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The debate was ably opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), who forensically identified the ways in which the Government have failed to live up to their promises on crime, antisocial behaviour and welfare reform. When the Home Secretary stood up, I expected an equally analytical response, but far from that, it was a full 15 minutes before he even got to talking about the Queen's Speech. He gave us what is coming to be the all-too-predictable Labour response, which is to say, "But it was all worse in the '80s." Never mind that the Government have not met their promises,
or that there are serious social issues challenging this country. All the Government are interested in is wiping out the past 12 years and harking back to what many voters will see, frankly, as ancient history. This Government will be judged on their record and their plans for the future and, on any analysis, they will be found wanting.
Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend think it a bit rich to be lectured by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) about raising the legitimate concerns of pensioners and disabled people? She represents a party that in 1997 launched its election campaign with a big lie: that Conservatives would abolish the state pension. It was a lie then and it is a lie now.
Mrs. May: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the tactics the Labour party used in that election, and I will come to the points that were made about disability benefits by the hon. Members for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) and for Glasgow, East (John Mason).
The Labour party approach of harking back to the past was also followed by the hon. Members for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) and for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn), although the latter also spoke about the campaign- [ Interruption. ]
Mrs. May: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was pointing out that the approach of harking back to the past was followed by the hon. Members for Sedgefield and for Jarrow, but the latter also referred to his long-standing campaign on pleural plaques.
There were a number of thoughtful contributions to the debate on the subject of violence against women and the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (John Austin) made a very thoughtful speech. He rightly commended the white ribbon campaign and highlighted the importance of involving men in the work to end violence against women. He reminded us that violence against women takes many forms, a theme that was echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen), whom I commend on his valuable work as chairman of the all-party group on human trafficking, which is-as he said in his speech-the new slavery. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) also reminded us of the impact of violence in various forms against women in certain communities, including the Asian community, and the importance of working with local communities to combat that violence.
On the issue of crime, my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) reminded us of the need to get more police on the streets. As he pointed out, Labour promised, in its 1997 manifesto, that police would be on the beat, but the average police constable today spends only 14 per cent. of their time on the beat and 21 per cent. of their time on paperwork-another Government failure.
Several hon. Members spoke about issues of particular interest to them: the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) spoke about alcohol sales and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) addressed drugs and their impact on people's lives. She referred to the failure of this Government in
that area, and I have a very good drug rehabilitation centre in my constituency, Yeldall Manor, which is a long-term residential centre. It has an excellent record of getting people off drugs and turning their lives around, but because of the way in which the Government fund drug support, it is unable to fill all its beds. That is sad, because it could make a valuable contribution to people's lives.
My hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) spoke thoughtfully about prison reform. The hon. Member for Glasgow, East raised the important issue of the Government's proposals to pay for their national care service by scrapping disability benefits for pensioners. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak dismissed that claim as unwarranted, and the Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform has said that it was untrue. I can only assume that they, and any other Labour Member who says that it is untrue, have not read the Government's Green Paper on social care, because every option, apart from the option of people paying for social care themselves, is underpinned by some use of disability benefits. Furthermore, the Under-Secretary for Work and Pensions in the other place, Lord McKenzie of Luton has said:
"My Lords, the Green Paper, Shaping the Future of Care Together, proposed that one way to deal with the challenge of an ageing society may be to bring some disability benefits and the new care and support system together into a single system as a better way of providing support. At this stage, we do not want to rule out any options and so are considering all disability benefits."-[ Official Report, House of Lords, 13 October 2009; Vol. 713, c. 112.]
The hon. Member for Glasgow, East raised the important point that disability benefits, such as attendance allowance and disability living allowance for the over-65s, give those who receive them the option of deciding how to use that money for the care that they want and that suits their needs. The Government are proposing to take that individual decision making away from pensioners and to say to them, "We won't let you decide what care you should have; we will tell you what care you will have, and it's going to be what the Government decide you should have." That would be a retrograde step.
There were also some lighter moments in the debate. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne), as well as appearing to do a complete U-turn on the Liberal Democrats' policy on the DNA database, expounded the wonderful new policy of a regional points-based system for work permits. He said that that would work in the UK because it works in Australia. He needs to go and take some geography lessons if he thinks that that is a valid point.
