice, contributed to it outlining a Conservative programme.

People in my area made a decisive choice to support a future of jobs and opportunities, to continue rebuilding our national finances, and to stop burdening our young people and future generations with our mistakes and debts. Whether it is investment in defence, health, education or infrastructure to power our local growth, people understand that it cannot be done without the foundation of a strong economy and sound public finances.

My constituency sits in the middle of the narrowest part of the entrance to the south-west peninsula, on the main ancient route between London and the west country, and at a crossing of the route between Bristol and the ancient port of Weymouth. Surrounded by rich agricultural land, a series of towns and villages along these routes was fashioned from the local hamstone, giving golden warmth to travellers and inhabitants alike. The area became the natural home of successful farmers, seafarers and venturers, and it delivered a ready supply of the highest grades of flax, rope and sailcloth that powered their exploits.

In modern times, the people of Yeovil remain adventurous and resourceful. Hi-tech, modern defence industries and facilities sit beside innovative service and engineering firms, modern farms and superb tourist experiences. Hon. Members will have heard of the cutting-edge helicopters made by Westland, a great Yeovil firm that grew through Spitfire manufacture during the second world war. This year, it celebrates its 100th year, supported by a legion of smaller local suppliers.

In all parts of my constituency, in Yeovil, Crewkerne, Chard, Ilminster, South Petherton, Ilchester and all the farms and villages in between, there is a very positive spirit in all sizes of businesses and sectors. We know that with the right policies and support, we can make our area better, deliver for people in it and raise their incomes. I fully support the Government’s programme of infrastructure improvement, including the major road, rail, broadband and mobile signal projects that we are promoting in the south-west, not least the dualling of the A303 and A358, which run through my constituency, so that we can regain our place as a key regional powerhouse of economic growth in Britain, improve our productivity and enhance local people’s incomes.

My immediate predecessor, David Laws, worked hard, was polite and clear, and had a charming way, especially with older people in my constituency. He also took an

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interest in the young and recognised the dedication of our teachers to young people’s progress, which I also hope to do. His dry economic views smoothed the way for the formation of the coalition Government in 2010, in which he served first as Chief Secretary to the Treasury and latterly as Education Minister. His voting support for that Government and their policies was notable, and I thank him for his service.

Finally, we must reflect on why some have lost faith in our politics and try to put it right by our actions. We need in this place to be more thoughtful and humble and never to lose touch with the roots of trust of the people we represent and never stop listening to them and their hopes. To speak in this Chamber, the repository of so much human hope, past, future and present, is both thrilling and humbling. It is the Chamber’s particular part in preserving that democratic humility that we should defend above all. Our great poet, T. S. Eliot, commemorated in Westminster Abbey but resting for eternity in my constituency in a simple church in the parish of East Coker, in a poem of the same name, put it very satisfactorily: “humility is endless”.

3.47 pm

Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) (Lab): I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech today and congratulate you on your election. I also congratulate all hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches in today’s debate, and I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Yeovil (Marcus Fysh).

The time constraint today means that we are short, but I hope we are also sweet. As a new Member, I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and all the parliamentary staff for welcoming me and helping me settle in. Without fail, everyone has been generous with their time and patience, and I am very grateful for that.

To represent the people of Cardiff Central is a great privilege and responsibility. When I moved to Cardiff Central 26 years ago, little did I know that all these years later, my fellow residents would elect me, and place their trust in me, to be their first female Labour MP and their strong voice in this place. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Jennifer Willott, who served Cardiff Central for 10 years as a Back Bencher, Government Whip and Minister. She became a visible advocate for working parents, and I wish Jenny and her young family well for the future.

I also pay tribute to the last Labour MP for Cardiff Central, Jon Owen Jones, who served the constituency for 13 years, including as a Minister, and still lives there. He has been a source of kind support and wise advice.

Cardiff Central is a special place. While we have six electoral communities— Adamsdown, Cathays, Cyncoed, Pentwyn, Penylan, and Plasnewydd—our community is rich in history, diversity and culture and has welcomed people from all over the world to learn, work and seek refuge. We are very proud of our vibrant cosmopolitan and inclusive community.

