Severn Barrage Plans

‘Could be Put Through Parliament Next Year’

The Neath MP told the Western Mail that the main issue in the ongoing discussions with officials was the question of the price support that would be available for the electricity the barrage produced.

And he pointed out that the cost of any price support would be offset by the savings made in flood protection, which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has estimated could be as much as £500m a year.

“We saw [Energy Secretary] Ed Davey last week and we’re engaging with officials together to go through some of the details, in particular the contractual details for renewable energy price support. That all takes a little time,”

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House Of Lords Reform

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Despite his eloquence, I disagree with most of what the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady) said. There are two issues that I wish to address from the outset. The first is the charge that now is not the right time. It never is the right time to introduce constitutional reform. That is the dreary, weary excuse that anti-reformers use over and over again. It was used about devolution and almost every other constitutional reform brought in by the last Labour Government whom I was proud to serve. What if great reformers over the years had decided that it was not the right time? What if Aneurin Bevan had said, “I have this really good idea for a national health service, but the country is broke and we are probably going to lose the next election, so it is not the right time”? What if the suffragettes had said, “We’d really like the right to vote, but there is so much else going on at the moment; let’s leave it to the men for a few more years”?

Secondly, if any of us had been starting from scratch and designing a second Chamber for a new, modern democracy, it is inconceivable that any of us would have come up with the House of Lords in its present incarnation. Of course we would not have done so; the very idea is risible. The truth is the House of Lords is an anachronism, and we all know it. Yes, it performs a valuable scrutinising and revising role. Yes, it demonstrates a diligence often superior to that of the Commons. When I was a Minister appearing before a Lords Parliamentary Committee, the standard of questioning was often more stringent and, I regret to say, its members often better informed than those in the Commons. There is, however, absolutely no reason why that standard of performance could not be maintained, possibly even exceeded, by a democratic second Chamber with new blood and new expertise. This is not about a personnel change; it is about accountability and democracy.

In any case, the fact that the House of Lords performs a valuable role is no reason to maintain it in its current constitutional form. It is a democratic farce, an arbitrary mixture of a majority deriving their place from patronage and a minority deriving it from titles inherited from a liaison with a royal, centuries ago. It is a hangover from pre-democracy days, a constitutional dinosaur.

Labour has a proud record, going back to our first Labour leader, Keir Hardie, of demanding a democratic second Chamber. If we do not take this opportunity now, through this Bill, to ensure that we have a democratically constituted second Chamber, we will be throwing away that opportunity—if not for ever, certainly for this generation. It is a “now or maybe never” decision.

We will try to amend the Bill. For instance, I am a supporter of the reformed democratic second Chamber having a “secondary” not a “primary” mandate. That principle, eloquently enunciated by Billy Bragg, will help to address the crucial issue of the primacy of the Commons. I am not in favour of electors having two votes—one for MPs, one for Lords—as there should be just one vote: for MPs. This House should continue to have the primary representative mandate from our constituents. Parliament should consist of MPs with legislative primacy by virtue of their primary mandate, with peers discharging their important revising, scrutinising role by virtue of their democratic but secondary mandate. That is an issue for Committee; for now, we have a duty to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Oliver Heald: Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Joint Committee, which examined at the draft Bill, suggested that the Government should have another look at forms of indirect election that preserve the supremacy of this House while still giving a democratic legitimacy to the other place? Does he agree that looking again at some of those ideas would be well worth while?

Mr Hain: I do if the hon. Gentleman means by that the secondary mandate.

I remind the House that the last time the Commons voted on a very similar proposition to that put forward by the Deputy Prime Minister—the one put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) in March 2007—it voted decisively for an elected Chamber. A 100% elected Chamber was favoured by 337 votes to 224, and an 80% elected one by 305 votes to 267. Surely this House of Commons, with hundreds of younger MPs of a new generation, is not going to backtrack on that vote? With new MPs of a new generation, we should be increasing the majority for reform.

One of our greatest parliamentarians, Robin Cook, told the House on 4 Feb 2003 that there was a real possibility of House of Lords reform becoming a parliamentary equivalent of “Waiting for Godot”:

“it never arrives and some have become rather doubtful whether it even exists, but we sit around talking about it year after year.”—[Official Report, 4 February 2003; Vol. 399, c. 152.]

