If someone constantly has high stress levels, they develop a tolerance to them. Although some of us might find an exciting episode of “Z-Cars” incredibly thrilling, somebody with a high tolerance to their own stress levels would need to indulge in much higher risks to get the same level of stress. So, for example, going out fighting, getting into drugs, going out and stabbing someone or committing other violent crimes could be the only way for that person to get the same level of

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stress and excitement. People who have been badly neglected at an early age often have a predisposition to high-risk behaviour.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Is my hon. Friend aware of the campaign run by Action for Children on reforming the law on child neglect? As I understand it, at the moment the law on child neglect is simply about whether a child has a roof over their head and does not cover emotional support, which is exactly what she is talking about.

Andrea Leadsom: I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am aware of that campaign and many others, too. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has an excellent programme called “All babies count”, which is concerned about the mental health of babies. After all, that is a slightly obscure topic until one gets into it. Adult mental health has always been something of a Cinderella service for our NHS and when infant mental health is mentioned, it usually merely prompts the question, “What’s all that about?”

Our society has taken great care to develop an NHS that every man, woman and child in this country values and wishes to preserve, yet it is all about health and focuses on mental health far too little and too late. At the moment, when someone conceives, they are allocated a midwifery team and introduced to the health visiting team. If they get so far with problems, they might be introduced to the social work team. Unfortunately, there is great fear among parents of being introduced to the social work team because they fear that their baby might be taken away. They are therefore concerned about seeking help. Parents have a midwife and health visitor, who often do a fabulous job for the physical health of mum and baby while the mum is pregnant and when the baby is very young. When mum is not bonding well with her baby—she might be terribly post-natally depressed, as one in 10 women suffer from post-natal depression, but she might not know that she is suffering from it—the midwife and/or the health visitor might spot it but, at the moment, there is not much they can do. The bar is set so high for referrals to child and adolescent mental health services that someone almost needs to be at a crisis level before they can be referred for psychotherapeutic support for that earliest relationship. That is quite simply wrong.

When we talk about children being school-ready, we mean in the sense of their responding to their own name, understanding danger and understanding the word no, but those should not even be the questions that are asked. When parents are firmly bonded to their baby, they will take the trouble to teach their child about danger and to give their child breakfast. We are always firefighting. We should accept that everything we do for a baby from the moment of conception until they reach the age of two is developmental and that pretty much everything we do for them after they are two is about trying to put right damage that has already been done.

Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab): I am very interested in what the hon. Lady is saying. Is she familiar with the family nurse partnership programme that was introduced in this country a few years ago?

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The programme was about trying to avoid some of the dangers and consequences that she is talking about. The idea was not to have the social services involved in trying to clear up and deal with problems after they had developed, but to give support to young, first-time mothers—helping them with parenting skills, the bonding that is needed, feeding, playing and all the nurturing that goes into preventing some of the problems the hon. Lady has mentioned from developing. Does she agree that such programmes have an important role to play?

Andrea Leadsom: Yes. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments and I am very aware of the programme he mentions. There are many other programmes, and they all have a valid role to play. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Indeed, I want to talk about a charity that I have been involved with for 12 years now—the Oxford Parent Infant Project, which has seven satellites around Oxfordshire. It works with families and their babies to improve the quality of attachment. OXPIP has had astonishing results over those 12 years. In 2009, I gave up my role as the chairman of OXPIP to fight my general election campaign, but I always intended that if I was fortunate enough to be elected to Parliament, I would work to build a Northamptonshire Parent Infant Partnership, which I have now done. That partnership was launched six months ago and we are trying to build a service that, like OXPIP, provides psychotherapeutic support for families who are struggling to bond with their babies.

What I really want is for this approach to be established through children’s centres. We do not need more overheads or more buildings. I am a co-chair of the all-party group on Sure Start children’s centres and it has become apparent from our recent inquiry into the impact of the un-ring-fencing of the early intervention grant that it is not the case that children’s centres are closing—far from it. Directors of children’s services are very committed to support for the youngest. What I have found astonishing from that inquiry is the fact that there is no common shared understanding of best practice in children’s centres. To say that they are about getting children school-ready is to miss the point completely. School-readiness should be a result of the earliest relationship if it is sound and solid. That is where we need to focus our efforts.

I would like to see parent-infant partnerships working in every local authority in conjunction with the children’s centres and as part of those teams—working with health visitors, midwives and social workers as a point of referral. Midwives and social workers have a very full role and enormous lists of clients or patients to see. Some midwives look after up to 600 families and it is ridiculous to assume that they can see mum and sort out whether she has a safe and secure relationship with her baby as well as treat those mothers and babies who do not have such a relationship. That simply is not going to happen. Even the Government’s excellent efforts to produce far more health visitors will not provide a complete solution to this problem. Health visitors need somewhere to refer cases—a specialist team such as a parent-infant partnership that can provide the psychotherapeutic support for that mother and baby, or father and baby or adoptive parents and baby to help them to form that early bond.

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A week tomorrow, the Northamptonshire Parent Infant Project is having a one-day conference in my constituency to talk about the incredible work that can be done through early-years intervention to change our society for the better. This is not just about human happiness, although that is what drives me—the potential for all those babies to be so much better—but about the potential financial savings for our society. If we had one generation in which the vast majority of babies were securely attached by the age of five, instead of 40% not being securely attached by that age, we would radically reduce the cost to our mental health services, our prison services, our police and our social services, which are currently trying to pick up the pieces of failed early attachment.

At the conference, we will be making the case that early-years intervention and spending money in the very earliest years when babies are under two is a really good way to save money much further down the line. Research from the States suggests that a dollar spent when a baby is under two saves $19 further down the line. There is a huge argument for looking seriously at that type of service, from both a financial and a moral point of view.

3.30 pm

Alun Michael (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom). If I may summarise what she has just said, it is that if we do not address child development, education and mental health, a heavy price will be paid in the criminal justice system and by victims. She is right: prevention is better than cure.

I have declared my intention to stand for selection as the Labour candidate in the election for police and crime commissioner for south Wales. I am not sure whether a formal declaration of interest is required. One friend said that in Sir Humphrey’s terms, it was courageous to stand for an experimental role at a time of draconian cuts in police cash and numbers. I do so in the belief that the role will be difficult and challenging, and that it cannot be left to chance. The commissioner will have a contribution to make on the issues that I want to raise.

The Government are taking big risks with police finances and numbers. There is real anger among police officers, who are represented outside the Houses of Parliament today, and among many others who have already left the police force although they did not wish to do so. That is why the shadow Home Secretary was able to wipe the floor with the Home Secretary earlier.

The problem goes beyond statistics on cash and police numbers. The Government are making major changes in the policing landscape. It is a muddle. Against the background of cuts that are being made too far and too fast, we have the loss of senior and experienced police officers. Last year, there were riots in a number of English cities and we still do not know enough about why they happened. We did not have a report of the sort Lord Scarman produced after the riots in the 1980s, and although the Home Affairs Committee has issued a good report it does not enable us to predict what might trigger similar events in the future. What is certainly true is that the loss of police officers, especially those

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who are senior and experienced, will make it difficult to deploy police in the numbers and at the speed they were needed last August should such events happen again.

It is unhelpful to have so much talk about the front line—a term that ignores the important roles played by people in the background who undertake work on terrorism, child protection and internet-related offending. I am disappointed that, as my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee said, it is far from clear what Mr Winsor means by the front line in his report, or what the chief inspector of constabulary or Ministers mean by that term.

My right hon. Friend referred to the reputation that the Serious Organised Crime Agency has earned in such places as Turkey, Colombia and the USA, as I have been able to hear for myself. I reinforce his request that the Home Secretary try to find some way of retaining that branding. Why not call that division of the agency the serious and organised crime arm? That would allow the branding to be retained, if not in this country at least in our relationships with forces abroad.

A more problematic issue is that we are unclear where the many responsibilities that lie with the National Policing Improvement Agency will end up. The Home Affairs Committee has asked many questions about that, but the answer we receive is “We’ll let you know in the fullness of time.” That is not good enough.

Much has been said about the intention to create a new professional body for policing. It sounds fine and dandy. Why should there not be a body for policing just as there is for workers in a variety of other professions, including medicine? The problem is that there is no clarity about what that professional body will be. It cannot be a body that is “owned” by chief police officers—a successor to the current arrangements for representing chief police officers. It needs to be able to focus on professionalism and training. We have seen very little so far about the resources, the structure and the arrangements that would be necessary for creating that body. It is an aspiration, but we have seen no details of what would deliver professionalism and help to reinforce the need for professional police officers to feel professional and respected and to be respectable in the work that they do.

I agree strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Tony Lloyd) on the need for opportunities and a clear future for our young people. In that connection, the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire made some pertinent comments. If that need is not addressed, we will build up problems for the future.

My decision to stand for Parliament resulted from deep frustration at working with unemployed young people and young offenders in the 1980s, during the time of the Thatcher Government, which to my mind was a complete and utter disaster. I felt that something had to be done to take a grip on the failures that that Government were creating, both in terms of building a strong economy and addressing the needs of young people. I am afraid that, under the current Government, we seem to be going at an accelerated pace down the road the Thatcher Government took us, and which the years of Labour government, thank goodness, managed to reverse to a considerable extent.

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I want to say a word or two about antisocial behaviour, because that is the issue that affects many individuals, families and whole communities. In tackling antisocial behaviour, the antisocial behaviour order is a very important instrument. It was deeply disappointing when, in July 2010, the Home Secretary, in the words of the headlines, declared a death knell for the antisocial behaviour order. Little has been done since then either to deliver on that “promise”—if it was a promise; I would see it as more of a threat—or to deal with antisocial behaviour. Doing away with antisocial behaviour orders would not be a sensible contribution to tackling antisocial behaviour. Antisocial behaviour orders have been effective when used properly and intelligently, and I am pleased to say that in my area, the South Wales police and the local authorities that they work with have developed ways of using them that have been effective in protecting local communities.

The antisocial behaviour order is a simple and effective measure and it is regrettable that instead of improving its use and effectiveness—there is certainly potential for doing that—the Government are allowing it to be strangled in bureaucracy and red tape and undermining its effectiveness. I remind the House that the purpose of the order is to prevent and stop a series of events that damage the lives of local people.

It is a matter of fact that many people’s lives are ruined by a series of low-level nuisance activities—very often ones that do not quite reach the point where a prosecution or a serious police investigation is justified, but which nevertheless are ruining the lives of neighbours and individuals in the community. It is not a question of one serious incident; it is more like a movie film of minor irritation and low-level nuisance. It is a fact that antisocial behaviour orders have worked well in nipping that sort of activity in the bud.

The National Audit Office and the Audit Commission said in their report that our approach to antisocial behaviour worked, with 65% of the NAO’s review sample desisting after the first intervention and 93% after the third. That is an outcome to be desired because it stops the activity, and it is a fact that criminal records create an obstacle to employment and rehabilitation. By allowing things to continue, by not nipping things in the bud, one makes it more likely that offending will continue and an individual life will be ruined. The answer is not to ignore or condone that activity but to stop it. That is why the antisocial behaviour order is a civil order, based on evidence of nuisance activity to the civil burden of proof. Making such an order does not lead to a criminal conviction; if the individual ceases that activity, nothing follows. There is not a conviction. It is not something that stands in the way of their resuming a useful life. A breach of the order leads to prosecution on the basis of the criminal test of evidence and to a criminal conviction, but is not the aim of the order. The aim is to stop bad behaviour, and properly used the order has been enormously beneficial. I say to the Home Secretary: stop messing about with the antisocial behaviour order. Tidy up the system—increase its efficiency and by all means simplify it—but do not throw out the baby with the bath water by getting rid of the antisocial behaviour order.

