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I want to say a few words about transport before talking about home affairs. During the Crossrail debate on 31 October, at column 254, I made the point that per capita spending on transport in London for
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2005-06 was £631 per head, compared with only £278 per head in the north-west of England, where my constituency is. It was argued that a capital city needs more transport investment than provincial conurbations, and there may be something in that, but I venture to suggest that more than twice as much does not reflect the reality of the situation. We were also told that Crossrail, if it ever happens, is projected to cost between £13 billion and £16 billion—some estimates put the cost as high as £20 billion. If the scheme goes ahead the spending differential that I described will be further exaggerated.

Last year, the Department for Transport—under different Ministers, I am pleased to note—pulled the plug on the Merseytram line 1, which would have cost a mere £310 million, a very small amount compared with schemes such as Crossrail. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South (Mr. Harris), as the new Minister responsible for light rail, has agreed to meet a delegation, including me, to discuss the tram scheme at some time over the next two weeks. I hope that he will reconsider the scheme.

I welcome my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State’s announcement of measures for the better regulation of bus services. Twenty years ago, almost to the day, I made my maiden speech on the subject of bus deregulation. I re-read that debate recently—what a sad life I lead—and all the things we said would go wrong with deregulation have come to fruition; indeed, they did so almost immediately. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take the opportunity to put right the things that were done so wrongly 20 years ago.

I welcome the measures on home affairs in the Queen’s Speech, particularly the further measures to deal with antisocial behaviour. Another element needs to be addressed, and it is interesting that, other than tangentially, none of the Front-Bench speakers referred to it all: policing and the resources to fund it. I shall return to that point later. Time permitting, I hope, too, to speak about prisons and the criminal justice system.

The background for my concerns is that some areas in my constituency are, in effect, in the control of gangsters. I do not claim that we are unique in that; it is true of many areas of the country. Gangsters determine who can live where, what time people are allowed to walk the streets and what happens in shops. The police do not have the powers or resources to deal adequately with the problem. I shall give two brief examples.

A few weeks ago, under cover of mischief night—so-called—a family in my constituency were hounded out of their home, which was raided with a hail of bricks. The police came to rescue the family and they, too, were hailed with bricks thrown by about 50 young people. Those young people had not suddenly decided to pick on the family; they were not at the scene by accident. The family were known as police informants, or in local parlance, grasses, and the local gangsters had set the youths up to hound them.

Gangsters determine who can live in a particular house on a given estate and we shall have to get to grips with that issue quickly. Indeed, some gangsters buy up former council houses with the proceeds of drugs, but, when the registered social landlords evict them, they
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pop up the next day in a privately rented house in the next street, probably owned by a drug baron, and carry on their activities without restraint.

Another incident occurred in West Derby. I mentioned to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) that I would raise it; he, too, has expressed concerns about the problem. After a local youth was killed in what was apparently an inter-gang incident, the gangsters in the area determined that on the day of his funeral all the shops and other businesses in the constituency would have to close down. That is what happened. They control whether a shop opens or closes, which is unacceptable.

I do not blame Merseyside police for either of those incidents. To be fair, they tried their best to deal with both of them. Although I welcome the increase in police numbers since 1997, we have to face the fact that we need to consider dramatic increases in their numbers if we are to get to grips with the problems. I am grateful to the Library for providing me with some European comparisons. The number of police per 100,000 population is 326 in Austria, 387 in France, 227 in the Netherlands and 264 in England and Wales. I realise that the comparisons cannot be exact because policing systems are different, but I suspect that we need to consider the same level as France rather than the Netherlands. I hope that Home Office Ministers will look at that. The issue of how many police officers we need to deal with the level of problem that I have described, up and down the country, is worthy of serious consideration.

Over recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about prisons and the criminal justice system. It seems that, on occasions, the number of prison places is either a good thing or a bad thing. I simply make the point that the courts should not decide how they sentence in the light of how many prison places are available. If the person found guilty as charged has committed an offence that is serious enough for a custodial sentence, the courts should sentence them, and then the problem is one for the Home Office and the Prison Service to address. I strongly believe that, in taking the matter into consideration, which they often do, the courts fail the public and fail to take up the responsibilities that they have as part of our judicial system.

I deplore the fact that, often, the magistrates courts simply do not take any notice of how serious an offence is. One young offender in my constituency—I will not name him—was in court on more than 30 occasions for serious breaches of antisocial behaviour orders or bail conditions before the magistrates gave him a custodial sentence. Frankly, in many cases magistrates are disgracefully out of touch with local communities in the way in which they sentence.

I think that it was the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), when he was Home Secretary, who was often condemned—even by me on occasions—for the mantra “prison works,” but in one real sense he was right. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) and the shadow Home Secretary spoke glowingly about rehabilitation, but they never described in any detail what they meant by that. If we are perfectly honest, we
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have not got a clue what sort of rehabilitation works. We know that prisons work in at least one respect: they take the villains off the street for as long as they are in prison. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Home Office will not be seduced by a siren voice saying that community sentences and other things work. They can work in certain circumstances, but, having spoken to a lot of young offenders over many years, I can tell the House that they are contemptuous of community sentences. They say, “Bring it on. I can do plenty of that.” Often they ought to be serving a custodial sentence.

