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Mr. Dalyell: What really happened was that the Cabinet changed their mind.

Mr. Maclennan: That happened after 200 sittings of this Chamber which, even by the standards of constitutional debate, seemed excessive to those of us who were here.

In the Gracious Speech, the Government commit themselves to the programming of House of Commons business to ensure a more effective scrutiny of Bills and better use of Members' time. That is something which we can certainly welcome. Such scrutiny is required for all Bills, but the current procedures for constitutional Bills are particularly unsatisfactory.

I was also glad to note the final undertaking of the Gracious Speech indicating the Government's intention to establish a new Select Committee to look at ways in which to make parliamentary procedure more effective and efficient. I hope that that Committee will be established soon and that, as a matter of priority, it will be invited to consider the handling of constitutional Bills.

In my early years in the House, all clauses of Finance Bills were considered on the Floor of this Chamber. That was not sensible and the rules were changed by the House.

When this Parliament reaches its final term, I hope that it will have enacted in full the proposals of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Reform which I had the honour to sign on behalf of my party. If it does, I believe that it will have helped greatly to restore our democracy and bring power closer to the people. In that task, which I believe is well begun in the Gracious Speech, the Government can count on the support of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

10.59 am

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): This is a traumatic occasion for me, and I hope that the House will appreciate that there will be a certain omission from my speech. However, I am grateful to be called to speak.

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I am more than pleased to be here representing Keighley and Ilkley in West Yorkshire; in fact, I am absolutely delighted. My unique constituency, of which I am extremely fond and proud, lies in the beautiful valleys of the Wharfe and Aire and its tributary, the Worth, which benefits from being served by a magnificent steam railway society of which I have the honour to be vice-president.

Surrounded on all sides by the wonderful backdrop of the Pennines, it is a diverse constituency--from soft green valleys to rugged moorland, from the leafy spa town of Ilkley and its much sung about moor to bustling industrial Keighley, which still has many engineering workshops and textile mills, not forgetting our world famous Bronte literary shrine at Haworth.

The massive development of the Jubilee line extension close to this place has a bearing on industrial Keighley, in that one of our larger employers, Orenstein and Koppel, is supplying the escalators. It is the largest single order for escalators ever placed world wide. Bearing in mind the successes of the company, I am pleased to note that the Gracious Speech included a commitment to encouraging investment in industry, skills, infrastructure and new technologies. I look forward to a move from short-term profitability and towards long-term investment in research and development, in improved plant and machinery and, above all, in our most valuable asset, our people, too many of whom in Keighley have been unemployed for far too long.

I have an abiding interest in early years education, having served on two first schools' governing bodies for many years. I therefore welcome the much-needed Government commitment to reduce class sizes in first and primary schools. I would also welcome Government assistance for schools in my constituency towards much-needed repairs, rebuilding and the overdue replacement of portakabins.

The Gracious Speech also announced measures to enable capital receipts from council house sales to be invested in house building and renovation. That will be a much more useful measure than the previous Government's inflated view of the need for large numbers of expensive homes on highly profitable green-field sites. I am in sympathy with the view of many of my constituents that erosion of the green belt in the Keighley constituency has gone far enough and should be halted and that the highly unpopular Bradford unitary development plan should be amended.

I also welcome the Government's commitment to a freedom of information Bill and trust that the period of consultation will not be too lengthy.

I congratulate the Government on their decision to incorporate in United Kingdom law the main provisions of the European convention on human rights. I note also with great pleasure that the Gracious Speech includes a commitment to prioritise the promotion of human rights world wide. I trust that that commitment will extend not only to the Muslims in Kashmir but to the long-suffering women in Afghanistan.

In keeping with the traditions of the House, I mention that my predecessor, along with other candidates in the Keighley election, fought a dignified and courteous campaign. I acknowledge their contribution in what could have become a much more trying situation.

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Before closing, I should like to pay a warm tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and to my hon. Friends the Members for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) and to the previous Member for Bradford, West. Without their encouragement and support two years ago, I doubt very much whether I would be standing here today.

Finally, I wish to pay tribute to the electors of Keighley who have put their faith in myself and my party. Over the next five years, I hope to do all in my power to justify that trust.

11.4 am

Sir Nicholas Lyell (North-East Bedfordshire): I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment and wish you a long and happy period in office. I also congratulate the Opposition on their great victory in the general election and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales on their appointments.

I also congratulate the hon. Member for Keighley (Mrs. Cryer) on her maiden speech. She bears a famous parliamentary name, as she is the widow of Bob Cryer. Although I can fairly say that Bob Cryer and I could hardly find a single political subject on which we agreed, I respected him greatly. No one worked harder in Parliament. He kept us up night after night to speak on money resolutions and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was usually sitting beside him. He was a tremendous parliamentarian. The hon. Lady has the distinction of being not only the widow of a Member of Parliament, a Member of Parliament herself, but the mother of the new Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Cryer). That must be a formidable parliamentary first. She made a dignified speech and we are honoured to welcome her to the House.

The hon. Lady mourns Bob Cryer; in parliamentary terms, we mourn the loss of many excellent colleagues. We know that our duty is to refresh and rebuild our party and thereby to assist the return as legislators of as many of them as possible.

We are told that there has been a great change in the Labour party. The hon. Lady will not take it amiss if I say that at least the stable from which she comes is not entirely that of the Prime Minister's so-called one-nation Labour party. In so far as new Labour has changed, we welcome that change. It is part of our success over 18 years that we did a good deal to force and bring about that change. I hope that change is real. We can also claim that we have left a solid inheritance, a stable and flourishing economy.