Another gap in the Queen’s Speech is anything to deal with violence against women and domestic violence generally. We have been promised legislation in Wales, but there is nothing on that subject in the Queen’s

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Speech. That is another example of the Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales tackling an issue that is not of itself part of the criminal justice system, but where effective legislation would prevent people from coming into the criminal justice system through their offending. Many incidents of domestic violence, often against women but also directly and indirectly damaging to children, go unreported, perhaps until a wife or partner has been through seven, eight or more violent incidents. Prosecution and conviction are important, but that simple fact demonstrates the urgent need for systems of early support and intervention to be in place. Such systems require specialist support services, which may cost money in the short term, but save money in terms of police time, court and legal costs and NHS costs—repeated injuries can incur significant costs. Early intervention can help to avoid the family break-up that becomes inevitable following repeated and escalating violence.

Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend believe that the situation will get worse now that the Government are withdrawing legal aid for victims of domestic violence?

Alun Michael: Yes, indeed I do, because the provision of legal aid can help to resolve the direct problem. That measure, combined with the cuts in local government services, particularly in England, which have led in some places to the ending of support and early intervention services, mean that serious problems are likely to arise and to escalate, as my hon. Friend says.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): I must put the record right on this point. The Government are not taking away legal aid for victims of domestic violence. Indeed, we are keeping it for the victims of domestic violence.

Alun Michael: I note what the hon. Gentleman says and have no reason to argue with him, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will be looking very carefully at the small print of the proposals and the way in which the Government take them forward.

Violence generally is not only the top priority in crime prevention, but is very expensive to society. Without going into detail, I point out again that a project led by John Shepherd of University College hospital, Cardiff, in which a clinical approach—almost an engineering approach—is used to analyse where violence happens, the context in which it happens and its causes, has led to a 20% greater reduction in levels of violence in Cardiff in the past decade than has been achieved in equivalent cities. Given our scarce resources, we must target prevention and early intervention measures and work to understand the causes and nature of criminal activity. In that way, we can reduce the number of violent incidents, which has the benefits of reducing both the number of victims and the level of violence against victims, and of making savings to the public purse in the police and criminal justice system and in the health service.

I am pleased to see the Chairman of the Justice Committee, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), in his place. I remind Ministers

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of the commitments they made to pick up a copy of that Committee’s report on justice reinvestment. I was a member of the Select Committee at the time that report was prepared. Essentially, it asks: are we spending money in the right ways, or are there are better ways to use our resources? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that although some lessons may have been learnt from that report, many more lessons can be drawn from it, and that in many ways, when it comes to the criminal justice system, we are not spending money in the most effective way.

The report pointed out that most of the things that really affect levels of offending are outside the criminal justice system. That signals more strongly than anything else the need for strong partnerships and joint working by the police, other organisations in the criminal justice system, and those outside. We need to use the benefits of restorative justice, making offenders face up to the impact of what they have done. There are also lessons to be learned from relational justice. Some of the issues covered by the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire, to do with the way that babies and young people are treated, are often about failures of relationship, as well as moral failures.

We need to refresh the partnerships involving the police, local authorities and other agencies to cut crime. As Sir Robert Peel said when he established the first police service here in London, the purpose of policing is to prevent and reduce offending. He also said:

“The police are the public and the public are the police”,

which is a bit delphic, but I think it means that unless the police and the public are in tune—unless there is a good relationship between the police and the public—policing will not be fair and will not succeed in the basic aim of creating a safer society in which offending is not taken for granted.

The Home Secretary referred to internet-related crime. I applaud the emphasis that she placed on this modern scourge, but great care is needed. We need to be sure that we do not get things out of proportion. Given the vast growth in online retailing, I am not sure that the number of offences is that out of proportion to the numbers for retail crime in our shops. We need to be sure that the big figures do not just reflect the big increase in the size of internet trading. Care is needed because legislation should be the last refuge of any Home Secretary, not the first. We should not repeat the mistakes made over decades in the offline world, as laws rarely prevent what they forbid. I therefore encourage the Home Secretary to work this out with the industry and parliamentarians. It is not good enough to have the Government and industry deal with the issue alone; Parliament has a role.

The Home Secretary has in her team the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), who, in opposition, took on an important role in this House, working on internet-related issues. I suggest that she listen to him, and to the members of the Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum or PICTFOR, which succeeded PICTCOM, the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee. PICTFOR seeks to engage Members of this House in understanding internet-related issues. As the chair of that group, I offer our engagement in response to her welcome for that comment.

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I am disappointed not to see something in the Queen’s Speech about sprinklers to prevent preventable fires in houses, especially those in multiple occupation. I encourage the Home Secretary and the Ministers on the Front Bench to get a grip on their colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government. I had a meeting with a Minister in that Department who seems completely oblivious to the fact that the Department’s approach, and its refusal to accept such a change, means that it is putting its head in the sand and putting lives at risk. Ann Jones, an Assembly Member from north Wales, introduced a Measure on the subject in the Welsh Assembly, so Wales is benefiting from taking steps forward on this matter. I spent time with the police service in Vancouver and saw how it has been able to reduce not only the risk to life but the amount of damage to property through the installation of sprinklers in new properties. I encourage the Government to stop ignoring a measure that is supported by the insurance industry and the fire service, and to follow the Welsh Government and Assembly in implementing such a measure.

On Lords reform, we ought to look not only at the composition of a new House of Lords, but at better methods of scrutiny and constructive debate. Perhaps we ought to be more imaginative and think more laterally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central said—perhaps we should have a single Chamber but with different mechanisms—rather than just allowing the debate to grind on as it has for decades, which seems to take us nowhere.

My final point on home affairs relates to the Home Secretary’s reference to the item in the Queen’s Speech on enhancing border security. Frankly, the Home Affairs Committee has seen little indication of improvement in the work of the UK Border Agency and a great deal to be worried about. One of the problems is that it is not an agency at all. It is not a separate agency with its own directorate and a board to which it is accountable, but an integral part of the Home Office and, therefore, the direct responsibility of the permanent secretary, the Home Secretary and Ministers. They really need to get a grip on it, rather than thinking that a bit of cosmetics, such as dividing the Border Force from the Border Agency, will make the difference that is needed. Introducing responsibilities into the new National Crime Agency might help to make that difference, but it is confusing that that agency will have some responsibilities and that the Border Force is being taken out of the Border Agency.

To sum up, while Labour was in government crime fell by 40%, and that was not by accident. It was possible only through strong partnerships and effective policing by motivated officers. That was supported by sensible reforms, the provision of new powers, such as antisocial behaviour orders, new preventive work, especially partnership working through the youth offending teams and the creation of the Youth Justice Board, which I am glad the Government are now allowing to continue its good work, and halving the time it took to get young offenders before the courts. More could be done on that, because we still take too long to deal with young offenders. A society that fails to nip things in the bud when young offenders start offending, or even before they have been absorbed into the criminal justice system as a result of being caught and prosecuted, is condemned

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to live with the disastrous impact of a life of crime on victims, the community, the families of offenders and victims and, essentially, the offenders themselves. We cannot afford that and the Government should put more emphasis on the need to prevent crime in the first place.

3.52 pm

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): It is an honour to follow the right hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael). I am an avowed monarchist and bow to no one in my support for Her Majesty the Queen, who yesterday gave an excellent Gracious Speech to both Houses and demonstrated once again the wondrous duty she has done for this country over 60 years as monarch. Over the course of this year we will be able to celebrate those 60 years, and not only in this country, but across the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. Later this year, when London hosts the Olympics and Paralympics, millions of visitors to this country will be able to see our pomp and pageantry at first hand. It is one of those things that keeps the traditions of this country fresh and refreshed in everyone’s mind, so it was a matter of great pride to be able to get into the other place this time to witness the Gracious Speech at first hand.

When I campaign on the doorsteps, and not just for the local elections over the past few weeks, but solidly, week in, week out, over many years, the last thing people talk about is reform of the other place. That comes across loud and clear. They worry about their jobs, the economy, feeding their children, their children’s education, care of the elderly and care of vulnerable young people. The key issue that I think was spelt out in the Gracious Speech was that we are putting the economy at the heart of government and putting right what went wrong.

The other thing that comes across loud and clear on the doorsteps is that the people of this country recognise who put the economy into this state and who are getting us out of it. I am sure that the fear on the Opposition Benches is that we are on the right course and that by 2015 the public will have realised that, and that the people who put us in this mess in the first place will not be trusted to run this country again.

The clear issue then, as others have mentioned, is the centrality of the legislation on reform of the other place. I am one of those—I am quite open about this —who, on becoming a Member, believed in a completely elected second Chamber. I thought that appointed or hereditary peers making judgments was an anachronism, but in my two years in this place I have changed my view, because in the other place there are many people who would never be elected or, in fact, selected, but who are absolutely critical to the functioning of government and to scrutinising the minutiae of legislation. We will have an interesting debate about House of Lords reform, but I do not believe that it should clog up the business of this House for any length of time whatever. There are much more important issues on which to centre our attention.

Another issue that comes across loud and clear on the doorsteps is people’s fear of crime and the importance of punishing criminals, and we should review what happened in the previous Session. We passed legislation

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that introduces much stricter punishments on offenders and, for the first time properly, makes brandishing a knife in public an offence that will be punishable by a period of incarceration. We should remember, however, that the legislation is still being enacted, followed through and will be gradually introduced over this Session for the courts to utilise.

The most important thing is that criminals are caught, processed quickly through our courts and suffer harsh sentences, so that they act as a deterrent to those who might follow them and, equally, so that the public can feel confident that those who would cause them damage are being taken off the streets. That is the other key issue. The legislation has been enacted, so it is now for the courts to ensure that it is implemented.

One thing that has been brought home to me about our courts system, and in particular our magistrates courts, is the failure to provide proper interpreters for either victims or those accused of crimes. Cases often have to be adjourned or dealt with on a different day because courts do not have the right interpreter. That is a huge waste of court time and money—although it is all public money in the first place. Ministers have to get to grips with that issue, but it does not need legislation; it just needs proper organisation and facilities.

I have undertaken the police parliamentary scheme, and I commend it to all hon. Members in order to see at first hand the job that the police do in keeping us safe on a day-to-day basis, and to see the specialist units that combat specific types of crime. I have a concern, however. I promote the increased use of no-strike agreements in the public sector, and I want to see more of them in our emergency services and specialist services on which we depend, but if we have a no-strike agreement, as we do with the police, which makes it illegal for them to go on strike, we must ensure not only that they are on-side and understand their duties and responsibilities, but that we listen to them.

Having met the police on many occasions, I am concerned that we in Parliament are not listening to them properly, so I recommend to Ministers, in particular, that they hold face-to-face talks with the Police Federation, which has come up with plans that would cut the cost of policing throughout the UK, to ensure that we establish a demonstrable and fair position for all police officers, thereby saving in the public sector the money that we all want to see saved. At the moment there is a view among the police that they are not being listened to, and as a natural Conservative I fear that that is not the right place for us to be, so I caution our Ministers to hold proper discussions.

Having seen at first hand many of the specialist units that operate in the Metropolitan police, in particular, I have become much more informed about the risks that we run in this country today. That is why I welcome many of the Bills announced in the Queen’s Speech.