For the very first time, all three parties have a manifesto mandate for Lords reform. To betray that mandate would be to betray trust even more. This House has a once in a p political lifetime opportunity to bring down the curtain on what must rank as the longest political gridlock in the history of parliamentary democracy. It is high time we resolved this once and for all, and brought our democracy fully into the 21st century by an historic decision for a democratic second Chamber.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): In response to an earlier intervention, my right hon. Friend referred to indirect elections. Would it not be sensible, and would it not have been sensible over the last 10 years, to have seriously considered the alternative approach, as in India, of having an indirectly elected second Chamber with a small composition to reflect the regions and nations of this country rather than bring in a party-list PR model of regional election?

Mr Hain: I am not sure that I agree with my hon. Friend. What I favour is different proportions of party votes given to MPs then going into a regional pool, as the Bill envisages in its proposal for second votes to determine the numbers of party representatives in the second Chamber, subject to the specified transitional arrangements. This closed list mechanism is not one used in European, Welsh or Scottish elections, which quite properly have open lists, but it is not appropriate, in my view, for elections in which voters elect primary legislators in Europe, Wales and Scotland. However, a new democratic second Chamber would be unique among our institutions because a direct mandate from voters would compromise the primacy of the Commons. That is my view. If I win that argument in Committee, so be it. I hope to do so, but I will still vote for the Bill because it is vital to get it out of the House of Commons in good order so that it goes to the House of Lords. That is essential.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): I think the right hon. Gentleman has talked a lot of sense, but does he not accept that if Opposition Members vote against the programme motion, it would seriously jeopardise Lords reform and our ability to get it through?

Mr Hain: No, I do not. I am glad I took that intervention. I am a former business manager, as I used to be Leader of the House, and I say that if a Government with this majority want to get this Bill through, they will get it through—with or without a programme motion. When we were in government, and we introduced the system of programme motions, I cannot recall off hand—there might be examples, but they would have to be searched for—either Liberal Democrats or Conservatives ever voting for them. They consistently voted against our programme motions—for honourable Opposition reasons —and I when I was Leader of the House the current Leader consistently opposed my arguments for programme motions when we were introducing new Bills. It is the duty of the Opposition to seek proper scrutiny of the Bill, which the programme motion does not allow. It is not our duty to provide extra time for the right-wing Bills that occupied the rest of the Queen’s Speech.

I shall vote enthusiastically for the Bill’s Second Reading, and will follow that up by supporting the Bill in principle at the end of its parliamentary stages. It is vital for it to leave the House of Commons and go to the House of Lords—and let battle then commence.

MP Urges Government to Act as Time Runs Out on Womens Pensions

Peter Hain MP has called on the Government to act fast to protect the 1,000 women in the Neath constituency hit by plans to accelerate the state pension age increase – before it is too late.

Despite thousands of people signing a petition, a mass lobby of Parliament, thousands of emails, and a series of questions to the Prime Minister, the Government have not delivered on their promise to produce plans for ‘transitional arrangements’ to ease the burden for those most affected.

Mr Hain said “This is yet another callous attack from the Tory Government targeting women, many of whom have juggled working lives with raising a family, and who have very little retirement saving to fall back on. The lack of warning of these changes means they do not have enough time to adjust carefully thought-out retirement plans.

“To be given hope of ‘transitional arrangement’ in June and to still have these decisions hanging in the air is making for a stressful and worrying summer. These women do not have the luxury of time to alter their arrangement they need to know what is ahead of them to in order to change their plans.”

The Government’s plans to accelerate the state pension age increases mean that 500,000 women will have to wait for more than a year longer before receiving the state pension, leaving many women aged 56 and 57 robbed of their pensions.

300,000 women born between 6 December 1953 and 5 October 1954, will have to wait an extra 18 months, and an unlucky 33,000 will have to wait an extra 2 years, before being entitled to their state pension.

The majority of these women will already be well underway in their plans for retirement, with many already working reduced hours in order to care for grandchildren or elderly parents. Yet they are now being forced to make significant changes to their financial plans, with just 5 years notice before the changes kick in.

The unlucky 33,000 born between 6 March 1954 and 5 April 1954 are set to lose around £10,000 in lost state pension, with less than 7 years to attempt to accommodate the change.

