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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough now to realise that when he says "you" he is referring to the Chair.
Steve McCabe: I would not dream of doing that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise.
The Liberal Democrats said during the election that they would use for other policing purposes the money that would, under the current proposals, be spent on the charging base for ID cards. That is a fantasy, and they should not be allowed to get away with it.
The Government should, however, revisit the question of charges and costs for ID cards. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which, under the present structure, asylum seekers are virtually being given ID cards, but we are saying that honest, law-abiding British citizens, who will co-operate with a system that the Government say is a good idea, should end up having to pay for it out of their own pockets. That is not right, and I do not think that the British public will tolerate it. I hope that it is not too late to revisit that matter.
On youth crime and community punishment, I have a lot of sympathy with the view of Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, but I do not want people punished for a fashion trend. That is ridiculous, but where commercial premises ban or exclude particular types of behaviour because they realise that those are bad for business and for honest, paying customers, they should get our unequivocal support. We should not have any doubts about whose side we are on. If someone wears an item of clothing that is deliberately designed to conceal his identity while he is planning to commit an offence, the courts should take that into account. There should be an additional element of sentencing when someone is guilty of that. We should not duck that issue.
I do not want to see chain gangs of youngsters in orange jumpsuits up and down the country. We have seen enough of people in orange smocks being degraded by their torturers, their jailers and, sometimes, their murderers. We want to get away from that.
What my constituents and I want is good, honest community punishment orders. I want to read in the newspaper the precise details of such orders, just like league tables. I want to know what a person did, what the punishment was and what sort of useful work in the community that person will be doing as restitution for their crime. I want to know why, in God's name, the number of CPOs issued in this country decreased by 4 per cent. between 2002 and 2003. I want to know why only 5.5 per cent. of people convicted of an indictable offence in the west midlands are given a CPO. I want to know why the figure for the west midlands is lower than for the rest of the country. I want to know why, across the country, only 8 per cent. of males and 3 per cent. of females get CPOs for criminal damage offencesthe very type of offence that one would expect to attract a CPO. What happens to the third of people who breach a CPO? Why on earth are magistrates allowed to deal with
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breaches by means of a fine in 46 per cent. of cases, or a further CPO in 28 per cent. of cases? Such people should go to jail, but currently only 12 per cent. do. It is a disgrace. They are laughing at us and we should not tolerate it. Why do we not have league tables for parenting orders and child curfew orders? That is what the public want.
I welcome the comments about guns that I heard today, but it is not good enough to say, as the former Home Secretary said in the foreword to the review:
He is wrong: licensing works in Canada and Australia. If civil servants read the review, they will find that on pages 26 and 27 it describes what has been done in places such as Malta, the Netherlands, California and Connecticut. When someone is pointing a replica gun in one's face, it is not good enough to be told that the civil servants think the problem is too hard to deal with. If we are to tackle such issues, we have to get on with that agenda.
Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow such an impassioned speaker, although as this is my maiden speech, it might be slightly more temperate. To echo what was said of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), I liked the passion, but not many of the sentiments.
It is a humbling experience to stand before the House to make one's maiden speech. Contrary to what hon. Members might have read in The Times, I am not a well preserved septuagenarian, born in 1928. My predecessor, Kerry Pollard, was extremely well known in the constituency, where he served for many years as a magistrate and as a councillor. He was an assiduous attendee at local functions. I shall support as many local functions as I can, but I shall work hard to bring my constituents' concerns to the House. I know that, as a loyal supporter of St. Albans for many years, Mr. Pollard truly was aware of its constituents' many concerns. I look forward to articulating those concerns and to speaking out strongly on behalf of St. Albans.
St. Albans has a rich culture and heritage and, with your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall gallop quickly through its history. We learn from history and the history of St. Albans has much to teach us. That history began when the Celts settled in the area: without much regard for the planning regulations of the day, they quickly chucked up a wooden town. The Romansquick to spot an up-and-coming areatook over and subdued the natives, and Verulamium was born. Queen Boudicca took exception, perhaps because the town had sprung up without planning permission, and she razed it to the ground. However, as they are today, previously developed or brownfield sites were in high demand, and the Romans decided to throw the whole town back up again at greater densities.
Centuries passed and, perhaps as a result of town cramming and the traffic congestion of the day, Roman civilisation declined. People started heading for the countryside. Luckily, there was plenty of countryside in those days for them to head to.
