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Mr. Heath: Is there not an alternative way of dealing with the problem of papers destroyed in transit? Carriers could be required to make facsimiles of papers presented on boarding, retaining them until passengers have completed immigration procedures at the other end. In that way, we would always have a record that would also be useful for counter-terrorism purposes.
Mr. Harris: My understanding is that the legislation will introduce obligations for carriers, or at least some carriers from some countries, to duplicate identity and travel papers where necessary, so that they can be shown to immigration officials in Britain. That should be welcomed. None of my constituents would show any tolerance of the brazen practice of accidentally losing identification and travel papers.
I welcome the Government's plans to clamp down on the number of appeals. I hope that they will take notice of the fact that the judicial review process is slightly different in Scotland. If we are to streamline the appeals process in England and Wales, it must be done effectively in Scotland as well. The current arrangements have meant that, in Scotland, almost every application for judicial review is agreed, which is not the case in England. I have been pressing for change for some time.
On the controversy that has erupted about the Government's alleged plans to abduct the children of asylum seekers whose applications have been refused, would it be possible for debate in the House, including on Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill, to concentrate on what Ministers and the Bill say, rather than on what The Observer says? I do not think that it helps the debate in this country to focus on an unattributed source reported in The Observer and copied by other media outlets. The Home Secretary has explained the situation, and I hope that Opposition Members will accept what he says.
The Government have made some improvements in the asylum process. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, who probably has the most difficult job in the Government. She has never failed to treat me with the utmost courtesy and helpfulness whenever I have consulted her. Because of the type of constituency that I represent, she has had to provide such information to me on many occasions. I am extremely grateful to her for that help.
I wish briefly to mention the proposed amendments to the Scotland Act 1998. I was one of the MPs who contributed to the consultation led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Mrs. Liddell) when she was Secretary of State for Scotland. My contribution was to say that the Scottish Parliament should retain 129 Members, even after we have reduced the number of Scottish MPs in this place. There are many good reasons why I take that view, but I urge hon. Members to visit my website at www.tomharrismp.com if they want further explanation.
When the measure comes before the House, hon. Members in all parts of the House will no doubt table a huge number of amendments. The Scottish National party, which obviously has something better to do today, will undoubtedly produce a plethora of amendments, probably focusing on full fiscal freedom or any other alliterativeif I can say the word[Interruption.] Thank goodness for alliteration, I was going to say. No doubt, the Conservative party will try to incorporate its own amendments. I understand from reading The Scotsman last week that the Conservative party will table an amendment that would restrict the rights of Scottish Members in this place to vote on English legislation.
May I make a genuine appeal to Conservative Members? I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) is in his place at this point. I ask them please not to go down the road that the Scottish nationalists want them to go down. The Conservative party used to call itself the Conservative and Unionist party, and I want it to reinstate that full title rather than call itself the English national party. For 50 years, Northern Ireland MPs came to this place and took a full part in the life of this House, voting on everything that came before it. For 50 years from 1922 until 1972, as far as I know, not a single Conservative or Labour MP ever objected to that, as Members of this House serve their constituents on any equal basis. It says something very profound about the attitude of those on the Conservative Benches that, at Prorogation a couple of weeks ago, they were fulminating against democratically elected Members of this House voting on
Mr. Evans: I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that most of the blockages in the other place have been caused by Labour peers objecting to the Government's proposals. Nevertheless, is he seriously suggesting that we have to wait 50 years for an answer to the West Lothian question?
Mr. Harris: The hon. Gentleman will know that an answer was not sought to the Ulster question during those 50 years; and why should it have been? Members of this House should be elected on an equal basis. For example, I am not gay, but I am happy to vote on civil partnerships. Why should I not vote on issues that do not directly affect my constituency? Will the next Conservative manifesto say that London MPs will not be allowed to vote on transport issues that are devolved to the Greater London Assembly? I suspect not.