From humble beginnings as a small Roman settlement on the site of what is now Cardiff castle, Cardiff Central is at the heart of what is now a modern, European capital city. We have grand civic buildings in Cathays

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Park, built by the Marquess of Bute, three universities, theatres, music venues and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, whose famous alumni include Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins and the legendary Ruth Jones, better known as Nessa from Gavin and Stacey. Alongside the world’s oldest record shop, Spillers, which opened in 1894, and our beautiful Victorian shopping arcades, we have a famous Caroline Street, where early and late-night city-centre revellers enjoy our special Welsh delicacy of chicken curry, arf’n’arf.

We also have the best sporting stadium in the world, the Millennium stadium, where we will welcome the world this autumn for the 2015 rugby world cup. I can assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that however nervous I felt just before starting this speech, my nerves are nothing like those I experience when watching my nation play in that stadium—a cauldron of noise and song—with 75,000 other rugby fans.

The subject of the debate today is the economy. In Cardiff Central, people have not felt an economic recovery. Many experience a recovery that is fragile because it is built on low-paid, insecure work. Many of my constituents work in the retail, care and hospitality sectors where insecure employment, zero-hours contracts and minimum wage work is the norm.

In order to build a strong economic recovery and to increase productivity, the answer does not lie in further weakening employment rights and protections. It certainly does not lie in exiting the European Union, a move that would threaten jobs, businesses and cutting-edge research in our universities. Indeed, it threatens the existence of many universities in Cardiff Central and beyond. The answer lies in making employment more secure, in boosting wages and productivity and in giving businesses and workers more certainty about their futures—and that includes a future in the European Union, so that they feel confident in investing, spending and job creation. That is best done in partnership with trade unions and their members across the UK. It is what responsible and successful businesses do, and it is what a responsible Government should do and promote, as the Labour Government in Wales have done.

Throughout the election, I campaigned on the need to tackle inequality head on—wealth inequality, social inequality and tax inequality. I will continue that campaign and be a strong voice for all the people of Cardiff Central. I look forward to working with colleagues here.

3.52 pm

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con): Congratulations, Madam Deputy Speaker. As is already clear, you will find a warm welcome from all sides of the House because we know you as a champion of us Back Benchers, and we trust you.

It is a pleasure to follow so many outstanding maiden speeches. Constituents across the country will be proud to see their choices vindicated today. Those speeches take me back to my first days as an MP when I was elected in 2010. Hundreds of thousands of people had lost their jobs and for many more the prospect of home ownership was a distant dream. Others struggled to make ends meet. Our first duty in coalition was to restore fiscal responsibility to our public finances, offering this country the economic security that underpins all

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other policy decisions. There is nothing compassionate about paying more in debt interest than could be afforded on education. It is right to finish the job now. Once we have balanced the books, we can target investment and create the climate for all parts of the UK to realise their full potential.

Already, employment is at a record high and rising. In my constituency, youth unemployment has fallen by over 76%, but it is no good creating all these jobs if we do not offer the education and skills for local people to benefit. It is no good funding millions of apprenticeships and university places if we are not going to address skills shortages we face in engineering, nursing, construction and social care. I hope that the full employment and welfare benefits Bill reporting duties will not just be headline employment and apprenticeships figures, but that they will review progress broken down by sector and set against skills demand. That is the only way in which we will deliver the sophisticated skills strategy we need.

Oxfordshire, for example, is among the top five innovation ecosystems in the world. We have more than 1,500 high-tech firms, from start-ups to global company headquarters. We are world leaders in life sciences, big physics and space, and we employ more than 43,000 people. Not only has Oxford produced more than 50 Nobel laureates, but we are leaders in UK tech transfer. Between 2010 and 2012, Oxford university generated more spin-outs than any other UK university. State-of-the-art facilities such as the Diamond synchrotron and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, and access to our hyper-skilled labour pool, make us disproportionately attractive to tech industry.

Even in Oxford, however, businesses struggle with the skills shortage, housing costs, and digital and physical infrastructure, and those are the constraints that we must overcome. The Chancellor has rightly zeroed in on weak productivity, but the British scientific community is the most productive in the world. With just over 3% of the world’s research and development spending, we produce more than 6% of the world’s publications and 16% of its most cited papers. Our researchers translate funding into great science more effectively than anyone else. Yet despite recent increases, we still lag behind our international competitors in R and D investment, ranking only 12th in the EU.