I firmly believe that the protection of vulnerable children is vital, and I commend my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) on her interesting speech on early years development, which is crucial. Another issue is that the police can tell whether a young person aged eight will be a criminal in their teens and 20s. The reality is that such young

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people have been failed by our system; many have been in care all their lives and have never had parental direction or loving, caring parents. It is vital that we change that—that we speed up the process of adoption and make sure that those vulnerable young people are protected and brought up to understand the differences between right and wrong and what a loving family is all about.

Andrea Leadsom: Does my hon. Friend agree that if we are really focused on what is right for babies, it will be essential to ensure that when adoption has to take place, it must be before the baby is two years old?

Bob Blackman: Before I came to this place, I was a councillor for 24 years, during which time I examined the problems of young people and the failure of the local authority to permit any adoptions whatever for an extended period. Early adoption, so that loving parents can take over looking after a baby, is crucial. Adoption used to take place very much quicker if, unfortunately, children were not wanted or their parents were not able to look after them. Now, of course, many thousands of children across the country are left in care for far too long and never get adopted. It is far better for there to be adopted babies rather than adopted young children. That is important.

I am delighted that we will be enshrining in law what the Labour party talked about when in power and we talked about in opposition—making sure that race will not be the single issue determining whether someone can adopt a child.

On the draft communications Bill, having spent 19 years working for British Telecom and having gone around the specialist units of the Metropolitan police, I have seen at first hand the huge increase in the use of mobile phones, texting and electronic data in general. The internet has transformed the whole of society. One issue for those who understand the technicalities is that it is one thing to detect when someone with a fixed internet protocol address joins the internet, but it is quite another when a dynamic IP address is used. If someone is a criminal or terrorist, they are likely to know about those technical aspects and avoid detection. We have to ensure that we do not fall into the trap of changing the law and putting an unnecessary burden on the vast majority of people in the country, while not catching any terrorist at all. That is my immediate concern.

I believe in the fundamental civil liberties of the individual—the right for people to go about their lawful business as they choose, with minimum interference from the state. We recognise, of course, that some liberties have to be given up so that general liberty is preserved. However, I am pleased with the clarification on the Bill—that we will not have a Government database of a huge amount of e-mail traffic. Goodness knows what the size of that database would be if it included the vast growth in e-mail and text messages. At the moment, there is software that will easily do searches of key words and strings of particular words to search all e-mail traffic across the UK. However, I suspect that that would not be helpful, as criminals and would-be terrorists would quickly develop a code that excluded all the tracked words.

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I have discussed with the Met police paedophile unit the vast growth in the number of paedophiles who use the internet to groom young people for their horrible purposes. Without going into the details of what the Met police do operationally, they say that they are just capturing the tip of a very large iceberg. We must all be concerned that there are vulnerable young people who are being groomed by those evil people. Let us be clear: they are evil people who need to be caught and punished to ensure that vulnerable people are protected. It is therefore vital that the law is changed to enable the police to do more to trap those people and to make sure that they are suitably punished. That must trump everything else.

On processes for dealing with crime and the courts, I fear that with 43 police forces across the country acting independently, criminals, particularly organised criminals who carry out their crimes across the UK, have the opportunity of not being detected. A national crime agency that will deal with this right across the UK, ensuring co-operation between police forces and taking over responsibility, must be the right way forward.

I am equally of the view that our borders must be protected. A national border force that will ensure that people who lawfully come to this country can enter, but those who try to enter illegally cannot, must, likewise, be the right way forward. Interestingly, the Queen’s Speech suggests no changes to immigration law, and that is right. Instead, we need to ensure that the existing rules are operated properly and thoroughly so as to be fair to everyone concerned. I noted the comments by the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee about people entering the UK for family parties, weddings, other celebrations, and funerals, and I share his view that there are serious problems in that regard. However, many of those problems would be solved if the applicants were properly advised to put their application in correctly with all the relevant details to prevent their being not allowed to enter the country and then having to appeal, which is a costly and totally unnecessary process.

Mark Hendrick: As somebody who gets a good number of immigration cases, I have noticed that there are more and more refusals. I think that is linked to the artificial limits that the Government are putting on to non-EU immigration rather than necessarily the eligibility of people to travel to this country for events such as those that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. I would be interested to hear the Home Secretary’s comments on that.

Bob Blackman: I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. One of the key concerns of people who have chosen to live in this country, be they of whatever origin, is that far too many people are entering the country. It is right that people who have relatives in other parts of the world should be allowed, if they wish, to have them here to visit—that is the key word—for a short period and then return. However, those visits can tend to be rather extended, with people overstaying their visas and then no action being taken, over many years, to make sure that they return. These serious concerns are shared by many people right across the various different communities that make up our great British nation. The Government must look into the matter, because the people of this country clearly expect the sheer numbers of people choosing to come to join us and live here to be reduced drastically.

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Mark Hendrick: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his generosity in giving way again. I agree totally with his analysis, but the Government’s measures to do away with appeals will not solve the problem. All that will happen is that people will put in a fresh application, which will create even more administration.

Bob Blackman: The issue of appeals is interesting. My caseload is similar to that of many other Members. When people are forced to lodge an appeal, it is almost always the case that they have failed to put the relevant information on the application in the first place. If people got their applications right, they would not need to appeal because they would be admitted rather than refused. The clear solution is to have proper advice and a proper process. People gaining permission to come to the UK before they get anywhere near booking flights is the way forward.

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): I, too, have a large immigration caseload. One of the biggest problems that my constituents face is getting good quality, affordable legal advice so that they can progress their claims. However, the Government have taken away funding for legal advice for those who are seeking to remain in this country, some of whom have been here for more than 10 years and whose children are established in schools. Families are being ripped away from the places that they know. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if we are to have a firm immigration policy, it needs to be fair? Fairness means that there is access to proper legal advice.

Bob Blackman: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I agree that it was disgraceful of the Labour Government to leave people for 10 years or more not knowing whether they had a legal right to stay in this country. I have inherited such cases in my constituency. The backlog of cases that had to be dealt with by the incoming Government was immense. There are sharp lawyers—actually, they are not sharp lawyers, but lawyers who are sharp at taking people’s money off them—who, when they have no case whatsoever, will charge people enormous sums of money to write short letters on their behalf. The lawyers who really annoy me are the ones who take money off my constituents and then write to me as their client’s MP asking me to do their job for them. I take the view that immigration rules need to be firm, fair and understood. The previous Government left people waiting, without solving their problems. [ Interruption. ] I am conscious of time, so I will not take any further interventions on that subject.

I am pleased that we will reform the position on defamation. Many of us who have been involved in public life for a long time know that going through the High Court when one has been defamed is not a cheap option. Anything that reforms that process has to be good.

I think that opening up the courts for television, if it is used in the right way, will quickly lose its novelty. I also think that it will help to get rid of the fear that people have of going to court, either as a witness or because of some other involvement in a civil case. We will get to a position quickly where people understand what really goes on in the British courts before they experience it. That is to be welcomed.

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Overall, this is a strong Queen’s Speech, particularly in the area of home affairs. It has started a process that we want to see, and it will deliver a safer and more prosperous Britain for everyone who lives here.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Before I call the next speaker, I point out that the last three speeches have lasted 24 minutes, 22 minutes and 21 minutes. If we carry on at that rate, nobody else will get in. People ought to be a little more restrained. We have eight more speakers to get in and I understand that the Front-Bench spokesmen want half an hour between them. Can we please try to ensure that everybody gets in, because people have been sat in the Chamber for a heck of a long time?


4.13 pm

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): I shall do my best to follow your wise counsel, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you for calling me to speak in this important debate.

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman). I confess that I did not agree with everything that he said, but I did agree with some of it. Especially interesting was his point about specialist police units. Many of those units do not qualify as front-line policing. That must be borne in mind when we debate police resourcing in this country. I will say a bit more on that later.

In debates such as this, it is easy to cover a whole kaleidoscope of issues, as many hon. Members have done today. I do not propose to do that in my speech, in the hope that if I speak primarily on one issue, Ministers might be more likely to listen to what I have to say. I hope so. The issue I have chosen to focus on is driving offences. I believe it correct to prosecute drink-driving vigorously. There is nothing clever, macho or in any way sophisticated in being over the limit for drink-driving. I greatly welcome the change in social attitudes that has taken place on this issue in recent years.

I believe that it is right, too, to have a proper punishment for people who drive while under the influence of drugs. I very much welcome the fact that this will be made a specific offence under the Crime and Courts Bill. I do not believe that there are any currently reliable statistics on how many people have been killed by drug-drivers, but there is one thing that we all know too well—that being drugged at the wheel and putting other people’s lives at risk is totally unacceptable and demands the toughest penalties possible. I hope that the introduction of this specialist offence will not only make our roads safer, but will bring home the message that people who are high on substances on our roads are not just a nuisance—they are criminals.

In the spirit of welcoming this change, I call on the Government to be bolder in this area. One way of doing so is by tightening up on other driving offences that also cause enormous suffering and harm. Chief among these, I think, is the menace of driving without a licence or without insurance.

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Last year, I spoke in another debate in this place about the case of nine-year-old Robert James Gaunt. Robert was tragically killed in March 2009 while crossing the road in the village of Overton in my constituency. I do not know whether Members know where Overton is, but it is a beautiful rural village fairly near the English border. This young boy was killed by a driver who had no licence or insurance, who failed to stop and who did not report the incident. In fact, what is even worse, this driver even tried to cover up the crime by having his car re-sprayed.

In this Chamber, we do not play guessing games, so I will not break that convention by playing one today and I will not ask hon. Members to guess the length of that driver’s sentence. The answer will, I think, shock many people—it was a pathetic 22 months, which was at the very top end of the scale of what was possible. If that driver could have been charged with death by dangerous driving, the maximum sentence would have been 14 years. However, under the law as it stands, being uninsured and unlicensed is not enough to qualify as dangerous. I repeat: if someone takes to the roads with no licence and no insurance, kills a child and flees the scene, that does not qualify as dangerous driving. That is quite simply preposterous and it must change. [Interruption.]

The “Justice for Robert” petition to back longer sentences for that crime was signed by 1,300 people. [Interruption.] I agree with them totally, and it is on their behalf and on behalf of other people affected by this appalling crime that I call on the Government to go further in this area and change the law. [ Interruption .]

Mark Hendrick: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the two Ministers on the Government Front Bench to be chatting, laughing and joking between them while one of my hon. Friends is discussing serious cases where people have been killed on our roads?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): That is not a point of order, but I am sure that the Ministers were listening. Who knows, they might even have been discussing the case. We should not make judgments about others; otherwise we would end up with such points going around the Chamber. I am sure that everyone takes seriously the views of Members of all parties when they are speaking.

Susan Elan Jones: I would like to deal now with the issue of what is legally defined as “dangerous driving”—that is, where a court of law can prove that the driving was extremely negligent, not just bad or careless. Sentences here, too, can also be very short in cases where victims are seriously injured, even to the extent of being paralysed, but not actually killed. The maximum sentence for that crime is also two years, and of course most people are given much shorter sentences. I believe that the current average is about 11 months. Eleven months for wrecking someone’s life through reckless criminal actions? There seems to be to be very little justice in that. Sentences for assault are longer, even when the act is not premeditated. Why should a sentence be so short when the injury was caused by a car rather than a weapon? I sincerely urge the Government to consider tightening the law in that regard. I commend their introduction of new drug-driving laws, but I believe that they must be followed by proper

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laws to deal with other serious driving crimes. That is what my constituents want, and I hope that the Government will include such measures in their Bill.

