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Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab):
May I say how popular the police community support officers are in my constituency? Indeed, members of the Glebe Court residents association are so thrilled with the improvement in their quality of life because of their PCSOs that they have suggested to other residents and tenants associations that they campaign for them, too. I
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urge the hon. Lady, therefore, not to suggest that they are not a great benefit to local people, because they certainly are in Mitcham and Morden.
Mrs. Spelman: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, but the point that I am making is the important one made by the police professionals: it costs virtually the same to put police community support officers on the street as police officers, but they do not have the power of police officers. Perhaps we should reflect on the short-term approach that the Government have adopted to the problem of safer communities.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): Rather than bestowing more power on police community support officers or even trying to get more of them, why do we not give more power to police specials? In Bournemouth, for example, only one third of the specials quota has been met, yet all the police community support officers to whom I have spoken would be delighted to get rid of their uniform and become special constables were they to be given a salary. If we give those people a salary, we will have people who are trained and have the power of arrest, unlike police community support officers, which is policing on the cheap. [Interruption.]
I wanted to make a point about community safety and the danger of taking a short-term view. Central Government funding for four out of five community safety warden schemes ran out on 31 March this year. That kind of gimmick does no good to communities. I wonder who criminals thought the real fools were the following day.
As the legislative programme unfolds, the country will be watching with interest to see what measures the Government will put in place to address the growing crisis in housing affordability. So soon after you urged Ministers to make their announcements in Parliament rather than through the media, Mr. Speaker, the drip-feed news over the weekend of the Government's shared equity proposals plainly ignored this advice. Why did they not use the occasion of the Queen's Speech to announce their shared equity proposals tonight? In any event, the announcement will pre-empt their consultation period on the homebuy scheme, which is due to run until the end of September.
There is also a serious omission from the Queen's Speech: the lack of measures to tackle the shameful rise in homelessness. I look forward to hearing what action the Government will take on homelessness and on creating communities that are safe, sustainable and socially cohesive.
The Minister of Communities and Local Government (Mr. David Miliband):
It is a privilege to wind up today's debate and I thank the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) for her kind words and for the tenor of her contribution. Members will know that the Government's general election manifesto promised
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opportunities more equal and communities more secure. Those aspirations are at the heart of the Queen's Speech, and I am pleased to say that they were at the heart of today's debate.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out how the Government plan to build on the successes of police, courts and local councils in tackling crime and antisocial behaviour, as well as to take forward proposals on asylum and immigration. Debate on some aspects of the proposals will no doubt be fierce, but today's debate has shown that there is room for more unity across parties anddare I say it?within parties as well.
In respect of affordable housing, efficient planning, tackling poverty and improving local services and local democracy, the ministerial team in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will be working, under the leadership of the Deputy Prime Minister, to extend the opportunity on which strong communities depend. I shall set out our agenda of action tonight, but I am first able to congratulate new Members on their maiden speeches. In fact, I counted 16 such speeches, rather than the 15 that the hon. Member for Meriden mentioned. You will be pleased to hear, Mr. Speaker, that those speeches have been delivered with great modesty when the content required no modesty at all, and with great respect for the traditions of the House, notably in the generous tributes paid by all such Members to their predecessors.
Two themes have dominated today's debate: civic pride, and pride in roots. We have learned a lot about our country today: about the hat industry in Denton and Reddish; about the racing industry in Newbury; about the marine heritage of Portsmouth; about the lifeboats of Bridgend; about the manufacturing industry of Dudley, North; about the biscuits of Reading; about the Olympics that are coming to West Ham; about tourism in Colwyn bay; about the universities of Dundeethe hon. Member for Dundee, East (Stewart Hosie) is in his placeand about the history of Albanians. The whole House will doubtless know that the story of Albanians is of course the story of St. Albans. We have also learned that castles for the masses are available in Windsor at the Legoland factoryI am sorry that the hon. Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) is not in placeand about the posh, and not so posh, parts of Solihull. I congratulate all those Members.
As I said, there has been a second theme in today's debate, following the outstanding speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman). The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) explained that although his predecessor changed partiesquite oftenthe hon. Gentleman will not be changing his Polish name and I congratulate him on that. My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) spoke of his pride in his immigrant roots, and the hon. Members for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) and for Rochdale (Paul Rowen) spoke about the diversity of their constituencies. I hope that I can also mention that in a House of Commons tour de force, the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) not only remembered each of the maiden speeches that had come before; he also reminded his party that firmness without fairness is no basis for immigration policy. The Conservative Front Bench's loss is the House's gain.
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I hope that the House will not mind if I say that I paid special attention to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Edward Miliband). I am grateful to the hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) for noting the special pride that I felt on hearing the words of my hon. Friend. His speech carried the passion and insight that I would expect of my younger brother, and it confirmed very clearly that after the birth of a first child, parents should not be discouraged. It is wise to proceed on the maxim that if at first you don't succeed, try again.
I hope that the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) will not mind if I say that we were disappointed that we were not able today to hear from the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather). We look forward to her debut on the Front Bench and we all wish her well in her attempt to disentangle her leader from the local income tax.
The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) has been a Member of this House for 18 years, but his speech was also a maiden in one respect; his first on the campaign trail for the Conservative leadership.
Having survived decapitation by the Liberal Democrats, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden must feel ready for the decapitation strategy launched by the leader of his own party. However, I have to say that, this time, Brian Sedgemore will not be there to save the day for him.
I know that, in recent months, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden has got used to the gentle style, good manners and straight talking of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I suggest, in a spirit of comradeship, that the right hon. Gentleman be more wary when he goes into battle with the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), who we understand from the newspapers has been in America taking lessons on negative campaigning in primary contests. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to be careful.
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