Helen Jones: Before the hon. Gentleman gets worked up, let me tell him that I would clamp down ruthlessly on fraud, because it is stealing from poorer people, but he knows as well as I do that fraud is less than 1% of the bill and is less than the amount the errors in the Department for Work and Pensions costs the system. To pretend all

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these things about the people who have lost their jobs in my constituency after years of work, and the people who are sick or disabled who would like nothing better than to get a job, is an insult to those decent people.

Nick de Bois: I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, and that is the first time I have had an answer to an intervention that I never made. It is also an answer that addresses a subject I was not going to touch on. What I was hoping for was a little bit of guidance. The hon. Lady rattled off a list of welfare measures that she found utterly unacceptable, but we have been led by her party’s Front-Bench team to believe it supports many of our welfare reform measures. Can she therefore answer this question: would she repeal every single one of the measures she listed?

Helen Jones: The hon. Gentleman is trying to put words into my mouth that I did not say. What I did say to him is that we would crack down on fraud ruthlessly, but I will not subscribe to the rhetoric that tries to label decent men and women who simply want to get a job as somehow being scroungers, and nor will I subscribe to the rhetoric that says all people who are receiving benefits are out of work. He knows very well that that is not true. Many of them are low-paid working families. We should look to improving their living conditions to reduce the welfare bill.

Nick de Bois: I have not mentioned any of the terms the hon. Lady listed. She has tried to put those words in my mouth. I would be extremely grateful if she clarified the point.

Helen Jones: I have just clarified it for the hon. Gentleman, but let me say this to him. The results of that policy are very clear. Just when the country needs to be united, what this Government are about is promoting division. They are about making people suspicious of one another: those in work fearing those out of work; the rich behaving as if the poor are a problem; those who lose their jobs, even in areas of low immigration, being made to think immigration is the problem.

We have seen the results: a country fearful and disunited. That does not build a confident, prosperous Britain, because when people are fearful, they do not take risks and innovate—they cling to what they have. It does not build a Britain at ease with itself either, divided between rich and poor, north and south. We are a better country than that, and we can be a better country, but it requires leadership from a Government willing to change the priorities. The first priority is to build a prosperous economy throughout the regions and nations of this country.

This Government have systematically taken money out of many of our regions, which have already been hit by unemployment. They have transferred £1 billion out of the north of England in their local government settlement alone. They have hit those big cities suffering most from unemployment through their welfare reforms; for example, Birmingham will lose £10 million on council tax changes alone, and Liverpool is losing more than £7 million in bedroom tax. That is money that would otherwise be spent in local shops and businesses, promoting those local economies. That is why it is important to have a British investment bank, at arm’s length from

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government, that not only lends to small and medium-sized enterprises, but ensures that we invest in the different regions of our country, promoting their economic strengths and building up their capacity. It is also right that we should be on the side of people who work and who want to work, but that means actually getting people back into jobs.

Dr Huppert: The hon. Lady is right to say that there is some unpleasant rhetoric about benefits, with some unpleasant suggestions made. Will she join me in condemning a suggestion made three or so days ago that there should be no benefits for anyone until they have paid national insurance for two years? That would clearly hit incredibly hard young unemployed people and people who are disabled. The proposal was made by her colleague, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann).

Helen Jones: My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw makes many proposals, some of which I agree with and some I do not—that is probably one we would have to park somewhere.

I was talking about jobs. There needs to be a matching of not only our jobs guarantee for young people, but our guarantee of jobs for older people who have been out of work for more than two years. We also want to switch money from a tax cut for millionaires to support tax credits for the very people are who are out working in low-paid jobs, doing the right thing. We have to protect people’s rights at work—the Prime Minister wants to negotiate them away—not only because doing so is morally right, but because the strongest and most prosperous economies work through partnership between employers and employees; they work through training and investment in employees, not through a quick hire-and-fire culture. We will never compete with developing nations on low wages; we have to compete with them on skills.

