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Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): I am grateful for being called in the Queen's Speech debate. May I dare say, however, that this Queen's Speech is almost beyond parody, if not beyond criticism? That could not, of course, be said of the speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen), who demonstrated to us the duty and job of a Member of Parliament, whether he be a member of the Labour party or any other. That duty and job is primarily to speak up for his constituents in this Chamber and to hold the Government to account. If he did anything, he made a speech on his feet and not on his knees, and I was delighted to hear it. I cannot say that I agree with everything he had to say, but he demonstrated to those of us who have been Members of the House for some while and those who have been Members for only a few days what it is that a Member of Parliament should do. Accountability is what we are about, and holding those on the Treasury Bench to account. I hope that more Members during this Parliament will behave as he does and as he did today. I congratulate him on his speech.
I also congratulate others who have spoken in today's proceedings. My hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) made powerful and fluent speeches, and it is a delight to see them here and to hear what they have to say. It was particularly pleasing to hear what they had to say about their predecessors, who are well known to those of us who were Members in the last Parliament and saw at first hand the service that they gave the House.
Roger Casale, the previous Labour Member for Wimbledon, was, with me, co-chairman of the Anglo-Italian parliamentary group. I got to know him on that level very well, and I know he will be sorely missed in the Italian group, but he has provided us with a sterling replacement in my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon. I look forward to hearing a lot more of what he has to say on matters of great public concern, as I do in respect of my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East, who gave us a telling insight into how he will represent his Bournemouth constituents. They are lucky to have him.
Other contributions came from the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Flello), for Cambridge (David Howarth), for Burnley (Kitty Ussher), for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) and for South Swindon (Anne Snelgrove), all of whom spoke with great fluency and entirely fearlessly, as far as I could see, as well as with great pride in their election and the fact that they are here to represent their constituents. I feel sure, having heard them all, that they will be assiduous representatives of their constituents in this place. I am
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sure, irrespective of our political differences, that we will find their contribution to debate, as well as their desire to hold the Government to account and to scrutinise with great care the legislation that they spew forth, to be one of their most proud duties.
If I may, I shall pick up on one or two paragraphs in this document, the Queen's Speech, and then talk about a matter of concern to me, which was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green).
Rustling through this printed speech, one sees some things that are unobjectionable, some that are meaningless and some that one could probably support. Little appeals to me less, however, than the paragraph that states:
Tell that to the people of Leicestershire, who, yet again, have been placed at the bottom of the Whitehall funding stream for local education authorities. Why do this Government think it costs any less to educate a child, maintain the fabric of a school or buy equipment and text books in Leicestershire than in the city of Leicester? Why are city of Leicester parents queuing up to bring their children to Leicestershire schools, and why are they not permitted to bring the additional money that the city LEA gets with them to the schools in the county? Education remains the main priority of Her Majesty's Government.
Tell that to the people in my constituency queuing up to find an NHS dentist. Tell it to the people of Scarborough, who were queuing half way round the block just before the election when a new NHS dental practice started up in the town.
It will be interesting to see whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer provides the additional funding for legal aid so that the less well off in our society can bring complaints, legal or otherwise, against the health service. It will also be interesting to discover whether the Chancellor allows the Secretary of State for Health the additional funds required to pay the damages, as well as the lawyers and administrators who will have to deal with all those complaints.
I have no ideanor, I suspect, do the Governmentwhat is meant by the word "sustainable", but my constituents who used to work for British United Shoe Machinery would be interested to know what on earth the Government intended by that sentence. The hon. Member for Croydon, North (Malcolm Wicks), who has left the Department for Work and Pensions for the Department of Trade and Industry, did something to assist those facing penury in retirement following the collapse of a number of company pension schemes, but clearly it was not enough. I look forward to seeing more of the detail, rather than the soundbites, on pensions.
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A large section of the Queen's Speech deals with Home Office matters, which I shall leave until next week when I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) will have much to say. There is plenty to criticise and I was pleased to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford had to say on a number of Home Office issues.
I am not at all sure what that is supposed to mean but we will find out in due course, either from the Secretary of State or from other Ministers. On supporting rural services, I hope that the Government realise how difficult it is now to operate as an economic unit or as a profit-making farm in rural areas. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) has moved from shadowing the Chancellor to shadowing the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He will be able to bring to bear his experience as a constituency Member for a rural and farming area, with which he will bring his great ability to focus with great tenacity on Government waffle.