We also had a characteristically forceful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies), who managed to cover crime, antisocial behaviour, prisons, immigration, political correctness and the Human Rights Act. I am not sure whether it was going from the sublime to the ridiculous or the other way round when he was followed by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey), who proceeded to speak about wheel-clamping. I can tell her that I know about the problems of wheel-clamping from cases in my constituency.
At the core of this debate lies the Government's failure to deliver on their promises over 12 years and their inability to develop the thinking needed to take the
country forward. Nowhere is that more clear perhaps than in their failure to have a plan to tackle the debt crisis and a radical strategy to tackle the jobs crisis.
Let us consider the Government's record on welfare reform. Having promised to be the party of welfare reform in 1997 and having asked the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) to "think the unthinkable", they abandoned real welfare reform for more than a decade. Even when David Freud-now sitting on our Benches in the other place, as the noble Lord Freud-produced his report on welfare reform, the Government pushed it to one side and did nothing, and only produced their limited proposals for reform after my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell published our green paper with radical ideas for welfare reform. Once again, therefore, the Government followed our lead, but once again failed to take the necessary steps to make the radical changes needed.
Let us remind the House of the figures: unemployment is at nearly 2.5 million, and while the recession has had an impact, we must never forget that the country entered the recession with nearly 5 million on out-of-work benefits. Youth unemployment is at a record level; one in five young people is out of work; the cost of incapacity benefit is now higher than in 1997, when Labour came to power; in some communities in this country, more than half of working-age adults are out of work and dependent on benefits; and worklessness has cost about £350 billion in benefits over the past 12 years. That is the cost of the Government's failure to reform welfare.
One of the saddest and most damning indictments of the Labour Government is their failure to do anything about the large number of long-term unemployed people on incapacity benefit. Of course, some on IB are unable to work, and they should be supported, but many who claim it can, and want to, work. They need the individualised support that will help them to overcome barriers to work and get them into jobs. Our work programme-
Mrs. May: I hear the Minister's remark from a sedentary position. However, under the Government's flexible new deal, over-50s on IB and assessed as able to work will get one work-focused interview, and under-50s on IB will get three work-focused interviews. That is not the individualised support that those people need to overcome barriers and enter the workplace.
Under our work programme, and our "get Britain working" policy, we will ensure that people on IB who are judged fit and able to work will be referred straight away to the specialist help of welfare-to-work providers, who will deliver a programme of support that meets their needs and gets them into work. That sort of vision will make a real change to people's lives. Are the Government giving that help? No. Only a Conservative Government would provide the support needed to help people on IB into work.
Let us briefly consider youth unemployment. In a speech last week, the Prime Minister announced a range of measures, such as offering internships and other opportunities to graduates who have been unemployed for six months, but we think that all young people should be given specialised help to get them into work
after six months. Once again, we see the paucity of the Government's ambitions. Whether it is rising levels of gun crime, increased numbers of persistent young offenders or rising IB claims, the Government have failed to meet their promises and abandoned too many of our fellow citizens. They have run out of ideas, have no answers to the challenges facing the country and have nothing left to offer. It is time for a fresh start and approach, and for the change that this country needs-change that can come only with a Conservative Government.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Yvette Cooper): We have had a serious, thoughtful and wide-ranging debate today on the Queen's Speech, covering subjects ranging from wheel clamps to prison reform, and from housing benefit to pleural plaques.
Let me start by welcoming my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-East (Mr. Bain), who made his maiden speech in the Chamber today. We congratulate him both on his election to the House and on the great pride with which he spoke about his constituency, the community that he grew up in, his ambitions for his community and his plans to keep campaigning on jobs for young people and improving his community and his area. I look forward to working with him on those issues.
It is also worth noting the warmth with which many hon. Members in today's debate welcomed my hon. Friend and congratulated him on his speech. The first person to welcome him was the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen), who paid a warm tribute to our new Member and also raised the important issue of human trafficking. I congratulate him on the work that he has done over many years on the issue. He talked about the UK Human Trafficking Centre. As I understand it, the Home Office has no plans to close the centre or merge it with any other organisation, but I will raise his points with the Home Secretary, so that he knows what they are too.
