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9.25 pm

Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab): I hope the House will appreciate my being unable to respond to the contributions of all the old retreads, so to speak, as I want to concentrate on the remarkable standard of debate from those making their maiden speeches, and as there were 22 of them by my count, I shall have to go through them very quickly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mrs Chapman) spoke movingly about the tragic case of Peter Chapman and the lessons to learn from it. The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James) was generous and gracious in her comments about her predecessor, Lynda Waltho, and spoke about the importance of the glass industry to her constituency. The hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) spoke about his predecessor, Tony McNulty, who as a former police Minister will, I guarantee, have been watching this debate on television all afternoon. The hon. Gentleman described him as having been diligent in his work on behalf of his constituency. He also mentioned the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital. As the Minister who approved the extra funding for the rebuild of that hospital, I too hope it goes through under this Government.

Having read the books of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt), it was a delight to listen to his contribution, and I am sure we will listen to many more for many years to come. He spoke about there being the first new hospital in his constituency for 120 years, and gave a eulogy to the six towns. The hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) spoke about the contribution his predecessor, Ian Taylor, made to science and technology, and spoke well too about his aspirational constituency, but pointed out that there are pockets of deprivation there as well. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ian Swales) spoke about the devastating effects of the closure of the steelworks there and mentioned his predecessor, Vera Baird, whom I guarantee is already campaigning vociferously against the Government's proposals on anonymity for rape defendants.

My hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) had the distinction of being the very first Member to be elected to this Parliament. She managed it on 6 May. By and large, the rest of us followed on 7 May, and some even later. She spoke of her first-hand experience of working with the victims of sexual violence, once again putting that in
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the context of her opposition to the proposals on anonymity for rape defendants. The hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood) mentioned her many illustrious predecessors and demonstrated what a suitable successor she will be. She was also the only Member to mention domestic violence, which is an important issue in any home affairs debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell) managed to mention all three of her local newspapers, thus guaranteeing coverage, a good trick for those yet to make their maiden speeches. She also mentioned her predecessor, Anne Moffatt, who was my Parliamentary Private Secretary both at the Department of Health and the Home Office and whom we all wish a speedy recovery following her serious illness.

The hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis) spoke about his constituency's worrying predilection for reselection, and showed why we all expect him to escape that particular curse. The hon. Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) delivered an excellent maiden speech after six years as the candidate; spending a long time waiting might, perhaps, be a good recipe for making such speeches, therefore.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran) is a formidable campaigner whom I know very well. She is the first woman to be elected to represent Glasgow East and is already displaying the benefits that she will bring to her constituents. I should also note that she made one further constitutional change by referring to you, Mr Speaker, as the presiding officer and to your deputies as the deputy presiding officers. The hon. Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) was the only Member until my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Mr Harris) to mention immigration, which he quite rightly said was one of the biggest issues on the doorstep during the general election.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Mr McCann) rightly mentioned Adam Ingram's contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process. The hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) spoke about the need to retain vibrant rural communities and the importance of housing to that objective. He did much for Victim Support before he came to this House, and I am sure he will do even more as a new Member of it.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle), in a funny speech, spoke about her pride at representing the constituency in which she was born and raised. She also mentioned the importance of the co-operative movement, which she will see has been grasped by the Government-at least for the time being. The hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) gave us an insight into the dark world of the Government Whips when he spoke about his predecessor, and he made an elegant argument on the importance of elected police commissioners-every word of which I disagreed with.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) had the unique experience of being told he had won when he had lost and lost when he had won. I think the Whips may avoid him as a teller on any future vote we have. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) spoke impressively about how constitutional issues can be of immense importance to the more prosaic, day-to-day issues that affect our constituents. The hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock)
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spoke of the beauty of his constituency and of the work of Richard Spring, which many of us in this House admired, despite his obvious failure to secure a bypass for Brandon.

The Member for Tory- [Interruption.] I meant the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg); I do like to remind myself which party they are from. He made a particularly entertaining speech. It was a little anti-Danish, but on the form he was on tonight, he will avoid having ox bones thrown at him during his time in this House.

Finally, the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) need not have worried-he maintained that very high standard to the last. He spoke about his sympathy for his family and friends, who have been here since 2.30 pm. I very much sympathise with that-I know how they feel. Given that he gave away the ending of the latest Harry Potter film, I think the Hansard people are having their arms stretched up their backs to make sure it is not in tomorrow's Hansard.

For the benefit of the Deputy Prime Minister, I will mention just three of the contributions from retreads. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and the hon. Members for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) and for Chichester (Mr Tyrie) made perhaps three of the most eloquent speeches against the proposed 55% rule. Government Members ought to listen to that argument. I was also pleased that the Deputy Prime Minister made his maiden speech at the Dispatch Box. We were very interested to hear that he has given Her Majesty's Government's support to a yes vote in the Welsh referendum on further devolution in Wales. I think we all took that as being a step forward.

