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House of Commons

Wednesday 15 November 2006

The House met at twenty-five minutes past Eleven o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Message to attend Her Majesty:

The House went; and having returned:

The sitting was suspended until half-past Two o’clock, and then resumed.

2.30 pm

On resuming—

Speaker’s Statement

Mr. Speaker: As the House will recall, it was agreed that the Speaker should make a brief statement at the beginning of each Session about the duties and responsibilities of Members.

Our privileges allow us to conduct our debate without fear of outside interference. [An Hon. Member: “Tell the Whips!”] We cannot go that far. In particular, we enjoy freedom of speech, in both Committee proceedings and debates on the Floor of the House, and it is a privilege that comes with our membership. It is up to each of us to ensure that, as individuals and collectively, we do not misuse the rights that we have been given. They should be exercised in the public interest. We must ensure that we follow the letter and spirit of the code of conduct and related rules that we have approved to regulate our business.

Each Member is here to represent the views of his or her constituents and to participate in the process of democracy. We should ensure that every Member is heard with the respect to which we are all entitled, regardless of the views that are being expressed.

Every member of the public has the right to expect that his or her Member of Parliament will behave with civility, in the best traditions of fairness, with the highest level of probity and with integrity.

I turn now to security, not only for Members of Parliament, but also for our staff and for the staff of this House, who work so hard on our behalf to ensure that the House of Commons continues its tradition of welcoming the maximum number of visitors, both from home and abroad. I expect every Member of this House to co-operate fully with those officials who are responsible for our security, which ensures that our democratic process is not disrupted.



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Queen’s Speech

Mr. Speaker: I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended Her Majesty in the House of Peers, and that Her Majesty was pleased to make a Most Gracious Speech from the Throne to both Houses of Parliament, of which I have, for greater accuracy, obtained a copy.

I shall direct that the terms of the Gracious Speech be printed in the Votes and Proceedings. Copies are available in the Vote Office.

The Gracious Speech was as follows:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My Government will pursue policies aimed at meeting the challenges which the United Kingdom faces at home and abroad.

A stable economy is the foundation of a fair and prosperous society. My Government will continue to maintain low inflation, sound public finances and high employment.

At the heart of my Government's programme will be further action to provide strong, secure and stable communities, and to address the threat of terrorism.

My Government will put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system, support the police and all those responsible for the public's safety, and proceed with the development of ID cards.

A Bill will be brought forward for the next stage of reform of the criminal justice system, giving the police and probation services new powers to protect the public from violent offenders and anti-social behaviour.

Legislation will be introduced to improve the way that offenders are managed and supervised.

Measures will be brought forward to give law enforcement agencies new powers to combat serious and organised crime.

A Bill will be introduced to provide the immigration service with further powers to police the country’s borders, tackle immigration crime, and to make it easier to deport those who break the law.

A Bill will be introduced to provide for trials without a jury in serious fraud cases.

Legislation will be brought forward to improve the administration of justice by reforming the tribunal system, the qualifications for judicial appointment and the enforcement of judgments.

My Government will publish a Bill on climate change as part of its policy to protect the environment, consistent with the need to secure long-term energy supplies.

My Government will continue its investment in, and reforms of, the public services in order to improve further their effectiveness and to help the most vulnerable members of society.

My Government will take forward legislation to reform the welfare system, and to reduce poverty.

A Bill will be introduced to improve the system of child support.

A Bill will be introduced providing for long-term reform of pensions.

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Legislation will provide for free off-peak local bus travel for pensioners and disabled people.

My Government’s programme of educational reform will continue to raise standards in schools to help all children achieve their full potential.

A Bill will be introduced to reform the Further Education system so that it can better equip people with the skills that they and the economy need.

My Government will carry through the modernisation of healthcare based on the founding principles of the National Health Service.

A Bill will be introduced to provide a better framework for treating people with mental disorders.

Draft proposals will be published to reform the regulation of human embryology.

A draft Bill will be published to tackle road congestion and to improve public transport.

My Government will publish proposals to reform the planning system.

Legislation will provide for improved arrangements for consumer advocacy and for the regulation of estate agents.

My Government will also continue its programme of reform to provide institutions that better serve a modern democracy. It will work to build a consensus on reform of the House of Lords and will bring forward proposals.

Bills will provide for reform of local government and enhanced powers for the Mayor and Assembly for London.

Legislation will be introduced to create an independent board to enhance confidence in Government statistics.

Members of the House of Commons

Estimates for the Public Services will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My Government will work closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

My Government will work towards the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland, including by bringing forward legislation.

The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to our State Visit to the United States of America in May 2007 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement. We also look forward to receiving the President of Ghana and Mrs Kufuor.

My Government remains committed to peace in the Middle East. It will continue to work to find a lasting settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, to support the new Iraqi Government in its efforts to build an enduring constitutional settlement, and to assist the Government of Afghanistan.