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to visit All Saints school in my constituency, where an organisation called Skill Force works. Skill Force is a spin off from the Ministry of Defence. Ex-soldiers, with a lot of experience, were working in the school. They know how to deal with difficult youngsters. Skill Force should be given a role in the criminal justice system. The sort of community sentences that it would use might well work.

2.34 pm

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): The Gracious Speech promised us a border and immigration Bill, but on what we know of the Bill so far, it is difficult to see how it will meet the strong and legitimate concerns of members of the public on both legal and illegal immigration. Some of the measures in the Bill will apparently be linked to identity cards. Indeed, in his speech, the Home Secretary dealt with the issue mainly in terms of the case for identity cards, but it is difficult to see how much the introduction of identity cards would do to deal with legal migration, where the migrants follow legal routes and are who they say they are. Even in relation to illegal migration, it is hard to see how identity cards would make as much difference as the Home Secretary contends.

We need to see a more efficient and rigorous application of existing measures. I fear that there may not be enough emphasis on that. Judging the Home Secretary’s performance so far—I know that we have to draw a veil over everything that took place before he took office, when the Home Office was not fit for purpose, but I am talking about what has happened since the current Home Secretary took office—we can see that, between July and September, the number of removals of unfounded asylum claimants fell and is now significantly below the number of new arrivals seeking asylum. That was the one statistic that the Government sought to dramatise as the so-called tipping point. We did not hear much today about the tipping point. It is not entirely heartening to see that, even in the short time so far, we have not seen a particularly rigorous and efficient administration on that point.

More generally, the Home Secretary spoke about asylum and immigration in terms of global migration and migration as a global phenomenon. That carried the implication that, somehow, this matter was beyond the scope of any Government in any part of the world to control and that that explained the phenomenon of the recently high levels of migration that this country has seen. Of course it is true that there are many people across the world who want to migrate, largely for economic reasons, but it is not beyond the control of
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Government to do something about it. That is what we have Governments for: to have policies and to implement controls over our borders. As for the contention that global migration is an explanation of the significant net migration that this country has seen, the fact of the matter is that, according to the statistics, there has been a significant and sharp rise in inward net migration to this country since the present Government came to office, I believe as result of policies that they introduced.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has been saying. I have some scepticism about identity cards. On migration, does he agree that simply having effective biometric passports would solve many of the problems that he is talking about?

Mr. Clappison: I will approach the subject with an open mind. However, in relation to legal migration, we are dealing with other issues. The figures that I am referring to—the new inward migration to this country that has so sharply increased over the last decade—relate to legal migration. Illegal migration is a wholly different subject. When I refer to illegal migration, I am not suggesting for a moment that the migrants themselves have done anything wrong or that they are in this country to do wrong. Most, if not all, of them, come here to work and better themselves economically. The illegality lies in the fact that they do not have the right to come to this country or to remain here once they enter.

It is not surprising that there has been an increase, because the Government’s policy, as I understand it from reading their policy documents, is broadly to welcome migration for economic reasons. That is certainly the case with the Government’s most recent policy document, but I would suggest that the Government need a rethink on that matter, as surely the consequences of migration are more far-reaching and wider in their impact even than the economic benefits that the Government contend. One has to add that whether or not migration brings about an economic benefit is itself very hotly contested on the basis of a great deal of evidence. Without judging purely on the criterion of economic benefit, it must be the case that many other factors should be taken into account in determining the amount of migration. The far-reaching consequences of migration cannot be encapsulated solely in terms of its contribution—net or otherwise—to economic benefit or disbenefit at any particular time.

In my view, the Government have never sought to integrate the non-economic consequences of migration into their policy to take sufficient account of the impact of the other factors that arise from it or to spell out what limit on migration they might wish to see. The Home Secretary’s predecessor said that as far as he was concerned there was no upper limit to migration. That has been the guiding principle behind the Government’s general approach to migration.

Mr. Stewart Jackson: My hon. Friend is making a compelling speech. Does he agree that the problem with Government policy is the discrepancy between the creation of economic wealth and the utilisation of public services? For example, economic migrants are
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picking vegetables in south Lincolnshire, but they are utilising scarce resources under the auspices of local government in my Peterborough constituency. The Government simply have not thought that issue through.

Mr. Clappison: My hon. Friend makes an important point. One of the Government’s problems is their failure to take account of the impact of migration in different parts of the country. The Government said that they would welcome migration to Scotland, for example, but most migrants have chosen to go to parts of the country with a greater concentration of migrants, such as London and the south-east. According to the latest labour force statistics, nearly half of all migrants are coming to London. The Government have not sufficiently taken into account other non-economic effects of migration, particularly in London, the south-east and constituencies such as mine in Hertfordshire.

On that policy point, I commend the recent policy document issued by the Conservative Front-Bench team, which specifically examined the other consequences of migration and highlighted the need to take them into account in policy making. The document spells out the consequences of the other impacts. It argues that policy should take into account not just economic needs at any one time, but

To focus on infrastructure and the environment, I would say that one of the most compelling aspects is the effect of migration on housing demand—a connection that the Government never seem to make. I have heard Ministers go out of their way to avoid the issue. On any view, however, migration must be a substantial component of housing demand. Migrants do not just disappear into thin air: like everybody else, they need roofs over their heads.

