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In my constituency, under the Conservatives a generation of young people were denied hope and
opportunity, but since 1997, unemployment and long-term youth unemployment have both more than halved. Behind those statistics are individual young people standing tall, able to use their talents, able to be enterprising, able to have ambition.
I remember my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visiting Cardiff during the Labour leadership election in 1994. On the banks of Cardiff bay, I explained how the Cardiff bay barrage would transform the city. He looked puzzled, and said, How can anybody oppose this? Now Cardiff is exciting and as confident as any city in Europe. It is good to celebrate that success today, in enterprise week.
I also welcome the clear focus of the Queens Speech on cutting crime and disorder in local communities. We should ignore the media nonsense about an antisocial behaviour order being seen as a badge of pride. For me, it is a badge of pride to have invented ASBOs. They work, so the Opposition, who oppose them nationally, fall over themselves to claim credit locally.
The ASBO is a simple concept that addresses the fact that laws often fail to prevent what they forbid. Our courts may be good at deciding who stabbed the butler in the billiard room, but they fail to deal with a moving picture of disorder and petty crime, which destroys communities. So, on the civil burden of proof, we can now show that nuisance exists. We give the offender an ASBO saying, Just stop it. Breach it, and the punishment will be swift and sure. But behave yourself and youll hear no more. There is no conviction to reduce employment chances, and less nuisance for the neighbours. All it needs is the application of common sense by everyone.
This process works, as long as everybody plays their part in following up ASBO breaches briskly, and I urge my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to put the Crown Prosecution Service in charge of the whole process, so that the benefits are delivered consistently everywhere.
The Queens Speech promises to protect victims, and I hope that the courts are listening, because since 2003 the Attorney-General has referred 341 lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal. In 231 of those cases, the sentence was increased. That is a 68 per cent. success rate, when it had to be shown that the sentence was not just unduly lenient, but unreasonably so. That is not a politicians criticism of the judiciary; that is appeal judges saying that the sentences were not acceptable.
In other cases, I want the courts to make more use of the community sentences that the Government have provided. In one project, I saw young women having drug treatment and bringing their babies with them, breaking the cycle of despair and drugs and prostitution. Common sense is [Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. I read out a statement saying that hon. Membersin this case, a right hon. Membershould be heard. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Alun Michael) should be heard. There is an awful lot of conversation going on, and that is unfair.
Common sense is needed to complement the co-operative approach that is at the heart of crime reduction partnerships, in order to deliver the genuine and long-held determination of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.
The new challenge is e-crime. The UK has led the way in cutting dramatically the child abuse sites hosted in this country, through a co-operative approach involving business, police, childrens charities and Government. We now need a fresh approach to e-crime in general, and I urge the Prime Minister to use the expertise among Members of Parliament as a resource to tackle those issues.
The other side of that coin is information. I hope that both my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor will accelerate the work of Directgov, which is now seen internationally as a model. People do not seek information in departmental silos, and we can go further, linking in the StartHere model to create a single democratic access point to information from Government, local services and the third sector, even for the digitally challenged. That sort of co-operation is essential to promote civil society.
I am confident that the Government are on the right lines, and that I am pushing at an open door. I welcome the Chancellors commitment to exploring the potential of co-operation and the wider third sector, ahead of the spending review. An excellent Treasury team is pursuing those issues. The real challenge is to embed an understanding of the third sector in the warp and weave of the whole Government machine.
That is why I applaud the Prime Ministers decision to create the Office of the Third Sector. The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Edward Miliband) has made a great start. He has shown respect to the independence of the third sector, and the sector has responded. I chair the Third Sector Network, which has brought together umbrella organisations from across social enterprise, voluntary and community organisations, trusts and the co-operative movement to work to identify common values. That builds on the pioneering work launched by the Prime Minister back in 1994. All those umbrella organisations will now have to carry back the debate to their memberships across the country.
I am proud of what the Government have achieved. Working for this Prime Minister has been a privilege. The Queens Speech shows that our determination to continue improving the lives of people in this country is undiminished. In todays Queens Speech, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gives us a clear mandate, which I would summarise as follows: be bold, be radical, be inclusive, be co-operative.
Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, East) (Lab): It is an honour and a privilege, not only for me but for my constituency, to be asked to second the Loyal Address. I must admit that it is a bit of a surprise. My understanding was that an experienced Back Bencher moved the motion and a young, up-and-coming MP seconded it. I have been called many things in this Chamber, some of them even complimentary, but young and up-and-coming were certainly not among them.
