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13 Nov 2002 : Column 92continued
I spoke also this morningI had a lot of phone calls this morningto someone who wanted admission to my local comprehensive school, Cecil Jones. When I contacted the school, it said that it has a waiting list of 100 people. The next comprehensive school, Shoeburyness, is also packed full. The Government are more likely to find a solution if, instead of trying to pretend that things are getting better and services are improving, they accept the seriousness of the situation. Hon. Members should not think for a minute that I am saying that it is all the Government's faultfar from it. However, it is the Government's job to try to resolve problems, not to make things worse by pretending that they are better.
On a final point, I was disappointed by what the Prime Minister said about the European Union, particularly his reference to Britain having to become more and more involved in that organisation, which has not done a great deal of good for our community. I simply ask those who share the Prime Minister's view what has happened to the two countries which decided not to join the European Union?
I went to Europe; there were referendums in a place called Switzerland and a place called Norway. Both were told that disaster faced them if they did not join the EU, but both decided not to. Those two countries have the highest living standards, the lowest unemployment and the greatest volume of democracy in Europe today. Instead of being a disaster, that decision has been very good for those countries. I hope that, rather than becoming more involved, the Government will think carefully.
The crucial thing is telling the truth. If we tell the truth about the state of social services, we will have a better chance of resolving the problems. Instead of trying to pretend that things are getting better, let us tell people how things are.
I welcome this morning's ceremony, which provides employment for an industry in my constituency which produces the vellum on which the Queen's Speech is printed. I also welcome several of the proposed Bills, and as a refugee from the Utilities Bill, I welcome in particular the communications Bill and the water Bill. I strongly support licensing reform and measures to tackle antisocial behaviour. I especially welcome the announcement about regional referendums, which is long overdue. The test of whether there is support for such referendums will come in the referendums themselves. We in the south-east of England desperately need regional government to be accountable; we have regional government, but it is not accountable to the people of the south-east.
Like other hon. Members, I am concerned about the omissions from the Queen's Speech. I hope that the Government will do more work on the draft mental health Bill and introduce it at a later date. Despite the contentious issues, several key matters need to be dealt with and I think that the Bill requires further work. I regret that no Bill on corporate manslaughter was announced and I hope that the Government will think again about that, but one omission on which they should be congratulated is that of a civil service Bill. It would be wrong to waste time debating such a Bill now, so its absence from the Queen's Speech is welcome.
Although it is right that we concentrate on the legislative side today, we should ensure that we examine implementation when we discuss the Bills themselves. I was a member of the Joint Committee that scrutinised the draft communications Bill. That Bill is a good example of the way in which we should legislate: the Departments involved consulted industry and parliamentarians when preparing the Bill; then the Joint Committee introduced some innovative ways in which to tackle the legislation. So far, the process has led to the production of a pretty good Bill that can be made better as it proceeds through the House. I hope to speak on Second Reading, but I want to emphasise today that it should not pretend to be a broadcasting Billit is a telecommunications Bill. There are other issues such as radio, the role of the regulator and getting the objectives right, which are just as important as the more obvious controversies surrounding broadcasting and the role of the BBC.
My concern about the Queen's Speech and the way in which Government legislation is presented is not that we are doing the wrong thingsI do not think that we arebut that the things that appeal to our core supporters we do grudgingly, and the things that are necessary but appeal more to our opponents we do with apparent glee. Obstacles are put in the way when we tackle issues such as fox hunting and House of Lords reform, whereas the process of dealing with more controversial matters, such as the withdrawal of jury trial, appears to be accelerated. That alienates the people whose support we need to get reforms through and on whom we rely to implement them. That is a danger that we must avoid when we examine some of the Bills announced today.
The measures in the Queen's Speech require a change of culture as well as legislation. That is especially true of the measures on antisocial behaviour. In my constituency, as in many constituencies throughout the country, we had a problem with travellers, with the rate of illegal encampments running at about 150 a week. The council, landowners and police created a body called the travellers management unit, which was headed by a police sergeant. Instead of several agencies working individually, the unit could use the appropriate powers by itself. The result of that change in culture is that last week there was one illegal travellers' encampment, and for most of this year the average number has been zero or one, and the cleansing bill has decreased from more than #300,000 a year to #325 this year.
That tremendous success required a change of culture, as well as use of the provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. No legislation that we push through Parliament will have an impact unless it is accompanied by such a culture change. Incidentally, when we were discussing the code of conduct for that travellers management unit, the leader of the Conservative group insisted that he would not endorse the unit. He preferred the sort of rhetoric attacking travellers that has not worked anywhere in this country. The response of the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) when I asked him about restorative justice emphasises that point.
