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Can you name three jockeys who will be riding at Royal Ascot this week?
No. I know nothing about horse racing at all.
Can you name three European golfers playing in the US Open?
uummm, uurrrr...No. I havent been watching the golf at all.
Who is the captain of the British Lions?
Dont know that one either. Im terrible this morning.
The Daily Mailcharitable, as we all knowran a quiz the next day entitled, Are you dumb enough to be Sports Minister? To his great credit, however, the right hon. Gentleman brushed all that aside and persevered. He is a shining example of how there are times when one has to ignore the press and just get on with the job.
As the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, he will also be remembered for launching and continually relaunching the career of another much-loved national political figure. He ran his deputy leadership campaign
in 1992, his leadership campaign in 1994 and his deputy leadership campaign in the same year. I refer, of course, to the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). The right hon. Gentlemans determination to stick with unfashionable causes does him a huge amount of credit. No doubt that is why the Prime Minister asked him to propose the Loyal Address today, but he did a superb job.
The hon. Member for Brent, South (Ms Butler) made an excellent speech. It was not just witty and incisiveit did not just put the Modernisation Committee firmly on the mapbut passionate, and I think that she will be and is a great ambassador for this place, in spite of our political differences. She might not welcome this, but we do have something in common. She has spoken positively about young peopleshe did so again todayand has told us to listen
to the voice behind the hood.
today, Brent Southtomorrow, Soweto.
I understand that her ambitions are slightly different: she is in a fight to the death with her Liberal Democrat neighbour for the new Brent seat being created by boundary changes. So, for her, it is more a case of today, Brent Southtomorrow, Brent Central. Many of us have fought Liberal Democrats and know the appalling depths to which they will stoop[Hon. Members: Hear, hear.] As she has just found out, she will have support on both sides of the House as she continues her fight.
I pay tribute to Piara Khabra, who died earlier this year. He led an extraordinary life. Born in the Punjab in the 1920s, he fought in the second world war against the Japanese. He marched for Gandhi and Nehru, taking part in the great struggle for Indian independence. Having come to Britain, he was elected to the House as a pensioner. Piara Khabra served his constituents and his country well, and he will, I believe, be remembered fondly on both sides of the House.
Another Member of the House left us recently. I refer, of course, to the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. I thought I had better mention him in case the current Prime Minister omitted to do so in his speech.
Although Tony Blair achieved great mastery of this place, he could not wait to get out of here. Many have asked What was the hurry? I think I have found the answer. There is a new bookI am sure it will be available in the Libraryby Dr. Anthony Seldon. On page 330
was worried about Gordon's character and personality, the dark side of his nature, his paranoia and his inability to collaborate.
As we meet at the start of this Parliament, it is right that we should pay tribute to our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. This goes beyond party. All Members of the House, whether or not they supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, know that our troops are a huge source of pride to everyone in the country. If the Government propose measures to improve our troops welfare during this Parliament, they will have our complete and full support.
As we draw down troops in Iraq, the focus on our mission in Afghanistan should, we believe, intensify. I have been to Helmand twice to see the work that our troops are doing, and I know the Prime Minister agrees that they are fulfilling their mission with bravery and professionalism. We may be winning the battle in a tactical, short-term and military sense, but I believe that we need to make more progress in a long-term strategic and political sense. I hope that, when he speaks to us today, the Prime Minister will update us on his work in encouraging President Karzai to make further progress, including progress in tackling corruption.
I hope the Prime Minister will be able to tell us about progress in the unifying of the several overlapping military commands in that country, which I believe make it more difficult to achieve the necessary progress. I also hope he will be able to comment on the proposalwhich we very much supportthat one person should co-ordinate the civilian, political and humanitarian efforts of the European Union, NATO and the United Nations. Such co-ordination is necessary to ensure that we do not fail in Afghanistan.
In this Parliament, I hope we can avoid a gap opening between the facts on the ground and the information supplied by the Government to the House of Commons. I hope that when the Prime Minister speaks, he will give us a guarantee that there will be full quarterly reports to Parliament on the progress being made in Afghanistan. I am sure that the House would also welcome an update on Pakistan, and on the pressure we are bringing to bear to ensure that the much-needed elections take place.
Let me now turn to the legislative proposals in the Gracious Speech. There are Bills that we support, not least because we proposed them in the first place. We very much welcome the climate change Bill, just as we welcomed it last yearand no doubt we will come back next year and welcome it all over again. It is not the only measure that has been recycled. There is also the Bill on unclaimed assets, which the Prime Minister has announced twice before, and there is the Crossrail Bill, which has been announced 11 times before.
We will welcome the draft constitutional renewal Bill. We support giving Parliament the right to vote on war, and the strengthening of Select Committees. Those are our ideas, and we will back them in the Bill; but we believe that it is time to go further. We want to see abolition of the routine guillotining of Bills, and the House of Commons being given more control of
its timetable. That would be a real package for the strengthening of Parliament.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): My constituents are treated in hospitals in Liverpool, Manchester and Cheshire. Will the right hon. Gentleman join me in opposing proposals to take away my right to hold Ministers to account in demanding answers from them about my constituents care?
Mr. Cameron: The hon. Gentleman needs a Conservative Administration in Wales to improve the hospital, so that his constituents do not have to cross the boundaries. [Hon. Members: Answer.] We support having English votes for English laws, so that when purely English matters are discussed in the House it is Members of Parliament sitting for English seats who have the decisive sayif the Government would like to put that in their constitutional renewal Bill, they will have our support.
