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15 Jan 2003 : Column 711continued
Mr. Hoon: I appreciate the sincerity with which my hon. Friend puts his case, but I would invite him to consider this point. He says that missile defence might unwittingly add to proliferation, but it will be developed to protect democracies. It will be developed to protect the United States, the United Kingdom and members of the NATO alliancea fundamental prerequisite of which is that its members should be democratic societies. My hon. Friend is saying that if we do not develop missile defence to protect those democracies, we will be relying on countries such as Iraq or North Koreaneither of which could remotely be described as democracies at presentnot to threaten the United Kingdom. If I went to my hon. Friend's constituency and discussed those issues with his constituents, I am pretty sure on which side of the line they would fall, because I suspect that they are not greatly dissimilar to my own. They would say, XWhy shouldn't you protect us against the kind of threat that could come from countries like North Korea and Iraq?" With the greatest
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): It is a very sad day indeed when a Secretary of State comes to the House 29 days after confirming that an application has been received from the United States to tell us that he is minded to accept it. Will he confirm that, in reality, the decision to go ahead with national missile defence was made a long time ago, and that it will mean that we are no longer able to support the ABM treaty? I suspect that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen) has said, in future, the Secretary of State will ask us to remove ourselves from a series of other disarmament treaties as well. Is this not the day on which the United States, with British support, has started proliferation again? This is not an interim or technical decision; it is a fundamental departure from the process of disarmament of the past 30 years in the direction of re-armament, and it is being done in a very dangerous way, which can only result in a similar response from China and other nuclear powers.
Mr. Hoon: I believe that I have already dealt with most of the arguments set out by my hon. Friend. He has referred previously to support for the ABM treatyI have mentioned this to him beforeas though somehow the treaty still existed. It no longer exists. It was a treaty between the United States and, originally, the Soviet Unionnow Russia, as its successorand both parties now accept that it has served its useful purpose. In place of that treaty we now have something for which my hon. Friend has long argued: a very substantial reduction in the number of offensive systems. Given the consistency of my hon. Friend's approach to these matters, I should have thought that he would welcome the fact that the ABM treaty has been replaced, and that the Moscow treaty has allowed for that significant reduction for which he has understandably and rightly argued.
Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): Will the Secretary of State concede that, had missile defence been in place, and had it worked, it would not have made a ha'p'orth of difference to the events of 11 September? Does he accept that it takes at least some explaining that, on the day on which the Prime Minister warned against weapons proliferation in an international context, we are signing up to something that will require us fundamentally to breach the outer space treaty, because missile defence will require the militarisation of space in ways that will take us not only into a vast territorial unknown but into a political unknown, allowing weapons use from space? To settle some of the wagering that has been taking place on the Back Benches, will the Secretary of State confirm just how many nanoseconds it took him to say yes to the United States' request for a further annexation of facilities in the United Kingdomthe 51st state of the USA?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend always manages to put his difficult questions with a good deal of courtesy. I can assure him that, as yet, the Government have no plans to install any facilities in Nottingham, South, but I am sure that, if he requests it in his normally persuasive way, that decision could be reconsidered.
More seriously, I do not understand the argument that the terrorist threat manifested in the appalling events of 11 September should take overwhelming priority in relation to any other threats that might happen in the world. I accept that there is an appalling terrorist threatwe have seen the tragic consequences of it in recent times in this countrybut to suggest that that means that we should ignore all other threats, if that is what my hon. Friend was doing, is simply wrong.
We have a responsibility to protect the citizens of this country against all the threats that we reasonably detect and to take appropriate action. That is what we are doing. I shall report to the House regularly on developments that the United States proposes, including any that have implications for the outer space treaty. However, I do not approach the matter in the same way as my hon. Friend; I approach it in a way that I believe is in the interests and for the protection of the people of this country.
In 1995, there was, remarkably, no law to prevent young people and children from abusing alcohol in public places. So, with Peggy Grant's encouragement, I introduced a private Member's Bill to give the police powers to stop under-age alcohol abuse and take back control of our streets. My Bill was enacted in 1997 and it worked well across the nation, but then new Labour became the Government and the then Home Office Ministernot, I hasten to add, the Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety, who is in his placeissued a press release stating that the under-age drinking confiscation measure, which meant my Bill, showed
Last year, the Government's Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 removed the power that I had given the police to take unopened cans and bottles of alcohol from youngsters in public places. That was pure, unadulterated new Labour stupidity. The Prime Minister then claimed that he was giving all possible
To claim that my Bill was a new Labour initiative and try to take credit for it was a lie; to remove police powers to take alcohol from young children on our streets was stupid; and to claim that all is well and that all is being done on our streets is hypocrisy. So there we have it. New Labour says that it listens and that it acts to tackle crime. It says that it will protect our children and our communities, but it is simply arrogant, stupid and hypocriticaland the Prime Minister is personally responsible.
It is my opinion that the overindulgence of alcohol is to blame for our youngsters experimenting in the first place . . . This does not only pertain to the 'odd joint' but harder drugs . . . crime, and mindless vandalism, the latter of which we see all too frequently . . . clear rules and laws must be set out to protect our youth and our future society from the somewhat soft approach of the left wing!
My husband and myself do not want to live in fear of street crime but it is always now in the front of our minds."
The St. Peter's ward representative voiced his concerns about drink-fuelled teenage nuisance after residents complained".
I refer of course to the seizure of alcohol from juveniles. The power was used to good effect during last year . . . but now its effectiveness has been substantially reduced. As we can now only seize open containers, it will mean that if we find someone with a four pack of lager, and only one tin is open, that is the only one we can seize leaving them with the remainder."
Now policeincreasingly on the receiving end of violence and abuse from drunken teenagershave begun a major crackdown using new powers to seize alcohol from youngsters."
A search of a 15-year-old boy also revealed a craft knife capable of inflicting serious wounds."
Thus the Government have contrived to make criminals of the police and to help youngsters into crime and drugs. All of us in this place know that the first use of drugs by young people most often takes place under the influence of alcohol. Such is the reality of a bankrupt, arrogant Government who have simply stopped listening.
This raises the question of why the Prime Minister removed the police power last year. Did he think that the police were improperly harassing young drunkards and thugs on our streets? Or he is simply out of touch? Or does he simply not care?
Perhaps the Government will now revert to the common-sense law that worked so well: my original Bill. They may use the Licensing Bill, although I doubt that that would be terribly appropriate. In the meantime, I ask the House to support my new Bill giving the police powers to stop out-of control, dangerous under-age drinking on our streets.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Bob Spink, Mr. David Amess, Mr. Peter Lilley, Mr. Frank Field, the Rev. Martin Smyth, Mrs. Angela Browning, Andy King, Andrew Mackinlay, Mr. Henry Bellingham, Mr. Elfyn Llwyd, Sir Nicholas Winterton and Miss Ann Widdecombe.