My Government will work with the United Nations and European Union partners to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including addressing international concerns over North Korea and Iran, and to promote good governance.

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My Government will continue to work to build an effective and globally competitive European Union and will also work to strengthen the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

My Government will contribute to a modern and inclusive United Nations and will work to take forward the World Trade Organisation Doha talks.

My Government will continue its focus on Africa, including by seeking a resolution to the crisis in Darfur. I
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look forward to visiting Kampala next year for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

My Government will work to foster a strong partnership between Europe and the United States of America in order to meet these objectives.

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

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Debate on the Address

[First Day]

Mr. Speaker: Before I call the mover and seconder, I want to announce the proposed pattern of debate during the remaining days on the Loyal Address: Thursday 16 November—health and education; Monday 20 November—communities and local government, and environment, food and rural affairs; Wednesday 22 November—foreign affairs and defence; Thursday 23 November—home affairs and transport; Monday 27 November—Treasury, and work and pensions.

2.35 pm

Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move,

I share this privilege with my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, East (Rosemary McKenna). Her constituency makes Cardiff, South and Penarth sound curt, so I expect her to refer to the fact that my father’s family hails from Llanrhaedr-ym-Mochnant, that my mother was brought up in Ty’n y Felin near Llanfachraeth and that I was born in Bryngwran.

After years as a Minister speaking to an empty Chamber, it restores my confidence to have the enthusiastic attendance of so many colleagues and the rapt attention of those on both Front Benches. When I last spoke to an overflowing Chamber, both sides said that we were spending too much time on something that was not a priority for anyone. But they still poured in hour after hour, day after day, to debate the Hunting Bill. Thank goodness hunting has lost its political potency after most hunts discovered that they could have a good day’s sport without needing to chase a wild animal.

Speaking today is a particular pleasure at the start of a Session in which we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Co-operative party—the fourth largest party in the Chamber. It will be a forward-looking celebration because the co-operative ideal is a political principle whose time has come, and that is my theme today. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was very far-sighted when he embedded co-operative principles in Labour’s new clause IV, and they run like a golden thread through today’s Queen’s Speech. Global warming, international terrorism, globalisation, the pervasive presence of the internet and converged technology are political drivers that make co-operation—internationally, nationally and locally—the only alternative to chaos.

Today, I am especially conscious of standing in the shoes of Cledwyn Hughes, one of my predecessors as Secretary of State for Wales, who moved the Loyal Address in 1978 for my predecessor, Jim Callaghan. As
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a new Member of Parliament in 1987, the first note I received was from Cledwyn. It read:

Welcome to another boy from Anglesey! Come and have a cup of tea.

As a boy, Cledwyn travelled to school by bus with my Uncle Bob, who used to say that both of them made it to the House of Commons—Cledwyn inside as Secretary of State for Wales, and Uncle Bob outside as the policeman on St. Stephen’s entrance. Cledwyn was a lovely wise man, steeped in his local community, a passionate Welshman and above all a fighter for education, jobs and opportunity for “his” island. He was deeply proud when my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), who shares those characteristics, won the seat in 2001.

Cledwyn would have applauded the fact that this Queen’s Speech promises partnership with the Welsh Assembly, and to devolve power to local communities—a radical development of the way in which have devolved power to Scotland, Wales and London. I mention Wales, with a population of less than 3 million, and London, with a population of more than 7 million, because devolution is not about nationalism or the break-up of the United Kingdom, but about good governance, delivery and engagement. Working with my constituency’s excellent Assembly Member, Lorraine Barrett, does not diminish my work as an MP. I can tell my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that together we achieve more than we could achieve alone.

At the Department of Trade and Industry, I worked closely with Rhodri Morgan to win six more years of European funding for Wales—delivered when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister achieved agreement on the EU budget last December. They said that it could not be done. Our co-operation on objective 1 has enabled Wales to outperform many parts of the UK in recent economic growth.

On Saturday, at Welsh Labour’s conference, we agreed a vision for the future—radical, ambitious, confident and practical. What a contrast to the alternative: Conservatives, who opposed devolution, jumping into bed with nationalists who drag the Assembly down in pursuit of separatism. That is a marriage of inconvenience. Nothing unites them except hatred of Labour’s success in inspiring progress for the people of Wales.

However, the greatest privilege today is to be the 10th successive Labour MP to move this motion—the 10th successive warm-up act for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. By the way, my diary is currently free, so I can offer to do the same for the next Prime Minister, in 2016.

I hope that the Queen’s Speech will not be talked down by those on the Opposition Benches. The public are more impressed when the Opposition give credit where it is due, and a lot of credit is due. Since 1997, we have had a golden age of radical domestic legislation: the minimum wage—delivered after 100 years of campaigning—laws promoting social inclusion, education, enterprise, justice, child welfare and much, much more.

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