One key to doing that is housing. Constituencies such as mine are desperate for homes for those who want to get a foot on the ladder and for homes to rent, yet the builders who come to us want to build homes for commuters. When they do agree to build some affordable housing, they often buy themselves out of that commitment—the Government’s permission to renegotiate section 106 agreements has not helped—and such an approach simply builds ghettoes. If we are to build viable communities, we need to look at other ways of building the affordable housing we need. We need to look at co-ownership and at councils being allowed to build by accessing money through the use of their pension funds. I have long believed that local authorities should be able to build not only for sale, but for rent.

Getting that economy right is key to many of the things we want to do, to improving the living standards of our people and to ensuring that they have the services they need—I do not have time to go into that this afternoon. To achieve that, however, requires one thing: a Government willing to lead, not one blown about by every last opinion poll or every election setback that they see. This Government are no longer that Government. They are in office but they have no plan for the future, they have no vision of how this country should develop and they have no faith in the British people to make that development. That is why they are no longer a Government who are good enough for this country.

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2.15 pm

Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con): It is a pleasure to be called to speak and to join other hon. Members in debating the contents of yesterday’s Gracious Speech by Her Majesty. It sets out a refreshed programme for government that will build on the strong and effective progress we have already made. It outlines measures to do more to keep our communities safe and secure, while promising to help deliver more for people who want to get on and achieve things.

I want to focus my remarks, in my few minutes, on the upcoming Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. Just how much good progress we have already made in keeping our neighbourhoods safer and secure was made clear to me when I was lucky enough to help launch the UK peace index a few weeks ago. As the completely independent figures show, violent crime is coming right down, in no small part because of the work that the Home Secretary and her team have been doing over the past couple of years. I am sure that the measures promised in the new Bill will build on that progress.

The Bill will also cover one of the issues I have been most active in working on and one closest to my heart: dangerous dogs. I do not expect other Members to remember this, but a plea to do something about the problem was one of the main points I made in my maiden speech, almost exactly three years ago. I said then that tackling the scourge of dogs being used as weapons—a massive antisocial behaviour issue—must be a priority, and I have been campaigning along those lines ever since.

I have always said that the issue is as much about dangerous owners as dangerous dogs—in fact, it is more so. It is imperative that measures against antisocial behaviour focus on the owners who train their dogs as weapons to use for intimidation and as a badge of status. They blight the lives of communities with their threat of aggression, just as much as do the actual attacks that sometimes, sadly, occur. We need measures that will tackle this head on by giving communities and their local police necessary enforcement powers. I am pleased with the progress made by this Government on making microchipping compulsory. Although that will not itself solve the problem of vicious dogs, it will introduce greater accountability and responsibility through detailing ownership, which will go some way to deterring irresponsible ownership.

It is absolutely right to extend section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to cover private land. It has long struck me as extraordinary that a postal worker posting a letter could get his finger chewed off by a dog at the other side of the letterbox with no comeback, yet if the owner of the dog, in a crazy world, had substituted themselves for the dog, they would automatically be chargeable with an offence—presumably, grievous bodily harm, so although this measure is very late in coming, it is none the less very welcome.

We need clarity on what happens when a dog attempts to protect its owner’s home from an intruder. It is right that when this happens with the owner present, there should be no penalty attached. However, there are concerns that, as things stand, if the owner is not present while the dog defends the property, there may well be a penalty to pay and the owner will be held liable

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for an attack on the intruder. That would be ridiculous and would fly in the face of all common sense, so I hope very much that this matter can be sorted out sensibly.

Another major area of concern has already been mentioned today, and those of us who have been campaigning on this issue are well aware of it—I refer to the growing problem of attacks by out-of-control dogs on guide dogs. This is a particularly nasty trend, because guide dogs have been trained to be passive and docile, and such an attack is, of course, incredibly upsetting for the owner, who depends so much on the support of their dog. I am delighted that this appalling problem has now been recognised by the Government, and I hope that the penalties will be as tough as possible.