I know that 60 is the new 30, but I did not think that that applied here. There is only a two-year gap between my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Alun Michael) and me, and I would prefer not to say which way the gap lies. I have been assured that asking me to second the Loyal Address is nothing to do with the recent legislation outlawing age discrimination, and that it was simply time for a change. Whatever the reason, I am incredibly honoured.
It is also an honour to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, who has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the House. We share a Celtic background. We both came to Parliament having been councillors in local government. He has five children and I have four, so the two of us, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, are doing our bit to fund future pensions. We also share a belief in giving the people of Wales and Scotland a greater say in their own decisions within a strong United Kingdom. That has been one of this Governments most far-reaching and radical successful reforms.
My family, I believe, is typical of the British family today. I had an Irish father and a Scottish mother. I have a brother-in-law of Italian origin. I have two English daughters-in-law, and I have three English grandchildren. They, and the families that came to make up the mix, are of the United Kingdom today. I believe that most people have no problem with saying that they are British, and Welsh, and Scottish, and English, and Irishand I believe that the parties that want to separate us artificially have got it completely wrong.
On the basis of my experience in Cumbernauld, I know that people want Members of Parliament, and politicians generally, who work hard and listen to them, and do not simply indulge in gesture politics. I joined the Labour party in 1967, when I moved from Glasgowa city that I still loveand discovered that there was no child care provision. Within a few years, another young woman moved to the constituency and became active locally. We eventually went on to become chair and secretary of the constituency party. In 1979, Labour took what was then the parliamentary seat from the Scottish National party. Norman Hogg was elected, and later his successor. I went on to become leader and provost of the council, and the other young woman went on to a distinguished career in the voluntary sector. To our great delight, we were elected to Parliament together on the same day in 1997. I refer, of course, to my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire). Some Members find it difficult to tell the two of us apart, which we find highly amusing. We can only put it down to the fact that we are both wee, somewhat round, Scottish feisty women. If we include my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne), we can cause real chaos.
It is a special honour for me to speak today, on the occasion of the Prime Ministers last Queen's Speech. Like many others here, I was elected on the day that he led our party to a landslide victory, and have benefited from his leadership in two elections. He has been the most successful leader of our party, and I believe that
he will go on to be considered one of the most successful Prime Ministers we have ever had.
One of the privileges of maturity is not being regarded as one of the Gies a job tendency. I was amazed to find myself christened one of Blairs babesalthough I must admit that I am not sure that that would survive the challenge of the Trade Descriptions Act, let alone the tough consumer protection legislation being introduced this year.
Throughout my political life I have campaigned for equality of opportunity for all, high-quality affordable child care for working families and improved representation for women in politics. I am proud that in all those areas our Government have delivered. Any legislature must look like the people whom it represents. That was one of the reasons I was delighted to be elected in 1997, when action by the Labour party gave us more black and ethnic minority Members, and more than 100 women in Parliament. Indeed, it is a fact that the very first achievement of this Labour Government was to install a coin-operated tights machine. Now, thatas I am sure you will agree, Mr Speaker, as an occasional tights-weareris progress.
Today, of course, is an honour not just for me but for the constituency of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, East. It is right in the heart of Scotland and it is made up of the villages that run along the Campsie hillsBanton, Croy, Queenzieburn, Twechar, Lennoxtown and Milton of Campsieas well as part of the town of Kirkintilloch, which I share with the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), the town of Kilsyth and the new town of Cumbernauld. I see a bit of panic above me, so perhaps now would be a good time to assure the Hansard writers that my notes are to hand.
It is a constituency of contrasts, visually and culturally: the traditional villages and towns with their mining backgrounds, fiercely proud, with the beautiful backdrop of the hills, and the new town on the opposite hill, with its modern architecture, which is not always beautifulbut it is looking forward with great pride to the 50th anniversary of its creation next year.
One of our new claims to fame is football. We have, of course, many different sporting successes in boxingin which we have had world and European championsgymnastics and wrestling, to name but three. At one end in Cumbernauld, we have the home of Clyde, whose exciting young team just failed to win the Challenge cup on penalties on Sunday. At the other end of the constituency at Lennoxtown, there is the new Celtic training ground, and in Twechar it is hoped to establish a football facility with that other great Glasgow teamPartick Thistle.
I am immensely proud to represent all that. It is a constituency full of decent, hard-working families. It is the people and their sense of community that I see in every area, and that make it a great place to live and to work. I am proud that the Labour Government have played such a big role in improving life for my constituents and thousands like them through a stable economy, tax credits, full employment and superb education, delivered through the Labour-led Scottish Executive as well as North Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire councils. There is hope for the future,
where nine years ago there was deep resentment, lack of opportunity, widespread poverty and unemployment.