I shall return to ask the Government about what they propose to do to protect the natural environment in the context of a matter that the Secretary of State and myself share: concern for the activities of Nottingham East Midlands airport. My constituency is approximately 20 to 50 miles to the south east of the airport and hers is 20 miles, or perhaps less, to the north-west of an airport that needs a lot of careful watching.
When I hear a Labour Government talking about modernising and management, I tend to think that they mean nationalisation or bringing into Government control. I hope that I can be disabused of that. [Interruption.] I see the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment laughing. Not many of my constituents had much to laugh about as regards the Government's conduct towards them, but I look forward to him persuading me that my cynicism about the language of the speech as placed into the mouth of Her Majesty is misplaced. I know that he personally is committed to environmental issues and has a long and proud record on these matters, but a Bill to modernise the management of common land sets off alarm bells in my mind.
That is probably one of the funniest parts of the speech. I could take any number of Ministers to the small companies in my constituencyHarry Darby Engineering Ltd, Okay Engineering Ltd and Invicta Plastics Ltd are but three. They are small in that they are not like ICI or vast international companies. Their turnovers are in the few millions rather than the billions or hundreds of millions. However, those three companies, which I visited for the second time recently,
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complained about the massive burden of red tape, bureaucracy and Government interference with which they had to cope while trying to make a profit in the manufacturing sector in the east midlands.
Some of the small companies in my constituency are suppliers to the west midlands automotive sector. Some have been gravely embarrassed by the collapse of MG Rover. I look forward to hearing how the Government's desire to promote efficiency, productivity and value for money will translate into an economic climate and a manufacturing environment that allow those companies to thrive rather than follow MG Rover to the far east.
It is a pity that the Government did not follow the Electoral Commission's advice before the election rather than wringing their hands now. It did not take a genius to work out that encouraging greater voter participation should not mean voters voting more than once in a constituency or people delivering bucket loads of postal votes to factories where they could be processed in the most convenient way for whichever political party happened to be managing that vote factory. The Electoral Commission foretold all that either directly or implicitly, yet all the pointers that were given to the Government to warn them about the previous measure were ignored. Perhaps the Government should beware because, this time, the public will not give them a second chance.
Trust, truth and accountability are the themes that we should ensure that the Government follow. On trust, the Government should not do or promise things that they simply cannot deliver. We are fed up with having to listen to soundbites and with government by gimmick, while our taxes rise and the delivery of our public services does not improve.
On truth, the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead mentioned his concerns about the conduct and planning of the Iraq war. I spoke a great deal about that in the previous Parliament and I shall not repeat today what I said then. However, there is much for which the Government can be criticised in the way in which they took the House's trust and abused it in their advance towards the war in Iraq. The Government appear to have forgotten about accountability and I hope that speeches such as his will remind them of what they are supposed to be doing. The Executive happen to sit in the Chamber but they should not sit on it. I look forward to a new sort of governmenta new new Labour Governmentin this Parliament, which respects the balance in our constitution and the separate role that each aspect of our constitution plays.
I do not want to hear a Home Secretary making offensive remarks about the quality of our judges in public. I do not want to hear a Home Secretary making ridiculous and normally ignorant remarks about the length of specific sentences after a court case in which only the judge and not the Home Secretary has heard the evidence. I do not want to have to listen to Ministers saying, "We were elected on this manifesto by an overwhelming popular mandate", given the figures for this election. I do not want to hear Ministers telling the House or journalists, "We gave ample time for this
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particular measure to be properly looked at; it was discussed at length" only to read on the Order Paper the following day, "Such and such a measure [no debate after 10 pm]" or "[no debate]" or to find that measure subject to a guillotine motion.
Towards the end of the last Parliament, this place became a farce in terms of its ability to scrutinise Government legislation. I would have thought that a Government who had a majority of 165 would have had the self-confidence to allow their ideas to be tested. Some of their ideas are perfectly good and deserve to be passed into law, but all their policies deserve to be looked at and tested, and some deserve to be tested to destruction. In the last ParliamentI trust that it will not happen in this onethe Government resorted to guillotining everything all the time. Legislation such as the Criminal Justice Act
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