Dissolution of Parliament Motion

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I thank the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) for praising the Prime Minister—we can do much more of that in the debate. I also thank the leader of Plaid Cymru for his earlier welcome of my reinstatement as Secretary of State—I am grateful. I apologise to him and the House for having to rush off after I have spoken to get my seals of office. I have to stand the hon. Gentleman up for the Queen.

I shall respond to the hon. Member for Moray shortly and urge hon. Members to reject the motion, which calls for a dissolution of Parliament. However, first, I want to ask why the motion is not in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. He calls for an immediate general election every time he gets out of bed and every time he goes on television. He has said virtually nothing for the past few weeks, except to demand an early election. So why does not he table the motion instead of trooping dutifully behind the nationalists? Is he just playing to the media gallery, as usual, because he knows that the House of Commons will not back him? Is it a case of bravery before the cameras, cowardice before Parliament?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider and withdraw that remark.

Mr. Hain: I happily do so—it was said in jest.

The leader of the Conservative party is allowing the nationalists to do his work for him.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition has followed the example of the Prime Minister. We have a debate in which the Prime Minister could have explained why he does not want an election, yet he has not bothered to turn up. He has sent a Minister who is not available for the whole debate. When we have a three-hour debate in the Chamber, the least the Government can do is find a Minister who can be here for it.

Mr. Hain: Where is the leader of the Liberal Democrats? Where is the leader of the Conservative party? I see that the leader of the SNP has dutifully travelled down to do the Tories’ work for them, as he so often does. Plaid Cymru and the SNP are the Tories’ little helpers. In 1979, the SNP voted to destroy a Labour Government and usher in 18 years of miserable Tory rule. In the European elections, voting Plaid Cymru allowed the Tories to top the poll in Wales—albeit on a pitiful vote of just over 6 per cent. of the electorate. Voting SNP will allow the Tories to get in at Westminster.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): Not that it matters a great deal—although the right hon. Gentleman has apologised once to the House, a few seconds ago—but just to be accurate, he said that Plaid Cymru voted to bring down the Labour Government. We did not.

Mr. Hain: Actually, I did not say that at all. I said that the SNP voted with the Tories to bring down the Government in 1979. However, let me remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that we remember well that Plaid Cymru came to the rescue of the besieged Conservative Government under John Major, by doing a grubby deal in 1993.

Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): Talking about grubby deals, does the right hon. Gentleman remember that in 1979 the Labour Government did a grubby deal with Plaid Cymru to secure their votes and to try to cling to office?

Mr. Hain: Actually, it was an honourable deal, concerning quarrymen in north Wales as I recall. We were happy to do what we did, which was in their interests.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Hain: In a moment. The SNP—the hon. Gentleman’s party—has a history of seeking to inflict a Tory Government on Scotland. It did that in 1979 and it is trying to do it again now. The SNP’s real agenda is not about an election; it is about wanting to get a Tory Government in Britain to undermine Scotland’s link with the rest of Britain. The SNP would love to have a Tory Government in Westminster, inflicting mass unemployment, education cuts and hospital closures in Scotland again, so that it could try to ride a wave of revulsion towards independence for Scotland.

Pete Wishart: I agree with the Secretary of State: the last thing that Scotland needs is a Conservative Government. We remember all too well the scorched earth policies and being the testing ground for the poll tax, but does he not agree that the reason that we will get a Conservative Government in Scotland is the failure and futility of his Labour Government?

Mr. Hain: Is the hon. Gentleman saying, then, that he prefers a Labour Government? [ Interruption. ] That is very interesting. So, as far as he is concerned, he does not mind a Conservative Government in Westminster.

Several hon. Members rose —

Mr. Hain: Let me make some progress. We now have the hon. Gentleman on the record as being indifferent to a Tory Government, and the people of Scotland will note that. People who back the nationalists get the Tories on their coat tails, just as the Tories are on the nationalists’ coat tails in voting for today’s motion. That is what the nationalists are: tartan Tories in Scotland and daffodil Tories in Westminster.

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC) rose—

Mr. Hain: I give way to a daffodil Tory in Westminster.

Hywel Williams: I thank the Secretary of State for giving way, but we need to respect history. We had Tory Governments throughout the ’80s and ’90s not because of the actions of the nationalist parties, but because the Labour party lost the election—and then lost and lost and lost. That is the Labour party’s responsibility, not ours.

