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Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East): It is with a great sense of honour and humility that I rise to make my maiden speech in this venerable Chamber. I am proud to have been elected by the constituents of Dundee, East to represent the city of my birth and their best interests in Westminster.
I believe that Dundee is Scotland's friendliest city. It certainly claims to be the United Kingdom's sunniest city, given its favourable location on the east coast and the shelter of the Sidlaw hills. It is one of Scotland's most densely packed urban centres, forming a regional centre for North Tayside, Angus and North-East Fife.
I am proud to represent a city which, over its long history--it celebrated its octocentenary in 1991--has never been frightened of change. One recurrent theme has been its ability to restructure and adapt itself to the circumstances with which it has been faced. Sited on the banks of the silvery Tay, which, as William McGonagall reflected, <b5>
In its long history, Dundee has been destroyed at least twice--once during the dynastic disputes between our two kingdoms in the 14th century, and again during the civil conflict between the Crown and Parliament in the 17th century. Neither, however, has posed an impediment to the growth of my home town, which continued at a great rate during the 19th century, when the city embraced technological and economic change to become what was known as "Juteopolis"--the centre of the world's jute production. Links with the Indian sub-continent remain today. Dundee was a city of immense wealth and, indeed, of immense differences in income and opportunity. It was a truly radical city--outside Glasgow, perhaps at times the most radical in the UK.
Dundee provided a platform in the early 20th century for Winston Churchill, who was then part of the Liberal Government who introduced many progressive and impressive reforms, changing the social provision of this country for ever. Although Churchill lasted in the seat for 14 years, he was uniquely ousted by the only prohibitionist Christian Socialist Member of Parliament, Neddy Scrymgeour.
During my lifetime, changes in the city have been even greater. I and my generation have witnessed a massive transformation in the city's outlook, economy and physical environment. Gone are the days when the "standard fayre" was a pie, a pint and an onion bridie. We have moved to the Budweiser and bun served at Dundee contemporary arts centre, of which I am proud to be a director, which has transformed the city's outlook as a provider of culture and art. William Topaz McGonagall, whom we in Dundee would call a worthy, would certainly write a poem in the hilarious vein, which unfairly earned him the title of world's worst poet, chronicling his amazement at the changes that have been effected in the city in the 99 years since his death.
Gone are the days when Dundee was known as the city of jute, jam and journalism. Now, we boast many leading- edge companies, such as NCR, Michelin, ABB Nitra and a host of smaller, research-based enterprises that are building on the biomedical expertise and computer-game technology of our city's two universities. I am proud of my city's progress and look forward to participating in that process and serving as its advocate here in Parliament.
The House and Dundee can rest assured that I shall do all I can to assist the civic process. I shall also do what I can to assist the modernisation of the House. I should like to pick up a theme that I have heard discussed in the past few weeks: the disengagement of electors from our political processes. Setting aside the television coverage, which tends to put people off anyway, I got the feeling while going around my constituency during the campaign that many people believe that it is the politicians who have distanced themselves from the electors.
Wherever we stand on modernisation, a vital role for the House is to re-engage with electors, especially young people. I have had the privilege of visiting schools and taking part in debates. I have seen the passion, commitment and great interest that many young people have. My Conservative opponent nearly got lynched in one school when he kept referring to the Scottish Executive as the "White Heather Club", but he certainly gave dimension to the debate and that should be continued.
I shall continue the campaign for modern practices pursued by my predecessor, John McAllion, to whom I pay tribute. I know that the Whips in the House will have heaved a collective sigh of relief now that John has moved to the Scottish Parliament, where he is technically under the control of Tom McCabe, the Labour business manager there. Throughout his time here, John advocated continual improvement in the lives and economic prosperity of his constituents, and I know that he will continue to do so in Holyrood. John and I and all the other elected representatives for Dundee will work as a team to put the case for our city. I am proud to have been elected to represent my home town and I shall do everything in my power to ensure that the best case is advanced for the city.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills): The speech by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Luke) was a cheer to me. One of the very first cities to enter my consciousness was Dundee: I was born in Aberdeen and my mother comes from Glasgow, and our journeys between the two settled on Dundee, whose romance has never left me. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the great jute industry which, in a sense, opened up Scotland and brought the world to Scotland, so part of his history as a man of Dundee extends much further than the borders of Europe.
