Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): I am conscious that many Equitable Life policyholders will be watching this debate this evening. Consequently, it is worth reiterating that the purpose of the Bill is to facilitate and enable the making of payments to those who have been affected. That is a fact of which we on the Government Benches can be proud. In just four months we have progressed more than the Labour party managed in 10 years. I am also pleased to hear that all parties will support the Bill this evening-although we should not be too self-congratulatory just yet.

Equitable Life members will be greatly heartened to learn that payments now seem to be imminent, but they are equally concerned about the likely level of those payments. I, along with many others, signed the EMAG pledge before the general election. Many Government Members are in the Chamber this evening because we signed that pledge, and because we are determined to prove our intention to try to honour it in the best way we can.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): When we gave that pledge, we gave our word. It is difficult for all of us who signed the pledge not to give Equitable Life members-often people who will have put in their life's savings-fair, decent treatment and a proper compensation package. Does my hon. Friend agree with that?

Andrew Bingham: I do agree with that; indeed, that is the point that I am making. We signed the pledge and we are here to try to deliver on it. However, as we try to deal with the economic carnage left to us by the Labour party, the fact that we always said-I think that this was the exact phrase-that whatever scheme was put in place would be subject to the impact on the public purse has become a more stringent condition and more restricting than we ever believed possible.

It is a crying shame that the Labour party did not deal with the issue earlier, before-to quote the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne)-there was "no money left". Had the previous Government done so, it would have been easier to make a more generous and just settlement. The decent thing at the right time would have saved so much pain and heartache for so many of my constituents in the High Peak and so many constituents of fellow Members. We find ourselves in a position where we wish to honour our promise-our pledge-yet we are hampered in our efforts by the rashness of our predecessors.

I am conscious that many of my colleagues wish to speak in this debate. In accordance with your earlier wishes, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am determined to be extremely brief. However, I would ask the Minister to remember the pledge that we all signed. EMAG and the Equitable Life members are realists. They understand the difficulty that we face, given the economic carnage, as I have described it. They find it difficult to accept the recommendations of the Chadwick report. I would therefore ask that when the comprehensive spending review is complete, Equitable Life should be given a special place.

The Minister has my sympathy as he tries to perform this most difficult of balancing acts-but I have to tell him that most of the sympathy goes to my constituents in the High Peak, so let us not implement Chadwick without serious thought. I know that we want to expedite full and final payment swiftly. However, if a way could be found to increase payments, even if it meant spreading them across a longer period-albeit in a way that ensured that the administration costs did not eat up huge amounts of whatever funds are available-I feel that that could be made acceptable to Equitable Life people, who have waited too long for what I hope will not be too little.

Parliament has undergone a difficult year for its reputation. This Bill gives us a chance to start salvaging that reputation, but if we get it wrong, we will drive it further into the dust.

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Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to deliver my maiden speech in the House. May I compliment preceding speakers from across the country who have given their own maiden speeches today? The right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) did not make his maiden speech, but I compliment him on a speech he made in the House some time ago on post offices, and on speaking against the then Government.

I begin my speech by acknowledging and paying tribute to my predecessor, Tom Levitt, who was MP for High Peak for 13 years from 1997. In my seven years as a candidate in High Peak, he always treated me with the courtesy befitting a Member of the House. A steadfastly loyal Member of Parliament, and an assiduous attender of debates, he took the decision late last year not to stand for re-election-an action to which he referred in his maiden speech 13 years ago as "the chicken run".

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Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): I agree with what my hon. Friend has said about the banks. Will he also acknowledge that hard-working counter staff are being criticised by members of the public although they are not to blame for the difficulties that the banks have caused? They have been working very hard, and they are being unfairly criticised.

Nick de Bois: I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting that distinction. Indeed, it does not apply only to those working on the shop floor. Many senior managers are clearly being directed to follow a policy which-I am extremely pleased to note from the Budget-we are prepared to challenge. The Red Book refers to a review of the way in which banks should respond to the need to lend in the future. I realise that Britain needs its banks, but the banks need to play their part openly and honestly, and I look forward to seeing that happen. It is a key part of the proposals outlined in the Red Book.

16. Andrew Bingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will prioritise funding for a solution to traffic congestion in Glossop and Tintwistle.

Norman Baker: In his written ministerial statement to the House on 10 June 2010, Official Report, column 35WS, regarding major schemes the Secretary of State for Transport made it clear that the Department will not be able to identify those major investments that can be supported until the conclusion of the Government's spending review in the autumn.

Therefore at this time I am afraid that I cannot provide any assurances on funding for a solution to traffic congestion in Glossop and Tintwistle.

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): We have all received lots of letters from EMAG, as candidates and as Members of Parliament, but two things have not been mentioned today-the dependants of policyholders who are now deceased because there has been such delay, and the issue of not means-testing such people. Does my hon. Friend agree?

Nicola Blackwood: I believe that those issues were raised on 17 March and that there might have been a subsequent commitment. However, hearing the Minister's confirmation would be helpful.

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