Mr. Hain: I have a lot of respect for the hon. Gentleman, but it was his nationalist colleagues in Scotland who helped to bring down the Labour Government, which paved the way for a Tory Government.

Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): I agree with the Secretary of State’s comments about what happened in 1979. The people of Scotland have good memories and they will never forgive the separatists of the SNP for what happened in 1979, which was an unmitigated disaster for the people of Scotland. I am sure that the Secretary of State will remember that, following 1979, the SNP—the separatists—were dubbed the tartan Tories by the people of Scotland. Is he also aware that, given that the official Opposition are totally devoid of any policies at the moment, the people of Scotland currently dub the separatists of the SNP the political wing of the Conservative and Unionist party?

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend puts the case very eloquently, and I have to agree with him. Here are the tartan Tories, at it again today, siding with the Conservatives to achieve their objectives. People who back the nationalists get the Tories on their coat tails.

Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC): How can the Secretary of State have the gall to accuse our parties of being Tories when on virtually every major issue of the past 12 years—whether the Iraq war or the privatisation of Royal Mail—our parties have been to the left of his?

Mr. Hain: What about the minimum wage— [ Interruption. ]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Members have a right to be heard.

Mr. Hain: What about the statutory minimum wage? I do not remember massive support for that from the nationalists. To dissolve Parliament now would be to walk away from the necessity for the reform that voters are demanding, as the hon. Member for Moray rightly said, and that we are delivering in the form set out by the Prime Minister earlier today. I heard the hon. Gentleman waxing lyrical—and being very persuasive—about the need for democratic reform. Virtually every one of the proposals that he advocated was enunciated from this Dispatch Box by the Prime Minister a few hours ago. To dissolve Parliament now would be to turn our backs on the British people in their time of economic need and insecurity. Neither of the two great challenges that we face—the political challenge and the economic challenge—would be solved by an election. Playing with parliamentary motions might be a priority for Opposition parties. Cleaning up politics and getting the country back to work is Labour’s priority.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): Does the Secretary of State not believe that a Labour victory in a general election would clearly reinforce the strength and competence of the Government to address the issues that confront this nation? Is that not a case for holding an election now?

Mr. Hain: When the time comes to call an election, we will indeed get a renewed mandate to take the country forward and to meet the challenges of the future. That will be the choice that is put before the British people at that point. They would not forgive us, however, for abandoning the job of implementing parliamentary reform and economic recovery now. They want the Government to sort things out; they want us to do it quickly, and then, and only then, to call a general election. There will be one soon enough—within a year—and only then will it be right to go to the country and ask who should take us forward to the future, once we have addressed the pressing concerns of today.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): The Secretary of State says that these things need to be done quickly, and I entirely agree with him. So why, after 12 years, have we still not got a fully elected House of Lords and a proper democratic system for this Chamber? This is expediency on the part of the Government; they are not taking decisive action. Their argument is facile beyond belief.

Mr. Hain: The reason that we have not been able to get our reform through the House of Lords is that the House of Lords blocked it. Labour has only about 30 per cent. of the votes in the House of Lords, and the Conservative party—despite now advocating a policy of an elected second Chamber—cannot deliver its own peers in the House of Lords in such a vote. Sooner rather than later, however, we will put that question to the House of Lords, and we will hope to carry the House with us in getting full reform for a democratic second Chamber.

Meanwhile, there is a lot to do. Of course the European elections were terrible for the Labour party. But, far more significantly, they were an alarm call for all the parties, and for parliamentary democracy itself. For every party, a low turnout at elections is the clearest sign that the British people are not engaged with the political process. That is our fault, not theirs. We seem obsessed with procedure and tribal party politics—as we can see this afternoon—and now the public also think that MPs are all in it for our own ends.

If this motion were carried and Parliament were dissolved, all that the poll would amount to would be another referendum on MPs’ expenses. The low turnout and the rising support for fringe and extreme parties show us one thing: that people used their vote last Thursday to protest, not on the finer points of European policy, but on the story of the day—indeed, the story of every single one of the past 30 days: MPs’ expenses.

