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13 Nov 2002 : Column 63—continued

Andrew Mackinlay: I am grateful for that reassurance.

I come now to an omission from the Queen's Speech. I had hoped that there would be an indication that legislation would be brought before us to create corporate criminal liability. In Britain, unlike elsewhere, boards of directors can wash their hands when things go wrong and when lives are lost through bad board decisions and selfish interests. It is always the poor train driver, lorry driver, coach driver or ferry captain who take the rap, never the directors. I had hoped to see that measure included.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) rose—

Andrew Mackinlay: I am pleased by the interest in my speech, but I cannot give way each time. However, as it is the man from Essex who is seeking to intervene, I shall do so on this occasion.

Sir Teddy Taylor: As the hon. Gentleman, who I know is a very wise person, has promoted elections for the House of Lords and for the regional councils, and as 25 per cent. voted in the elections for the European Parliament and the percentage voting in the general election dropped to 60 per cent., what percentage of the people of Tilbury does he think will vote for elections for the House of Lords and for the regional assembly based in Cambridge?

Andrew Mackinlay: I never uttered the word assembly. I want regional devolved parliaments. One of the problems of the Greater London Authority and the Welsh Assembly is that, rather like Bossom, they are neither one thing nor the other. We want proper parliaments to which people can relate. There is a major problem in engaging the electorate with Government. This place is treated cynically by the electorate and it is time that we reformed.

I do not want to take up too much time, so I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I do not allow too many more interventions. I want to give notice to the Front Bench in relation to the provision to speed up the planning process. I do so because the Chief Whip likes to know if Members do not intend to support legislation. This Member for Thurrock may do, but he wants to see the Bill. I do not like that terminology because it is BAA speak and that of other big battalions in the country for saying that the terminal 5 Heathrow inquiry and the like were awfully irritating.

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I do not want any erosion of the ability of the little man or woman or the small residents' group to frustrate some of the big interests in this country, of which the best example is BAA. I know that BAA has uttered the words in the Queen's Speech, as I have heard it do so both publicly and privately. Events have been awfully irritating for it and I think that the terminal 5 inquiry results were wrong, but my goodness it was absolutely right that such interests should have to fight all the way to get their planning permission. I think that this House should jealously safeguard the interests of the small objector against the big, powerful interests. Two or three Whips are present. I give notice to the Chief Whip that the Whips must use all their powers of persuasion and patronage on me before I shall support the measure.

I welcome the fact that legislation is to be introduced on hunting with dogs. I am opposed to hunting with dogs, but the issue has not tremendously exercised me. I am amazed that it appears to be almost the most important concern of all for some Members of Parliament, although perhaps I am doing them an injustice. Above all, I want it to be resolved. I have been a Member of Parliament for 10 years, and after six or seven years under a Labour Government, it is time for us to include on the statute book a banning of this unacceptable sport. After some time has passed, people will be amazed that it was tolerated and children will say XGrandad, did they really allow the hunting of animals with dogs, so that they could be torn apart?" It will be one of those activities on which people look back with amazement, like bear baiting and so on. Let us resolve the issue once and for all.

My good people in Thurrock will welcome the measures announced in the Queen's Speech to end antisocial behaviour. One colleague listed items of behaviour that are relatively minor in themselves, including litter and dog fouling. When I travel on the train to my constituency and elsewhere in London, it almost seems a condition of travel that people have to put their feet up on the seats. I am amazed that some professional people in grey suits—some of them even look like the hon. Members in the Chamber—put their feet up on the seats, even though they would never dream of doing so at home. We need to try to reverse that culture. It is not the most important thing in the world, but people do not seem to think that there is corporate ownership or have pride and respect. It is often some of the professional groups that are the most offensive in those areas.

When we come each year to today's ceremony, we are given some time for reflection. Many of us, if not the overwhelming majority, take enormous pride in the privilege of serving in this Parliament with all its rich history. We are mindful of the mandate that we are given by our electors and of what a great honour it is to serve here. I was thinking today that it is 40 years since I first entered the House of Commons, not as a Member, but as a visitor.

