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Debate on the Address

[First Day]

Madam Speaker: I must now give some information to hon. Members that might prove helpful. The proposed pattern during the remaining days of debate on the Queen's Address is as follows: Thursday 15 May, work, welfare, education and health; Friday 16 May, the constitution; Monday 19 May, home affairs; Tuesday 20 May, the economy and European affairs. Hon. Members may like to make a note of that.

I shall now call the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) to move the motion on the Loyal Address, which will be seconded by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin).

2.50 pm

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): I beg to move,

Madam Speaker, you will recall that yesterday evening I asked whether you would allow me to sing while moving the motion today. Having made inquiries about my vocal abilities, you strictly forbade me from doing so--thus demonstrating the solicitude for right hon. and hon. Members that ensured your unopposed election as Speaker last week. Accordingly, I am precluded from treating the House to prolonged extracts from the musical "Hello Dolly" that I had intended to sing. Therefore, I must confine myself simply to the following: "Hello, Tony; Hello, Johnny, it's so nice to see you back where you belong".

Madam Speaker, this is the first speech that I have made from this side of the House for more than 18 years and it is my first speech as a Government Back Bencher. I shall therefore be unprecedentedly--and, quite possibly, unrepeatedly--loyal. Indeed, let me dispel immediately any doubts that malicious people may have propagated: it is my firm intention to speak in favour of this Queen's Speech.

I first heard that I had been selected to move the motion when I received a telephone call on Monday afternoon. A portentously official-sounding voice said, in ominous tones, "The Government Chief Whip would like to speak to you." I was immediately struck with terror that I had violated the parliamentary Labour party's new and extremely stringent code of discipline. My mind went back guiltily to a general election campaign meeting last month during which I had been reckless enough to utter the word "socialism". Moreover, I had shared the platform with a trade union leader. I knew that I could not hope for leniency in the light of such transgressions.

However, it turned out that my fears were groundless and that my right hon. Friend was inviting me to move the motion to which I am now speaking. I therefore cast around in my mind for some explanation for my being singled out in this way. I want to make clear that in order to obtain this distinction, I did not send boxes of

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chocolates or bunches of flowers to either the Prime Minister or the Chief Whip; nor did I invite them out to dinner. Apart from anything else, on a Back Bencher's salary I cannot afford the prices at Granita. Nor have I ever said that there is "something of the night" about the Chief Whip--even if I have thought it.

I recall that recently, during a broadcast on a Radio 4 programme appropriately called "Loose Ends", I announced myself to be a total sycophant of the Prime Minister. However, before preening myself too much, I do realise that under the iron heel of the Minister without Portfolio, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), total sycophancy must be regarded as a suspiciously lukewarm form of loyalty. It is out of fear of my hon. Friend that I refrain today from referring to reports circulating in the film industry that Hugh Grant is to portray the Prime Minister in a forthcoming horror film called "Demon Eyes over Westminster".

I then wondered whether my selection came under the Government's scheme to encourage small businesses by promoting my book, "How to be a Minister"--or whether, indeed, the whole Labour landslide of 1 May was a subtle promotion ploy for my book.

Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that my being chosen to move this motion is a great honour for my constituency. This is the first time in its 112-year existence that the Gorton constituency has had its Member selected to move the Loyal Address. My constituents are forthright folk, as befits northerners who speak their minds. I recall that at Christmas 1989--in those increasingly remote days when Finchley was a Conservative-held constituency and Margaret Thatcher was its Member of Parliament--I attended at the excellent Wright Robinson high school in my constituency a performance of the musical "Grease" given by the pupils for old-age pensioners.

During the interval there was a refreshment period, and I moved from table to table, making my number with my constituents. One of them at a neighbouring table beckoned me over--and when a Gorton old-age pensioner beckons you over, you go. She said to me, "I have been watching Parliament on television and I have been watching that Mrs. Thatcher. She tells a lot of lies." I mumbled some kind of assent, but she went on to say, "Mind you, I have been watching you and you tell a lot of lies, too." I hope you will appreciate, Madam Speaker, what a privilege it is to represent such people.

Whatever my own merits or otherwise, my constituency fully deserves any honour conferred on it. Gorton is without doubt a cut above any other part of Manchester--when it deigns to acknowledge that it is a part of Manchester, rather than the independent local authority it once was. For an inner-city area, it is remarkably green, with many fine parks, one of which marks the farthest limits of the Danish invasion of England. Yes, it was Manchester which scored the first recorded success for Euro-scepticism.