Ian Lucas: Was my right hon. Friend concerned to read on the BBC News website this evening that officials in the Deputy Prime Minister's Department have described his categorical assurance to me today that the Government do support a yes vote in the referendum as a "slip of the tongue"? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a great discourtesy to the House, and has he had any indication from the Deputy Prime Minister that he wishes to correct the record or perhaps find out what Government policy is before he makes pronouncements?

Alan Johnson: I just do not accept what my hon. Friend has said: this is the new politics, and what is said from the Government Dispatch Box will be carried out. I have every faith in the Deputy Prime Minister and that he will ensure that he sticks by his word on this issue.

May I welcome the Home Secretary-

The Deputy Prime Minister rose-

Alan Johnson: Ah! I give way to the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Deputy Prime Minister: Let me clarify this by saying that it was indeed a slip of the tongue. The Government avidly support a referendum in Wales, but of course we will leave it to the people of Wales to decide for themselves how they respond to that opportunity to determine their own future.

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Alan Johnson: I am not sure whether that can be recorded as a slip of the tongue; I think that the right hon. Gentleman has made the first U-turn. I believe he also thought that the basic state pension was £33 a week-that was probably a basic slip of the tongue too. This is not a good start for the Deputy Prime Minister, because Labour Members were behind him in his stated preference for the Government to support a referendum on devolving power in Wales. We shall see what happens, but my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) was right in what he said.

I welcome the Home Secretary to the Dispatch Box. Labour Members like to think that we smoothed her path to this position as Home Secretary by helping to remove the former shadow Home Secretary, the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), before he could do any significant damage. Among his many gaffes was a propensity to be disingenuous about crime statistics, which led to his having his knuckles severely rapped by the UK Statistics Authority. He is now in the political equivalent of a Siberian salt mine, locked away somewhere in the Department for Work and Pensions and condemned to work with a Lib Dem, the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Steve Webb), about whom the Deputy Prime Minister once said the following-this may also have been a slip of the tongue:

A word beginning with "a" follows, but if I said it, Mr Speaker, you would be off yours to call me to order. It seems to me that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister managed to sort out both their little problems at the expense of the DWP.

I am confident that the new Home Secretary will not repeat the mistakes of her predecessor as shadow Home Secretary and that she will confirm, in her reply, that crime has reduced substantially since her party left office in 1997. On violent crime, she will be able to correct the mistake made on page 55 of the Conservative manifesto, which said that

It should, of course, have said "reduced" instead of "risen". There are three measures of violent crime: the British crime survey's figures, which show a decline of 41%; the recorded crime figures, which, since the 2003 changes in the formulation, have shown a 13% reduction; and the figures from accident and emergency departments collated by Cardiff university, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) drew attention, that show a reduction of 15% since they commenced in 2001. The murder rate is at its lowest for 20 years and the murder rate in London is at its lowest since 1978. No incoming Home Secretary in living memory has inherited such a consistent fall in crime and no incoming Government could have done more to undermine that position in their first few weeks.

On 19 May, in her speech to the Police Federation, the Home Secretary said

But she could give no commitment to retain the record number of police and police community support officers who are vital to that objective. How is it that under this Conservative-led Government the funding for international
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development can be guaranteed but the funding for fighting crime cannot? Labour would have protected them both. Do her Government consider international development a greater priority? How is it that while front-line services in health and education can be safeguarded, police numbers cannot? Will she stand up for her Department against such warped priorities? When will she ensure that, similar to what happens in health and education, the savings made within constabularies are reinvested in front-line policing? How will she be tough on crime while restricting the police's ability to catch criminals?

The Government talk of adopting the safeguards of the Scottish system in respect of DNA retention, but they do not explain whether those are safeguards for the victims or the perpetrators of crime. The Scottish system retains the DNA of those arrested but not convicted, but only if they are arrested for a serious crime. That would be logical only if there was evidence to suggest that it was people in that category who had a higher propensity to be re-arrested, but the best available evidence indicates that the type of offence a person is first arrested for is not an indicator of the seriousness of the offence he or she might subsequently be arrested or convicted for in future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) have made these points, but let me remind the House that, each year, in about 800 cases of rape, murder and manslaughter, DNA is central to police inquiries. In about 10% of those cases, matches are made to people who have been arrested but not convicted, of which a quarter involve people who have been arrested but not convicted of non-serious offences. That is one reason why in 2008-09, the England and Wales DNA database had a 13% higher success rate than Scotland's.

On the period of retention, there is no evidence to support the Scottish period of three years, which was plucked from the air. The best evidence available shows that the so-called hazard curve-the propensity for those who have been arrested but not convicted to be re-arrested-remains higher than that for the rest of the population for six years following first arrest. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition said in the debate last week, the Government should

The retention period of six years should remain in force until 2012, when we will have, for the first time, six years' worth of statistics upon which to make a further judgment. Why pull that information off the DNA database and then find in 2012 that we should have kept it?