I have done all that I can in my speech to be positive about a change in the law that I greatly welcome, for, as we know, it matters precious little whether someone is Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat or a non-voter if that person is mown down by a vehicle steered by someone who is high on drugs. In welcoming that change, however, I must raise a question about the implementation of the policy, and especially about how it will affect areas such as mine in north Wales which are geographically spread out. Laws on paper mean nothing if there are unmanageable cuts involving the people who are needed to enforce them. Our north Wales police force faces 20% budget cuts, which means that by 2015 it will have to lose 179 front-line officers—the very people who will be needed to carry out roadside drug tests.

The cuts will also affect so-called “back-room” officers and other staff. They are not people who are drafted in to make cups of coffee or count paper clips; they are people working in forensics and labs, the very people who will be needed to analyse and process the “drugalyser” results which will be vital to gaining convictions. Without those people, the Government’s own excellent new law is likely to fail in its day-to-day implementation.

Whatever the differences between Members’ ideological and political viewpoints, I believe that Ministers are sincere when they tell us that they believe in localism. I offer a challenge to the Government. If they are prepared to offer referendums to people on whether they want mayors, why on earth are police and crime commissioners being foisted on us whether we want them or not? There have been various estimates of the cost of introducing them, including an estimate of £136 million over 10 years, and it is likely that elected officials overseeing forces in England and Wales outside London will be paid hefty salaries. Given that police forces face cuts of between 14% and 20%, how in heaven’s name does that policy make sense? No wonder Mr Rob Garnham, chairman of the Association of Police Authorities and himself a Conservative councillor, described it as the

“wrong policy at the wrong time”.

I have no doubt that the Government’s new and welcome policy on drug-driving will not be helped one jot by cuts in the number of trained police officers while police commissioners are foisted on us whether we want them or not.

Let me end by making three points. First, let me praise the Government for rightly introducing a new law on drug-driving; secondly, let me request them to consider introducing tougher laws on other driving offences; and thirdly, let me ask them to remember the words of one previous Conservative Prime Minister—I am sure that I need not remind them who it was—who famously said:

“Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.”

Today, as we have seen outside and heard in the House, our policemen and policewomen also need the tools and the resources, so that they can get on with their unique and essential task of tackling crime.

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4.23 pm

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): Because another of the Home Secretary’s roles is as Minister for Women and Equalities and because the Minister for Equalities, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), is sitting on the Front Bench now, I want to focus my few words about the Gracious Speech on the contribution that women can make to our economy. The first line of the speech states:

“My Government’s legislative programme will focus on economic growth, justice and constitutional reform.”

I shall raise some points about the important role women can play in helping us to achieve economic growth.

Yesterday’s speech was, of course, delivered by a woman who has been an outstanding role model in this country and across the world, and it is wonderful to be celebrating her diamond jubilee this year. As I sat in the House of Lords Gallery listening to Her Majesty, I thought of another great female: Baroness Ritchie of Brompton, who passed away on 24 April. She did so much for women—especially in respect of Conservative candidates and helping more women achieve their potential in the House of Commons. As only 22% of current MPs are women, we clearly still need to do more.

Female entrepreneurs can certainly help to create economic growth. In the UK, 150,000 more start-ups would be created every year if women were to start businesses at the same rate as men do. If women here in the UK were to set up businesses at the same rate as women in the US, there would be approximately 600,000 more businesses, contributing about £42 billion extra to the economy. This is an important issue, therefore.

Some steps have already been taken. A women’s business council has been established, which advises the Government on how to boost the role women play in the economy. Funding has been announced for 5,000 female business mentors. The mentoring portal, mentorsme.co.uk, has been launched, providing a single point of contact for both those seeking mentoring and those who want to be mentors—and I would encourage anyone with business skills to become a mentor. There is also a £2 million fund supporting female entrepreneurs to set up in rural areas, under the rural growth networks scheme.

More can be done, however. My hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) spoke powerfully about the early development of children, and she also made a plea for us to scrap regulation on micro-businesses employing between one and three people. We must encourage new businesses and help them develop. The Federation of Small Businesses in my area recently talked about the national insurance holiday, a great initiative that gives a national insurance holiday of up to £5,000 in respect of a firm’s first 10 employees. It does not apply in London at present, but if it were to do so, that would greatly help my constituents. Also, it only covers the first year, and extending it to a second year would make a great difference to small businesses.

We must also further encourage enterprise education in schools and universities, so that many more young people, especially young women, consider the option of starting up a business. We must consider the child care options available to self-employed women, too, so they can run their business while also bringing up their

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children. Some women who sit on boards in the City told me recently that they would very much like to be female business angels, helping companies set up by women and also helping women create new enterprises.

Much more can be done for enterprise and to encourage women to become entrepreneurs. This month in my constituency we are having an enterprise event. All the women in the Hounslow area of the constituency have been invited to come along and talk with female entrepreneurs. We have some fabulous female-entrepreneur role models, and we must ensure that they can help inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. Organisations including banks, StartUp Britain and chambers of commerce also have a role to play in this regard.

The second issue I would like to touch on is how women in the boardroom can make a difference to economic growth. We still have a lot of work to do here, but some progress has been made. This is an important issue, given the huge potential in having women at senior levels in business; we do not want to waste that talent, which could be contributing at such levels. Studies by McKinsey and others show the business benefits of having a more gender-balanced board. Companies with greater gender diversity significantly outperform their sector in return on equity, operating profits and stock price growth, not to mention increased quality of decision making and corporate governance. That is especially true where a board has more than three women members.

The work of Lord Davies and his committee has given this issue much more visibility in the City and elsewhere. Now, 15.6% of FTSE 100 companies and 9.6% of FTSE 250 companies have women board members. As we can see, there is still some way to go. We have set the FTSE 100 companies a target to increase that figure to 25% by 2015; changed the UK corporate governance code, requiring companies to be more transparent and to report on their policy for boardroom diversity; and encouraged head-hunters to adhere to a voluntary code of conduct.

We need to get more women into the boardroom, and more work needs to be done to develop the business case and to persuade the FTSE 350 companies of the benefits of gender diversity in the boardroom. We need to encourage chief executives and chairmen to act as ambassadors for change, and to meet “board-level” women who are ready to take up such positions. We need to identify priority companies on which to focus in increasing the number of women on boards, and to consider how best to increase the number of women in executive as well as non-executive board positions. There has been an increase in the latter, but not so much in the former. We need to look at every single level of the organisation in question to see what it is doing to encourage and promote women at all levels. We also have a role to play in monitoring and promoting examples of best practice. Careers advice is really important throughout women’s lives—not just when they are at school or leaving college or university—so that they have the confidence and ability to take up those critical positions.

There are other initiatives in the Queen’s Speech to help women. Flexible leave will help people to fulfil their potential and will provide support for families. Both parents can share the parenting responsibility and

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balance work and family commitments. Flexible leave will be really important in the long term and will help to make a real difference in getting women into senior positions in organisations.

The Queen’s Speech also refers to the modernising of adult social care. A lot of work is being done on the role of carers, who do an incredible job and do not get thanked enough for what they do. Often, they are elderly people. Given that we have an ageing population, this issue is becoming increasingly important, and I am very pleased that the Queen’s Speech addresses it.

Finally, the Queen’s Speech refers to the Government’s plan to spend 0.7% of gross national income as official development assistance from 2013. I congratulate the Government on the work that has been done on international development, but I want to encourage them to go further on micro-financing. The MicroLoan Foundation, a Chiswick-based charity that supports African women through micro-financing, has had 99% of such loans repaid. This is a great way to look at the longer-term economic sustainability and development of these countries, by supporting women and others, and helping them to get a great start in life.

I began by talking about the Queen and I will also end by discussing Her Majesty, because in the Queen’s Speech we also talked about reform of the rules governing succession to the Crown. I was pleased about that, because it is long overdue and we have wonderful examples among our monarchs. Queen Victoria was on the throne for 63 years and our current Queen is about to celebrate her diamond jubilee.

The Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury (Michael Fabricant): And Elizabeth I.

Mary Macleod: Elizabeth I too. We have so many examples of fabulous role models who have given years and decades of service to this country. Allowing female heirs to succeed to the throne when they are the first born is absolutely a step in the right direction.

These measures will all help to make Britain become even greater. We have never been a country that does not rise to the challenges that we face—indeed, we have faced and conquered them in so many different ways. This year of the diamond jubilee, and of the Olympics and Paralympics, is a year to celebrate who we are, what we have achieved and the potential of this country, and women are essential to this.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. I just want to make certain that everybody gets in during the remaining time available, so I am going to introduce a nine-minute limit.

4.36 pm

Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I welcome you back to the Chair. It is great to follow my neighbour, the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod). I listened to her interesting contribution, and although I may disagree on a few issues, I did agree on others. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak in this important debate about the home affairs and justice elements of the Gracious Speech.

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Before I come to some specifics, I wish to put on the record my general thoughts about the impact on my constituents of the Government’s proposals in the Gracious Speech. Given the country’s woeful economic position—thanks to the double-dip recession made in Downing street—my constituents will see little hope in these proposals. We face record levels of unemployment, with 1 million young people looking for work. They will see little assistance from a Government who are out of touch and fixated on giving help to millionaires but offering little to hard-pressed families.

Nothing is being proposed to get the economy back into growth, to create jobs or to tackle runaway energy bills and train fares. The picture is bleak for my constituents and other hard-working families in Britain. The Government, with such a thin programme of legislation, are effectively walking by on the other side of the road as ordinary people suffer; they are helping only their millionaire friends.

Let me first make some remarks about the Crime and Courts Bill and the proposal to set up the National Crime Agency to take on serious, organised and complex crime, enhance border security, tackle the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, and tackle cybercrime. That agency will be continuing the work of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which was launched by Labour in 2006, and we wish it well. However, Labour Members are concerned that the Government have taken reform in this area backwards by scrapping the National Policing Improvement Agency. Chief constables are very concerned that scrapping bodies such as the NPIA will mean losing focus on crime-fighting and having to worry about the delivery of training, IT and other services instead. The Home Secretary has refused here, in this Chamber, to answer questions to confirm the budget for the NCA. With the loss of 16,000 officers, further cuts to the NCA will only undermine it even further. The loss of 16,000 police officers from the front line will have a serious impact on efforts to tackle serious and lesser crimes as well as antisocial behaviour.

That figure of 16,000 was the number of police officers deployed on the streets of London after the riots last summer. In my constituency, the community came together powerfully in partnership with the police to protect our religious places and businesses from the wanton criminality of the riots, but I fear the consequences if there was a repeat of those events with police resources so diminished. The 12% cut proposed by the Opposition could have been made without the need to cut front-line resources and officers, and the fight against crime could have continued successfully as it did over the lifetime of the Labour Government.

Bob Stewart: In what way would the hon. Gentleman keep front-line policemen under the Opposition’s proposals when cuts need to be made? How would he do it?

Mr Virendra Sharma: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question and I shall answer it later in my speech.

The Government talk about enhancing border security, but the complete shambles over which the Home Secretary is currently presiding gives little confidence that that can be done. Reports from Heathrow at the weekend that, in order to clear the queues at passport control, UK Border Agency staff were taken off security checks

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and Customs work are very worrying. My constituency, like many others throughout the UK, has a problem with drug-related crime and at the moment the Home Secretary is giving the drug barons and terrorists a clear run through Customs and our borders as she fails to get a grip on this crisis.

One other area of concern, particularly to many of my constituents, is the Government’s proposal to remove the full right of appeal for a refused family visit visa. Like many other MPs, I deal with hundreds of visa cases on behalf of my constituents who often want family to join them for important family events such as weddings and funerals. Mistakes are and will continue to be made and natural justice demands a full right of appeal. Why is that element of justice and fairness being stripped away?

