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address the threat of terrorism.
I am absolutely certain that the Government, through their actions, have made terrorism a greater threat than it would have been if they had behaved differently. I challenge the Prime Minister and his Ministers to tell us what they regard the deterrent to be against people who are prepared to take their own lives; I think that they would have no answer whatever, and the nonsense that we have heard today about the lack of security in key Departments must fill the general public with great alarm.
Mr. Robathan: I am sure that we can keep the Minister here until 10 oclock. I do not expect my hon. Friend to answer for the Government, but what assistance does he imagine that ID cards would have provided in preventing the tube bombers in July last year?
Mr. Amess: My hon. Friend slightly embarrasses me, because I was the first Member in the House to propose an ID card system for the country, in a Bill that I introduced under the ten-minute rule, but mine was a voluntary system. However, I will not be distracted by the subject to which he draws my attention.
The next point in the Gracious Speech is the Home Office Bills. It beggars belief that the Government should have the absolute cheek to bring forward more Home Office legislation. We have a Home Secretary who admits that the Home Office is in an absolute shambles, and all of us can remember one particular Minister, who no longer holds responsibility for the police, who was always on TV looking pleased with herself, announcing, with yet another silly soundbite, another silly strategy or silly measure that everyone knew would not work. What has gone on in the Home Office is an absolute disgrace. This country used to have the finest police force in the world and the finest judicial system in the world. They were the envy of the world. Sadly, today our police force and our judicial system are the same as those in the rest of the world. I blame the Government for that.
Police morale is at rock bottom. We know that the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), and his Minister of State, now the Minister without Portfolio, who were responsible for that no longer hold those positions, but they should come to the Dispatch Box and explain to the House and the country how the arguments that they advanced for the reorganisation of our police forces can simply be thrown aside. Everyone knows why the policy was abandonedbecause people and police forces up and down the country were against it. It is a disgrace that £4 million will be spent bailing out our hard-pressed police forces because of the cost of the consultation work on the amalgamation. Essex faces a bill of £169,000, and we have only £100,000. Do the former Home Secretary and the former Minister of State with responsibility for the police think that the House and the country will forget their incompetence? What went on was an absolute disgrace.
Morale in the police force is at rock bottom because of the fiasco that the Home Office sadly is today. We are told in the Gracious Speech that we are to give the police and the probation service new powers to protect the public from violent offenders and antisocial behaviour. This Prime Minister wrings his hands as if he has not been in charge of the Government since 1997. This Prime Minister made his name when he was shadow Home Secretary as being tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime. Yet for the past 10 years,
law and order has fallen apart. I blame one person and one person alonethis Prime Minister.
the immigration service with further powers to police the countrys borders, tackle immigration crime, and to make it easier to deport those who break the law.
I am under the impression that the Prime Minister is suffering from the medical conditionI suspect it is untreatableof delusion. It is a bit late to start worrying about the immigration and asylum system that we have now. It is a pity that the Government did not do something about it when Opposition Members warned them what was happening five or 10 years ago. The immigration and asylum system is a shambles. The Government say that the immigration service is going to police the countrys borders and tackle immigration crime, but it is too late.
I know someone who is being detained in Chelmsford prison, and perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), will pass my comments on to a Home Office Minister. I know that person because he happens to be a friend of my son, but he is a constituent of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), who knows all about the problem and is trying to work as quickly as he can to sort it out.
This Bangladeshi boy should have been released on Friday. He was convicted for a motoring offence and has been in prison for, I think, two or three months. To quote the expression, Hes done his time. When various people went to collect him from Chelmsford prison on Friday, they waited and they waited, but he was not released. Now the immigration department has moved in and is questioning his right to be in the United Kingdom. That poor lad came as a child to the United Kingdom in 1994. No sooner had he arrived, than his mother and then his dad died. Next, his stepmother abandoned him and his brother in Chelmsford and disappeared with their passports. It does the Government no credit that he is still in Chelmsford prison through no fault of his own. The Government talk about joined-up government, and it is a travesty of that Bangladeshi boys human rights that the issue was not sorted out before he was due for release on Friday. The hon. Member for Ilford, South is working as hard as he possibly can on the issue, but I would be grateful if the Minister were to pass on the matter to one of his colleagues in the Home Office.
qualifications for judicial appointment and the enforcement of judgments.
