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I mean no disservice to the places that I am about to mention. Previously, the hon. Gentleman has taken us on a virtual tour of the world, although he did not mention the Western Isles. We have heard that Scotland would be wonderful if only it could be like Iceland, which tragically-I do not celebrate this-is in search of an economic purpose. His party has compared Scotland to Ireland, which technically is in depression-as a Murphy, I take no comfort in saying that Ireland is in
real difficulties. Now the SNP is saying that it is a nationalist cause to be like the Isle of Man. No disrespect to the Isle of Man, but Scotland's future does not lie in being like the Isle of Man. This is another example of the SNP putting its obsession before our country. Most Scots will want their country to be not like Iceland, Ireland-despite our respect-or the Isle of Man, but like Scotland: a proud, equal part of the United Kingdom, which is the most successful union of nations that this world has ever known.
Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): Improved intergovernmental and inter-parliamentary relationships are necessary for good governance of my constituents. However, does the lack of co-operation by the SNP with the Calman commission put that in jeopardy; or does it simply place the SNP in jeopardy?
My hon. Friend is right to say that some of the measures are jeopardised by virtue of the minority Scottish Government continuing to be dogmatic and boycotting the process. They went AWOL on the constitutional convention and were AWOL on the Calman commission and the White Paper. However, the majority view in Scotland will force them to change their mind, because the belligerent obsession with breaking Scotland out of the United Kingdom and holding the immediate referendum is supported by about one person in eight-even fewer than the SNP got in the by-election in Glasgow, North-East.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): I think that there is a consensus in the House that devolution is important and good for the people of Scotland and the other regions of the United Kingdom that have it. We, in Northern Ireland, would love to have the luxury of the Scottish people of being able to elect our own Government without enforced power-sharing. However, is it not important that no action be taken to break up the unity of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
I will not second-guess the devolution settlement in Northern Ireland. I have enough complications being Secretary of State for Scotland, so I will not intrude on the challenges facing, and fascination of being, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. However, the hon. Gentleman's central point is correct: by all tests of logic and economic rationale, Scotland,
Northern Ireland, Wales and England are stronger for sticking together. Look at what has happened over the past year. We can dispute whether we got each policy right, but it is certainly the conviction of the majority of people in all parts of the United Kingdom that over the past year we, on these islands, have been better for sticking together and getting through the recession. With one exception, regardless of party politics, most of us know that we will get through the recession, partly because of the strength that the United Kingdom gives us.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Secretary of State agree that the announcement of the Government's commitment to the policy on devolution means that the next general election in Scotland will effectively be a referendum between, on the one hand, separation, isolation, job losses and misery and, on the other hand, strengthened devolution, continued shipyard orders, happiness and joy?
Mr. Murphy: Believe it or not, but that is the hardest question that I have had to respond to all day. We have a big choice to make over the future constitutional arrangements in Scotland. The majority of Scots are on one side-of strengthening the Parliament-and the SNP is on the other side. It is entitled to be there, but ultimately the next election will be a two-horse race in Scotland-it is the same two-horse race in the rest of Great Britain-between the Labour and Conservative parties. Increasingly, the SNP is a sideshow in the two-horse race, and most people in Scotland know that.
Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): I know that the Secretary of State was trying to be whimsical when he said that this was mainly a matter for robust debate among Scottish Members, but does he agree that the matter is also important to English Members? Would it not be appropriate for the Government to invest time in producing a contingency plan for independence, if only so that the Secretary of State has the opportunity to show how strongly he feels that Scottish independence would be disruptive?
Mr. Murphy: It is important to maintain that careful consensus across the United Kingdom about funding and powers. I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman is in his place today, because I know that he takes an interest in those issues. I do not want to second-guess his constituents, but I would guess that they too have a sense that there is something special about the shared heritage of these islands and something remarkable about all that we have achieved together. Regardless of the to-ing and fro-ing over specific disagreements that we might have across party divides, being part of the United Kingdom is great for Croydon-I know that there is no attempt to remove Croydon from the United Kingdom-and great too for the four nations of the United Kingdom. However, I am happy to talk to the hon. Gentleman some more about the issue, if he thinks that would be helpful.
Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have given Mr. Speaker and the Leader of the House notice of my point of order. I wonder whether I might inquire into whether there is anything that you can do to ensure that we get proper debate on the Equality Bill. You will know that it is a Bill of 205 clauses and 28 schedules, with 34 new clauses, two new schedules and 52 amendments tabled already, and we have not yet seen any Government amendments or new clauses. The Leader of the House has given two clear assurances at the Dispatch Box that she would not only discuss the timetabling of the Bill with Opposition Front Benchers, but ensure that the handling of the Bill on Report would be such that the Bill would be an exemplar. So far she has not engaged with Opposition Front Benchers about timetabling, and if we have only one day on Report, the only example that the Bill will set will be a poor one. What can you do, Madam Deputy Speaker, to ensure that we get proper debate on that matter?
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving Mr. Speaker notice of his point of order. However, he will not be surprised to hear that it is not a point of order for the Chair. None the less, his comments are on the record and they will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench. Tomorrow is business questions, when I have no doubt that he will have an opportunity to put his question to the Leader of the House.
Secretary Andy Burnham, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Alan Johnson, Secretary John Denham, Secretary Ed Balls, Secretary Yvette Cooper and Mr. Phil Hope, presented a Bill to amend section 15 of the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Act 2003 so as to remove the restriction on the period for which personal care may be provided free of charge to persons living at home; and to make consequential provision.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Following that announcement about which amendment the Chair has selected, might one relay back to Mr. Speaker the fact that there is growing pressure in the House for a debate on a motion that is amendable on Afghanistan? Although it might not have been appropriate today, I hope that he will find ways of allowing the views of the House to be registered on that issue.
"but humbly regret that the Gracious Speech fails to offer answers to the growing social challenges facing the United Kingdom, and proposes no new ideas about ending the culture of deprivation and welfare dependency in many parts of the country or on dealing with the growing level of economic inactivity; note that it offers no fresh solutions to the challenge of anti-social behaviour in communities around the country, nor does it reform the licensing system to tackle alcohol-fuelled disorder; and further regret that after 12 years in power the Government brings forward no new approaches to the challenges the country faces."
Twelve years is a long time to be in government. It gives any Government as long as they should sensibly need to demonstrate that they can make a difference. By next May, when they will be returning to the country for the fourth time to ask for a mandate, the Government will have been in power for 13 years, so the question for every voter is do they really deserve one? This afternoon I want to look at the things that the Government promised all those years ago-things that they have continued to promise, year after year, in virtually every Queen's Speech, including this one-and to ask a simple question: have they delivered the things that they promised?
"We can all get angry because crime hurts,"
"and it hurts most the people who are least able to fight back. But it is not enough to get angry, to stamp your feet, and shout from
the Tory conference platform. That is the soft option. We need a new approach. One that is tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime."
In the intervening years, the Labour Government have had more than a fair chance to deal with the challenges that he talked about. They have had the money, with £350 billion spent on worklessness, at least £70 billion spent on policing and other crime fighting and more than £20 billion spent on early-years and child care services since 1997. They have also had the time, over these 12 long years, so now it seems entirely fair to look at what has happened in Britain and assess the degree to which our social challenges have begun to reduce.
Let us use that speech back in 1994 by the man who became Prime Minister as a benchmark against which to judge the success or failure of this Government. "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" became the bywords for this Government's approach to law and order. In that speech, the then Leader of the Opposition and subsequently Prime Minister set out a range of detailed programmes that he said were essential to fighting crime. So how did they do?
Let us start, as Tony Blair did on that September day, with the bit in his speech about being tough on crime. First on the list were measures to tackle juvenile offending. They have been a feature of virtually every one of the 49 criminal justice Bills that we have had since then. We have had initiative after initiative and new idea after new idea. Surely that must have made a difference. The number of persistent young offenders sentenced by courts in England and Wales have increased by 92 per cent. since 1997. In 2007-08, more than 93,000 youngsters aged 10 to 17 entered the criminal justice system for the first time, up from only 78,000 five years previously, in 2002-03. Just a couple of weeks ago, Home Office research showed that 72 per cent. of 10 to 25-year-olds admitted to committing crime or antisocial behaviour within a four-year period.