One of the problems we have encountered in the past is being unable effectively to translate pilots to the mainstream. That is especially true of action to deal with antisocial behaviour. Others have gone through the list of measures that are necessary, but I shall focus on a couple. There is a desperate need to ban immediately the use of fireworks outside organised displays. Constituents have told me about fireworks going off at 1.30 in the morning, about the problems caused to their children and their pets, and about the disruption to their lives. A ban is needed, and I hope that the Government will do that willingly, and not have to be dragged into doing so grudgingly.
Drunkenness has been mentioned by other hon. Members. Although I welcome the proposals on licensing reform, we must learn the lessons of the regulatory reform orders for new year's eve, when too little time was allowed for implementation. We should not rush to legislateit is more important to get certain things right than to get them quickly. In particular, we must take account of the impact on the work force and on public services such as transport. It is right to remove licensing restrictions, but we must be aware of the consequences.
I had intended to talk about the need for drug rehabilitation measures, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) covered most of that ground and I agree with his comments. We must recognise that there are alternatives to prisonthere is no one size fits all solution to antisocial behaviour. Prison works for some people and some crimes, but not for all. I fear that by trying to do things in silos, we cause problems.
I have long been a campaigner for some of the provisions of the planning Bill. One of the problems is that we have not recognised how different pieces of legislation interact, and the planning Bill will contribute to the reduction in crime. Many of the problems we have
I worry that, once again, the Home Office is to have three or four Bills in this Session. In each Session, the Home Office work load is great, and there is a danger that it will concentrate too much on new legislation and not enough on getting some of the issues within the Department under control. When debating the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, we heard about the problems of the immigration and nationality directorate; we have also heard about the criminal justice system being antiquated.
The Home Office promoted a number of regulations arising from the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, but when they came to be examined by Parliament, there was an outcry because the Department had not consulted industry properly, and the industry said that there were better ways in which to achieve the Government's desired outcome. We must work on proposals with voluntary groups and industry. In one example, it was thought that a statutory instrument was required, but the industry pointed out that the Department for Work and Pensions already had equivalent powers; all that was required was an application to the Data Protection Registrar to use the information for national security purposes. That, not another piece of legislation, was the solution. We have to be prepared to recognise that there may be much better ways of achieving our aims.
October witnessed the highest number of digital attacks on private and public companies in this country, including quite a few attacks by terrorist groups. The Queen's Speech rightly emphasises the importance of tackling terrorism, but I urge the Government to do that in ways that work with the grain of industry, not against itways that use people's skills. In Canada, some people working in financial services have been made Royal Canadian Mounted Police deputies in order to tackle some forms of terrorist crime. Such innovative methods are available to usmethods that do not damage business and are not confined solely to individual Government agencies, but which instead involve the whole community.
The Queen's Speech, rightly, talks about moving from a criminal justice system to a victims' justice systemalthough I personally would settle for a justice system. Anyone who sees the criminal justice system from the outside recognises that although we have a British legal system, we have precious little justice in this country. Merger within the courts system might be the right solutionI think that it isbut if we fail to bring people on board and if the changes do not translate into improvements on the ground, all we will achieve is a lot of argument and the alienation of key workers for no gain. There is a real danger of that happening if we are not careful.
Anybody who knows how organisations work understands that there is both a formal mechanism and a parallel informal mechanism. Too often in the House, we concentrate on the formal side, which accounts for only a small part of the way in which organisations work. We rarely concentrate on informal mechanisms, which is one reason why the hon. Members for Banbury and for Rochford and Southend, East could comment as they did on public services. We need to get informal structures rightin a legal setting, changes to the law are even more important. If people do not perceive that change has been made, the fact that we have made such a change will not do us any good.
Public service reform is a key aim of this Parliament, which is continued in the Queen's Speech. As I said, that requires a change of culture, not just the legislation that is going through. The House may concentrate on the legislative process, but we cannot take our eye off the other routes needed to achieve that aim.
We have made significant changes, and hopefully self-indulgent long speeches will be a thing of the past in the HouseI shall shut up in a second. We have introduced reforms such as having an annual calendar, carry-over Bills and far more pre-legislative scrutiny, but there is still a lot more we can do to introduce more focused Bills and regulatory reform orders instead of unnecessarily wide-ranging Bills. We are not very good at auditing and reviewing what we are doing in the Houseagain, that needs to be built into the process. When we debate the Queen's Speech, we should not just go over what is new, but look back and review what has been effective.
The Queen's Speech rightly emphasises rights and responsibilities, concentrating on issues which provoke a lot of people to come to Members' surgeries. The proposed Bills are welcome, but we will be judged on what happens on our estates and in our villages, not on the hair-splitting that will take place in many Committee Rooms. What matters is what works on the estates. I am convinced that the legislative changes will help, but we must make sure that the implementation and administration of change will receive focused attention from Ministers and Committees.