The first point fills me with great alarm, given this Governments track record. At the moment, there is a serious police investigation about the sale of peerages, and it is simply not good enough if friends are investigating each other.
We have heard a great deal today about climate change. Those of us who have been Members of Parliament since the 80s can remember how popular environmental issues were thenenvironmental issues
were not invented in 2006. In the 80s, the Green party polled extremely well in European elections, and my party began to take the issue very seriouslyeventually, we had the Kyoto treaty. I have done my bit: I was fortunate enough to pilot the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000 as a result of being lucky in the ballot for private Members Bills, and I believe that it is making a contribution. I am delighted that there is a climate change Bill, but unlessdare I say it?the world follows our lead, it will be of little significance.
The Gracious Speech mentions the long-term reform of pensions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) has said, Conservative Members welcome such reform, but the country will not forget the actions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is soon to be Prime Minister, who raided pension funds to the tune of £5 billion in his first Budget. The whole problem started in the Chancellors very first Budget.
I am delighted that there will be free off-peak local bus travel for pensioners and disabled people, but it will be no use whatsoever in Southend, because we do not have any buses. Thanks to this Government, 20,000 people were left off the register in the census in Southend, so we receive funding for 20,000 fewer people than live in the constituency. Bus subsidies have gone, and my constituency, which contains the most senior citizens out of any in the country, has few bus services to enjoy. That particular proposal in the Gracious Speech will not cheer up my constituents.
to raise standards in schools to help all children achieve their full potential
is concerned, the last thing that teachers want is any more changes. There has been great controversy about standards generally, and I am not sure how well any further legislation will go down with the teaching profession.
We welcome the modernisation of health care, given all the money that has been spent in the health service, but frankly what is going on at the moment with closures of hospitals, and not only new staff no longer being recruited but existing staff being made redundant, is very regrettable.
a better framework for treating people with mental disorders,
because mental health care in this country has always been the Cinderella service. As a member of the Health Committee, I can tell the Government that they need to get on with that framework now. We have been waiting eight years for this measure, and they need to handle it with great care.
reform the regulation of human embryology.
Those of us who were in the House when we legislated on this matter previously have no confidence whatever in what goes on with frozen embryos. We have great concerns about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority generally, and I hope that if the Government produce legislation on this issue, they will take into account the fact that just over a year ago the
three party leaders said that it was unsustainable that we have special baby care units throughout the country keeping babies alive at 23 weeks and 23 and a half weeks and yet nothing is done about the time limits on abortion. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mrs. Dorries) introduced a ten-minute Bill on this issue and found that the House was not moved in favour of her proposal, but I think she was entirely genuine and I support her proposal to reduce the number of weeks at which an abortion can be performed.
to tackle road congestion and to improve public transport;
Local authorities now have very few planning powers. I was once a councillor in Redbridge when we had real power. Is it not a farce that most local authorities shrug their shoulders and ask, What is the point of opposing anything? It goes to appeal. We cannot afford the money to be represented at appeal and we always get our view overturned?
improved arrangements for consumer advocacy and for the regulation of estate agents,
but I say to my hon. Friends, did we not earlier in the year have a Minister do a complete about-turn on this issue? Yet again we are treated as though we have all forgotten it and the measure is slipped into the Gracious Speech.
build a consensus on reform of the House of Lords.
Of course the Government could not build a consensus on anything, and the thing that they are least capable of is building a consensus on reform of the House of Lords. They should never have messed up the House of Lords in the first place if they did not have a clear vision of what it should look like if they got their way. It is now a complete and absolute shambles, and I for one will not support an elected second Chamber that is in competition with the House.
We are then told that the Government are going to reform local government. God help us. They have taken all the powers away from local government already; everything is controlled centrally. Local government is becoming no more than a talking shop, but the Government tell us that they plan to reform it and to give
enhanced powers for the Mayor and Assembly for London.
I have tried to raise in the House the issue of bendy buses, because I have always felt that they were a disaster waiting to happen. But of course this House has no powers in that regard, so why are the Government to give more powers to this particular Mayor, of whom I am certainly not a supporter?
to create an independent board to enhance confidence in Government statistics.