Commercialisation is another issue. Despite Innovate UK’s excellent reputation, tech firms outside London speak of a chronic shortage of early-stage investment capital, and a mismatch between longer lead-in times—especially for biotech—and the impatience of capital investors. Incentives for individual investors de-risk investments, and we have a growing angel network in Oxford, but there are no breakthrough, throwing-down-the-gauntlet-to-Silicon-Valley solutions. I hope that the Treasury will explore incentives for pension funds and insurance companies—those with long-term perspectives —to invest directly in tech firms. Globalisation means that a single disruptive technology can create a worldwide paradigm shift in what seems like an instant: think Uber and taxis, Netflix and DVDs. Our STEM ecosystem needs to be the most agile and responsive in the world.

In five years of representing what I consider to be the vertex of our golden triangle, I have learnt a few things: for instance, that one should always go to a surgery

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prepared for an impromptu tutorial on wave particle duality and that we need to develop a policy for our STEM ecosystem as a coherent whole. We have come closest to that with our growth deals, which is why we in Oxford are particularly excited about the genuinely transformative possibilities of the cities and local government devolution Bill. We feel that if Cambridge has been granted devolved powers to retain business rates, we should have those powers too.

It would be deeply disappointing if, in his efforts to rebalance the economy, the Chancellor overlooked counties which already power the economy, but still have much more to give. The exam question should be not “Are you doing OK?”, but “How much better could you be doing?” Just as the education Bill will tackle both failing and coasting schools, this Government programme should aim to unlock the full potential of every local economy and community in Great Britain.

3.57 pm

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I congratulate you on your election, Madam Deputy Speaker. You and I have known each other for many years, and it is, to say the least, a pleasure to serve under your stewardship.

A number of Members have quoted Disraeli in the context of “one nation”, but Disraeli had something else to say. He said that if the Tory party was nothing else, it was “organised hypocrisy”. We did not hear that quotation today.

When the Chancellor opened the debate, he did not explain to us where exactly the Government would make the £12 billion of welfare cuts. I think that they owe us an answer to that question, and I hope that we shall hear one from whoever winds up the debate. They are also going to try to make tax cuts amounting to £7 billion. We are all for tax cuts, but the needy should not suffer as a result.

Someone said earlier that one of the growing industries in this country was the food bank industry, and there is a lot of truth in that. I was amazed to discover recently that some 18,000 people in Coventry are using food banks. Moreover, many people are on low and, it might be argued, poverty wages, and rely on benefits. That is quite an indictment, quite apart from what was said in the last Parliament about zero-hours contracts. That is another scandal. Those contracts might suit some people but they do not suit the majority of people who want to own their own homes. This Government talk about a property-owning democracy, but what chance do those people have of getting on to the housing ladder when they cannot get a mortgage because they are earning poverty wages on zero-hours contracts? That is another thing that this Government should answer for.

We have rehearsed the argument many times about who was responsible for the deficit. The thinking public, and the world at large, know that the economic crisis started in America with Lehman Brothers. Someone mentioned Lehman Brothers earlier, so I shall not rehearse that argument further. It has also been claimed that the manufacturing recovery in the west midlands somehow just happened under this Government. I sometimes wonder about this Government, when they say that all the bad things happened under Labour and the good things happened under them. It sounds like Pol Pot,

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35 years ago in Cambodia. He claimed that all the bad things happened before his time, and all the good things happened when he came to power. We all know what Pol Pot was like, and where he ended up.

When we talk about the economic recovery and about Coventry, we must remember that the buy-out involving Tata and Jaguar Land Rover took place before this Government came to power. Let us be quite clear about that when we remember the jobs that were created as a result. Similarly, Advantage West Midlands created the infrastructure for Ansty Park, but Ministers are now rushing up to Ansty Park because a lot of industries are relocating there. The latest to do so is the London Taxi Company.

Local government has also been involved in the experimental stages. Let us remember that a previous Conservative Government abolished the rating system and introduced the poll tax. They also introduced metropolitan authorities, but the next Conservative Government came into power and abolished them. Local authority leaders, certainly in the west midlands, have been involved in negotiations with the Chancellor to create a greater authority in the west midlands with an elected mayor. Most people in the west midlands would object to having an elected mayor. I am not involved in the negotiations with the Chancellor, but he seems to be claiming that he got a mandate in the general election to make those changes. I for one will be watching the situation very carefully.