Another disappointment is the absence of a forced marriage Bill in this Queen’s Speech. Again, this is an issue in my constituency, and given the Prime Ministers’ words in January, when he stated that the Government were looking to make forced marriage a criminal offence, and following the conclusion of the Home Office consultation in March, why is no Bill proposed in this next Session of Parliament?

Before I finish, let me highlight a positive aspect of the Government’s proposals. The judicial appointments reform that will increase diversity in the judiciary is very welcome and long overdue. That said, there is very little positive to focus on in the Queen’s speech. As the Leader of the Opposition said, it is a message of “no hope” and “no change” and the Government

“just do not get it.”—[Official Report, 9 May 2012; Vol. 545, c. 14.]

4.43 pm

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma), although I have to say that I must have listened to a different Queen’s Speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod) did an excellent job of setting out exactly what is in the Queen’s Speech for business. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that it contains provisions on reform of the banks, which we need to ensure stability, on cutting red tape, on the Green investment bank, and on allowing renewable development to continue. I should also point out that the Government have already introduced measures on youth unemployment through the youth contract and apprenticeships, so they are not sitting on their hands doing nothing as he was suggesting.

I want to focus on the proposals relating to home affairs and justice issues. First, however, let me say a couple of things about House of Lords reform, to which all parties made a commitment in their manifestos. I assume that all of them are unhappy with a scenario in which we have 92 hereditary peers and peers who are appointed by party leaders making decisions about our legislation. I hope, therefore, that all Members will want to facilitate a process that enables us to come to a rapid conclusion on this and that these proceedings will not be delayed as a result of actions by Liberal Democrat Members.

Mark Hendrick: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

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Tom Brake: I shall not because there is little time for other Members to speak.

Let me focus on the National Crime Agency, which I welcome. I have had discussions with Keith Bristow, who will be heading up the NCA. The Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee said that Keith Bristow was currently the only employee of the NCA so I am very pleased to have met 100% of its employees. Mr Bristow confirmed that for the first time we will have national tasking for the police, which I welcome. I am sure that most Members will be surprised to learn that there has previously been no capacity for national tasking. The real challenge for the NCA will be how the relationship between the chief constable, the NCA and the elected police and crime commissioners will work. How will they work together? Clearly, they will to some extent be pulling in different directions and might have different priorities. How that is managed will be key to the NCA’s effectiveness.

I understand that there will be some issues with funding in that transfers of money will sometimes have to take place if NCA resources are called on, so that issue requires some investigation. Also, at some point the issue of where responsibility for counter-terrorism should lie will have to be addressed, but I accept that it would have been inappropriate for that to happen before the Olympics. I regret that it has not been possible to identify ways in which some parts of the NCA could be subject to freedom of information considerations. It will have to work very hard to demonstrate through the annual reports it will produce and the information it is going to make available that it is completely transparent.

I strongly welcome the measures on freedom of speech and defamation, and I hope that the use of the word “insulting” will be addressed in relation to section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. An interesting alliance of groups will support such changes if they come forward. The changes on defamation are very welcome. I do not think that any Member of the House is comfortable with a situation in which the United Nations Committee on Human Rights describes our laws as discouraging

“critical media reporting on matters of serious public interest, adversely affecting the ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work”.

There is a need to take action and I welcome the fact that the Government are doing that.

On justice and security, I understand that the proposals on closed material proceedings will no longer apply to inquests. I hope that is true because the original Green Paper was far too wide in what it proposed. That approach will be restricted to national security issues only and there will be a requirement for a judicial approval process to be gone through before CMP can be invoked. I also welcome the plans to strengthen oversight of our security and intelligence agencies because there are concerns that our services have been involved in some activities that might make us all uncomfortable.

There has been a degree of confusion about the communications data proposals; even on Radio 4 this morning, we were told that e-mails would now be covered, whereas most Members will be aware that e-mails are already covered by existing communications data measures. However, we need to look at safeguards. We have a strange scenario in the UK, where there are about 500,000 comms data requests every year. I hope the Government will look at a sample to work out how

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many of them actually lead to something concrete in terms of helpful evidence or prosecution. If we can cut down significantly the number of requests, it will be much easier to involve a third party or a judicial process when issuing permissions. Currently, the volume of requests would seem to make that impossible. I hope that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 will be looked at as part of that process. I welcome the extra safeguards the Government are considering to extend the roles or powers of the interception of communications commissioner and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

I welcome the reform of laws affecting children. I have already referred to the campaign that Action for Children is running on the reform of laws on child neglect, to make sure that it is not just about children having a roof over their head, but about getting emotional support, which, as we heard earlier, is key to a child’s development.

When discussing the shared parenting proposals, my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), the Chair of the Justice Committee, highlighted the fact that we shall have to be careful not to encroach on the rights of the child. Children should be at the centre of the process, even though we want to support both parents in having access to their children.

I regret that there is nothing in the Queen’s Speech about equal marriage. I understand that it was not possible to include proposals while consultation is still under way, but there is a firm commitment.

The Queen’s Speech demonstrates for a second time that the coalition Government are committed to effective reforms of policing, the security services and the courts. We will be relying more heavily on policy that is based on evidence of what works and that achieves the right balance between civil liberties and safety and security.

4.52 pm

Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake). I agreed with his point about support for fostering, but not with much else.

This is only my second Queen’s Speech debate, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak. My disappointment is that this is a thin Gracious Speech, made up of bits and bobs and failing to address a double-dip recession in this Olympic and diamond jubilee year.

As we know, the Queen is visiting all parts of the UK this year. Despite the showers, she was warmly welcomed in Blaenau Gwent two weeks ago.

I am a supporter of constitutional reform and I hope that it will progress “quietly and quickly”—to quote the Business Secretary—but it is not a key issue for my constituents in Abertillery, Brynmawr, Ebbw Vale or Tredegar. Their concerns are, rightly, far more prosaic. They are concerned about unemployment, high energy prices and cuts in public expenditure that go too far, too fast. That is why they gave Labour councillors a resounding victory in Blaenau Gwent at the local elections last week.

In addition to home affairs issues, I will look at wider matters affecting Blaenau Gwent. Last month in the Financial Times, my right hon. Friend the Member for

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Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling) explained that the private sector is unconvinced by the Government’s austerity strategy. It wants a plan for growth, if it is to create new private sector jobs on the scale required. Investment in assets such as roads and transport infrastructure is needed in Blaenau Gwent. Our unemployment there is 12.2%, and youth unemployment is 19.4%. We need jobs and we need them now.

Electrification of our Ebbw Vale to Cardiff line, with other valley lines, is hugely important to us. Evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee showed that Lille, a poor, former mining area in northern France, had benefited from high speed rail lines—not just construction jobs but sustainable, long-term jobs. There is a lesson there.

The Government say they will continue to work with the devolved Administrations. We have an enterprise zone in Ebbw vale and the opportunity to invest in infrastructure for a new motor sport complex, which would be a real game changer for us. The Welsh Government and Welsh Ministers are on side, but we need the Treasury to be imaginative and to support enhanced capital allowances there.

As we know, the Government have started shedding public sector jobs, but the private sector is nowhere near filling the employment gap. That is why Labour says, “You don’t bring the deficit down by putting people on the dole.”

Police officers are lobbying us today, including officers from Gwent. I am very concerned about the closing of police stations in my constituency and the loss of up to 167 police officers. No one wants to see fewer police officers working to solve serious crimes.

I turn now to public health. Welsh Government research shows that men in my constituency of Blaenau Gwent have the lowest disability-free life expectancy at birth in Wales, at just 54.3 years. Sadly, the Government have failed to take the decisive action needed to help tackle significant contributors to poor health, such as alcohol misuse. While the Prime Minister has belatedly backed a minimum price for alcohol at 40p a unit, which I welcome, it is still below the 50p recommended by the doctors, Alcohol Concern and many others. Action on advertising and sponsorship is needed. Alcohol Concern Cymru recently surveyed primary schools and found that children as young as 10 are more familiar with some leading alcohol brands and adverts than those for popular foods. That cannot be right. Sixty-two per cent. recognised Magners, a brand which until recently sponsored rugby’s Celtic league. Recognition was significantly higher among boys than girls, and among those who lived in south and west Wales. So we need more effective controls on advertising and sports sponsorship. It is essential to protect our children’s health.

As a former NSPCC campaign manager, I of course welcome proposals to improve protection of children in care and to speed up adoption. That is a key proposal for children, who will always need our laser-like focus to make their early years as safe as possible.

We await a draft Bill on adult care. Measures to regulate providers and ensure that residents get a fair funding deal are vital. Last week we heard that private equity company Terra Firma had taken over Four Seasons, which took over Southern Cross, which runs two care homes in my constituency. Residents and their families

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are dismayed by that pass-the-parcel approach. They want safeguards to ensure sound business plans, which the Government have so far failed to deliver.

In conclusion, we have heard much from the Cameron/Clegg double act about not landing our children with debt. Yet youth unemployment is nearly 20% in Blaenau Gwent. It is unfair that teenagers leaving school should find the heavy burden of this Government’s economic failure falling on their young shoulders. We want a fair deal on jobs, with money from a bankers bonus tax to help 100,000 out-of-work young people aged between 18 and 24. That is what people in the south Wales valleys think makes good sense and good government. They believe, as this rainy, wet April has shown, that this Queen’s Speech has been a damp squib. It deserves, then, to be given a very large thumbs down.

4.59 pm

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): As the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz)—I thank him for his kind words—predicted, I will focus my remarks today on one particular measure in one particular Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech. I have been lobbying for the measure for some months, and I hope the House will forgive me for focusing on a single issue.

On 26 June 2010, my constituent Lillian Groves, a 14-year-old girl, was killed outside her home by a driver under the influence of drugs. Subsequently, it transpired that he was driving a car that was not licensed in his name, uninsured, at 43 mph in a 30 mph zone. A half-smoked joint of cannabis was found on the dashboard, but sadly the police did not swiftly perform a drug test; only after Lillian passed away in hospital, some nine hours later, was the driver’s blood tested. Cannabis was found in his blood and he subsequently admitted to having taken cannabis, but the Crown Prosecution Service concluded that the level was not high enough—the family was never told what the level was—to warrant the more serious charge of causing death while driving under the influence of drugs. The man was charged with causing death by careless driving and causing death while driving uninsured. On 7 July, he was sentenced to just eight months in prison, and was released after serving four months.

Bob Stewart: When people do such things, why can we not ban them from driving for life?

Gavin Barwell: I think the issues here are the offence committed and changing the law. I will explain how the Queen’s Speech is doing just that, but first I will complete the narrative. The driver who killed Lillian lives locally, so the family have to confront the fact that, now that he has been released from prison, they will from time to time meet this man—who has never apologised to them for causing the death of their daughter—as they go about their business in their local community.

Lillian’s parents, Gary and Natasha, and her aunt and uncle came to see me at one of my surgeries in the autumn after the sentence had been handed down and shortly before the individual was due to be released from prison. A parent myself, I cannot say how high is the regard in which I hold the family. To suffer the tragedy of losing a child and not to be consumed by bitterness, but instead to focus on how to ensure that positive change can come out of such a terrible event,

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has to be commended by everyone. I also commend the

Croydon Advertiser

and in particular journalist Gareth Davies, who has worked with the family and designed a campaign for what they call Lillian’s law.

