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Caroline Flint (Don Valley): I begin by declaring an interest as a member of the Denaby sure start board in my constituency. I am pleased to be called to speak in the debate today. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), who spoke most eloquently about his constituency's needs. He represents a metropolitan and diverse seat, but when he spoke about his constituents' life chances and their right to aspire to fulfil their potential, his words reflected the message that I give my constituents. I represent a former mining constituency in South Yorkshire. Over years of Tory rule, the people there saw their life chances cruelly savaged and their means of working and surviving taken away.
Only under this Government are the people of South Yorkshire beginning to experience real evidence of hope for change. Communities were left with little employment; the opportunities for investment and excitement through creating jobs, training and opportunities are finally available on their doorstep. That is vital for my constituents.
Much has been made of the word spin recently. I have never heard so many Conservative Members in a spin and out of touch with the real world. I do not recognise some of the communities that they describe when I consider the amount of money that has been invested in schools in my area, in refurbishing housing through repairs and central heating and through providing inside toilets. Hundreds of homes in the Doncaster area had no inside toilets. The release of capital receipts has enabled us to make changes. Conservative Members may never have experienced or represented such a world. However, many of my hon. Friends and I represent such constituencies, and we want to change them for the better.
Conservative Members do not know whether they are guaranteeing more or pledging less; whether to call us reckless spenders or the bearers of empty promises; whether they would cut taxes or petrol duties. In The Sun yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition devoted many words to the way in which petrol prices affect those who own cars. However, despite all the points that he made in that column, he did not even imply that he was prepared to cut petrol duties. Anyone who drives a car, including me, should listen carefully to Conservative Members' weasel words: what they say is not necessarily what they will do. Indeed, they will not even say what they will do. They are caught between their leader in name and their leader in waiting, who are on opposite sides of a roundabout. They are not sure which way to face.
The spending round is not about spin; it is about £43 billion. It is about the child in Denaby Main whose young mother has never had the opportunities enjoyed by Conservative Members. Some people have never had au pairs, private schooling or regular holidays. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Mr. Loughton) sighs, but such people cannot buy their way out of the system into which they have been born and they depend on the public services that we provide for them. The spending round is about that child getting the opportunities that she deserves, a chance to fulfil her potential and a second or third chance to prosper at school rather than being written off in the Tories' opted-out, excluded, exam-failed world, which consigned many kids to woodwork, detention and an early exit from the school system.
Children may get a fair go at getting a decent life, thanks to the Government. That is nothing to do with spin or photo calls. Their health, education and very life chances will be transformed by the Government's investment in public services. That investment will provide a sure start in life--we will work on that with parents and agencies--as well as child care, early access to books, early education, regular health checks and the means to tackle the drugs and violence that exist in many communities. Investment will go to estates that can be modernised, to achieve policing that is close to the community and to raising a school's standards.
Our investment means that a child will be able to enter a school that spends £430 more per pupil than in 1997. That school may have a thriving after-school scheme thanks to the Government's investment in an early years partnership as well as the latest information technology equipment, literacy and numeracy hours and teachers who are motivated by the resources that we are putting into schools and into their pay packets. The spending round is about people creating services that provide the opportunity for security and a decent life; it is about changing people's lives for the better. Like many of my
My constituents, including the pensioners, depend heavily on public services. Above all other groups, pensioners depend on our health service and our transport system. They also depend on us to fight crime. Their housing needs to be modernised. They, too, will benefit from this round of investment, which is also about the buses that link a necklace of villages to the heart of Doncaster. Those buses provide the link with Doncaster royal infirmary, which has a modernised accident and emergency unit and a ground-breaking breast cancer centre. The health service waiting list has been cut by a third since the general election.
Many of my constituents depend on their local authority to modernise the ageing homes that were left unattended due to stupid Treasury rules imposed under the Conservatives. The homes of hundreds of my constituents are getting new double glazing and new central heating and are being rewired thanks to Labour. [Interruption.] I am sorry if Conservative Members find that tedious, but they have never had to live in a cold, damp or badly heated house, running up unnecessarily costly bills. Thanks to the Government's investment in regeneration, fighting crime, youth offending schemes and bail projects, we are beginning to win the battle against those who make people's lives a misery.
Mr. Tyrie: I find all this stuff about us never having experienced cold homes a bit odious. I remember going to my grandmother's house during the miner's strike with a calor gas stove to heat up a brick to prevent her from getting hypothermia. That home did not have central heating, as I recall.
Caroline Flint: At that time, mining was in decline throughout Europe and it was unfortunate that then Prime Minister did not address the decline in coal and reinvest in South Yorkshire and other coal mining areas, as France did in the Ruhr valley. Instead, she engaged in a head to head with the industry and many innocent people and families were left desperate for many years.
I am pleased that the Government are addressing the energy issues that face us in the 21st century. We finally have a Government who have put together a package to deal with the illnesses and diseases from which many of my constituents suffer and which nearly 20 years of Tory Government did nothing to address. I am glad that a Labour Government are dealing with that.
I represent a part of the country with the lowest disposable income in the UK. The area's gross domestic product is only three quarters of that of the average region in Europe. The previous Government refused to deal with that and did not support South Yorkshire's application for objective 1 status. This Government have done so, and we aim to ensure that those figures do not continue into the
We should be reminded of the Tory Government's legacy. They thought that mass unemployment was inevitable. They destroyed long-standing jobs without creating new ones; they refused to back South Yorkshire for objective 1 funding; and they sought to drive women back into the home. The only growth under the Tory Government was that in violent crime. Their only gift was that of a holiday to those who burgled our homes and mugged people on the street, who never saw the inside of a court room, let alone a prison cell. The Conservative Government were out of touch. Their great offering to Don Valley was to close our major industries and offer us no hope.
Doncaster and Don Valley have hope for the future. Under the announcements made this week, we shall gain more than £80 million, which can be invested in local services, and £24 million in my constituency. All that would be under threat, should the Tories ever return to power.
I agree with the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) in one respect: the Government must ensure that the money that they provide is spent wisely and that adequate checks are made to see that funding is used in the best way possible. We must ensure that the partnerships that we establish do not waste time in delivering the services that people want. Just as the Government provide three years' notice of funding, that should be copied at local level. In order to be sustainable, child care projects need the comfort of three years' funding if child care is to improve.
The Government are clearly providing a huge amount of resources in all sorts of areas that benefit the people whom I represent. However, we must tackle the issue of how that money is spent so that it benefits local people. In some areas, we must streamline the bureaucracy or look at how the Government offices work to see whether they are monitoring the situation. If necessary, we must remind local agencies of their duty to ensure that they spend their time not holding meetings and committees and carrying out administration, but ensuring that people see what the Government are providing and that the resources meet local people's needs.