Mr. Donohoe: I thank the Secretary of State for giving way on a point on which the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) would not give way. I want to ask my right hon. Friend a simple question. Does he honestly believe that, if the motion were successful and there were to be a general election in the coming weeks, the question of Members’ expenses would go away? Would it not stay with us for the following four years as well? Would not The Daily Telegraph and all the other newspapers revisit the issue and find some other reason to print the same story?

Mr. Hain: I could not agree more, which is why we need to lance the boil now, and why we need this Parliament, on a cross-party basis, to sort this out here and now. Then, within a year, we can have an election to decide who should take the country forward—not how we should reform parliamentary expenses, because that will have been done, but who should take us forward to meet the big challenges of the global economic crisis, of climate change and all the other issues before us.

Lembit Öpik: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that what has effectively happened, in summary, is that the general public and the media have become obsessed with the process of politics rather than the outcomes that we are meant to create, part of which is our own fault? The people of Montgomeryshire are less interested in process than in getting out of this recession, so if we are not to have an election, will he explain how he envisages the Government responding in the months ahead to the need of the citizens of Montgomeryshire and across the country for outcomes to make their lives better, their jobs more secure and to reduce the sort of social tensions that led to the reaction we saw in the European elections last week?

Mr. Hain: I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman that the media are far too obsessed, almost to the exclusion of all else, with process. It is process, process, process rather than substance, substance, substance. That is why we will carry on with delivering our policies to get the housing market going again, to build more social housing, to tackle the lack of confidence in business and to ensure that business is supported so that we can recover from this economic crisis brought about by the global financial collapse and move the country forward. Then there will be a choice—a very clear choice—at the next general election.

We do not need a referendum on expenses because we have just had one. We were all given a real kicking by the voters and we understand the message: “Clean up, shape up, get on with the business of Government and come back to us when the problem is fixed”. Where the Opposition parties posture, we deliver. We are determined to take the necessary action, not to walk away.

Just imagine what might happen to the economy if Parliament were dissolved and we had an election. In the middle of probably the worst financial crisis the world has faced in living memory, Britain would face weeks and weeks of instability and uncertainty—just when there are reports of rising consumer confidence, just when business surveys show the pace of decline is slowing, just when mortgage approvals have risen for the third month in a row and just when the poison infecting our banks has been stemmed. Why, just at this critical moment when the global economy is still volatile, do the nationalists want to trigger instability in the markets and in the British economy?

Let us imagine for a moment pursuing this nationalist-Tory alternative. We dissolve Parliament, then spend the next three weeks fighting each other rather than the global crisis, and the nationalists do not have a clue what to do about it. The hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price), who rather fancies himself as an economist, praised Iceland as an inspirational model. No sooner had he done so than its economy imploded, while his other small country model, Ireland, has sadly had its own serious difficulties, yet Plaid lauded both Iceland and Ireland as an arc of prosperity.

As for the Tories, the real reason they want an election now is that they cannot go on for ever dodging the questions. They have no policies at all except for multi-billion pound cuts in public investment.

Several hon. Members rose —

Mr. Hain: I will give way in a few moments.

It is good to see that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) has found time from his millionaire speaking and consultancy contracts to be with us today. He has a vivacious Welsh wife, but sadly she has not managed to educate him politically. He opposed the minimum wage, which has benefited millions of workers throughout Britain. He opposed the social chapter, referring to

“minimum wages, social chapters and all the other job-destroying nonsense”.—[ Official Report, 20 January 1997; Vol. 288, c. 606.]

He said that the National Assembly for Wales would be

“nothing more than a talking shop and a terrible waste of money”.

Does he still hold those views? Should he not now apologise to the shadow Welsh Secretary for landing her right in it?

When the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for Wales, at least he learned the national anthem—indeed, his rehearsing it led to him marrying his private secretary—but he blocked billions of pounds of objective 1 and convergence funding for Wales, which a Labour Government subsequently delivered. He is now part of an Opposition who want to implement billion-pound cuts that would decimate those very European programmes right across Wales.

Adam Price: The Secretary of State’s speech is another good argument for an early dissolution. He is obviously out of practice. If Plaid Cymru has nothing to contribute in terms of the economic crisis, why did his party agree to form a coalition with us, and why is the leader of my party, the Minister for the Economy and Transport, coming up with the ProAct wage subsidy scheme, which the Secretary of State has himself praised and described as an innovative scheme that should be copied here?