The next bit in the speech was the plan to crack down on illegal firearms. Over the past decade, there has been a big jump in gun crime. The number of firearms offences, excluding air weapons, has increased from 5,209 a decade ago to a provisional figure of 8,184 in 2008-09, an increase of 57 per cent. The number of people injured or killed by a gun has more than doubled, increasing from 864 a decade ago to 1,760 in 2008-09. Behind those figures have been a series of high-profile tragedies, punishment shootings and a culture of weapons on our streets not seen previously.
Tony Blair then talked about the need to punish properly crimes of violence, including racial violence. Violent crime has increased from 615,000 offences in 1998-99 to just over 1 million in 2008-09, an increase of 68 per cent. In 1998, 23,500 people were cautioned for violence against the person. In 2007, that figure had doubled, to 52,300.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson):
The hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said in the Queen's Speech debate last week that violent crime had risen by 70 per cent.-I notice that the figure has now come down to 68 per cent. I wrote to him-and have yet to receive a reply-pointing out that the British crime survey, which the Opposition introduced and which, as far as I know, everyone agrees is about impeccable as one can get, shows a 41 per cent. decrease in violent crime. The
recorded crime figures do show an increase, but that is because the statistics changed in 2002 to include common assault, which was previously in a different category. I am glad to have this debate, but can we have it on the facts? Can the hon. Gentleman also confirm that, according to the British crime survey, violent crime is down by 41 per cent. and that the figures used by him and his right hon. Friend apply to a statistical change that took place in 2002?
Chris Grayling: The Home Secretary needs to understand one simple point about the shortcomings of the British crime survey. In its categorisation of violent crime the British crime survey does not include murder, which the last time I looked was a violent crime. There are a number of areas of violent crime that are not covered in the British crime survey, so by definition it cannot provide a true reflection of what is happening in this country.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): There is, of course, a reason why the British crime survey does not include murder, which is that it is quite difficult for people to respond to a survey if they have been murdered. I wonder whether there has not been a substantial change in murder over time. I find it rather worrying that the hon. Gentleman is making that point about statistics when I thought that he agreed with us that we should have independent publication of the statistics and not resort to the sort of political shenanigans that he has just displayed, using reported crime statistics when he knows perfectly well-indeed, the previous Conservative Government said this repeatedly-that the British crime survey is a more reliable estimate.
Chris Grayling: I am sorry, but I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I agree that we should have independent figures. The figures have been changed a number of times over the years by the Government, as we know from 18 months ago under the previous Secretary of State when there were issues about the Government's use of figures. Of course we should have independent statistics, but we can deal only with the tools that we have available. They show, for example, that racially and religiously aggravated harassment has also increased-more than doubled-over the past decade.
The fourth pledge given before the Government took office was to give the victims of crime the right to be consulted before charges were dropped or changed. What a hollow promise that turned out to be, particularly given the Home Secretary's comments just last week that "in an ideal world" every victim would be "visited by the police", though it was admitted at the time that doing so would be "rather challenging". If we talk to the victims of crime, a very different picture emerges-one in which they receive very little information about what is going on and are not sure even when trials are happening. The Home Secretary has talked to victims of crime, so he knows that the promises made to the victims of crime back in the 1990s have not been fulfilled a decade later.
One of the most distressing cases of failed communications I have come across involved the owner of a post office in Worcestershire, who was brutally beaten by a gang of armed raiders and has still not made a full recovery. The assailants were caught and
jailed. Their sentences were reduced substantially on appeal, but the victims of that crime were not even told that the appeal was happening. I know from having talked to the victims in that case that their sense of fear and misery about what happened to them was made much worse as a result.
Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a crucial point about the lack of information for victims. Although several years ago the Government promised £11 million to the Crown Prosecution Service to track all cases online, is he concerned that we have still not reached that point and that we are to have yet another White Paper in which the same promises will be made but not delivered?
Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that has been the story of criminal justice under this Government-promise and pledge and initiative made again and again, but little delivery or action.
Tough on crime? Fifteen years after it was first made, that promise now looks pretty hollow. By the test that Mr. Blair set for a future Labour Government back in that first conference speech, in office they have failed again and again. All these years later, as my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) rightly says, they are still failing.
Did the Government do any better on the causes of crime? Mr. Blair picked three things that he was going to do, and a comprehensive crime prevention programme was at the top of his list. In Labour's 1997 manifesto, this "comprehensive programme" had changed into placing
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