Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington): Does my right hon. Friend accept that many people are deeply concerned about events first in Oldham and now in Burnley? There is no excuse for violent disorder, and the House supports the police in the action that they have had to take. There are complex underlying issues on which an outsider would not dream of commenting, but clearly race is a factor. We do not want to see what happened in Burnley replicated throughout the summer. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that as well as considering the short-term public order issue, he will take up the point made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) from the Opposition Front Bench that we have the necessary law? There is no doubt that the BNP's activity has raised the temperature in certain areas, and that if the law exists it should be used. All the factors should be considered. No community should think that it does not have a voice and that it is not being listened to.

Mr. Denham: I agree very much that no community should feel that it does not have a voice or that it is not listened to. I agree also that the laws that the House has enacted to deal with racist crimes and statements made or activities undertaken by racist organisations should be used. That is why the House passed the measures in the first place. It is true that the issues are complex in particular communities. We must do what we can, but it is important that others consider the problems at local level and try to identify the issues that are specific to local areas.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): May I join in welcoming the right hon. Gentleman to his new position? Does he agree that the events are worrying given, as he rightly said, the generally good state of race relations in Burnley? Does he agree also that the events of last night are therefore untypical?

Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore congratulate the police on the vigorous and robust way in which they rightly stepped in to try to control the situation? Will he ensure that in those areas where he and others remain anxious about tensions, especially in inner cities, his suggestion and that of the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) that people in such areas should be called together before there is any trouble by the police and other community leaders, to try to find a way through and to ensure that a peaceful regime is maintained, is a sensible and proactive way in which to proceed?

Mr. Denham: That was a helpful comment. I understand that the events of the weekend were untypical of the recent history of Burnley. People in other areas will want to ensure that all necessary discussions take place. There must not be a dialogue of the deaf or a failure to talk before problems emerge.

I am happy to repeat my thanks to the police for the way in which they conducted events over the weekend. Effective policing of disturbances such as those that took place over the weekend and good policing all year round

25 Jun 2001 : Column 391

are essential. At the end of the day, however, these are not problems that can be resolved by policing. They involve relations between communities and underlying economic and social problems within communities, and they must be tackled at that level. The police will always play their professional role, as they did this weekend in Burnley, but we must tackle the root causes that give rise to disturbances.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): The House will be united in deploring racial violence, but does the Minister agree that there has been a substantial decline in good race relations? We are aware of that in Southend, where I live and where there were outbreaks at the weekend similar to those in Burnley.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that many members of the public think that the decline could be related to what they regard as a lack of effective control and operation of asylum seekers? Does he consider that there could be a substantial improvement in good race relations if the Government would make it a priority to ensure that speedier decisions were taken on asylum applications?

Mr. Denham: That was a very regrettable and unfortunate intervention, and I think that it was wrong. I do not know Burnley well, but I imagine that the majority of those involved in Burnley, from whatever community they came, were born in Burnley and are second or third generation residents in this country. I do not know what connection that would have with the issue of asylum.

25 Jun 2001 : Column 392

Some politicians have sought to exploit the issue of asylum in a way that has had an unfortunate effect on wider race relations. In general, I do not agree that there has been a marked deterioration in race relations. I do not believe that there is evidence of that. There are still major problems and issues to be tackled, but we have made progress over the past 20 years. We have not gone backwards.

Point of Order

3.54 pm

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you give some guidance on protocol in the House? You may have noticed that several new Members of Parliament have tabled oral questions for the next few days. Indeed, a new hon. Member asked a question at Question Time today. I understood that, until an hon. Member had made a maiden speech, it was not proper to ask an oral question or participate in proceedings apart from tabling written questions. Does the protocol continue to exist, or is it in abeyance?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I shall try to help the hon. Gentleman and the House. No absolute rule states that an hon. Member may not participate until he or she has made his or her maiden speech, but it is the custom of the House that the maiden speech precedes any other activity in the Chamber. It is often good advice to new Members that they test the nature of the pitch before deciding to play a longer innings, but the new hon. Member who asked a supplementary question this afternoon had already made his maiden speech.

25 Jun 2001 : Column 391

25 Jun 2001 : Column 393

Orders of the Day

Debate on the Address

[Fourth Day]

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [20 June],


Question again proposed.

The Economy, Trade and Industry

3.56 pm

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): The Queen's Speech and the detailed announcements that I shall make today build on the economic foundation of stability that, since 1997, has been our priority, which we shall never take for granted. The enterprise Bill proposed in the Queen's Speech will advance our economic objective to match, over the next 10 years, the higher productivity and prosperity of our major competitors. The welfare reform Bill will advance our objective to build on the 1 million jobs that have been created since 1997, to achieve full employment in this decade and to make work pay.

Today, I shall give details of the tax credit Bill. That measure and the pension credit Bill will advance our objective of ensuring that every child in our country has the best possible start in life and that not one is left behind, and that every pensioner can enjoy retirement in dignity.

One central, defining idea underlies the measures and the accompanying public service reform legislation. It has made the events of the past month more than simply a competition between parties and a real contest of ideas. For us and, I believe, the British people, opportunity for all, and our actions to secure it, is the key not only to enterprise and a good economy but to decent public services and a good society. We want to ensure opportunity for not only the few but everyone in our country.

The precondition for the reform programme in the Queen's Speech is that, even when we are tested by exchange rate pressures, oil price movements and the American slow-down, we strengthen, not relax, the monetary and fiscal disciplines and rules that have given this country the lowest inflation in Europe, the lowest unemployment for 25 years and the lowest mortgage and long-term interest rates for more than 30 years.

The Government will support the Bank of England and maintain our anti-inflation discipline. We shall hold to a fiscal regime that achieves a current budget balance. That has meant that, this year, debt is forecast to fall from the 44 per cent. that we inherited to 30 per cent. of gross domestic product. In future, any party that is serious about political office will need not only to have an inflation target and fiscal rules, but to set and follow clear, tough,

25 Jun 2001 : Column 394

monetary and fiscal objectives and disciplines if it is to convince the people that it is doing everything to avoid the old, familiar boom and boost.

There is an even greater economic challenge for Britain. It is to deliver this decade what has eluded us for too long: faster productivity rises than our main industrial competitors. At any point in the past 20 years, it was open to a Government to make not only the Bank of England independent, but our competition authorities independent and free of political influence, to use the criminal law to outlaw cartels, to reform insolvency laws and remove Crown preference, thus reducing the cost of business failure, to introduce an enterprise management incentive scheme for growing high-growth firms and to cut capital gains tax, as we have done, from 40 per cent. to 10 per cent. for transactions in business assets that are held for two years.

I am pleased, therefore, that it is a Labour enterprise Bill, led by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and Labour Budgets that are pushing forward the agenda for prosperity. Furthermore, our review of planning procedures and our plans for improved workplace skills to provide better links between businesses and schools, and for a research and development tax credit giving special help to manufacturers will advance that agenda for higher productivity.

These announcements are just the start. Building on the cut in small business taxation, an extension of the new 10p small company rate, a new flat rate VAT scheme and a single system of accounts for small businesses, and building on the 170,000 new businesses that we have created since 1997, we shall publish in the next few weeks our proposals, area by area, for stamp duty exemptions so that we can have business development in our high-unemployment communities.

Charities and businesses will also join the Government in a £40 million community development venture capital fund to bring work to high-unemployment areas, and regional development agencies in every part of the country will soon publish their prospectuses for what will eventually amount to a £1 billion fund for the UK, to bring new businesses and jobs to every region.


Next Section

IndexHome Page