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THE PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

OFFICIAL REPORT

IN THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FIFTY–THIRD PARLIAMENT OF THE

UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND

[WHICH OPENED 13 JUNE 2001]

FIFTY–SECOND YEAR OF THE REIGN OF

HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II

SIXTH SERIES

VOLUME 415

FIRST VOLUME OF SESSION 2003–2004

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House of Commons

Wednesday 26 November 2003

The House met at twenty-five minutes pastEleven o'clock

PRAYERS

[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Message to attend Her Majesty:

The House went; and having returned:

The sitting was suspended until half-past Two o'clock, and then resumed.

2.30 pm

On resuming—

Speaker's Statement

Mr. Speaker: Before I put the customary Sessional Orders to the House, I have a brief statement to make. As Members may be aware, the Procedure Committee has recently published a report on the Sessional Orders and resolutions. I hope that it will receive the attention that it deserves, and that the House will be given the opportunity to take a decision on the Committee's recommendations. If the recommendations are approved, proceedings on this occasion next year will take a rather different form. In the meantime, I hope that the House will be patient and good-humoured, as it normally is, while I follow the traditional formalities.

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SESSIONAL ORDERS

Elections

Ordered,


Resolved,


Resolved,


Resolved,


Ordered,


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Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is this debatable?

Mr. Speaker: It is debatable, but let me put the Question first.

Votes and Proceedings

Ordered,



Standing Orders (Public Business)

Ordered,


Mr. Greenway: All I want to say, Mr. Speaker, is that, as the only former police officer serving in this Chamber, it occurs to me—as it has on many occasions at the point at which you put the Sessional Order in respect of the security of the Palace—that the House should thank the police and security staff for the work that they do in protecting this Chamber. They are very often unseen behind the scenes, but they do a first-class job, in the most difficult of circumstances at the present time, and somebody ought to get to their feet once in a while to thank them for it.

Mr. Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that point of order. As he knows, the Serjeant at Arms is the senior officer responsible for security. I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that the Serjeant is regularly thanked personally by me, as the Speaker of the House, for the good work that is being done. He and his team are very much the unsung heroes in this House, particularly at the moment.

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Queen's Speech

Mr. Speaker: I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended Her Majesty in the House of Peers, and that Her Majesty was pleased to make a Most Gracious Speech from the Throne to both Houses of Parliament, of which I have, for greater accuracy, obtained a copy.

I shall direct that the terms of the Gracious Speech be printed in the appropriate place in the Votes and Proceedings. Copies are available in the Vote Office.

The Gracious Speech was as follows:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My Government will maintain its key commitment to economic stability and growth.

This will enable my Government to continue to deliver reform of the public services and continue to focus on greater opportunity and social justice, enhanced security and protection and constitutional reform.

Delivering a world class education system that enables individuals to achieve their full potential remains my Government's main priority for Britain's future success. Educational reform will continue to raise standards in all schools.

A Bill will be introduced to enable more young people to benefit from higher education. Upfront tuition fees will be abolished for all full-time students and a new Office For Fair Access will assist those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Universities will be placed on a sound financial footing.

My Government will continue to reform the National Health Service by giving more choice to patients, more freedom to National Health Service staff and more control over hospitals to local communities.

My Government will introduce a Bill that will provide all children born from September 2002 with a Child Trust Fund with an initial endowment from the Government and more for poorer children. This will mean that when children reach the age of 18 they have an asset to draw on as a springboard for the future.

Legislation will also be introduced to encourage both employers to provide good quality pensions and individuals to save more effectively for their retirement. A Pension Protection Fund will be set up to protect employees and pensioners if companies become insolvent.

My Government will maintain its commitment to increased equality and social justice by bringing forward legislation on the registration of civil partnerships between same sex couples.

A draft Bill will also be published responding to a review of the law relating to disabilities as part of my Government's programme to extend the rights and opportunities of disabled people.

My Government is committed to the maintenance of an effective asylum and immigration system. Legislation will therefore be brought forward to establish a single tier of appeal against asylum decisions, to reduce the scope for delay caused by groundless appeals, and to put in place a range of other measures to tackle abuse of the system and fraudulent claims.

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My Government will take forward work on an incremental approach to a national identity cards scheme and will publish a draft Bill in the new year.