Although the question of dangerous dogs is not strictly the responsibility of the Home Office, the Government should consider what encouragement can be given to local authorities to deal with it. Some, such as Wandsworth and Ealing, are already working on finding ways to use tenancy agreements on their estates to control dog ownership. This seems an obvious route to take as so many of the problems with dangerous dogs arise on unruly estates where the local council has significant control, if it wants to exert it. That is an underused tool and it needs joined-up government thinking, along with work by the Local Government Association and London Councils. The truth is that even where councils are considering such an approach, enforcement is not always carried through. The Government need to send a strong message that local authorities will be expected to play their part in helping to tackle this blight. Local authorities have the powers and they should be used.

I will finish by touching briefly on one or two other measures in the Queen’s Speech that I welcome. There are three Bills in particular: the national insurance contributions Bill, the deregulation Bill, and the intellectual property Bill. They will all contain measures that should genuinely help small businesses. Giving people confidence by saying to them, “If you’ve got a good idea, go for it,” must be at the heart of our agenda. It is the key to success and to that magic word, growth.

Finally, and not before time, we have the long-awaited care Bill, which is an important step forward in providing the care that our elderly need without forcing them to sell the roof from over their heads. It is not as generous as it might be, but it is a good start. We also need to do all we can to support carers themselves. In particular, when families look after their elderly relatives at home, thereby providing the best kind of family support and saving NHS resources, we should consider how we can reward that incredibly important support as generously as we can.

The Queen’s Speech lays out an important legislative programme for this year, and there is much to be done.

2.21 pm

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to take part in this debate on the Queen’s Speech this afternoon.

I am interested in some small proposals in the Queen’s Speech: the proposal to protect intellectual property; the proposal to produce a draft consumer rights Bill, which, as we have been briefed, will cover digital purchases as well as ordinary purchases; the proposal to invest in

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infrastructure, particularly broadband, following the Government’s significant failure to deliver broadband in rural areas; and the Home Secretary’s proposals to match internet protocol addresses.

My main concern, however, is with what is not in the Queen’s Speech, namely a proper and complete Bill from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on communications and the media. The Communications Act 2003 has now been overtaken by significant changes—both technological and in the market—and it is time that the Government stopped taking a piecemeal and bite-sized approach to the internet, which has led to a rather chaotic situation, and took a much more strategic overview.

The new technology obviously has the potential to disperse power and to support economic growth. However, those things will happen only if we have a policy to maximise access and challenge some of those in this arena who have significant concentrations of power—not only in the market but in the democratic processes and the information that is available to people. We need a strategy that can reproduce online the rights and responsibilities that we have in the real world. We also need a much stronger cross-departmental approach than the Government seem capable of delivering at the moment.

The new means of communication are proving to be very significant to jobs and business development. Last year, the communications sector was worth £50 billion, which was 4% of GDP, and it employed more than half a million people. I am told that every year between 60,000 and 130,000 new jobs are created in this sector. We know that businesses that are online are growing much faster than other businesses, so we must ensure that the legal underpinning is there. I hope that the proposals on consumer rights mentioned in the Queen’s Speech will support that process, but it is rather disappointing that the Bill will only be in draft form.

We must make changes in three broad areas: first, we must deliver broadband to all parts of the country and give people access to it; secondly, we must improve digital inclusion, training and skills; and, thirdly, we must strengthen people’s rights with a digital consumers charter. Everyone should have access to broadband. Everyone is entitled to a telephone and the Post Office has a universal service obligation, and broadband is now so significant that it should be put on the same footing.

The Queen’s Speech said that the Government would

“continue to invest in infrastructure”,

but the fact is that the previous Labour Government had a target of ensuring that everybody had 2 megabits per second by 2012. The Government abandoned that target and probably will not achieve it until 2016. At the moment, 2.6 million households, mainly in rural areas, have no possibility of accessing broadband.