Mr. Purchase: As a little boy.

Andrew Mackinlay: Yes. I remember the scene. Harold Wilson was shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. I thought that it was magic to see all the Members of Parliament with their feet up on the seats. Before the installation of television cameras, it was

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almost mandatory for Front Benchers to have their feet up on the Table. I was fascinated by that. It does not happen now as a matter of rule, but it was done in those days.

I also remember Harold Wilson chiding Iain Macleod, who had said in a speech the week before that

Wilson said the same and added:

There was a tremendous howl of laughter and I thought XThis is good; I must have a slice of the action." It took me five general elections and another 25 years before I could get elected. I rushed into the Chamber, sat on the Front Bench and threw up my legs, but they did not reach the Table. I think that that must have been an omen that the Front Bench was not for me.

I, too, remember making my maiden speech 10 years ago. I welcome this debate in which we can paint a broad canvass, while the other days of debates on the gracious speech are allocated subject areas. On considering today's Queen's Speech, I thought it would be appropriate to read what was said 10 years ago, to see what I said and what was mentioned in that Queen's Speech. Obviously, the same themes were dealt with. Transport was mentioned and I raised the question of my London-Tilbury-Southend line. The service is now called c2c, which some people call Xchaos to chaos" or Xcancellation to cancellation".

I also spoke about the port of Tilbury and my concerns about privatisation. The port is now very good, but I have raised in the House during the past few weeks my concerns about port security. The port of Tilbury is very secure and has a small and dedicated police force. Indeed, the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor) and I joined the force in its recent bicentennial celebrations. The point is relevant because our seaports are generally not policed in the way that Tilbury is. There are only a few small and dedicated port police forces. At a time when there is maximum danger from the terrorist threat and massive human trafficking, however, I implore the Government to consider establishing a national ports police along the lines of the forces that exist in the ports of Tilbury, Felixstowe, Dover, Tees, Hartlepool and—I think—Merseyside. It is common sense that we should have such a force, and the sooner the better.

Health delivery was also mentioned, as it has been today. I was concerned about the closure of Orsett hospital in the borough of Thurrock and the concentration of all our resources in Basildon. Basildon hospital has now been established. It is doing a very good job and is a centre of excellence, but it is on overload. I still think that the Government should revisit the matter in relation to my particular area.

I was pleased to see in the Queen's Speech that the Government want to address a growing problem that is seen by many hon. Members—bed blocking. Although we try to score party political points on the issue, we need to ensure that local authorities have the necessary resources and implement the necessary measures to get out of hospital people who should not be there occupying beds. I see that that is heralded in the Queen's Speech and I welcome it very much.

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The need for scrutiny is an issue on which I think I was prophetic in my maiden speech and which is relevant to today's speech from the Throne. I said in my first speech in Parliament that there was a need to buttress and enhance Select Committees. Whatever sins I have committed since, I was certainly a robust member of the Select Committee on Transport, of which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were a member at the same time. We certainly gave the previous Conservative Government a good run for their money on a range of contentious issues, including the foolishness of rail privatisation. In the two Parliaments in which I have served on the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, I have certainly not been held back from scrutinising my hon. Friends in their stewardship and conduct of our external relations.

The greater use of pre-legislative scrutiny is very much welcomed and the Government should be proud of it. It is another increment in creating more openness and reversing the trend of centralisation, which is to some extent inexorable and is not the fault of any one Government of a particular persuasion. It is in the nature of modern government, and I look to this Labour Government to be conscious of that and to continue to introduce measures to ensure that the legislature is more relevant and can scrutinise even more, and properly contribute to, the legislative process. Everyone here knows that at the present time, statutes are largely produced by Governments. A Bill is introduced and, because of parliamentary timetables and the backwards and forwards between the two Houses, Labour and Tory Governments rarely agree to amendments, whether they were tabled by Opposition Members or from their own Benches, and even if they would improve the measure. Such acceptance happens only very grudgingly and exceptionally. That is wrong. Members of Parliament can contribute and make better statutes if they are given the opportunity to do so in pre-legislative and other Committee processes.

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