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The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): We have had an excellent debate in which we went from Napoleon to Robespierre in a couple of contributions. There were 26 speeches in what was, rightly, a popular debate.
There is no more important challenge than home affairs facing the country today, and the policies and measures that we have set out should help us to build the foundation of security on which we can establish hope and opportunity in the years to come. The Government have tried to look forward in a changing world and anticipate the challenges, using our ingenuity and imagination to formulate the ideas to meet them. There is a fundamental difference between the Opposition and us, and it is best summed up in the recent words of the Prime Minister, who said:
"I am an optimist about Britain; and the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is not that the optimist believes that the world is wonderful and the pessimist believes it's beset by challenges; the difference is the pessimist believes we will be defeated by them; the optimist thinks the challenges can be overcome."
I am an optimist too. Whether it is identity cards, which will help us to disrupt terrorism, prevent people trafficking and ID fraud, combat illegal working and ensure proper access to public services, or measures
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under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill to enable us to keep ahead of sophisticated and dangerous criminals to make this country the most hostile environment for them to operate in, we are trying to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
We heard a number of excellent contributions, including the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), who was absolutely right to say that our measures were not about stoking the fear of crime but promoting security and making sure that the criminal justice system was on the side of the decent majority. I could not agree more. The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) welcomed a number of our measures, including those set out in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill and the offender management Bills. I am delighted that, once again, he supported measures on antisocial behaviour. Are we witnessing the rehabilitation of the Liberal Democrats? I hope that there will be no reoffending. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) opposes ID cards in principle, while the hon. Member for Winchester opposes them in practice, so the Liberal Democrats, like the Tories, may be facing both ways on the issue.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), in a thoughtful speech, expressed his long-standing commitment to press us to abolish the offence of blasphemy. We will keep the matter under review. He also talked about the balance between security and liberty. He knows that we will introduce draft legislation, but it is a difficult balance to strike. In a supportive speech, the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard), for whom I have the greatest respect, talked about parish councils' ability to impose fixed penalty notices. Many parish councils have asked for those powers and they can band together to try to increase their capacity to implement them in their area. I am sure that she will welcome the extra 85 police officers and 12 community support officers announced last week for her community.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) must be demob happy, as he set out his proposals for ID cards, a national DNA register and the arming of all police officers. I am afraid that I cannot agree with the last suggestion, and neither can I agree with his proposals to legalise harmful drugs that ruin far too many lives, particularly those of young people. The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) spoke about the period when he was a member of the Cabinet. I am afraid that that was quite a long time ago. The world is changing very fast and I had the sense that he, together with a number of his hon. Friends, was looking backwards, not forwards. The purpose of our proposals in the Queen's Speech is to try to anticipate future challenges.
In an extremely thoughtful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Tony Wright) spoke about the politics of behaviour, the fact that we have lost many of our community facilities, and the importance of the quality of relationshipsa matter to which I shall return in my comments about the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton).
In a serious and thoughtful contribution the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) set out his support for ID cards. He spoke about the need to get the technology right, and I entirely support him on that. He
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spoke about the difficulty of getting more police officers in his area. I am sure that he would not want to go back to the day under the Tories when we had 1,100 fewer police officers and no community support officers at all.
Mr. Lilley: The hon. Lady said that things have moved on. I pointed out that, in my day, when we asked the police, the immigration service and the security services whether they valued identity cards enough to contribute their own budgets towards the immense costs of such a scheme, they said no. Have things changed? Will they pay out of their own budgets for the scheme or do they not really want it?
Ms Blears: I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the police, the security services and all those charged with our protection welcome enormously the prospect of identity cards to tackle serious and organised crime, terrorism and the other threats that face us. Again, I ask him to try to look forward, not back.
In an excellent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mrs. Cryer) set out her commitment to making sure that young women in particular are not exploited in forced marriages. She argued that the world has changed remarkably and that, in her words, we now live in a global village. She is right and I am sure that she will make a valuable contribution to the consultation that is to take place.
I could not resist the speech of the hon. Member for Macclesfield when he spoke about the importance of decency in our communities and being able to tackle antisocial behaviour and other things happening in his community. I am not given to self-promotion, as the House knows, but I commend to the hon. Gentleman a pamphlet that I wrote recently, entitled "The Politics of Decency", which sets out my belief that decency is a left-wing progressive value that underpins modern socialism. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman will welcome that. I am happy to give him a free copy.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Tyneside, North (Mr. Byers) emphasised that Labour was in tune with what the people want, that our proposals are the people's agenda and that the Tories are in danger of repeating the mistakes of the 1980s.
The hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale), who I know is closely involved with the British Transport police and plays an important role there, rightly highlighted the contribution that they make to tackling crime. I can tell him that they have had extra resources for street crime and for implementation of the Airwave facilities. The recording of stops is being used by the police on Merseyside to gain intelligence to enable them to target their resources on hot spots, and they are finding that extremely useful.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher) made some allegations about the implications of Iraq and the effect of that on terrorism. I reject his allegations. He spoke about the policing culture being coarsened. I believe that the policing culture is becoming more in tune with our communities.
The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) wanted us to stand up to the drinks lobby. I am delighted to tell him and other hon. Members that we are making the alcohol industry take its
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responsibilities seriously. We are getting rid of happy hours and irresponsible drinks promotions, and I have said clearly that we want a voluntary scheme for the industry to contribute to the costs of policing, but if the voluntary scheme does not work, I have not ruled out the prospect of legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) rightly called for it to be made an offence for people to buy alcohol for under-18s. I am delighted to tell her that that is an offence and we have recently made it the subject of a fixed penalty notice.
The hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) said that the political discourse is changing. It was he who spoke about Robespierre, but unfortunately I was not present at the time. He is right. Political discourse is changing. The measures that we are proposing have the support of the people. We are addressing their concerns and we are on their side.
I welcome the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) for ID cards. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Flook) wanted us to tackle drink and drugs. We are doing a great deal on that agenda. My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) wanted more involvement of local authorities, particularly on antisocial behaviour. We are committed to making that happen.
I am worried about the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green). I see that he is in his place. I was not sure whether he should be a Lib Dem. I can see that he has moved this evening. He is on the Tory Benches but closer to the Liberal Democrats. I am delighted to see that he is edging that way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Mr. Salter) is a champion of his community. He raised the issues of binge drinking, the need to use confiscated assets for drug treatment and the need to use antisocial behaviour powers on Travellers. I commend my hon. Friend for speaking up on behalf of his constituents. We shall certainly examine all the matters that he raised.
The hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) talked about witness protection. She will be delighted that we will be extending the special provisions to victims of antisocial behaviour cases. I am sure that she is delighted also that the Met police are getting an extra 250 community support officers, some of whom will no doubt patrol her constituency.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) is an expert on information technology matters. I remember him advising less computer-literate Members such as myself about our computers. He had some wise words for us about the contracting process for ID cards, which I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends will take seriously.
The hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) talked about the need to change the culture of crime among young people . I am sure that he is aware of the measures that we are taking to do exactly that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) raised the drugs problem in his constituency. I am sure that many of us face the same problem in our constituencies. We need to get more people into treatment and have tough sentences for drug dealers. The new drugs Bill will do exactly that.
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My hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Iain Wright), in an excellent contribution on behalf of his constituents, raised the importance of safety and security. He made the link between economic prosperity and crime. He said that we should take tough action on drug dealers, and he was absolutely right. I know how hard he has worked to tackle antisocial behaviour in his community. His constituents can be proud of an extremely active Member working on their behalf.
All our proposals are about balancing rights and responsibilities and liberty and security. It is a difficult balance to get right but we are determined to do it. We will have tough enforcement for those who break the law, from perpetrators of antisocial behaviour to serious criminals, including drug dealers. We will also provide help for those who want to change their lives and live in a different and better way, with youth work, drug treatment, help with parenting, reducing reoffending and intensive supervision.
We have not heard much this evening about the policies of either Opposition party. We could have tough liberalism or we could have compassionate conservatism. They are easy slogans but let us judge them as we will be judged, which is on what they do, not just what they say. Both parties have got records. They both have form on these issues. The Lib Dems voted against the antisocial behaviour powers to disperse teen gangs. They voted against imprisonment for the possession of drugs. They opposed fixed penalty notices and said that they were a gimmick. They want to raise the age of criminal responsibility.
The Tories want to freeze the Home Office budget. There would be £1.6 billion of cuts. How many police officers and community support officers would be involved? The Tories have form. Crime doubled while they were in office. There were 1,100 fewer police officers, record numbers of prison escapes and mass unemployment. For me, that is the real politics of fearfear of unemployment, fear of crime, fear of poverty and fear of homelessness. Our programme is about creating hope, building communities that are free from fear where everyone has a chance to do well. There will be a clear choice for the people of this country at the next election, whenever it comes, between optimism and pessimism, between security and fear and between hope and despair, and I know which side we are on.
We are on the side of the decent majority of people who go to work, who pay their taxes, who look after each other and who want their children to do well. Our measures will lay the foundation for success. I am sorry that Conservative Members have not acknowledged that the decline of decency that we have all talked about might be the fault of Tory values, which for nearly two decades made virtues out of greed and selfishness and vices out of service, duty and community spirit. Does anyone really doubt that mass unemployment juxtaposed with yuppie culture in the 1980s, with some young people living high-octane lifestyles and others with nothing to look forward to but the giro, did nothing but breed resentment, anger, criminality and antisocial behaviour? I commend the measures in the Queen's Speech.
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