I am rapidly running out of timehow time flies when one is having funbut I want, at the risk of being accused of pedantry, to make one more point about the Lords reform Bill. The 2001 Labour party manifesto committed the Government to making the House of Lords more democratic and representative, and it is more representative today than it has been in its entire history. We should be wary of saying that because a House is democratically elected its Members are automatically more democratic or more representativeone has only to look at the Scottish Parliament, which, although democratically elected, has not a single black or brown face among its 129 Members. The Bill might not make the House of Lords more democratic, but it will certainly make it less undemocratic by removing the hereditary peers, and we should welcome that.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): It is a privilege to be called to speak in the debate on the Queen's Speech and to talk about some of the proposals that affect the Home Officesome good, some bad, and some indifferent.
This Government's fight against crime will ensure that crime is reduced, and we want that to continue. What worries me, however, is crime detectionspecifically, the role of the Forensic Science Service, which does an excellent job in solving crime. At Washington hall in Chorley, 240 people are dedicated to solving crime in the north-west. It is important that we listen to the voices of those who work in the Forensic Science Service: it is far too easy for us to dismiss their opinions. Sir Robert MacFarland and the National Audit Office reported that the FSS is a huge success and that it is good value. It is wonderful to have that endorsement, which Members on both sides should listen to. Because the FSS is a world leaderit is considered by many, including me, to be the best in the worldmany overseas cases are brought to this country to be solved, including that of the tragic death of a Swedish Minister.
It is important to recognise what the FSS can do through its trading fund, which made profits of £10 million. If privatisation goes ahead, there is no guarantee that its work will not suffer. The FSS is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation: that on-call service is totally unprofitable. So will there be cuts? That is the big question to which we never get the answer.
How is privatisation to take place? Is it the case, as I suggested in an Adjournment debate, that each forensic lab will compete against the others for work? In fairness to the Minister, he said that that would not happen. Are we therefore to assume that a private monopoly will be created out of public ownership? That is absurd, because how would we achieve value for money? It is certainly wrong for labs to compete with each other, because, given that it is beneficial for them to share their knowledge, competing private companies would not be keen on doing so. If we are not careful, life will become even more difficult. We should put quality of service first, but a private company will want to make a profit out of crime. That would be intolerable, and I am sure that hon. Members agree that it is no way forward.
Many unanswered questions remain about the staff's pension rights, and we wonder when we can give the answers to those who work in the FSS. Of course, the FSS needs extra capital investment, and we are told that that is the reason for beginning part privatisation. The Government are normally the first to say that we use private finance initiatives. Why do we not consider such a vehicle to ensure the upgrade of FSS laboratories? That is a much better way forward than privatisation. Surely the Home Secretary, who led against privatisation throughout the 1980s, would not want his name attached to such a proposal now.
It is important, and in the public's interest, to ensure that the FSS remains entirely in the public sector. I note that Front-Bench Members, as they chat away merrily, are taking a great interest in hon. Members' comments. They should take note that even Mr. Bush has not privatised the forensic science service in America. No country in the world has privatised its forensic science service. Why should we do it? Why should we want to change it, and ensure a criminal's charter through privatisation?
Such a proposal is not a new idea or new thinking. It is a 25-year-old idea from a Thatcherite Government. In fairness to a former Home Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), I note that he threw out such a proposal and said that it was a step too far.
Many other issues in the Queen's Speech are important. One is the Government's support for neighbourhood watch. We have done well in extending it; it brings communities together and makes them safer. Keith Warren and Tom Watson in my constituency are at the forefront of leading neighbourhood watch in Lancashire, to the extent that it now covers railway stations in Chorley and operates on the trains. That is a new and good idea that will be replicated.
We also consider other places, such as cemeteries, where crime takes place. That causes much distress and the neighbourhood watch tries to ensure that people can feel safe when they go to the cemetery. We have prevented children from playing there and stopped the distress that is caused. That is important.