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House of Commons

Thursday 25 November 2004

The House met at half past Eleven o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Business of the House

11.34 am

David Maclean (Penrith and The Border) (Con): As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, the shadow Leader of the House is not well. He has asked me to pass on his apologies to the House for his absence today. I am sure that hon. Members will wish to join me in sending him our good wishes for a speedy recovery.

Will the Leader of the House give us the business for next week, please?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Peter Hain): Yes, of course, but before I do so, I am happy to join in wishing the shadow Leader a full and speedy recovery so that I can get to grips with him at business questions next week.

Mr. Speaker, you informed the House on Tuesday of the subjects for debate on the Queen's Speech. The business for next week will therefore be:

Monday 29 November—Continuation of the debate on the Queen's Speech.

Tuesday 30 November—Continuation of the debate on the Queen's Speech.

Wednesday 1 December—Conclusion of the debate on the Queen's Speech.

Thursday 2 December—A debate on "fisheries" on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.I also remind the House that on this day my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will present his pre-Budget report. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Local and Regional Government also intends to make a statement to the House on the 2005–06 provisional local government finance settlement for England.

Friday 3 December—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the following week will be:

Monday 6 December—Second Reading of the Railways Bill.

Tuesday 7 December—Second Reading of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill.

Wednesday 8 December—Second Reading of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill.

Thursday 9 December—Estimates [1st Allotted Day]. Subject to be confirmed by the Liaison Committee.

Friday 10 December—The House will not be sitting.
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I should like to inform the House the business in Westminster Hall will be:

Thursday 2 December—A debate on the Caribbean: supporting development.

David Maclean: I thank the Leader of the House for the business that he has just announced. Will he join me in expressing concern at events in Ukraine? I am sure that I am speaking for the whole House when I say that we all hope that democracy can prevail in Ukraine and that the situation does not deteriorate into civil war.

Last week there was a public outcry at the racism witnessed in Spain, and rightly so. We have heard Ministers condemn the racism and there have even been calls for the withdrawal of Spain's nomination to host the Olympics in 2012. Why, then, is it all right for an English cricket team to visit a country where racism, ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and starvation are the norm? Will the Leader of the House use his considerable influence to ensure that everyone in Government and the international community ostracises Zimbabwe until the evil Mugabe regime is no more?

The only piece of Foreign Office legislation in the Queen's Speech was not referred to in yesterday's debate. It was left to the shadow Minister for Europe to do so. May we have a full debate in Government time on foreign affairs?

The Leader of the House's outrageous remarks the other day about a safer Britain were condemned by colleagues and commentators on all sides, with the distinguished Labour lawyer Baroness Kennedy describing them as

But I am a generous chap, Mr. Speaker. Let us take the Leader's words at face value. Will he tell us when we will see the legislation to which he must have been referring in his "safer Britain" comments? With one teacher being assaulted every seven minutes, when will we see a Bill to restore school discipline and to make our schools safer? With a gun crime being committed every hour and more than 1 million violent crimes last year, when will we see a Bill to put more police, with full police powers, on to the streets? In the Leader's safer Britain, 5,000 people die each year from infections that they pick up in hospitals. When will the Government introduce legislation to give us cleaner hospitals and to make them safe?

The Government want to control our families, our leisure time and what we eat, but they cannot control our borders. When will see action or legislation on the 250,000 illegal asylum seekers who have no right to be here and whom the Government have done nothing to deport? After 66 tax rises, with each household in the country paying £5,000 more in tax, what is there in the Queen's Speech to give hard-working families and taxpayers safety from more tax rises by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The British people want better value for money for the huge amounts of taxes that they pay each year. The Government's programme is taking us in the wrong direction. That is why the country wants lower taxes.
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Mr. Hain: Mr. Speaker, that was a rather better response to the Queen's Speech than the one given by the Leader of the Opposition earlier this week. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean) and he should switch jobs.

The right hon. Gentleman asked a question about Ukraine, and I am pleased to agree with him. We strongly support the EU declaration criticising the conduct of Ukraine's presidential election. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe has stated clearly that the elections did not meet a considerable number of OSCE commitments, as well as Council of Europe and other European standards for elections. That is a matter for concern.

I agree that the behaviour of the Spanish fans who chanted racist slogans at the England team was outrageous. I agree also that the situation under Mugabe's tyrannical rule in Zimbabwe is outrageous and unacceptable. I have attacked it consistently, as have the Government.

I have made it perfectly clear that we are opposed to the cricket tour of Zimbabwe, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said the same earlier today. We wish that the tour had not happened, but the England and Wales Cricket Board is not a Government Department and is free to make its own decisions. I understand that the Zimbabwe information Minister has now lifted the ban on the remaining British journalists. Obviously, that is welcome, but it is still the case that the tour will give comfort to Mugabe's murderous rule, and I do not believe that the England team should be going.

As to the debate on the Foreign Office, there will be a debate on Europe immediately preceding the European Council in a couple of weeks' time. As is normal, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make a statement on the following Monday on his return from the European Council.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about Foreign Office matters. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is punctilious—almost more so than any other Cabinet Minister—about coming to the House and making statements when issues develop. I think that I am right in saying that Iraq and other Foreign Office matters have been debated in this House more regularly in the past year or two than almost any other foreign policy that I can recall.

On the question of a safer Britain, I think that the right hon. Gentleman and the Conservatives protest just a bit too much, and that all this phoney fury is a smokescreen to hide the fact that they have no plan of their own for the building of a safer Britain. Of course we believe that our policies and investment plans are making Britain safer, just as we believe in investment in the police, which the Tories pledged to cut. We also believe in a policy such as identity cards, which the Tories and the Liberal Democrats both oppose. Their approach is not acceptable.

I believe that Britain will be safer under Labour, just as I believe that it will be more prosperous, with more opportunities, jobs, hospitals and schools. It is a bit rich for the right hon. Gentleman to say what he did, given that he was a Home Office Minister for four years when crime rocketed and the number of police officers was cut. Crime rose faster under the Tories than it did in any
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other major western country. There was a staggering 166 per cent. increase in the total of recorded violent crimes, whereas the number of criminals brought to book fell by a third.

The Tory record is a shabby one, but Labour is creating a much safer and more secure Britain. We are pushing through policies on antisocial behaviour and criminal justice reform—as well as anti-terrorism legislation—against which the Liberal Democrats and many Tories have consistently voted. The electorate will judge their record for what it is; disgraceful. Their policies would have made Britain less, rather than more, secure.

On asylum, I am astonished that the right hon. Gentleman, as a former Home Office Minister, has the temerity to raise this matter. He knows that when we came to power we inherited an absolute shambles in a system that tries to cope with illegal human trafficking and illegal migration—[Interruption.]

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