I am particularly pleased that the Queens Speech contains measures to continue repaying our debt to the older generation, and perhaps as a pensioner I suppose I had better declare an interest here. I believe that the Bill to overhaul and to modernise the pension system, and especially to ensure a fairer deal for women, will be welcomed across the land. It will also re-establish the link with earnings; I am just old enough to remember the last time that was fashionable. It is another indication of how the Government are working hard to extend security, prosperity and opportunity for all. It was with the hope that I might deliver such solid improvements that that I joined the Labour party 39 years ago.
I doubt that our new young women MPs would encounter the kind of prejudice that those of us who came here in 1997 and before did. In my maiden speech, I told the House this true story: three new Scottish MPs went to view a flat and hailed a taxi to bring us back to the House of Commonsand the driver asked us, Are you all the wives of MPs then? He got his answerand I doubt that he asked the question again. Even better, I doubt that anyone would ask that question today, and that in itself is a sign of progress.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Before I go on to comment on the proposer and seconder of the Gracious Speech, I wish to pay tribute to the four service men and women who were killed in Basra on Sunday, Lee Hopkins, Sharron Elliott, Ben Nowak and Jason Hylton. I also pay tribute to Jamie Hancock, who was killed in Basra last week. Our thoughts are with their families. They died serving our country and we honour their memory.
I also pay tribute to those Members of the House who have left us since the last Gracious Speech. Patsy Calton lost her courageous fight with cancer shortly after the general election last year. In spite of her illness, she came back to the House to continue her work and none of us will forget her bravery in doing so. Rachel Squire will be sorely missed by Members on both sides of the House and by her constituents. I believe the whole House will miss Peter Law. As a Labour man for decades, he will be fondly remembered on the Government side of the House; for overturning one of the biggest Labour majorities in the whole country, in the seat of Michael Foot and Nye Bevan, he will be fondly remembered on this side.
Since the last Gracious Speech, the House has lost two of its greatest champions in Eric Forth and Robin Cook. It was a measure of Robin Cooks effectiveness that, on this side, we can still remember his brilliant attack on the arms to Iraq issue, and who on the Government side of the House can forget his withering criticism of the decision to go to war in Iraq?
My first job in Parliament was as Eric Forths deputy. I remember being summoned to his office to find that while he was not there, a life-size cut-out of Elvis Presley was. One never knew quite what to expect
with Eric. Once again, both sides of the House have cause to remember him. He had complete scorn for everything done by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor and only a little bit less than complete scorn for everything done by me. We will all miss him.
Let me congratulate the proposer and the seconder of the Loyal Address on their speeches. I thought that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Alun Michael) demonstrated some wonderful pronunciation that I will not even attempt to follow. He told us about the Co-operative party. The right hon. Gentleman will not have seen it, but at that moment the Prime Minister turned to look at him but his gaze fell on the Chancellor. I am not sure that the word co-operative was the first thing that came into the Prime Ministers head.
Some have said, unfairly, that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth lacks charisma. After his speech today, I say that I profoundly disagree. He may not actually look like it, but the right hon. Gentleman is the Labour partys answer to Tom Cruise; he is always being sent on mission impossible. The Prime Minister sent him to Wales as the Downing street choice for First Minister. Nobody told him that the job would self-destruct in about ten seconds. I think he was the first Minister in history whose resignation was announced by the Leader of the Opposition during Prime Ministers questions.
No sooner had the right hon. Gentleman stepped free from the wreckage than he was sent on mission impossible II. As the countryside rose in revolt and anger and as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, he was made Minister for Rural Affairs. The right hon. Gentleman should take heart. He has always been called for when the Government have faced a crisis; I think, today, his career opportunities must be almost limitless.
I also congratulate the seconder of the Loyal Address, the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, East (Rosemary McKenna). It was an excellent and witty speech, and an important one about the role of a Member of Parliament. It also passed two vital tests for me and the Prime Minister; it was on-message and it spoke about his legacy. The only trouble was that the message was that it was time for a change, with which I wholly agree, and the legacy was that we now have a tights machine in the House of Commons.
I have done my research. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, East is a staunch Blairite and I gather that her favourite album is Saturday Night Fever. When the Chancellor takes over, for staunch Blairites like her Staying Alive will not just be a song on their iPod; it will be a daily challenge. [ Interruption. ] It is good to see the Prime Minister and the Chancellor talking together; a good moment.
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