Lillian’s law is a package of measures. It has four elements, the first of which is a change in the law. At present, it is an offence to drive under the influence of drugs, but the law is not the same as in relation to drink-driving. There is no set level of drug in a person’s system above which they are held to be incapable of driving, so the prosecution has to prove that the person’s driving was affected by the drugs in their system, which is not easy. The second element is the licensing of equipment similar to the breathalyser alcohol test that can be used either at the roadside or in police stations. The third is a policy of tougher sentencing for those who commit such crimes, and the fourth is a series of random tests, similar to those carried out in the 1980s for drink-driving, to get across the messages, first, that it is unacceptable to drive under the influence of drugs and, secondly, that people who do so are liable to be caught.

After the family came to speak to me, I did a lot of research. To be fair, the previous Government were aware of the problem and had looked for ways to tackle it, but the work had become bogged down and a number of different Government Departments were involved. I therefore decided to go straight to the top and raised the subject in this Chamber during Prime Minister’s questions. The Prime Minister met the Groves family, took up their case and has worked with the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Department for Transport to ensure that the first key element of the package—a change in the law—is included in the Crime and Courts Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech.

At this point, I wish to pay tribute to a couple of other people. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) has previously pursued the issue via a private Member’s Bill. I also thank my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) and for Orpington (Joseph Johnson), who have among their constituents members of the extended Groves family and have supported the campaign.

In yesterday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech, the Leader of the Opposition, perhaps understandably, quoted remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries), who said that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor were

“two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to understand the lives of others.”

I am very disappointed that my hon. Friend said those words. I can understand why the Leader of the Opposition quoted them, but I hope that he and other Opposition Members do not personally believe them. My experience is that Members on both sides of the House have a passion for understanding the lives of others and changing our country for the better. When we try to pretend that the motives of people who disagree with us about the means of doing so are malign, we do politics as a whole a disservice.

The experience of the Groves family, when they met the Prime Minister at No. 10 Downing street, was not of someone who did not have a passion to understand the

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lives of others, or of someone who, as the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, was standing up “for the wrong people.” They met one of the very few Members of this House who can personally understand the experience that they have been through in losing their child—someone who took a great deal of time to listen to what they had to say and to understand the issue, and who then took up their cause. On a personal level, on their behalf, I thank the Prime Minister for what he has done. I would like to ask my hon. Friends on the Front Bench detailed questions about where we go from here.

I understand that drugs-testing devices for police stations are already being tested. Perhaps Ministers could give an update on how that testing is going. Will they indicate when they might be in a position to begin testing devices for use at the roadside? I understand that an expert panel is looking at what levels should be set for each drug. That applies to illegal drugs and some prescription drugs that, if taken in significant quantities, make it unsafe to drive a car. I wonder if we could have an update on the progress that that panel is making. I would also be interested to hear what the proposed sentencing policy is for the new offence that will be set out in the Bill.

I have about two and a half minutes left, so I should like to end by making a few comments on what the shadow Home Secretary had to say about police cuts, and on some of the questions that she fielded from Government Members. She tried to contend that Government Members do not know or understand the pressures that the police forces are under. In relation to my local borough operational command unit, I spent three days during this House’s ludicrously long holidays shadowing police officers in Croydon. I spent a day with a safer neighbourhoods team, a day with a response team, and a day with the robbery squad in Croydon. I saw for myself the enormous pressures that they are under, and I heard officers’ concerns about the combined effect of a pay freeze, pension reform and the Winsor review recommendations.

Government Members are certainly not unsympathetic to the case that police officers make, or ungrateful for the huge amount of work that they have done. I am particularly grateful for the work they did in my constituency in the wake of the riots. However, we find it very difficult when Opposition Members seek to avoid any responsibility for the financial mess in which the country finds itself. The level of deficit that this Government inherited is not solely the fault of the Labour Government —they had to intervene in a recession, and we understand that—but the Labour Government did make a contribution to the scale of that deficit.

The shadow Home Secretary was asked to say in detail where, if the Opposition’s proposal is for a cut of £1 billion in police funding, she would find the other £1 billion that is needed. She tried two arguments. First, she said that the scale of the cuts that the coalition proposes goes beyond what Labour would do, but that is not actually Labour’s policy. Labour’s policy is that the structural deficit should be dealt with over two Parliaments, rather than just one. That implies the same cuts over a longer period.

The second point that the shadow Home Secretary made was that growth was the answer; the problem was that the Government’s policies on growth were failing. We all want growth, but growth does not deal with the

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structural deficit. By definition, a structural deficit is one that remains, however much economic growth there is. The challenge to those on the Opposition Front Bench is still there. There is a structural deficit to be dealt with. The amount is agreed by both parties. If the Opposition do not support a particular cut that the Government propose, where will they find the money that is needed as an alternative? Until they come up with an answer to that question, they will have no credibility.

5.9 pm

Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): This Queen’s Speech is a joke, but not a very funny one. Thankfully, we all know that the Queen did not write it, although she had the unpleasant task of having to read it out yesterday in the House of Lords.

I will say a little about policing in Lancashire. As many people will know, Lancashire has the best police force in the country—it has been independently assessed as the best of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) is no longer in his place but has been replaced by one of his Lib Dem ministerial colleagues, now the only Lib Dem Member in the Chamber, which shows what respect the Lib Dems have for the coalition speech that the Queen delivered. If we look at the police force in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency, we will see that it will lose 1,486 police officers, or 1,907 police staff overall, including front-line officers, so I was quite surprised that the first thing he talked about in his speech was House of Lords reform. Given the fact that his constituents are losing so many police officers, I am sure that they will be horrified that their parliamentary spokesperson is putting House of Lords reform at the top of his agenda. That just shows how out of touch the Liberal Democrats are. When I go into my local pub or club, my steward and my constituents do not come up to me and say, “What we really need, Mark, is House of Lords reform.” They are talking about crime on the streets, antisocial behaviour and the day-to-day problems they have to deal with.

In talking of day-to-day problems that people have to deal with, and why we need the police to deal with them, I should point out that the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly), is losing only 65 front-line officers in his constituency. I am sure that in leafy Cambridgeshire the public will not miss 65 police officers, but they will miss 550 police officers in my constituency, and they will miss almost 1,500 police officers in Carshalton and Wallington. I know that the Minister’s constituency has a bit of trouble now and then when Huntingdon Life Sciences is attacked and a few extra police officers have to be drafted in, but the seriousness of these cuts is lost on some Government Members.

The hon. Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell) says that Opposition Members accuse the Government of not being sympathetic to the lives that people face or to the victims of crime. I am sure that they are sympathetic, but we are talking about crime on a far bigger scale in many of our inner cities and in many parts of the country. That needs far bigger and more effective police forces that have to be able to deal with it.

We know that things are getting bad when the police themselves take to the streets to go on marches. There is

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a demonstration today in which thousands and thousands of police officers have descended on London, including officers from my constabulary in Lancashire, to protest about the 20% cuts in policing. Members of this House, as well as families and communities up and down the country, will be supporting them.

Fairly recently I met representatives of the Lancashire Police Federation, and they reminded me of a meeting I had with them four or five years ago, when Jacqui Smith was Home Secretary and they complained about changes to their working arrangements and pensions that took place under the previous Labour Government. When I met them a couple of months ago over a very nice lunch in Preston, they said, “Bring back Jacqui Smith”, but I am afraid that they do not have that option at the moment. What they are left with is a Home Secretary who basically does not give a toss—[ Interruption. ]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. That is unparliamentary language. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw that terminology.

Mark Hendrick: I withdraw the comment, Mr Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I should use a more appropriate expression and say that the Home Secretary does not care as much as she should do.

As I have said, Lancashire constabulary is the best of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. Let us look at the sort of money that is being withdrawn by central Government. In real terms—cumulative cash terms—in 2011-12 there was a 6% cut, in 2012-13 there will be a 13% cut, in 2013-14 there will be a 17% cut, and in 2014-15 there will be the magic 20% cut that police forces up and down the country are facing.

The Government base their predictions on those of the Office for Budget Responsibility and predict that council tax will increase by 3.4% per annum. The OBR might be giving a figure of 3.4% per annum, but the Government are telling local authorities to freeze council tax, as many Tory authorities throughout the country are, so, when authorities look at the money available to them, particularly through the police precept, they find that, if everybody sticks to the Conservative line on freezing council tax, they will not have that 3.4% to include in the budget and, therefore, will have to cut even more from the police budget.

We know that, if councils want an increase of more than 3.5%, they will also have to hold a referendum to get that budget measure through, costing them not only in a referendum, but through the likelihood of losing it. Constituents will not want to pay more for a service that is not as good. The Government have therefore been cynical to say the least in putting forward this estimate of a 3.4% increase in council tax.

If we look at central funding for the Lancashire police force, we find that its income will fall from £220.21 million in 2011-12 to £195.53 million in 2014-15, and that we are going to see funding gaps in the first year of £13.82 million and in the final year of £8.32 million. That is from a very lean starting point for Lancashire constabulary: 28.6% of its back-office budget has gone; 20% of its middle-office budget has gone; and now almost 10% of its front-line budget has gone, despite the Prime Minister indicating that there was no need at all to cut any front-line police.

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On the impact, 5,000 police nationally have already gone, and some 550 police officers will go in Lancashire, along with 250 police staff. Lancashire’s record is, however, fantastic. Crime has gone down year on year since 2004; all crime is down by 34%; acquisitive crime is down by 45%; burglary is down by 36%; violent crime is down by 31%; and antisocial behaviour has fallen since April 2009, from 155,000 incidents to 100,000.

The situation is ridiculous. When Labour left office there were record numbers of police officers on the streets, with over 16,500 more than when we took office in 1997. The Government should urgently rethink the scale of police cuts and set out a proper plan to cut crime instead. The Queen’s Speech included nothing about crime, and the Government will rue the day they did nothing about it, because, although their constituents will not feel the cuts in the way that ours do, they will still pay the price.

5.18 pm

Simon Reevell (Dewsbury) (Con): I am grateful for the opportunity to make some observations about three matters raised in yesterday’s Gracious Speech: one proposal that should be straightforward, one that can be made so and one that I fear cannot. I should also declare an interest, as registered, not least because it includes prosecuting in the criminal courts, on which I shall touch.

The proposed offence of drug-driving does, as other Members have already said, actually exist. It is in section (4) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and has been around since then. It involves

“driving…unfit…through drink or drugs.”

The difficulty is with measuring “unfit”, which according to the Act occurs at the point when

“ability to drive properly is…impaired.”

The test is designed with alcohol in mind, and drugs require a much simpler approach, recognising that possession of alcohol is legal but possession of real problem drugs is not.

Consumption of alcohol is legal, so Parliament sets a level beyond which the assumption is that driving is impaired. Prohibited drugs, which by definition are not legal, need no such tolerance. The possession of such drugs is an offence, so it would be bizarre to have a threshold for driving which was based on impairment. All that is required is a simple law stating that a person in charge of a motor vehicle while in possession of a prohibited substance commits an offence and that possession shall include that which is within the person. The difference between drugs in the pocket and drugs in the bloodstream would be reflected in sentencing and evidence would be obtained using the same technology as is used in compulsory drugs tests carried out for the armed forces and many other organisations. The same defences available to those charged with drink-driving, such as inadvertent consumption, would be available. I hope that the opportunity to deal with the matter simply and effectively will not be missed.

The second area is the proposal to extend powers to access communications. It is worth pausing to consider the current position, in which telephone traffic, the location of telephones, and the record and content of

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text messages are all used and provide valuable evidence, along with entries from Facebook, e-mail and the like. If the police recover an accused’s computer or telephone, web searching and web content will all feature at trial.