It is very important that Coventry does not lose its identity, although we would obviously co-operate in an economic sense if that were beneficial to the city. I suspect, however, that this is a smokescreen for further local government cuts and that when things do not work out, local government will be blamed again. The Government are not taking democracy back to local government; they are taking it away, just as they did in the past when they created metropolitan councils. I know that a lot of people want to speak in the debate; they have been here all day and I am nearly at the end of my allotted time.

4.3 pm

Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con): Madam Deputy Speaker—congratulations, and thank you for allowing me to make my maiden speech during this important debate on the economy. It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), and I also congratulate all the previous speakers who have made their maiden speeches today. They have set the bar very high for the rest of us who are following them. Thank you for that!

I should like to begin by paying tribute to my predecessor in Mid Worcestershire, Sir Peter Luff. Peter was first elected to this place in 1992 as the MP for Worcester, following in the footsteps of another highly respected Member, Peter Walker. Peter Luff was a Whip and a former Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee and the Agriculture Select Committee. He was also, of course, a Defence Minister in the last Government. Peter leaves a great legacy in Worcestershire. He fought for significant improvements to local infrastructure, including the new Worcestershire Parkway

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station which will open in 2017. He also worked hard to preserve and restore local heritage assets such as Hartlebury Castle, the Droitwich canals and the Regal Cinema. I will try to serve the kind and generous constituents of Mid Worcestershire as well as Peter did.

I am fortunate to represent one of the most idyllic constituencies in the country. A drive through Mid Worcestershire is a wonderful experience, starting from Broadway—the gateway to the Cotswolds—in the south, and heading through the gently undulating landscape of the Vale of Evesham, past fields of asparagus, plum and apple orchards, and greenhouses full of fragrant and beautiful flowers. One continues north, passing the Worcester Warriors rugby stadium, towards the historic town of Droitwich Spa and on to Ombersley and Hartlebury in the north. On the journey one will pass through many quintessentially English villages with splendid names, such as Upton Snodsbury, Flyford Flavell and my children’s favourite—Wyre Piddle. I am proud of the links between my constituency and this place via Simon de Montfort of de Montfort Parliament fame. In August this year we will commemorate the 750th anniversary of the battle of Evesham, where Simon de Montfort was killed.

The experiences of the past few weeks have taught us all in this place that there is no such thing as a safe seat in modern British politics, but Mid Worcestershire is about as true blue Tory as one can get, having returned a Conservative Member at every election since 1837, apart from once, in 1880, when a Liberal was returned as the MP for Evesham by two votes. As this result was transparently an error, a petition was lodged, the result was voided and a Conservative was returned instead. I like the precedent.

As I have spent the past several years working for one of the leading technology companies in the world, it will be no surprise that in this place I wish to be an advocate for technology and the digital sector, despite the fact that I am reading from a piece of paper. Ignore that for the moment. The UK’s digital economy is vital. It employs more than 1.5 million people and is growing at double the rate of GDP. We can be proud that the UK is one of the most advanced digital economies in the world, and I know that this Government are committed to making sure it continues to be so.

The other sector I wish to champion in this place is travel and tourism—again, one of the fastest growing sectors of the British economy. Since 2010 one in three of all new jobs has been in the travel and hospitality space, and tourism overall contributes more than £127 billion—a staggering sum—to the UK economy and employs more than 3 million UK people, including many in my constituency.

Finally, we all know that we can have good public services only if we have a strong economy that generates the taxes to pay for them. That is why it is vital that we continue to support business and job creation, thereby supporting workers and their families. That is what I am here to do. That is what this Queen’s Speech and this Government will deliver.

4.7 pm

Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP): Many congratulations, Madam Deputy Speaker, from the Scottish Benches on your election.

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In February 1974, I first stood for this Parliament. It has been a rather long campaign but here I am, representing that wonderful constituency, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. In the 2010 election former Prime Minster Gordon Brown had a majority of 23,000. I stand here today with a majority of some 10,000, an indication surely of a desire for change not just in my constituency, but mirrored the length and breadth of Scotland.