My Government will continue to make the reduction of crime and the fear of crime a priority. The Government will be implementing the Criminal Justice Act to ensure the effective punishment of dangerous and persistent offenders. Firm action will continue to be taken against anti-social behaviour by strengthening the powers available to schools and local authorities.

Measures will be introduced to modernise the laws on domestic violence and to establish a Commissioner to speak up for the interests of victims and witnesses.

A Bill will be introduced to improve the services designed to protect children. A Children's Commissioner for England will be established.

A draft Bill will be brought forward on the Criminal Defence Service.

The threat of international terrorism and a changing climate have led to a series of emergencies and heightened concerns for the future. My Government will introduce a Bill creating a long-term foundation for civil contingencies capable of meeting these challenges at national and local level.

A Bill will also be brought forward to improve the delivery of fire and rescue services, ensuring that they can respond to the changing demands placed on them in the modern world.

A Bill will also be introduced to regulate retention of human tissues after death.

My Government will continue its programme of constitutional reform by establishing a Supreme Court, reforming the Judicial Appointments System and providing for the abolition of the current office of Lord Chancellor.

Legislation will be brought forward to reform the House of Lords. This will remove hereditary peers and establish an independent Appointments Commission to select non-party members of the Upper House.

A draft Bill will be published to enable a referendum to be held on the adoption of the single currency subject to the Government's five economic tests being met.

My Government will continue to take forward a Bill on election pilots introduced during the last session.

My Government is committed to improving the quality of people's day to day lives.

Legislation will be introduced on housing that will help create a fairer housing market and protect the most vulnerable.

My Government will continue to take forward a Bill on planning introduced during the last session, which will make the planning system fairer and faster with greater community participation.

Legislation will also be brought forward to improve traffic flows and manage road works more effectively.

A draft Bill will be published to enable some local authorities to pilot new arrangements for school transport to reduce road congestion.

My Government will also introduce legislation on energy matters, to establish a Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and to promote secure, sustainable supplies and a safer environment.

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My Government will maintain sound public finances and will continue to take action to secure high levels of employment and encourage enterprise.

Legislation will be introduced to implement the conclusions of the Government's review of the Employment Relations Act 1999.

Legislation will also be introduced to modernise company accounting and audit arrangements.

A thriving not-for-profit sector is part of the fabric of a modem democratic society. My Government will introduce a Bill to create Community Interest Companies which will enable social enterprises to meet the needs of their communities in new and innovative ways.

A draft Bill on charities will also be published which will modernise charity law and better enable charities to prosper.

Further draft clauses of a Bill on gambling will also be published.

My Government will continue to take forward a programme of Regulatory Reform Orders to simplify and reform burdensome and outdated legislation.

Members of the House of Commons

Estimates for the Public Services will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My Government will continue to work closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales. Bills will be introduced to create a single public audit body for Wales and to retain the current number of members in the Scottish Parliament.

In Northern Ireland, my Government will continue to work closely with the political parties and the Irish Government to secure the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement. Legislation will be brought forward to establish a Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission.

Other measures will be laid before you.

The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to paying a State Visit to Nigeria in December and attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. We look forward to receiving the State Visit of His Excellency the President of Poland next May. To mark the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, we look forward to paying a State Visit to France next April and to receiving His Excellency the President of France in the autumn.

My Government will play an active role in preparing the European Union for the accession of ten new member states next May. They will work hard to conclude negotiations on a new constitutional treaty for the European Union, following which they will introduce legislation to implement the treaty.

My Government will work for a strong partnership between Europe and the United States, underpinned by NATO, and for effective action in tackling the threat from global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

My Government will maintain Britain's commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan and Iraq, to promoting peace in the Middle East, and to tackling the underlying causes of conflict and extremism. They will help war-torn countries, particularly in Africa, to seize the opportunities for development which peace can bring.

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My Government will publish a Defence White Paper providing a statement of Defence Policy and an assessment of the new strategic environment in which the Armed Forces operate. A Bill will be introduced to give enabling powers to bring in new pension and compensation arrangements for the Armed Forces.

My Government will work to reduce world poverty and for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, including increased aid flows and effective debt relief for developing countries committed to reform.

My Government will press for a fairer trade system as part of the current round of world trade negotiations. They will work to strengthen the United Nations in response to key global challenges such as AIDS and climate change.


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