The counter-terrorism Bill takes up our proposal to make it possible to interview suspects after they have been charged. We think that that is important and we welcome it. We will press the Government to go further and to include the use of intercept evidence in court and the introduction of a proper border police force, not just the border force that the Prime Minister has spoken about.
The Gracious Speech includes proposals on party funding. In our view, there can be no justification for more state funding of political parties unless a tough cap on donations applies to individuals, businesses and trade unions. That is the difference. We are prepared to accept that cap, but the Prime Minister and the Labour party are not prepared to divorce themselves from the trade unions. So far, Labour has not been able to back that cap, and I fear that we are likely to see a one-sided Bill. People will conclude, if that happens, that, having tried to put off the election once, the Prime Minister is now trying to fix its outcome.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise the difference between a trade union with a legally set up political fund subject to the members control, and the whim of a millionaire trying to buy seats in this House?
Mr. Cameron: The hon. Gentleman should look at the figures. He will find that trade unions spent more in marginal seats before the last election than the Conservative party. However, all the money in the world will not save him in High Peak. [Interruption.]
On the subject of our democracy, we look forward to debating the European reform treaty. We will propose many amendments, but one in particular is to give the British people the referendum that they were promised at the last election.
The Gracious Speech talks about the importance of economic stability and we welcome the Bill on deposit insurance, but let us be clear that the problems go much further than that. We have the largest budget deficit in
Europe and our competitiveness is in decline. In these times of uncertainty, we need a competitive tax system, yet the Chancellor seems hellbent on increasing tax on enterprise by 80 per cent. Since it is obvious that the Chancellor does not run the Treasury any more, when the Prime Minister stands up, I hope that he will do a U-turn on capital gains tax, as he has on so many other things this week.
The real problem with the Queens Speech is simple. It is the same as the problem with this Prime Minister. Whether it is on housing, immigration or youth unemployment, it is all short-term tricks instead of long-term problem solving. Let me take just one example: the Prime Ministers pledge to deep clean our hospitals. Here is the headline from one newspaperit is just what he wanted:
Ill wipe the wards cleanPMs amazing pledge on MRSA.
There are no plans to centrally monitor the deep cleaning of hospitals. Arrangements for the programme are entirely a matter for local determination.
Undertaking deep-clean is just one of a number of approaches trusts may take in tackling healthcare infections.
no specific date has been set for either the commencement or completion of the deep-clean programme.
The success of the first programme of deep cleaning will be fully evaluated before a decision is made about whether to repeat.
There are also no plans to assess the effectiveness of deep-cleaning.
What a complete shambles. People are worried about going to hospital and catching a disease that might kill them, and all they get from the Government are short-term tricks. I will tell you, Mr Speaker, what needs a deep clean: the culture of spin, deceit and half-truth that we get from the Government.
The Queens Speech does not, and the Prime Minister does not, represent any real change. The Prime Minister knows how to talk about change, but the trouble is he cannot deliver change. That is what the whole country discovered this autumn. Yes, he can do the gestures. He can wear the blue tie, speak in front of a blue background and even get Lady Thatcher round for tea. But when it comes to real, substantive change, this Prime Minister is not capable of offering anything new.
On education, the Government are going backwards. Instead of taking on the establishment and standing up for rigour and standards, they are caving in and abolishing the A-level. Instead of developing the programme of city technology colleges and city academies, they are slamming on the brakes and putting local education authorities back in charge. The Prime Minister talks about a culture change in education, but all we get is more top-down, centralising targets.
It is more of the same on welfare. We have millions on benefit and youth unemployment is higher than when the Government came to power, but still they will not introduce the sort of welfare reform that has worked everywhere else in the world. It was recommended by his own welfare adviser, but the Prime Minister rejected it.
This Prime Minister cannot be the change that Britain needs. That is why people are beginning to wonder, what is the point of this Government? Just where is the Prime Ministers vision for Britain? We were told that he would use this years Budget to
flesh out the vision for his planned premiership.
But when we got the Budget, there was a tax cut that turned out to be a tax con. Then they said that his vision would be in his party conference speechand there was a vision in his speech; the only problem was that it was not his. He had borrowed it from an American. It was John Kerrys vision, and it did not work for him either. [ Interruption. ] After the disappointment of a conference speech that everyone can now see was just a laundry list of populist gimmicks, they said, Dont worry [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. The House must come to order. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to his say. The Prime Minister will be entitled to his say too, and I will expect the Opposition to behave themselves. I ask Government Back Benchers to behave. That includes you, Mr. Sheerman. You have been throwing in your tuppence worth too often.
Mr. Cameron: They said, Dont worry about the vision not being in the conference speech; youll get it in the comprehensive spending review and the pre-Budget report. Then we had flight tax, inheritance tax and non-dom tax; it was our vision, not his. Finally, they said we will see it in the Queens Speech. Yet again, people are asking, Is that it? Yet another relaunch, yet another rehash of short-term gimmicks and the same old thinking: top-down targets, central control and a hyperactive state to try to run everybodys lives. The truth from this Queens Speech is that the Prime Minister has nothing new to offer.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman is talking about change. I wonder whether I can encourage him to change one of his positions. He voted four times against legislation that introduced a new offence of incitement to religious hatred. The Government have given in to calls from hon. Members on both sides of the House for a new offence of incitement to homophobic hatred. Will he support that?
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