Before I turn to the constitution, as the words "one nation" have such a deep tradition going back to Disraeli, it is worth mentioning what it means to be a one-nation Conservative, as I consider myself to be. The words "opportunity for all" have been adopted by the Labour party. In that we can agree, as they belong to us and to one-nation Conservatism. It means helping people to help themselves, private enterprise, personal ownership, individual liberty, not "stakeholding" but a real stake for individuals in their nation, real ownership and a truly pluralist society. By achieving that in the past 18 years, to a great extent--but never enough--we have released the energies of the people of the United Kingdom to create the wealth to improve our public services and help those in real need.

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Yesterday, we discussed the need to create jobs for young people. That way of releasing energy helped to create 900,000 new jobs in the past five years. The Labour Government are not on the right route if they think that things can fall from the trees. They cannot create real jobs in the long term by windfalls and the idea that they can win the electorate, the election or recovery for the country by windfall taxes is a sincere but mistaken notion. We shall return to those wider political issues in future debates. Today, we debate the constitution; when one makes constitutional change, there is nothing more important than that it is carefully thought through.

I intend to speak briefly on devolution and say a few words about the incorporation of the European convention on human rights. I shall also say a few words about the reform of the House of Lords. I am glad that the Secretary of State for Scotland mentioned it in his speech. As I was watching proceedings in the other place on the television monitor, I noticed that the Lord Privy Seal said specifically that the subject would be returned to later in this Parliament. I shall develop the point further, but, given that it is to happen "later in this Parliament", it must be unacceptable that the Government should seek to destroy substantially what currently exists without putting forward to the nation and both Houses what they intend to put in its place. I shall return to that theme.

On devolution, I speak as someone who is half Scots. My father comes from Angus. He was born, bred and educated in Scotland and left only at the age of 19. The Government have their majority and I suspect that they will win their referendum in whatever form it takes. I hope that they will answer the very pertinent questions asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) before they are allowed to do so, although I suspect that they will find that difficult. If a devolved Scottish Parliament comes into being, we, as Conservatives, will of course play our part in it. I believe that it will help us to rebuild our presence in Scotland, as I am confident we shall do.

I want to focus principally on the European convention on human rights and the question of its incorporation. Incorporation is likely to happen during this Parliament, too. There is no doubt that there is a majority in favour of it in another place. Nor is it a party political issue; there is cross-party support for it in different ways. My noble Friend Lord Alexander of Weedon and my friend, Sir Leon Brittan, are well known as proponents of it. Nor is it controversial within the different wings of my party. Our late-lamented colleague, Sir Ivan Lawrence, was a strong proponent of it, although he would have declared himself to be firmly on the Euro-sceptic wing of the party. We must therefore address the subject extremely carefully, and I have sought to do so in a number of speeches and debates outside the House--we did not regard it as right to debate the matter in the House--over the years.

We must recognise that, although incorporation has pros and cons--one of the pros would be the benefit of the involvement of our judges and therefore the introduction of our tradition running through to Strasbourg--it can have far-reaching effects. Also, proponents of it have often overstated or misstated their case--I am sure not deliberately.

I would like to clear two myths out of the way. The first is that Britain is the wicked man of Europe in such a context--that somehow we have a worse record than

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the now 33 member nations of the Council of Europe. That is not true. I invite Ministers to look at written answers on the matter. It is perfectly plain that, if one considers actions per 100,000 of population, and takes account of population size and the length of time that Britain has given the right of individual petition, this country's record, far from being near the bottom, is near the top, near the best. We are a country which believes in the rule of law and our record is thoroughly creditable. I am not against our signing up to the convention. I believe that in a civilised world we have a duty to play our part.

The other myth is that, if we incorporate, we shall somehow reduce the number of cases that go to Strasbourg and somehow cut costs. I very much doubt whether that is so. We have a highly sophisticated legal profession in this country. Indeed, I must declare an interest. My friends in the profession, in the most honourable sense, are rubbing their hands at the thought of widening their practices in European convention work. That work is already growing greatly. Given the growth in judicial review, I have no doubt that we shall see a vast growth in European convention work.

Against that background, how should we view Labour's contention in the recent pamphlet published by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, entitled "Bringing Rights Home", which says confidently on page 1 that incorporation would

Giving power back to the British courts is a complete historical anomaly. One has to go back to early Stuart times before one finds a time when British courts had the power to strike down a statute--yet that is what will be proposed if we incorporate.

Labour has issued a consultation document, to which I have referred, which is in marked contrast to its failure to issue one in relation to reform of the House of Lords. There is plenty of time to do that too, and I hope that it will.

"Bringing Rights Home" seems to assume that, if our courts find primary legislation to be in breach of the convention, rather than striking it down in the court then and there, they will make a declaration to that effect, and the domestic courts will have no power to give any other remedy and must wait for Parliament to change the law. I should like to pass a bouquet to the Government in that respect. I think that that idea is quite imaginative and should be looked at extremely carefully. It will meet strong opposition from the most long-standing proponents of change.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill--again, an old friend--who is respected and well known as, perhaps, the leading proponent in this matter, will castigate such a suggestion. He has argued that the convention should be incorporated in our law like the treaty of Rome; that it should immediately become part of our domestic law; that it should require all to comply with it; and that it should enable, indeed require, our courts to strike down even any primary statute that is not in conformity with it, whether that statute had been passed before or after the act of incorporation. I warn the House that that is a huge power. It is also virtually certain to bring our judiciary

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significantly into the political arena, for many of the provisions in the convention, or rather the qualifications to the fundamental rights, are highly political.

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