For goodness sake, they must think that we are absolutely stupid. This Government fiddle statistics morning, noon and night and presumably, at the end,
they will produce some system whereby everything will look a lot better than it actually is.
In common with other hon. Members, I end by commenting on the situation in Iraq. Until the day I die, I will regret that I ever voted for the war with Iraq. I wish that I had had the wisdom of my 16 colleaguestwo of whom have spoken before me todaywho voted against the war. I am not a military expert, but on the Opposition side, many of my colleagues possess great expertise in such matters. I listened to what the Prime Minister said, and I believed it! I really thought that Iraq had the capability to deploy weapons of mass destruction that could be aimed towards Europe and at this country.
What is more, I would not be prepared for any of my children to come home in body bags and coffins and I wonder whether the Prime Minister and the President of the USA would be. We pay tribute to the men and women who have been killed in active service and then we move on. I believe that this war is an absolute disaster and the arrogance of the Government is incredible. In America, the Government have no choice but to do something about it now, as they have lost control of Congress and the Senate. Yesterday we received an insult to the House from the Prime Minister when he participated in a video link, giving his views on the war. For goodness sake, it was he who gave briefings and information about the need for war to the then leaders of the Conservative and Liberal parties, and we were advised to vote accordingly. I feel that I have personally let my constituents down on this issue. I will always regret that I voted for the war with Iraq.
It is beyond belief that the Government have no exit strategy whatever. They simply do not have a clue what to do. Three Iraqis came to see me at my last surgery and they told methey are in constant contact with their relativesthat the situation in Iraq today is much, much, much worse than it was before we removed Saddam Hussein. Frankly, it is an absolute disgrace and I have no confidence whatever that the Government will sort it out.
I believe that this is a dreadful and rotten Government. We have heard much about the legacy of this Prime Minister. I think that he will be viewed in the history books as a highly successful politician, but he will not be seen as a great leader or great Prime Minister. Most damning of all, he will leave office with the standing of this country that I love greatly diminished.
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con):
We know that the central theme of the Queens Speech is the terrorist threat and our security response. I observe in passing that no Labour Back Bencher remains in place to make a speech on this or any other theme on the first day of our debates on the Queens Speech. I will do my best to fill the gap. This is my first chance to address the House about these issues since my constituents in High Wycombe woke up on 10 August to find themselves in the eye of a media storm about the aeroplane terror plot. Four of my constituents were arrested and two have since been charged with serious offences. I must, of course, presume that my constituents are innocent
until or unless a court decides otherwise, but it is important to say that 10 August was an immeasurably sad day for High Wycombe and it is essential to pay tribute to Thames Valley police, to the local mosque committee and local imams, to Wycombe district council and to all local people for the good sense that they have shown during these difficult weeks and months.
More than 9,000 of my constituents are Muslims, almost 11 per cent. of my electorate. I thus represent more Muslim voters than any other Member of Parliament of my party. I therefore necessarily see one of my most important duties as a constituency MP and, indeed, more widely, as being to help to do what I can to create a moderate, prosperous and integrated British Muslim majority. The aeroplane plot, the Dhiren Barot trail and conviction, the Abu Hamza affair, the horror of 7/7, the attempted shoe-bomb atrocity by Richard Reid and the whole terrible history of recent events stretching back to 9/11 and beyond should remind the Houseif, with our eyes also on currents events in Afghanistan and Iraq, we need any remindingthat this aspiration and our common security are under threat.
A central question about the Queens Speech, therefore, is whether both it and Government policy more broadly will curtail terror, build security and help to deliver that moderate, prosperous and integrated British Muslim majority that we all want to see. Ministers must thus convince the House that the analysis that accompanies their actions is thoroughly thought through. I shall risk a medical analogy: relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain are clearly to some degree poisoned. Seeking to drain the poison and heal those relations is a bit like a doctor treating an illness. We have to diagnose the cause of the illness before seeking to cure it.
There is no shortage of diagnoses. Some claim that the main cause of Muslim alienation is racism and Islamophobia; others that it is poverty and lower life chances; and others still that the cause is intergenerational conflict between older people who, in some cases, still inhabit psychologically, if not physically, the hill villages of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, and more rootless younger people who identify neither with traditional life in those villages nor with modern Britain. Other voices cite the failure of the multi-culturalist experiment in delivering social cohesion, and others point to foreign policy.
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