The proposals simply make the matter more straightforward in the context of the developing use of instant communication. It is difficult, if not impossible, to draw any real distinction between the fact of a text message and the fact of an instant message. It would be ridiculous if the difference between the text icon and messaging icon was the difference between the availability of evidence or otherwise. However, the role of messaging and the growth in its use has been huge. If it had been suggested in 2000 that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act would compel people to lodge all their private post with the Royal Mail for 12 months, there would have been uproar, but the suggestion for electronic messaging is the 2012 equivalent. It may be necessary, but as the powers change so much so, too, must the safeguards.

Legislation of that type, sold on the back of the fight against paedophiles and terrorists, ends up in the hands of a wide variety of public bodies for which its use is totally disproportionate. If the Government want that significant extension of the scope of the data that they can see, there must be real safeguards such as the identification of specific offences to which the legislation will apply; disclosure to police and security services only; and access via a High Court judge’s order to named officers only. The legislation can be made to work, but there has to be a recognition that although it is a progression, it is a significant progression and safeguards are necessary.

The third area is somewhat different. I am afraid that if it is read carefully, the consultation document on the increased use of closed courts sets out a policy that appears to have at its heart a desire to protect Governments from direct or indirect embarrassment. For decades, there have been examples of Government Departments appearing to regard the public interest as meaning, at least in part, that errors are hidden and omissions denied. Public interest does not mean that.

The proposals are at odds with our principles of open justice, and the justifications for the departure in the consultation document are few and unconvincing. If the British state ensures that it never again colludes with those who kidnap and torture in the name of justice, we will not need to worry about Norwich Pharmacal applications on behalf of the victims.

The measures are not proposed for the criminal courts, of course, but it is to the civil courts that the citizen comes seeking remedy against the state. To cloak those courts in secrecy is good news for those who fear accountability, but not for those who wish to shine light on the extent of their mistreatment by the state. I hope that the recognition that the proposal cannot be extended into the criminal courts, and the realisation that a Minister should not decide whether it should apply in the civil courts, is, in fact, the beginning of an acceptance that the proposal is simply wrong.

5.24 pm

Mr Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): This debate has taken place against the backdrop of a huge march by the country’s police officers. An estimated 30,000 police

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officers have been on the streets in London, not a stone’s throw away from here. They have been marching in their thousands against swingeing cuts to the police front line and the Government’s decision to cut 20% from police budgets. Today’s consideration of the broad aspects of the Queen’s Speech and its specific home affairs and justice aspects has to be seen in this context.

A few years ago, I took part in the police service parliamentary scheme, which was an ideal opportunity to see at first hand and to experience what policing meant at the sharp end. I was seconded to the city of Newport and spent a number of weeks witnessing what policing actually meant. It was an extremely valuable experience, particularly because I saw the multiplicity of problems that the police had to face in the conduct of their duties. As a result, my estimation of the police rose enormously. All Members should participate in the scheme if they have the opportunity to do so, because I have absolutely no doubt that their view of the police will be heightened enormously. One police officer told me that although they might have had some reservations about what the Labour Government were doing at the time, the investment in policing meant that it was transformed, particularly in our poorest communities. The current deep and rapid police cuts mean that the people who live in our poorest communities, and who need police support more than anybody else, will suffer most of all.

This afternoon’s debate has been good and wide-ranging. The hon. Member for Milton Keynes North (Mark Lancaster) spoke lucidly about the children and families Bill. The hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) referred to the banking proposals in the Queen’s Speech, the European Union and measures for small businesses. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) welcomed the introduction of an offence for drug driving, and in doing so made a very powerful statement to this House. My hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) made a very strong speech covering children’s issues and alluding to his own personal experience. He also referred graphically to the situation in his constituency, which is one of the least well off in the country.

Some Members have been entirely supportive of the Government’s proposals, but others have expressed a variety of concerns and reservations. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Tony Lloyd) spoke about the future of policing, and his concerns were shared by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) and repeated by many other Members. My hon. Friends the Members for Blaenau Gwent and for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) made strong statements of concern about what is happening in their own, very different, constituencies.

In a multiplicity of ways, many of today’s speeches have highlighted the fact that the Government’s programme is woefully inadequate. At a time when most people’s standard of living is falling, when unemployment is high and may well get higher, and when insecurity is widespread and the prospects for our young people are worse now than they have been in living memory, it is almost unbelievable that the Government should make constitutional reform one of their priorities. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mark Hendrick) was

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absolutely spot on when he said that when he went down to his local public house, nobody—I repeat, nobody—mentioned to him the need for Lords reform. I am sure that every single Member on both sides of the House would agree with him and say that that is exactly their own experience. Although nobody in the Government says that reform of the House of Lords should be a priority—they have changed their tune over the past few weeks—it has been given pride of place in Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech.

Let me be clear—I say this in particular to the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr Kennedy) —that Labour supports a reformed House of Lords, with a wholly elected second Chamber. However, we want the relationship between the Chambers to be properly codified, with the primacy of this Chamber upheld. We believe that this issue should be put to the people of the country in a referendum because it is a change of major constitutional significance.

The prominence given to this issue demonstrates better than anything else how out of touch the Government are. As the Labour party demonstrated in the local elections last week, the Government have no idea—

Mr Kennedy: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr David: Okay.

Mr Kennedy: It takes a lot for the hon. Gentleman, whom I like and admire very much from our European days, to provoke me, but he is accusing the Government of putting forward something that was in the coalition agreement, in our respective party manifestos and in the manifesto on which he stood when he was elected to the House last time around. He asks, “Why now?” It is not as if this debate has suddenly popped up in the last six weeks or six months, or in the couple of years since the coalition was formed; it has been going on for more than a century. Is the position of the Labour party not just complete emergent opportunism—“Make us virtuous, oh Lord, but not yet”?

Mr David: I have a soft spot for the right hon. Gentleman, but it is a bit rich of the Liberal Democrats to accuse the Labour party of opportunism. When the country is faced with an unprecedentedly difficult situation—now, of all times—coming forward with a piece of constitutional reform is a step too far, as far as most people are concerned. As Aneurin Bevan said, politics is all about priorities—that is the religion of politics. For the House at this time to spend what will inevitably be a long time debating this issue will send out a negative message. There is no doubt in my mind that the people of this country will take a dim view of the political priorities of the Government.

Mr David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab): Is it not a fact that those who like fish eat fish when the fish they are presented with is properly cooked and is attractive? Nobody in their right mind would say, “I like fish. Therefore, I am going to eat this piece of rotten fish.” Nothing could be more rotten and ill-thought-through than the legislation that the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill had to address.

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Mr David: It is difficult to follow that. There is plenty of food for thought in what my right hon. Friend said. I am sure that there will be ample opportunity for those wise words to be considered in detail.

The Opposition will have to wait to see the detailed proposals on a number of the promised Bills in the Government’s programme before establishing our position. For example, on the draft communications data Bill, although we believe that the police and the crime agencies need to keep up with new technology to disrupt terror plots, we also believe that the privacy of individuals needs to be protected. There is also an issue with the Government’s approach. The justification for the legislation is based on secret information. Although we accept that this is a difficult area, we are uncomfortable that the justification for change is based solely on ministerial testimony.

As for other pieces of proposed legislation, let me make specific reference to the justice and security Bill, which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) among others. Clearly, this Bill will deal with an important and sensitive area, and it is too important for anyone in this House to engage in party political games. We are willing to work with the Government—I hope they will respond positively—to increase both judicial and other independent scrutiny without undermining the protection of the public. This needs to be done in a way that maintains robust safeguards for individual citizens.

We also accept that action is needed with regard to foreign intelligence sharing, but we are concerned that the Government are apparently rushing ahead at full speed, despite the very real concerns expressed about their Green Paper proposals. Concern has been expressed by the Royal British Legion as well as civil liberties groups. To date, in our opinion, the Government have failed to make a strong enough case for closed proceedings in our civil courts, and before the Government bring any Bill forward, it is crucial that they produce more evidence to support their proposals.

A number of Members have referred to the Crime and Courts Bill. The National Crime Agency is essentially a reorganisation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which was established by Labour. We are concerned especially about the scrapping of the National Policing Improvement Agency, and we are very concerned about the NCA’s budget.

Earlier today, we had First Reading of the Defamation Bill, and I am glad to see that all the indications are that the Government are following through on the good work of the last Labour Government. The Electoral Registration and Administration Bill also received its First Reading today. This Bill has had a long gestation. We have not had time to study it in detail, but we acknowledge that the Government have moved on significantly from their earlier, rather extreme position and we certainly welcome that. We are in favour in principle, as we always have been, of individual electoral registration, but we are likely to want further movement so that as many people as possible have the opportunity to vote thanks to their inclusion on the electoral register. Democracy demands nothing less.

Unfortunately, on a number of home affairs and justice issues in respect of which we honestly expected legislation, none has been forthcoming. One omission relates to forced marriages. A Home Office consultation

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ended in March this year, but there is nothing about forced marriages in the Queen’s Speech. Another omission relates to the recall of MPs. I find that surprising because the coalition agreement stated:

“We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall”.

Well, the opportunity for it is now and we were expecting it, so where is it? Why have the Government not maintained the commitment given in the coalition agreement, and why have they not brought this legislation forward? It will be interesting to hear the Minister’s response to that specific question.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): This is a five-year Parliament.

Mr David: The hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that this is a five-year Parliament, but he should not forget that the coalition agreement talked about “early legislation” being enacted, which we are clearly not seeing.

Then, of course, there is the Bill on lobbying. Again, the coalition agreement said:

“We will regulate lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists and ensuring greater transparency.”

Where, then, is the lobbying Bill? I see that the Minister is getting advice. Perhaps he will care to tell us what has happened to this Bill. Does he have it in his inside pocket to bring out at some time in the future? This is important for the Government, because we have all seen the horrendous scandals over the last few weeks and months. Surely the time to bring forward a lobbying Bill, so that we have a clear legislative process on this issue, is now.

Despite some of the speeches that have been made today, we have had a good debate which has highlighted the shortcomings of the Government’s very light legislative programme. It has also demonstrated beyond doubt that this Government lack a sense of mission and purpose. They are an enfeebled Administration, staggering from one crisis to another. Moreover, it is becoming ever clearer that they are a Government devoid of principle and of purpose.

5.40 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): The coalition Government have had a shared goal since entering office: to modernise the justice system so that it delivers better for the public. I want to respond to the many welcome contributions to what I considered to be a very thoughtful debate in the context of our overall ambitions for reform.

Our primary objective on home affairs and justice is to improve the system so that it keeps the public safe and secure and works to cut crime and reoffending. If we can deliver that, we will ensure that there are fewer victims and will raise public confidence. Not least owing to the vital need to control public expenditure in the face of the economic situation, we are determined to show that that can be done affordably, but we are also certain that any changes should be made without our sacrificing fundamental values in which we believe, such as freedom and liberty.

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The shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), opened her speech with the Opposition’s standard line that the cuts have hurt but have not worked. It is true that the problems here in Europe and elsewhere in the global economy mean that it is taking us longer than anyone hoped to recover from the biggest debt crisis of our lifetime, but the one thing that would make the situation even worse would be for us to abandon our credible plan and deliberately add more borrowing and even more debt. That would jeopardise the recovery, and would jeopardise the low interest rates that are so important to families and businesses in this country.