Mr. Hain: If we are talking politics and government in Cardiff Bay as opposed to politics and government in the House of Commons, why did the hon. Gentleman’s party chase after the Conservatives in the desperate search for a coalition before Labour helped it out and got it into government?

On the “Today” programme this morning, the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), the shadow Secretary of State for Health, let slip that

“that does mean over three years after 2011 a 10 per cent. reduction in the departmental expenditure limits for other departments. It is a very tough spending requirement.”

Yes, the demand from the Tories is very tough. A 10 per cent. cut would be an utter disaster for housing policing, business support, defence and many other public services. A 10 per cent. cut would amount to cuts of £50 billion across the United Kingdom, £600 million in Wales, and £1.2 billion in Scotland.

The Tory mask is slipping. The Tories want people to vote soon, before the truth is out. They have no positive solutions to the financial crisis, just opportunist spin on the economy today followed by savage cuts to public services tomorrow—cuts made almost with relish, gleefully. The Tories would use the financial crisis as an excuse to do what they have always wanted to do: cut, cut and cut again.

Stewart Hosie: The Secretary of State is absolutely right: making savage cuts in the teeth of a recession is the wrong thing to do. He will therefore criticise his own Chancellor and the Treasury for the £500 million worth of cuts that will be heading Scotland’s way next year in the teeth of a recession.

Mr. Hain: Is this not curious? The Scottish Government have never had more money than they have now. Their budget, like that of the Welsh Assembly Government, has more than doubled since we came to power in 1997.

What is the real nationalist agenda? Why would the nationalists dissolve this Parliament today? It would not just be for the purpose of an immediate election; they would dissolve this Parliament for ever. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!” There we are. They are cheering the idea. If they were frank, they would admit that they would break up the United Kingdom, cutting off Wales and Scotland from the main markets, population centres, wealth and international influence of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): He is talking sense at last.

Mr. Hain: That is the sense that the people of Scotland will reject: cutting Scotland’s links with the United Kingdom, just as Plaid Cymru would cut Wales off from the great benefits of sheltering under the umbrella of the United Kingdom and making us all stronger together.

Mr. Salmond: Given that the Secretary of State’s colleagues in the Labour party in Scotland have been deploying these arguments for years—and, I am sure, deployed them in the European election campaign—to what does he attribute the judgment of the people of Scotland in increasing the SNP vote by 10 per cent. in mid-term, and last week’s resounding endorsement of the SNP Government in Scotland?

Mr. Hain: The right hon. Gentleman speaks of a resounding endorsement, but I believe that the SNP received less than a third of the vote on a tiny turnout. Labour voters, for reasons that I have explained, stayed at home in their hundreds of thousands.

Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that people listening to this debate will be appalled by the petty discussions about which party’s votes have increased by what percentage? What concerns the people of this country, and certainly the people of Wales— [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mrs. Moon: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

What concerns the people of Wales and the people of this country is the memory of being told to get on their bikes and find work—of “hunt the job”. They remember money being sent from Wales to Westminster when it could have been invested in Wales. They remember schools falling apart, and education waiting lists. That is what people want us to discuss here, not whether another party has increased its voting share by 1 per cent. Nobody cares about that; they care about their lives.

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend makes that point extremely persuasively, and it reminds me that when the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks was Secretary of State for Wales he endorsed the policy of his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), in sending money back from Wales to the Treasury, which we then had to reverse by more than doubling the budget for Wales since we came to power. If the nationalists were successful in wrenching Wales and Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom, that would leave Wales with a £9 billion deficit in public finances, and the figure for Scotland would be about £10 billion.

The SNP Administration at Holyrood are propped up by the Tories. Tory votes in the Scottish Parliament supported the SNP’s budget of cuts, and the quid pro quo is that the SNP in Westminster does the Tories’ bidding. People in Scotland whose communities still bear the scars of Thatcherism did not thank the SNP in 1979, and they will not do so now.

Let me make this plain: the Tories and the nationalists would turn their backs on the British people and walk away together. They would dissolve this Parliament because they hope it would suit their short-term political ends. Only Labour will stay the course to do the hard work, to reform, and to give real help to the British people. They can dissolve if they want to; this Government are not for dissolving. We are standing firm, and I urge the House to reject the motion.