Continuing our series of retirement speeches we highlight Michael Ancram MP's final words to the House of Commons. The MP for Devizes said that the next Parliament must hand on improved public finances and an improved natural environment to the next generation.
"Stewardship is a word that is used frequently, as it has been in this debate, to mean good and responsible management, but I believe that, in the context of the Budget, it should mean much more. To me, stewardship means handing over to the next generation what we in our time received from our predecessors in at least as good, if not better, condition than we received it. I want to deal with two aspects of that, the first of which is the economy.
I do not think that anyone in the House could claim that the economy is in a better state than it was at the beginning of the Parliament. We are facing almost unimaginable debt and it is still growing. Stewardship requires urgent action, of which I see little sign in the Budget. That is not a political or economic question; it is a moral imperative. Our generation-this Parliament and this Government-created the mess we are in, and our generation has the responsibility to clear it up. It is quite simply obscene to hand over to the next generation the cost of this generation's mismanagement. We have no right to lumber them with our debts or to expect them to pay for our profligacy.
We must rectify the situation not by fudging or finessing. This is a matter not for spin doctors or opinion polls, but for cold reality and stark truth, and the truth is that that will be painful. However, we must not shirk that pain. We must start immediately by cutting out inefficiency and waste not by tinkering with it, but by tackling it root and branch. It is not enough, year after year, to come and talk about inefficiency: if it is there, it must be got rid of. We must cut out the bloated bureaucracy that we have built in this country-the over-regulation that costs so many of our companies so much. If services have to be cut as well, we must, in the end, face up to that, because services can be rebuilt, and the resolution of problems can help to do that.
If we, as stewards, need to protect anything for the next generation, it must be those things that will never come again if undermined or destroyed. I want to touch briefly on this second aspect-the environment in which we live-which has been touched on tangentially in the Budget, but which is not central enough. There is a native American saying, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." To my mind, it is not enough to tip our cap towards wind power or green banking, as the Budget has done. We have to address the fundamentals. Both the natural and built environments in this country are under threat. If, as I fear, we begin to reduce the support for those areas to avoid pain in the here and now, we will be in danger of damaging permanently the world that we shall leave to our children.
We need to take positive action now to preserve and conserve the environment and, where we can, to improve it. We need to recognise the coming challenges from over-consumption-the growing demands for energy, water and food-and the lasting damage that they, too, could do to the environment we shall leave to our children. I see little recognition of that in the Budget. To me, stewardship needs a courage and a foresight that the Budget sadly lacks.I conclude my career in the House by having to say that I regret the failure of stewardship in this Parliament; we have to look to a new Parliament and a fresh Government to provide it. I hope that they will see their responsibilities more clearly than this Parliament and this Government have seen theirs in these last years. I end by wishing the next Parliament well."
Here are some interesting answers from the latest edition of Hansard.
Shadow Innovation, Universities and Skills Secretary David Willetts asked a question that couldn't be answered:
"Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many EU citizens working in the UK paid sufficient national insurance contributions to earn a potential entitlement to the state pension in each year since 1997. 
National Insurance is effectively income tax - especially as we have no guarantee that we will see the benefit of our contributions when we retire. It is staggering that the Government doesn't know how much it takes from British subjects specifically.
Thursday, April 02, 2009 in Andrew Rosindell MP, David Willetts MP, Dominic Grieve MP, Geoffrey Cox MP, Iain Duncan Smith MP, Mark Pritchard MP, Michael Ancram MP, Theresa Villiers MP, Written answers round-up | Permalink | Comments (4)
Here is the latest batch of interesting written answers from the House of Commons.
Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions Andrew Selous had a written reminder that ministers are supposed to make big announcements to Parliament first when it is in session - a rule that they in fact breach on a spectacularly frequent basis:
"To ask the Leader of the House what recent discussions she has had with Ministerial colleagues on the criteria to be used in deciding whether an announcement should be made by means of an Oral Statement. 
Chris Bryant: My right hon. and learned Friend and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues when deciding whether an oral statement should be made to announce Government policy. This is done against the general principle set out in the Ministerial Code that when Parliament is in Session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance, in Parliament, and taking into account the importance of the issue and the other business before the House."
The answer to Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt also serves as a reminder - that the Church of England is responsible for much of our architectural heritage:
"To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners how many church buildings are listed. 
Friday, January 23, 2009 in Andrew Selous MP, Ann Winterton MP, Bill Wiggin, Chris Grayling MP, Jeremy Hunt MP, Michael Ancram MP, Nick Gibb MP, Philip Davies MP, Tony Baldry MP, Written answers round-up | Permalink | Comments (0)
Devizes MP Michael Ancram, formerly Shadow Foreign Secretary, has received a somewhat alarming written answer about drugs in Afghanistan. (Poppies can be turned into opium.)
"Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of UK efforts to eradicate poppy growing in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: Poppy eradication is the responsibility of the Afghan government. The UK is not directly involved in this activity, but we do provide support to the planning, monitoring and targeting work of the Afghan eradication forces.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports that 5,480 hectares were eradicated in 2008, down on 19,047 hectares in 2007. This is disappointing. But the picture is more nuanced. The drop in eradication has been accompanied by a drop of nearly one fifth in poppy cultivation, which is a significant success. Furthermore, eradication efforts in Helmand targeted land cultivated by individuals of significance in the narcotics trade."
Does the Government need to become a bit more directly engaged in addressing this menace?
In the latest copy of Hansard, several more written questions have been inadequately answered.
There will be times when the Government really can't answer a question, or when it would be undiplomatic for it to do so, or when pulling the information together would be excessively costly. But those occasions are comparatively rare.
This post is longer than normal, but with good reason. It's time to spotlight what appears to be indefensible obsfucation. If anyone can suggest good reasons why the answers below were in fact satisfactory, we'd be delighted to see them.
There are some real gems, including this one from Douglas Carswell, Tory MP for Harwich:
"Mr. Carswell: To ask the Prime Minister how much champagne was ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office for consumption at events at (a) 10 Downing Street and (b) Chequers in each of the last six months. 
If this isn't a lie, and they really don't know how much they spent on bubbly, that's actually more horrifying than trying to cover it up.
Friday, October 24, 2008 in Andrew Rosindell MP, Ann Winterton MP, Damian Green MP, Douglas Carswell MP, Michael Ancram MP, Mike Penning MP, Nicholas Soames MP, Written questions | Permalink | Comments (6)
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