I believe that we have already made a good start in delivering our home affairs and justice goals. We are making the police more accountable by moving towards the introduction of police and crime commissioners, and are changing the focus of our prisons to ensure that they are places of productive work rather than idleness. In abolishing ID cards and sorting out the DNA database, stopping the fingerprinting of children without parental consent and scrapping 28 days’ detention, we have also turned the page of civil liberties. We have taken real steps forward on efficiency, reorganising whole areas of justice so that they work for the public better and at a lower cost, while simultaneously bringing about a transparency revolution. All that represents good progress, but we cannot rest on our laurels. That is why the measures on home affairs and justice that we have been discussing today are important. They constitute a coherent and ambitious package which represents the next stage of justice reform.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod) made some important points about the value of women to the economy and about how it could be developed, and also about the benefits of micro-financing. I fully support the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr Kennedy)—I believe that the same point was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake)—that House of Lords reform should not be used as a political football. Whether the Opposition agree is yet to be seen, although what Opposition Members have said today suggests that that is likely to happen.

The right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) clearly has strong views on House of Lords reform. He questioned the Government’s position on consensus and the proposed costs of the reform. All those matters will be debated fully as we go up what I think he called the garden path, although I prefer to call it the yellow brick road. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) observed that the issue should be seen in context, given the urgency of economic issues and the need to punish criminals.

On civil justice, we are building on the principles of efficiency and effectiveness that animate all our reforms by taking long overdue steps to sort out the operation of the family courts, to improve the performance of courts and tribunals, and to address the scandal of delays in our adoption system.

On criminal justice, we are legislating to ensure that we are smarter on crime and better at catching criminals. That is why we are making a step change in the country’s

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capability to tackle organised and serious crime with the creation of the new National Crime Agency. We must also make sure we are smarter at punishing and reforming offenders. Underpinning all our reforms, we are continuing to expose the false choice offered by those who say we have to choose between our security and our freedom. It is this Government who want to open up our courts to the public via television and who want to strengthen freedom of expression by reforming libel law, and it is this Government who are committed to enhancing judicial and parliamentary scrutiny of our security services while modernising the capabilities of the police and the courts so they can keep the public safe.

There have been many interventions on the subject of police numbers, including by the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Tony Lloyd). We must be clear that the effectiveness of a police force depends primarily on effective deployment of police officers. That is what leads to effective policing. Sir Denis O’Connor has supported that view, and that is where we continue to focus our efforts. The link between officer numbers and crime levels is not simple, but we know that effective deployment is what matters most.

I welcome the support of several Members—including both the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), and the shadow Home Secretary—for setting up the NCA. Through its wider, joined-up remit, the agency will build on the work of its predecessors in tackling organised crime, protecting our borders, fighting fraud and cybercrime and protecting children and young people from sexual abuse and exploitation. The protection of the public will be at the heart of all that this agency does.

As the Bill progresses, the House will want to probe and test its detailed provisions, and I note that the Justice Committee will be keen to review the NCA start-up, as its Chairman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), said. I am sure such issues will be scrutinised on Second Reading and subsequently, and I look forward to those debates.

I welcome the Justice Committee Chair’s support for many of the measures in the Crime and Courts Bill. The creation of a single family court will make the family justice system more accessible to the public and improve efficiency. Like him, I look forward to the Westminster Hall debate of 24 May, in which we will be able to consider the family justice system in more detail. I can also offer some reassurance on the question of litigants in person. I hope he is encouraged by the financial support made available by the Ministry of Justice to implement many of the recommendations of the Civil Justice Council for supporting litigants in person.

On immigration, the right hon. Member for Leicester East and others expressed concerns about the removal of a full right of appeal in family visa visit cases. As he will know, new evidence is often submitted on appeal that should have been submitted with the original application. The appeal then in effect becomes a second decision based on new evidence. The key point is that no other visit visa attracts a full right of appeal, and therefore this represents a disproportionate use of taxpayers’ money. Its removal was fully supported during consultation.

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Keith Vaz: Will the Minister and the Home Secretary, who is also present, receive a delegation of Members of this House with an interest in these issues? I think a deal can be struck that will be fair to our constituents and that will help the appeal process. We want to look at the quality of the decision making as well as the appeal process. If the Minister is prepared to do that, and if the Home Secretary, through the Minister for Immigration, is prepared to meet the Chair of the Justice Committee, myself and others who have an interest in these issues, I think we can come to a compromise that is acceptable to all sides.

Mr Djanogly: Yes—[Interruption.] The Home Secretary has just advised me that the Immigration Minister would be delighted to meet the right hon. Gentleman and discuss this issue in the detail it deserves.

A number of Members raised the issue of broadcasting court proceedings. I would characterise the various contributions as having given a general—but, in some cases at least, a cautious—welcome to the Government’s proposals. The Government are committed to improving transparency and public understanding of the court system, and allowing broadcasting from courts will contribute to that. Of course, the filming and broadcasting of judicial proceedings must be carefully and sensitively undertaken, and I can assure Members that there will be no filming of victims, witnesses, defendants or jurors. There will of course be restrictions on the use of footage to ensure that it is only used sensitively and for informational purposes.

The hon. Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell) spoke strongly in support of our drug-driving proposals. I can tell my hon. Friend that we are working to ensure that the necessary “type approval tests” for devices to be used in police stations are completed without delay.

The Government’s proposals to reform civil proceedings to enable the courts to take better account of sensitive material and prevent damaging disclosure of intelligence material have been of great interest to the House and the public, and we have had many valuable contributions on that. The Government are committed to ensuring that we can reassure our allies that the confidential basis on which they share intelligence with us can be protected, while ensuring that the courts are able to make real findings on the merits of cases where sensitive information is given. I think the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr David) said that he is opposed to closed courts. Let me say to him—[ Interruption. ] If he would like to make his position clear, I am happy to give way.

Mr David: What I actually said was that the Government have certainly not made the case for them.

Mr Djanogly: There is a difference there, so we can yet persuade the hon. Gentleman. I am pleased to hear that, and we will do that.

Most people in this country are sickened at the thought of terrorists or suspected terrorists winning, as they have been winning, large sums in civil courts by reason not of their innocence, but because the authorities have not been able to use sensitive intelligence information which, if discussed openly, could endanger public safety

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in open court. We need a system—with checks and balances, admittedly—that will provide for this issue in the small number of cases where it is relevant.

Our core aim in introducing the Defamation Bill—

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): Before the Minister moves on, perhaps he can shed some light on a concern raised by the Royal British Legion and Inquest, about secret inquests. [ Interruption. ]

Mr Djanogly: I am advised that we are looking carefully at the issue, and we would be pleased to engage with the Royal British Legion and others on it.

Our core aim in introducing the Defamation Bill is to reform the law so that it strikes the right balance between the right to freedom of expression and the protection of reputation. As the points raised illustrate, there is a wide range of views on exactly what that balance should be and how individual issues should be dealt with. We look forward to an extensive and informed debate both here and in the other place as the Bill proceeds.

The draft communications data provisions provide for targeted, practical measures that are essential to enable our law enforcement agencies to keep pace with new technologies, with strong safeguards to protect civil liberties. We can protect the public while continuing to uphold civil liberties in an internet age. As the Home Secretary clearly set out, there will be no single Government database, no real-time monitoring of communications of individuals, and no new powers to intercept e-mails or phone calls of members of the public. That will address the concerns raised by several Members.

My right hon. Friends the Members for Berwick-upon-Tweed and for Carshalton and Wallington raised the issue of collection of data. I can assure them that we will be extending the role of the interception of communications commissioner to oversee the collection of communications data by communications service providers, and it will continue to be the Information Commissioner’s role to keep under review the security of information kept up to the end of the 12-month retention period.

Members clearly share views on the scourge of antisocial behaviour, to which several of them referred. Antisocial behaviour is an issue that really matters to the public, and for too many people it remains a nasty fact of everyday life. Despite the years of top-down initiatives and targets handed out by the previous Government, more than 3 million antisocial behaviour incidents are reported to the police each year and many are not reported at all. That is why this Government want a transformation in the way that antisocial behaviour is dealt with, and I thank hon. Members for their useful contributions and interventions. The Government have stripped away the targets that hampered professionals’ ability to crack down on this kind of crime. We will introduce more effective measures to tackle antisocial behaviour, including replacing the bureaucratic and ineffective antisocial behaviour orders, more than half of which are currently being breached at least once.

Mark Hendrick: The Minister will be aware that antisocial behaviour in Lancashire has been cut in recent years from 155,000 incidents per year to about 100,000 because of Labour’s measures. What does he think a 20% cut to policing will do to that?

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Mr Djanogly: As I said, this is as much about how we use police officers as about the number of them.

Alun Michael: Does the Minister recall that I made the strong point that the Government are in danger of being guilty of surrendering the simple concept of an antisocial behaviour order, which has been effective in reducing antisocial behaviour by maintaining the restrictions that it imposes? Will he clear that up, remove the Home Secretary’s threat to get rid of ASBOs and simply make it easier to use that good mechanism?

Mr Djanogly: As I said, ASBOs are proving to have been ineffective and overly bureaucratic, and we are going to replace them with an order that is simpler to use and that works better.

May I congratulate theright hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) on his support for police and crime commissioners? Although I wish him well in his campaign to be one, may I say that this is somewhat of a volte face from his position when Labour was in government?

Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) (Lab): Will the Minister confirm that a breach of the proposed replacement for the ASBO—the crime prevention injunction—will not result in a criminal record?

Mr Djanogly: ASBOs are civil orders at the moment. [Interruption.] A breach can lead on to a criminal offence, absolutely it can.

The Government want people to have powers that really work, that can be enforced, that provide faster, more visible justice to communities, that rehabilitate offenders, where possible, and that act as a real deterrent to perpetrators.

Alun Michael: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Surely it should be possible to correct what I am sure is an inadvertent misleading of the House by the Minister—he would not have intended to do it. The ASBO is a civil order. A breach of it is a criminal offence, tested by the criminal quality of evidence.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Further to that point of order, I call Mr Djanogly.

Mr Djanogly: I think that is exactly what I said. If I did not, I am happy to reaffirm it.

The community trigger will empower victims and communities to demand that agencies take action against persistent antisocial behaviour problems. The Government will shortly set out our formal response to the consultation and our new powers, which will put victims and communities at the heart of agencies’ response to this problem.

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The Bill dealing with families seeks to ensure that we tackle the root causes of delay in care cases as part of a wider package of reform that was set out in the family justice review. I am grateful for the interventions of my hon. Friends the Members for Milton Keynes North (Mark Lancaster) and for Harrow East in support of the Government’s intention to tackle the delay in care proceedings. I am also grateful to the right hon. Member for Leicester East for his support of the Government’s intention to legislate on a target of six months in care cases.

Reforms to the use of experts in family courts—on both the number and quality—have been rightly raised by the Chair of the Justice Committee. Proposed amendments to the family procedure rules and practice direction on experts were submitted to the family procedure rules committee in April. These amendments seek to ensure that expert evidence is commissioned only where necessary—this, in turn, will save time in proceedings.

On the quality of experts, Ministry of Justice officials have spoken to health regulators on developing minimum standards, and this will be an important area for my Department to improve.

Mr David: Will the Minister explain why the Government have not proposed a Bill on lobbying?

Mr Djanogly: I think that question is for others in the Ministry of Justice and the Home Department to address.

The adoption clauses on ethnicity will also help to reduce the time children have to wait for an adoptive placement and will see more children placed in stable loving homes with less delay and disruption. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North gave a very well-informed speech on adoption and my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) spoke very well on the urgency of the early years of a baby’s mental development and the benefits of early intervention—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order.

6 pm

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 9( 3 )).

Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Monday 14 May.