When the jute trade, which had created great wealth and prosperity, went into decline, Dundee shared the experience of many of our great cities. I give a cheer for what the hon. Gentleman had to say in that respect. I was especially moved by the fact that he believes in
Before the House today are certain motions, and every speaker has touched on them--indeed, the hon. Member for Dundee, East did so as well. It is a cause of sorrow to me that we seem to be in a court in which the prosecution determines how long the defence may have to make its case. That was not always the tradition of the House. I should have liked the Leader of the House to be present for my speech, because I agree with much that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), who held forth the hopes for one of the most profound and forensic of cross-examiners of previous Governments, who could use procedures that were more open in those times to cause great difficulty to the Government.
I wonder what would happen if there were yet another Scott inquiry. I remember the formidable arguments that Sir Richard advanced to demonstrate the improprieties and the actions of people in high places. I was convinced that his arguments were right, and I along with one other Conservative Back Bencher supported the critique that Sir Richard Scott made of the actions taken by government. He said that certain Ministers had failed in their constitutional duty. I can think of no more severe rebuke. We are talking not of pennies that are stolen but of people who fail in their constitutional responsibilities.
In a sense, that is why I feel that the burdens of the arguments that have been advanced in response to the motions are a real failure in a constitutional sense. I would have liked to remind the Leader of the House that his job is as set out in the traditional sense by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire. The right hon. Gentleman represents the House to the Executive. The formation of how we go about our businesses must allow the defence, if I may so categorise the other position, the opportunity to make its case--the Opposition's case. The motions arrogate power to the Executive--not the House as a collective of individual representatives, such as the hon. Member for Dundee, East and me, of defined areas in the country--and to the Government and the Crown.
A great Member retired at the end of the previous Parliament. He used to characterise the historic function of the House as a struggle against the powers of the Crown. In the course of our democratic history, however, the Crown moved from the end of the Mall to Downing street, and with that came the distinction that was lost. The Crown now so entirely controls the House that the opportunity for us to make a contrary case is diminished. The motions will enforce that.
There is no opportunity to make representations prior to the determination by the Government of what is the appropriate length of debate. Why is it that my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning), who led for the Opposition from the Front Bench, and all my other hon. Friends have so taken agin these proposed measures? If I were taking Oakeshott as my guide, I would say, "I do not know where we are going sometimes. I can only guide myself by past experience."
I have spoken about justice lying in that cross-section of the detail of procedure. However, the justice that we are talking about concerns liberty, the liberty of the people whom we represent. There are those who argue that Parliament is in decline, and we know why that is. What difference do we make? If I want to do a deal, like Mr. Ecclestone, I deal direct with Government. None of those matters ever came before the House.
Our constituents are not foolish. We have no weight in the balance of things. Perhaps when there is a Major-type Government with a small majority, where persuasion can alter the conduct of individual Members who support that Government, that will make a difference. In these great days, however, there is fealty to party. That is not to denigrate the concept of party, because I do not doubt that every Member on the Government Benches supports the Labour party, and that those Members who sit round me support the Conservative party. But the control of patronage runs through the whole system.
The Leader of the House told us that the motions were built on reports produced by the House. With my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), I served on the Modernisation Committee. We consistently asked for a simple thing--an analysis of how the system had worked in practice. Rational people sat down and pursued rationally a Bill's individually weighted progress, allowing for differing tolerances, but that turned out so badly that the Liberal Democrat representative, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) who, if I may say so, had prattled on in Committee about the merits of the arrangements, saw his party vote against every single measure.