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Tom Levitt: Perhaps the issue is not whether heterosexual couples should be able to have the equivalent to civil registration. The Bill will say that no couplewhether heterosexual or homosexualwill have the right to civil partnership unless the partnership is registered. It will be registered either through marriage in the case of a heterosexual partnership or through civil registration in a same-sex partnership. Those who have not registeredwhether they are heterosexual or homosexualwill not receive the benefits of the partnership, so it is clear that the Bill will give equivalence to the two situations in that respect.
Ross Cranston: I hear what my hon. Friend says, but many heterosexual couples choose not to marry. Women often contribute significantly to the property but find that, when the property is registered in the man's name, they have no access to it on the break-up of the relationship or on the death of the man. There is a definite problem there.
Let me return to the strategy unit audit, which has just been published. As well as setting out the achievements, it lays bare the fact that much more has to be done. With human capital, for example, our top quarter of school children are world class, but there is still a long tail of under-achievement. We have a strong science base, but investment in research and development has fallen in recent decades. Substantial progress has been made in tackling poverty, reducing social exclusion and rebuilding a sense of community, but persistent poverty remains and it is associated with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe.
The Sure Start programme operates in the Kates Hill and Sledmere areas in my constituency, and I support it wholeheartedly. However, it should be extended more widely, and it could operate successfully in deprived wards in Dudley, North such as the Castle and Priory ward. The strategy unit audit sets out the very clear evidence of the high returns and cost effectiveness of targeted investment in childrensuch as provided by Sure Startin increasing education attainments and reducing crime.
Mr. Miller: My hon. and learned Friend makes a very good point about the way in which the Sure Start boundaries were set up. Is he aware that, under the new legislation for children's centres, there is much more local flexibility to allow for tweaking the boundaries to suit local demographics?
The Queen's Speech is one more brick for building a more socially just and inclusive society. As I have suggested, it is not sans crack or flaw but, on the whole, the constitutional proposals are an attempt to mould venerated and successful institutions to modern demands. The regulatory proposals recognise the reality that rewards from the market alone must be modified to achieve social justice. The proposals for the collective provision of public services not only pursue this social justice goal, but contribute to a strengthened sense of community, and the proposals for enhancing individual rights guarantee greater opportunity for all. I support the speech.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Although I did not agree with everything that the hon. and learned Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston) said, he spoke with great authority about legal matters. However, his colleagues on the Government's Whips Bench might be more interested in the fact that he is the first Labour Member apart from the Prime Minister who has said that he will support top-up fees. We look forward to that.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about corporate manslaughter and the fact that a Bill was promised in 1997. I should like to develop that theme, because there was tremendous enthusiasm among Labour Members in 1997 that was matched by a certain unhappiness on our side after the election that year. We all remember, "Things can only get better", but we are now six and a half years on and the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) said that there was so much to do, so far to go. However, we should rely on the experience of our electorsbe they in Dudley, North or Blaby or wherever. After six and a half years, the Prime Minister seems detached from the experience of my electorate. He suggested that everything was getting better, but that is not what I hear from my electors.
The Prime Minister said that he was achieving much in the national health service, and it is true that a lot of money has gone into it and that some things are certainly better. I do not deny that, but let me give an example from my constituency. In September 1999, the Prime Minister said that, by September 2001, everybody would be able to get an NHS dentist. That was a clear promise that everybody would be able to get an NHS dentist within two years. I cannot, my family cannot and nor can any of my constituents around Lutterworth and Broughton Astley under the South Leicestershire
Leicestershire is the worst-funded education authority in the country. I accept that one authority has to be, but I have received letters from people who I am almost certain voted Labour at the last election and from head teachers and others who say that they heard much about "education, education, education", but it all turned out to be worthless. They make the points that more money has gone in, that money has been ring-fenced and that classrooms have been built. But I was shown a classroom by a head teacher and governors who I know are not Conservatives, and they said, "There is the brand-new classroom but, unfortunately, because of the education funding this year, we cannot put a teacher in it." The Prime Minister's speech was full of assertions that did not reflect the experience of our constituents.
Much of the Gracious Speech is about putting right the Government's earlier mistakes. There will be another Bill on asylum and immigration but, in 1997, the asylum situation was improving and the number of asylum seekers was falling dramatically. Under my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), firm measures had been introduced to deter economic migrants from claiming asylum but currently about 200,000 illegal immigrants enter this country each year.
I think that we have a fine tradition of accepting refugees in this countrythey have included the parents of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Oppositionwhen they have feared repression. The statistics from the Government's own courts tell us that the majority of people who come to this country are not asylum seekers, but economic migrants who understandably want to better themselves. If about 200,000 people a year are entering the countryand the numbers are increasingby a fairly simple equation, about 2 million such people will enter in a decade, and we will have to build two cities approaching the size of Birmingham to accommodate them.
I receive letters daily about congestion on our roads and the failing transport system, as well as the education system, hospitals and waiting lists. If we are taking on 2 million extra people in a decade, we must consider the implications. When the Home Secretary says that he envisages no limit on the number of new immigrants, we should all discuss the matter in a grown-up way, without accusations of racism, and talk about what we want from migration and who should be allowed to come to this country.
On my second point, the Government are again turning to an issue that they have made worse and trying to fix their own problems. I have yet to see the details of the so-called pension protection fund, which may be welcome. Other hon. Members have mentioned the genuine issue that arises when companies go into liquidation and the last people to benefit are the poor