The Home Secretary intends to be tough on crime while failing to protect police numbers and restricting their ability to catch criminals, and she intends to do that while embroiling them in the operational upheaval of having elected commissioners. Aside from the fact that that will lead to years of internal turmoil and cost about £50 million for each police authority area, that idea's time has gone. The debate on accountability has moved on. It is now focused on making neighbourhood police teams answerable to the public they serve, on doing more to ensure that police authorities have a higher profile and more expertise, and, crucially, on
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enhancing and increasing the role and responsibilities of local government. Notwithstanding the comments of the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless), local authority leaders from all three main parties oppose this measure, as do the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation. I have yet to meet a single police officer or local councillor who supports it. The measure is, as ACPO says, driven purely by dogma, and I urge the Home Secretary to think again before taking it further.

In the time available to me, I cannot deal with every issue that has been raised, but I should like to make a final point. We will discuss identity cards on Wednesday on Second Reading of the Identity Documents Bill, but the Deputy Prime Minister has, in a hyperbolic speech that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) has already pointed out was historically inaccurate, promised the end of the "culture of spying" on British citizens, praying in aid ID cards, the national identity register and CCTV.

We are told that CCTV is part of the evil infringement of our rights and that it must therefore be "properly regulated", to use the Deputy Prime Minister's words. Will the Home Secretary tell us what that means, and will she say if she has ever been approached by a constituent who wants fewer CCTV cameras? That is important, because, apparently, as part of the big society, which is what most of us thought we would get if we failed to tackle obesity, the Deputy Prime Minister promises to ask the public which laws to repeal. We stand on the side of the Home Secretary's constituents. An article in the Maidenhead Advertiser, entitled "CCTV will help stop crime in Furze Platt", which is in her constituency, says:

CCTV cameras in "as a deterrent." We are on the side of Furze Platt. Indeed, the term could be used as cockney rhyming slang, as in, the Deputy Prime Minister must be a right Furze Platt if he thinks people want fewer CCTV cameras.

The Conservative-led Administration will either recognise the need for control orders, second-generation biometric passports, the detention of families and the DNA database, or they will endanger our national security, weaken our controls on immigration, reduce our ability to return failed asylum seekers and restrict the police's ability to catch dangerous criminals. The Gracious Speech gave no indication that they recognise those basic facts.

9.45 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): It is a great pleasure to close this debate, which, as the shadow Home Secretary has just said, was marked by a significant number of maiden speeches, 22 in all. The debate was opened by a rather uncharacteristically rambling speech from the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw). He loitered somewhat over the reforms of 1832, but his history lesson was bettered only by the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) who gave everybody in the Chamber a rather more eloquent and distinguished historical lesson. I am sure we shall hear more from him, as was said earlier.

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The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), who has just closed for the Opposition, gave an amusing speech. He ran through the contributions of every Member who made a maiden speech today. I do not intend to comment on every one of those speeches, but I want to tell all 22 new Members who spoke today that making a maiden speech is a daunting experience for anybody, yet they all rose to the challenge with a remarkable degree of eloquence. Many of the speeches were extremely amusing. I am not sure what the problem of blowing one's nose is in West Suffolk, but I dare say we shall find out at some stage. We heard delightful, enticing descriptions of constituencies such as the one from my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart), although of course it will now only be known as the site of Dobby's demise.

I particularly want to mention the maiden speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Stourbridge (Margot James) and for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood), and the hon. Members for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle), for Darlington (Mrs Chapman), for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford), for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell), for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran) and for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson). They all have one thing in common, which is that they are women. I welcome the new intake of women Members to the House of Commons, which I am particularly pleased to see.

I am especially pleased to welcome my hon. Friends the Members for Stourbridge and for Oxford West and Abingdon, whom I have worked with over the years. They represent very well the change that has taken place in the Conservative party and in the make-up of its Members of Parliament.

I want to mention two characteristics relating to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis). The first was that his speech referred to the all-important topic of shoes, although I was disappointed that my hon. Friend talked about the shoes of my right hon. and learned Friend the Justice Secretary. My hon. Friend also has the distinction of being the only person to present me with a bouquet of flowers after I made one of those tours to visit organisations in the constituency before the election. He has indeed started well in this place.

I shall try to cover as much ground as I can, but I will not be able to mention every point that has been made in this important debate. It is the first time I have wound up a debate opened by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg). A few weeks ago, I sat at the Cabinet table with him for the first time and then held my first meeting with him.

Coalition Government has brought many first-time experiences for us all, but nowhere is the coalition stronger than in the field of home affairs. After the years of encroachment on our freedoms, we will restore our civil liberties. After the years of trying to run the police from Whitehall, we will free the police and empower the communities they serve. After the years of allowing immigration to soar out of control, we will bring it back to the reasonable levels of the 1990s.

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