The statistics have been dug out by my Front Benchers, but the Government have not sought to highlight them in their policy making. According to statistics provided in February this year by the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 31 per cent. of annual household growth between 2003 and 2026—that is 65,000 households a year out of a total of 209,000 households formed each year—is attributable to net migration. That statistic is particularly resonant for my constituents and other Hertfordshire residents who face the construction of tens of thousands of new houses, a significant proportion of which are the result of migration.

At some point, the two policies must come together and the Government must take account of the amount of migration and the number of houses required to meet those needs. I do not believe that the Government’s existing policy—or what was said in the Gracious Speech—sufficiently achieves that. We need joined-up policy making on migration to take account of its wider impact, given its current scale. We must take a measured tone, but it can reasonably be said that migration is now at a historically significant scale. We
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have not taken sufficient account of it and our constituents are worried about it. They see the effects that I have described on housing and the environment, and they want policies to have a greater connection between migration and its consequences. I hope that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, who have produced a very good policy document as a starting point for this debate, will listen carefully to the public’s concerns and seek to address them fully in time.

2.45 pm

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): The House of Commons never ceases to delight and entertain. How else could I expect to sit quietly and listen to a member of the Liberal party inveighing against headline-dictated politics? Life is full of little joys.

The Gracious Speech offers the Government the opportunity to précis their policies, if nothing else. Above all, it allows them to explain to us what we can expect to do in the next 12 months. The beginning of a new Parliament is a good time to take stock of what has happened and consider what we need to do.

It is important to begin by saying that the Government have put transport at the top of their agenda for quite a long time and have committed large sums to it. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) finds that amusing. However, if we look at the amount of money that has been poured into the railway industry in the past five years, we see that ratepayers and taxpayers now contribute five times more than they did to British Rail. Compare that with the amount being spent on roads and new constructions such as the channel tunnel rail link and other positive developments, and we begin to realise that, when the Government talk about the need to consider the bus industry carefully and to change bus travel, they do so because they are very much concerned with the interests of the ordinary person in this country.

Chris Grayling: If the hon. Lady believes that the Government have been so successful on transport, will she explain why the majority of their commitments in their 10-year plan for transport have not been fulfilled, and will not be fulfilled within those 10 years?

Mrs. Dunwoody: I have no problem with the degree of the Government’s success on transport. Had we not spent the amount of money that has gone into it, we would not have an expanding railway industry that is constantly looking for more capacity. Neither would we have a railway freight industry that constantly competes for extra paths because it now carries more and more tonnage. Instead, we would find—with railways, and certainly with roads—that the constant spiral of dereliction was making it more difficult to move around.

The hon. Gentleman asks why I find it difficult to support the Government. The general public have a marvellous capacity, which I understand, to take from Government that which they need and enjoy, rarely to appreciate how much advance there has been, and frequently to complain bitterly about what is happening today.

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It is time for the Government to consider transport in general and to examine brutally their commitment to involving private firms right across the transport industry at considerable cost to the taxpayer. They must accept that the only way that that can continue is with a movement of risk to those people who are taking the penny. That is happening on an increasing scale and the current situation with the railways is, sadly, a classic example.

Large sums have been committed to the railways, yet there is little innovation in the industry. I recently received a plaintive letter from the chief executive officer of a large company, which shall remain anonymous, saying that it has introduced various innovations and that he cannot think why we do not appreciate it. He went on to list two pages’ worth of changes that his company has made, all but one of which were improvements to management structure to allow him to run the company more efficiently. If railway companies under private control cannot run efficiently, I do not know what they are doing in the industry, yet that was presented as an imaginative and important change.

Such muddled thinking means that for many railway companies, simply entering into what is, in effect, a management relationship with the Government enables them to take the cash without dealing energetically with the need to expand their facilities and find different ways of providing better services. The Government must work out in their own mind what they want to do. If they do not want to control the basic forms of transport, they must make sure that they get value for money. That is not the case at present, and the railway industry needs to be examined closely, but the issue is not just the railway industry.

The Government are right to consider road pricing, but let us be clear that the roads lobby will not allow the debate to take place in a balanced and judicious manner. There will be a constant complaint that there is a deliberate attempt to punish the motorist even if, as the Government suggest, their road pricing policy is revenue neutral. The Transport Committee analysed the matter in great detail. We explained that the Government should, at the same time, address the problems of divergence, ensure that policy on the motorways was drawn up in relation to the convergence of congestion charging in towns and cities, and plan for a specific situation that will arise when it is suggested that nothing needs to be done and the present situation can be allowed to continue, even though there are more and more cars coming on to the roads and people are driving more and more millions of miles.

The Government must be ready to debate the environmental, economic and political effects of road pricing, and to make sure that the general public understand that the only alternative to moving goods and people is stagnation, not a continuation of the present situation. The country will begin to pay the real costs of congestion. We cannot allow the debate to become a football between the various parties.

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