It is fitting on these occasions to recognise the work of the previous Member of Parliament. Gordon Brown was a giant in Labour party politics and in British politics. He went on to become Chancellor of the Exchequer and then Prime Minister—a very distinguished career to which I pay tribute. There were many issues where we disagreed, but I am sure the whole House will follow me in wishing him the very best for his future. I particularly look forward to the work he intends doing internationally among the poorest countries in the world to bring education to the most disadvantaged.

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is a constituency of many parts. Some of our communities, including Cowdenbeath, Lochgelly, Kelty, Lochore, Ballingry, Crosshill and the delightful Lumphinnans were hewn out of the very mines of the Scottish coalfields. That mining industry may have gone, but the strength of the community built by those miners is still there, although for the past 30 years or more they have been suffering from political and economic neglect such that I will have to do my best to address it.

In other parts of the constituency, people can meander down the coast from Dysart, through Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn and Aberdour, to the more modern Dalgety Bay, and gaze across the River Forth to Edinburgh. That coastal stretch was a favourite of Adam Smith, that much misquoted father of economics. He would often walk that way and contemplate the great philosophical questions of the day. As he did so, he would look at the impressive European trading ships that sailed up and down the Forth, providing that strong economic and social link to the many great nations of the continent. Standing on the shores of Scotland he saw the importance of international trade and of a European outlook. His perspective then, in the 18th century, challenges us all today to be just as outward looking and imaginative as he was in his time.

Adam Smith knew, too, that there is no centre of internationalism. It is something to be sought in the minds and deeds of people; whether you live in a great city of a great land or in a small seaside town on the northern shores of Scotland, you can be international. He knew, too, of problems, and as I look across at the Government Benches, I see many problems. If I were to point out just one thing where I share the view of Adam Smith, it would be that he could see readily that when looking at people with power and riches, you see that they are no protections against small-mindedness.

Turning to other matters, I was very impressed by the recent OECD report outlining the fact that excessive inequality is bad for growth. To talk of inequality is not to engage in the politics of envy. Rather, it is to engage in a debate about economic failure and missed opportunities. Let me finish with a quote from Adam Smith:

“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”

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4.12 pm

Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): Congratulations on your election, Madam Deputy Speaker. In speaking to the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Roger Mullin) as one of the “problems” from the other side of the House, I congratulate him on a fine opening speech.

I stand before you today not as someone who has long pursued a career in politics, but as someone who was inspired many years ago to make the most of their life. My parents were decent, hard-working people who worked every hour God sent to build something for themselves and, more importantly, for their children. They talked to me not only about making your own way, but about helping people along the way.

The keener observers among you will notice that I am a little older than some of my young, vibrant colleagues, but 23 years building a business is responsible for that. I am older but certainly no wiser; my colleagues are of a very high calibre. They have also come from a very diverse range of backgrounds, careers and experiences, and that strikes at the very heart of the myth that the Conservative party is a party of privilege.

I wish to pay tribute to my predecessor, Anne McIntosh, who worked so hard and was a great champion of the farming industry. She did an excellent job as the Chair of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She was a strong voice, and a willing and active participant in this Chamber.

It is, of course, a huge honour to represent Thirsk and Malton, a place where I have lived all my life. It is a place of distinct and stunning scenery, from Filey, with its immaculate gardens and broad, smooth beaches to picture-postcard villages and market towns such as Malton, racing’s northern home and Yorkshire’s food capital. It has Thirsk, the real-life home of James Herriot and the birthplace of Thomas Lord, who set up Lord’s cricket club and the MCC; Pickering, the gateway to the heather-scented North York Moors; and Easingwold, my home town, the place I was brought up. In short, it is God’s own county, and the true and original country of the white rose.

We are all here to represent our constituencies and to get the best deal, but in my experience we cannot win if the other side loses: it only breeds resentment, division and future conflict. I come to this House wanting a fair deal for our farmers, our businesses, our councils, our schools and our hospitals. I also want to help to build a fairer society and a fairer deal for the north and, in particular, for North Yorkshire. The vibrancy of our economy is critical. Never forget that everything here is provided by business people who go out and take risks, work twice the hours for half the money and put their life savings on the line. More often than not, they will never see them again.

Ronald Reagan once said that virtually all our economic growth is achieved by entrepreneurs and their small businesses. I have heard a lot of talk about productivity in this Chamber over the past couple of weeks and the way to increase productivity is to increase competition. We must make it easier and more rewarding to start a business and invest, and we do not help the poor by destroying the rich.