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Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): A moment or two ago, my right hon. Friend mentioned the domestic violence Bill. This morning, all the press herald the fact that that Bill contains great measures, including the right of the victims to be protected under the law by prosecutions brought by the police, rather than themselves. That is an important measure for the protection of victims. Can he confirm that he will continue to work across Departments so that all the social effects of domestic violence, not only those that relate to his own Department, are dealt with?
Mr. Blunkett: Yes, I can confirm that, and I shall be pleased to discuss that Bill; obviously, I will not make a Second Reading speech, but I can confirm that, as with the statement that I made in July, we are now moving forward to implement those policies.
Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): Can the Home Secretary confirm that there is a crucial difference between any other family in his constituency who suffers from destitution and a family seeking asylum? If social workers came across a destitute family in his constituency, they would have a duty to lift the family out of destitution, so that they are not split up, using powers under the National Assistance Act 1948. However, asylum-seeking families are explicitly excluded from those provisions, so there is a crucial difference: social workers cannot keep those families together by lifting them out of destitution, which is what they would like to do.
I repeat again that all that was spelt out for hon. Members on both sides of the House on 24 October. It was repeated the following Monday, 27 October, when the specific measures were followed up, and it was spoken about alongside the indefinite leave to remain proposals, which I announced at the time and which lifted the threat of removal or destitution from 15,000 heads of familiesapproximately 45,000 to 50,000 asylum seekerswho had put in their claims before 2 October 2000 and who had not been removed from the country. I should have expected a warm welcome for that, but it is funny how some of the people who are now critical of what I am doing did not welcome that proposal at the time.
Mr. Blunkett: I am very glad that my hon. Friend welcomes it. It is really nice that some of the things that we do are welcomed by our hon. Friends on the Labour Benches. That always cheers us a little and it gets our blood flowing again.
Mr. Gwyn Prosser (Dover) (Lab): I certainly support a lot of the changes that have been made already, but my right hon. Friend must be aware that we have concerns about the consequences of the ruling that we are talking about now. Having said that, does he agree that a failed asylum-seeking family who decide to allow their children to be taken into care purely to keep them off the streets and keep them safe are saying more about themselves and their own judgment than about the proposals?
Mr. Blunkett: They certainly are, because they have a choicethey could pick up the package of free travel, plus resettlement back in the country of origin. If we are not to have a completely dysfunctional system and if there are those in all parties who believe that we should lay down regulations and laws but not implement them, we have to follow through the logic. As I was spelling out a moment ago, the logic is that people take responsibility for their own actions. It is an absolutely key precept of politics that we cannot do everything for people. We cannot second-guess them. We cannot take all their decisions for them. They have to take responsibility for themselves, their families and their children. If we offer people a decent package, having undertaken the whole process, and they refuse to return, we are left with only one obligation: to look after those
It is funny how Opposition parties demand less government, but then demand more government when it suits them. Let me give an example. Let us take counter-terrorism or, as the Opposition like to call it, homeland security. The Opposition have proposed with vigour on several occasions that we ought to have a homeland security tsar in the Cabinet, despite the fact that the holder of that shadow post is not a member of the shadow Cabinet.
Mr. Blunkett: Yes, the idea is modelled on America, but without the American system behind it. It is an interesting proposition because, of course, a homeland security tsar wouldby the very nature of the post, which would be detached from day-to-day responsibility for other mattersbe up and down in the media and in the House, constantly justifying their existence in the Cabinet and constantly talking about events in the public arena.
I draw attention to that only because the shadow Home Secretary said on the radio this morning what a disgrace it was that I had answered a question about a police counter-terrorism and security service operation that took place last week in Gloucester. We cannot have it both ways. On a number of occasions, I have been criticised for not appearing in the House enough to talk about anti-terrorism and security, despite all that we have pushed through, or in the media, telling people about what is taking place and answering questions often enough. The criticism is that we need a homeland tsar to do that instead because I am too busy with policy, immigration, criminal justice, tackling drugs and civil renewal to speak often enough on counter-terrorism.
When I was asked a perfectly reasonable questionit was put to me on a day when I did not make the headlines, by the way, because I was already making them with the proposed asylum legislationabout an incident with which I was familiar, I answered it. Even one of my long-standing criticsthe former Master of the Rolls, Lord Donaldsondescribed the answer as perfectly reasonable. I answered in a way that did not infringe anyone's rights. Although he said that he was a long-standing critic, he said that he could not find fault with what I said on that occasion.
I draw attention to the letter in The Times this morning from Walter S. Greenwood, who has some real experience in such matters. Again, he criticised those who jumped on to a rather silly bandwagon. I just want to put this on the record, so that we get it straight. I did
Mr. Garnier: I can assure the Home Secretary that I am not in the least bit desperate, but he may become increasingly desperate. The answer that he has just given to the criticism that has been made of his interviews with the press about the Gloucester investigation is foolish, if I may say so. He clearly knows the difference between identifying and commenting on a particular case compared with talking about terrorism generally, police efforts in general and Home Office efforts to sustain the fight against terrorism. It really will not do for him to come to the Dispatch Box and try to ally the two concepts. That is foolish and unwise, and he is being silly.
Mr. Blunkett: I do not really give a toss what the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks about me, but it is very interesting that he obviously thinks just the same about Lord Donaldson or those who have very clearly indicated, as I do, that the hon. and learned Gentleman is talking nonsense. Those who throw about meaningless criticism in an effort to make party political points need to listen to those who have a great deal of experience and actually know whether someone has prejudiced a trial or has in any way undermined the right of someone to the justice of our country. I am very confident that I did not do that, and I would do it again.
Let us be clear about the legislation outlined in the Queen's Speech and in the Bills that we will introduce. I refer not just to those that will be debated under the subject of home affairs, but to the housing Bill and the Department of Trade and Industry's Bill that will introduce community interest companies. We are seeking to develop a raft of measures that will enable people to live their lives more freely, to have greater confidence and trust in the system and to be able to move forward in terms of developing their lives. As my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Kali Mountford) suggested, that is true of the legislation on domestic violence and of the charities Bill that we will publish.
The charities Bill will modernise laws that go back to 1601 and, at the request of voluntary and community organisations, it will modernise the way in which local communities as well as national charities can engage with the solutions to their own problems. It will bring about greater accountability and revise the advice on campaigning that will ensure that we can modernise that without party political engagement by such groups. It will also ensure that we separate out the issues. The wider review will also, of course, be taken forward alongside the legislation that is needed. I hope that hon. Members on both sides will join us in making that draft legislation better and will engage in the debate.