After the Romans, the Saxons invaded. That was about the sixth century. They arrived in Hertfordshire. They took over the site and seventh century Saxons were
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then converted to Christianity. By the 10th century the abbot, without consulting any locals in the town of St. Albans, decided that it should be enlargedit is always perilous to decide to enlarge any town without consulting its residents. In a move designed to superheat the area the abbot encouraged new settlers to come, tempting them with material, money and jobs. This unbalanced economic investment in one area led to the inevitable decline of neighbouring Kingsbury, a smaller settlement that did not benefit from the same drive to build and invest by the Government of the day.
The sad decline of Kingsbury led to the town being levelled. Its inhabitants headed off to St. Albans. This was a path-finding initiative of its day. As a result, the old character buildings were razed to the ground and new ones were quickly built in St. Albans for all to fill.
By modern standards, the St. Albans of the day was a rather small settlement. However, what people lacked in numbers they made up for in energy and spirit. The abbot and his agents ruled supreme, often imposing unfair stealth taxes, interfering in the lives of the citizens and, what is worse, micro-managing business and stifling competition. That was outrageous behaviour in its day and it caused much unhappiness. There was bitter quarrelling between the residents. St. Albans had a tetchy time of it during the middle ages.
By 1539, Henry VIII decided that the situation could no longer continue. The power base of the abbey was closed and razed. The townspeople became independent and power was once again returned to a local level. This made the inhabitants extremely happy. St. Albans had its first charter in 1553. Less interference from above meant that the city thrived.
If we jump a few hundred years to the 18th century, St. Albans was well established and a prosperous market town. The Government of the day had appreciated the need to develop a truly sustainable community, and much money had been invested in roads and infrastructure. The London road was built. Travel links to London were good and there were several inns and ale houses. Residents then, unlike residents today, did not seem to be troubled with 24-hour licensing. It seems to have been a pleasant place to live.
The proximity to London and other centres of commerce meant that St. Albans was an attractive place in which to do business, and many industries sprang up locally. In 1836, the first proper police force was formed. Unlike today's police force, it appears that the force was not whisked off to other duties in neighbouring areas. It was on duty, full time, in its neighbourhood, and performed a truly high-visibility local function.
In 1887, St. Albans was made a city. The greatest change came in the 19th century when the railways arrived. There were good links to London, which led to the rapid rise in population and the decline of the stagecoach. The age of the commuter had begun. It took until 1909 for the first buses to arrive. In some areas, the people of St. Albans would say that they still have not arrived. Local villages such as Smallford still find themselves without a decent bus service. Often, residents find themselves experiencing long delays while trying to get from A to B. That is something that we hope will improve.
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St. Albans is now a vibrant city with a growing commuter population of more than 18,000. It boasts an international organ festival, a bustling twice-weekly market, numerous historical, archaeological and heritage societies and a spectacular abbey, to name but a few examples of its charms. It is welcoming to many ethnic minority communities, which have positively contributed to the lively and attractive lifestyle that many Albanians enjoy. However, we do not lose sight of the fact that some people are still struggling to find prosperity. House prices are high and there are areas of relative deprivation and poverty.
The city is battling to preserve the best of the old while welcoming the best of the new. Its citizens do not want their city to be preserved in aspic but they do not wish it to be swamped and turned into a faceless commuter suburb of London, devoid of green belt and quality of life.
St. Albans' residents need hospitals and school places. They need the Thameslink 2000 to get started or, more to the point, completed. They need funding. They do not want a £13 million deficit for their local hospital threatening the A and E in Hemel Hempstead to which they have to go. They want to be able to get to the school of their choice and for good schools to be allowed to expand.
Albanians value their villages and their green fields. That is why I welcome in the Queen's Speech Her Majesty's Government's commitment to achieving sustainable development. I hope that it is truly sustainable development. There is support for rural communitieshopefully that does not mean railroading those communities into accepting houses that they do not wantand protection for the natural environment. There is value for the fact that we have beautiful areas surrounding St. Albans. We have natural resources that are in scant supply such as the water resourcethe River Ver is in danger of drying up as a result of all the houses that may have to be imposed on the area.
I share the aspirations of Albanians that they will have a beautiful and prosperous environment that is welcoming, with affordable housing and a truly sustainable community. I look forward to holding the Government to account if they do not deliver that sustainability, which has been promised through the Queen's Speech. I look forward also to providing a strong voice for the people of St. Albans and to defending the quality of life that they value. In addition, I look forward to moving the city towards the 21st century while keeping the best of the old and improving the new for the new residents who wish to come and settle in the area, without swamping the established residents who value its heritage.
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