Mr. Steen: I thank the Secretary of State for that statement. The 53 staff up in Sheffield are greatly concerned that they will be merged with either the UK Border Agency or the Serious Organised Crime Agency here in London. Both would be a mistake, so I am very glad that she will raise the matter with the Home Secretary.
I also welcome the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (John Austin), who referred to the issue of human trafficking as well as making important points about domestic violence and other issues raised by the Queen's Speech.
Several hon. Members raised issues to do with alcohol, including my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) and the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes). I agree with my hon. Friend on the importance of supporting more family-friendly
working. It is important that we make work more family friendly, rather than simply helping family members go into work. My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) talked about the importance of support for the economy.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, East (John Mason) talked about social care and disability benefits. It is important to be clear about that, because there has been a lot of scaremongering on the issue, which is not responsible. We want to expand social care and support for those who are vulnerable, but it is important to understand that the Personal Care at Home Bill, which forms part of the Queen's Speech, will have no impact at all on any disability benefits and will be paid for by changes throughout the Department of Health. In addition, we have said that those who are on disability benefits will not lose out as we look for longer-term changes and that we support expanding individual budgets, which are extremely important. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is important to give people control over the kind of care that they need in future.
Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): Going further than that, I understand that the Health Secretary has ruled out taking away disability living allowance for future cases, but the same guarantee has not been made for attendance allowance. Can the Secretary of State clarify whether that is deliberate? In other words, is attendance allowance safe for future new claimants?
Yvette Cooper: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has said that we do not think that working age disability living allowance should be connected with the care system, which is about looking at older people's needs. We want to look at what the future links should be and how we expand care beyond the care and support currently provided by the benefits system and local councils, but in a way that increases the support available and protects people who receive it under the current system. That is the right thing to do, and the hon. Gentleman will know that the position has been set out in detail for debate and consultation as part of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) raised the slightly curious spectre of border controls at Watford Gap or halfway along the M62, between Lancashire and Yorkshire, which might have slightly more support from some quarters. He seemed to be suggesting a regional points-based system and border controls.
Chris Huhne: The Secretary of State is far too intelligent to have misunderstood my remarks. I specifically said that my proposal would apply to workplace checks on employers. There is no question of border controls.
Yvette Cooper: I welcome the hon. Gentleman's recommitment to freedom of movement within the United Kingdom, because at a certain point in his remarks earlier he seemed to be committing himself to adding regional points for different regional skills shortages to the draft immigration Bill.
The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) made a thoughtful speech on prison reform, while my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey) and the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) both raised issues around wheel-clamping, which I know we will have an opportunity to debate further.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) pointed out many of the disingenuous ways in which Opposition Members have used statistics to support their image of a broken Britain, which their policies would, in fact, break further.
The hon. Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies) shouted at us all with great enthusiasm. He said that he did not believe the British crime survey and he refused to accept it. He said that he preferred hospital statistics instead. If he wants to refer to hospital statistics, I should point out to him that they, too, show a 6 per cent. decrease between 2007 and 2008 in admissions for assault with a sharp object. I hope that he will accept that that shows crime is falling, even if he does not want to accept the British crime survey.
The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) gave us his account of the broken Britain that he sees all around him. What we did not see from him, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary pointed out, was any more information on his new plans for official forms. In The Sunday Times he said:
"Marriage has almost disappeared from official documents. I think that should change."
We would have liked to hear more from him on that, because it would be interesting to know whether, under a Conservative Government, people will not be able to get a driving licence unless they have told the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency whether they are married; or whether they will not be able to submit a planning application to extend their house, until they have told the council whether they have walked down the aisle; or whether people will not be able to get a library card until they have told the librarian whether their husband has gone off with someone else. [Interruption.] Conservative Members are saying, "How silly, how ridiculous," and I agree, but it was their honourable Front-Bench spokesperson who proposed this and it was their honourable Front-Bench spokesperson who, coming from a party that pretends to care and to complain about big government, put forward instead proposals that sound rather more like Big Brother.
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