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Chris Bryant : I think that the hon. Gentleman was telling the Government off for reclassifying cannabis, but I thought that his party's policy was to legalise cannabis.

Mr. Llwyd : Yes, but I am very much against that policy. I will remain within the party and always will, but I am very much against the policy and have spoken many times against it. I am on the record on that. I accept the hon. Gentleman's point.

Against the constant barrage of the impending terror for which we must all wait, we will shortly consider the counter-terrorism Bill, which I suspect the Government will not publish until the Judicial Committee has considered the legality of aspects of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. From what we already know, the proposed Bill will be a little worrying. The use of Diplock courts cannot be justified. We will only feed terrorism at the end of the day if we are, indeed, under threat. Should not a terror suspect face the same legal procedures as any other suspect? Why should they be different in that regard? What is the distinction based upon? There is a danger that, by not extending full judicial guarantees under the rule of law to all suspects, martyrs could be created. That would surely serve to exacerbate the problem that the proposal attempts to address. The right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton referred to the phrase "acts preparatory to
 
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terrorism". I am also worried about that, and I hope that it will not be a euphemism for convicting people with a lesser evidential burden.

Mr. Grieve: It is.

Mr. Llwyd: I hear from the hon. Gentleman that that might well be the case, but no doubt we will be able to discuss such matters in due course.

In principle, I see the need for the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill because it is clear that organised crime today is as sophisticated as it gets and that the fight against it must take a different form. I accept that a new body to co-ordinate effort and concentrate on the problem could be useful, but such a body must be accountable and the way in which it exercises its powers must be as transparent as possible. The body's powers will no doubt be vast, so it must be a priority to build in from the start a robust system of accountability so that the public are happy with channels of complaint, if that is necessary, and, more importantly, so that their confidence is gained from the beginning.

I welcome the announcement of a youth justice Bill. During my years of practice in the youth courts, I often did not see the point of sending youngsters away to learn more about crime because that seldom had positive results. However, I saw the way in which the hard work of probation officers and social workers could turn youngsters about. We all know that there is good and bad in everyone. I welcome the intensive supervision and surveillance orders, inasmuch as I know the detail about them, because they will provide a useful alternative to custody. They will not be a soft option, but will offer a more creative approach. It will be far better for youngsters to remain in the community doing something useful than to go to a place where they might meet peers who know more about crime than them.

I remain totally unpersuaded by the arguments for the Identity Cards Bill, which has finally come forward after the Home Secretary's heroic struggles. Although we are supposed to be in a climate of fear, which is meant to soften us up for the Bill, there was strong opposition to the proposal when it was last discussed and I think that that will be equally strong today. We were told in the past that the two main justifications for the cards were to combat benefit fraud and terrorism, but I do not accept that at all. It is plain that we would not have avoided 9/11 or the awful occurrences in Madrid by having identity cards. Furthermore, if the cards are so necessary to combat this urgent threat, why will it take up to 10 years to introduce them? We are told that official figures show that the cost will be about £3 billion, but that will no doubt double by the time that the cards are introduced. However, even £3 billion would pay for about 60,000 new police officers on the beat, or even cover 25 per cent. of Wales' public spending over a year. We could put the money to far better use.

Hon. Members have mentioned the database, and we know of the Child Support Agency fiasco and the situation in the Department for Work and Pensions last week, so we must ask whether the Government are capable of putting together a proper information technology system. The scheme could be divisive and might lead to more "sus stops", with people from ethnic
 
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minorities being stopped far more often than white people; it is a dangerous path to go down. I believe sincerely that identity cards are an irrelevant, expensive and unproven measure that should have no place in our society. When we debate the details of the Bill, I hope that the House will reject the ill-conceived and, perhaps, illiberal measure.

7.53 pm

Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): We have heard much about the need to rebuild civic society. I agree with that point and hope to return to it later. However, a precondition for doing that is making people feel secure. If people feel insecure, they do not look outwards at society, but turn inwards to themselves and their families. A society that is insecure is not confident and outgoing, but prey to every charlatan and peddler of racism, xenophobia and other weird so-called solutions to people's fears. That explains why I welcome the measures outlined in the Gracious Speech on improving security. I am especially keen for the Government's proposals on tackling organised crime and the menaces posed by drink and drugs to be put on the statute book.

Like the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard), I think that the Bill to provide for cleaner and safer communities is important. It is undoubtedly the case that such things as vandalism, graffiti and yobbish behaviour make people feel insecure in their neighbourhoods. Such actions can cause the decline of a neighbourhood into one in which there is more crime. The Government have done a good job on tackling crime and improving policing, but there is no doubt that we need to do more. I commend the work of Superintendent Julia Clayton and her team in Warrington. They are putting more resources into community policing and piloting a project that begins with the environmental audit of a neighbourhood before moving on to examine the priorities for the police and other agencies in conjunction with community representatives. I hope that the cleaner neighbourhoods Bill will assist them and others in that task.

We talk about the police tackling such behaviour, but other agencies must also play their part, especially housing authorities. Those authorities must tackle antisocial behaviour by tenants. There are parts of my constituency in which a small minority of people—often only one family—make life hell for the people around them. All too often, housing officers do not use the powers that we have given them to tackle that problem, and that is a disgrace. They seem to accept such behaviour as a norm, but I grew up on a council estate and know that it is not the norm, so it is unacceptable for them to behave in such a way.

Although housing officers must use the powers that we have given them, we must also examine housing allocation policies carefully to prevent such problems from occurring in the first place. For example, there are small blocks of flats in nice parts of my constituency in which the authority consistently houses people with drug problems, people who are vulnerable and people with other assorted difficulties. As well as tackling the bad, we must help people who are vulnerable, which
 
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means that we should provide much more supported housing. Such housing is expensive, but the cost will be more expensive in the long run if we do not provide it.

I welcome the Government's proposals to tackle binge drinking, but I hope that they will also examine the amount of under-age drinking in our society and address not only pubs, but off-licences that sell to under-age drinkers. I would like to see an offence of knowingly buying alcohol for a person who is under age because the problem is often caused by those who enter such premises to buy alcohol for under-age people.

We must remember that the majority of our young people are good and decent, and we need to offer them more than we do at the moment. We do not provide properly for our young people, so I would like to try to encourage the good in our youngsters as well as tackling the bad. We should not only think about what we offer them in schools. We should also stop telling them that education is about only economics, although an education system that does not equip people to earn a living will, of course, fail. We should offer our young people the best to allow them to expand their interests in arts, science and sport outside the curriculum, and the Government's proposals on extended schools will go a long way towards achieving that.

We also need to examine our youth services closely because they are underfunded and inadequate. They are often the first services to be squeezed when local authorities are in difficulty because they are not statutory. I want youth services to consider the way in which they work with schools and voluntary organisations to provide our young people with opportunities and challenges. If young people are not given challenges, they do not grow up and do not take responsibility. Every parent remembers the first time that they sent their child to deliver a message or to post a letter on their own while they hung out of the window, ensuring that their child was all right. Unless we allow our children to do that, they do not grow up and we fail them.

I also hope that we utilise the facilities that we already have but which are underused. It is a great scandal that loads of facilities in schools are not used for most of the time because it costs governors to open schools out of hours. We need to find ways to support them in making those facilities available to the public, especially to young people, all the year round. Again, there is a cost, but it is far less than the cost of building lots of new facilities.

We need a two-pronged approach of making people feel secure and rebuilding our civic society. That rebuilding has to be done primarily by making better opportunities available to our young children and by giving them a better example. We may have failed the current generation, but it is vital that we do not fail the next one.

8.1 pm


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