My constituents have access to only one open tract of unspoilt countryside--Kingswater park. We shall be looking to the Government to help prevent North West Water from ruining this green lung by an asset-stripping exercise that would turn it into a hideous business park.

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My constituency has been home to distinguished artists and authors. L. S. Lowry lived in the Rusholme area for a time; Anthony Burgess was educated at Xaverian college, from which I am quite sure that he did not derive any inspiration for his book "A Clockwork Orange".

Appleby Lodge is a haven for musicians. Sir John Barbirolli had a flat there. So, more recently, did the distinguished authority on Verdi operas and conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, Sir Edward Downes. I canvassed Sir Edward at Appleby Lodge during one election, and the House will be gratified to learn that the outcome was: old music, new Labour.

Appleby Lodge is on Wilmslow road, and a 500-yard stretch of that road contains some 40 Asian restaurants and takeaways, known collectively, if exaggeratedly, as Curry Mile. With a £70 million annual turnover, Curry Mile is evidence of the entrepreneurship and hard work of my Asian constituents. When they read the Queen's Speech, they will be gratified to note the priority assigned to the promotion of human rights worldwide. They are already delighted with the admirable and courageous commitment made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to seek to assist in bringing about a solution, so long delayed, to the problems of the beautiful but tormented state of Jammu and Kashmir. They will regard the Gracious Speech as reinforcing that commitment.

Gorton was once a proud centre of heavy industry. The railway museum in York contains magnificent locomotives manufactured at the Peacock works in Gorton. But my constituents do not want to moulder away in an industrial museum. A quarter of households in my constituency are without a wage earner. Gorton possesses the unenviable distinction of being number one in England for youth unemployment. My constituents will welcome the promise in the Gracious Speech to introduce a windfall tax to help banish the scourge of youth unemployment. With many of those who have work being paid a pittance, my constituents will welcome the commitment to introduce a national minimum wage.

We have a desperate housing problem brought about by the previous Government's destruction of the local authority building programme, so my constituents will welcome the Bill to enable capital receipts from council house sales to be invested in housebuilding and renovation.

We have some of the country's worst crime rates in my constituency. Indeed, I have been shot at myself on the streets of the Anson estate, although I was not completely sure whether that was an act of random criminality or a particularly pointed political criticism.

People of all ages, but particularly the elderly, live in fear not only of burglary, robbery and vandalism, but of noisy behaviour and mindless hooliganism. My constituents will look with anticipation to the promised legislation to combat crime and anti-social behaviour and will welcome the introduction of new criminal offences of racial attack and racial harassment. Above all, my constituents will welcome the Government's first priority--education.

Curiously and anomalously, my deprived and all too frequently impoverished constituency contains three assisted places schools. The best known of these is

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Manchester grammar school, an admirable enough institution in its way but situated incongruously in the middle of areas of unemployment and deprivation. For many years, I represented both Manchester grammar school and Belle Vue zoo. I have to say that I got more votes out of Belle Vue zoo.

This year, £2,250 million will go to assisted places at the three schools. Exactly 95 of my constituents benefit from that £2,250 million, which is paid for by the parents of the 14,200 pupils who attend state schools in my constituency. The people of Gorton will welcome the Government's commitment to phase out the assisted places scheme and to use the money for the 14,200 rather than the 95.

My constituents will be delighted that the Government's majority is big enough to preclude what happened the last time that Labour won on election, in 1974. The House will recall that in that year, because of an indecisive result in February, the country had to vote again in October. During the February election campaign, my agent sent me to canvass in Shelford avenue in the Longsight ward. I knocked at a house and a woman came to the door. She took a look at me, and I told her that I was her candidate for Parliament. She said, "We only see you when elections come around." I mumbled some unconvincing explanation and went on my way.

In the October election, my agent again sent me to canvass in Shelford avenue. I knocked at the same house and the same woman came to the door. She took a look at me, and said, "Oh, it's you is it? You're always round here." That is the majesty of the electorate.

The people of Gorton have voted for a Labour Government at every election. They did so even in 1983-- the year in which someone described the Labour election manifesto as the longest suicide note in history. The rest of the country has now caught up with Gorton. My constituents look forward to benefiting from this belated outbreak of good sense. I wish the Government well.

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