A further problem with the Government’s approach is that they have prioritised speed over access. It is significant that the Government’s super-connected cities programme, into which they have poured £150 million, has been challenged by some of the operators on state aid grounds as it is not clear whether the subsidy is needed to develop faster speeds in inner-city areas. At the same time, the Government are allowing a situation to continue in which 10.6 million people have never sent an e-mail and 16 million people have inadequate digital skills. My secretary says that it is quite clear that I am one of those people, but I do not think the problems I

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face because of my lack of digital skills are nearly as serious as those faced by many of our constituents. When the Government try to make it compulsory to access universal credit online, they will come up against a serious problem as many of the people involved will be precisely those who do not have the access or the skills.

The Government should be developing a strategy to get as many people online as possible. That means doing something much more energetic in the rural areas as well as helping people to improve their digital skills through training and education. We need to pause for a moment and consider that point. The Government are trying to do something in schools—although I do not think it is adequate—but if an adult does not have a job or if their job does not involve work in an office, it is difficult for them to learn those skills.

Furthermore, it is extremely expensive to be online. Ministers must face up to this point. It costs about £5 a week to have a connection and the kit costs a further £100. Meanwhile, the welfare reforms mean that I have constituents who are now expected to live on £20 a week; it is not sensible to say to the same group of people that they should prioritise spending £5 a week on an internet connection.

Another group of people who suffer from digital exclusion and this growing divide in our country are those who are disabled or who have learning disabilities, as we do not oblige the manufacturers of kit to make the kit accessible for them.

A Labour Government would switch half the money— £75 million—from the super-connected cities programme to a digital inclusion programme. On the basis of the experience in the previous Parliament, when we found that it cost about £30 million to get 1 million people online, that could help some 2 million people get online. It would be much better to use the money productively. It would have a much bigger impact than some of the infrastructure that the Government have been prioritising. There is no point in putting money to one side because of a legal challenge and not using it at all. It would be far better to help some of those people to get online.

The communications sector, as I said earlier, is highly concentrated and monopolistic. In each technology there are a small number of players, some of which are very large and some of which are vertically integrated. Many of the operators are international and foreign-owned. For example, last year Facebook floated for £100 billion. That is larger than nine European economies. Vodafone has a market capitalisation greater than that of BP. There are only four mobile phone companies, of which three are foreign-owned, and BT and Virgin own all the infrastructure for broadband, down to the last mile.

In addition to being extremely wealthy, some of these firms are very aggressive and through litigation have been challenging rulings by Ofcom. For example, the internet service providers challenged the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the legality of the Digital Economy Act 2010. I am glad to say that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills succeeded and the internet service providers failed in that challenge.

Against this background, it is a worry that the Government have failed to give Ofcom the resources that it needs and that they are not introducing new legislation to strengthen its powers. If it does not have the necessary powers, it is much more likely to succumb to such expensive litigation. It is a bit contradictory.

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The Government have cut the Ofcom budget, but they have not strengthened its powers, which means that Ofcom’s legal bill is running up and up, so that is not a sensible way of carrying on. We need to strengthen Ofcom’s powers in order that the work of the regulator can no longer be deliberately frustrated. That could be addressed through cost capping or reforming the standard of appeal under the existing communications legislation.

A fully connected country has the opportunity to share information and disperse power, but currently the small number of players means that consumers’ interests are not always at the forefront of their minds. We need regulation, not to tell companies what to do in every last detail but to promote competition. I should like to highlight the elements which a consumers charter approach should cover. First, we need to deal with privacy and online theft. According to a survey by O2 and Populus, people’s No. 1 worry about the web is how their personal data are used and how large companies share the data that people hand over. We must take effective action to protect people’s privacy and engage much more energetically with the proposals coming from the European Union on personal data.

The Home Secretary’s proposals on internet protocol addresses are welcome but I am not sure they go far enough. As I said to her earlier today, she should take the opportunity to strengthen age verification because it is important to help parents protect their children online. The Government have been saying for three years that they want to do something about that and the Prime Minister says that he wants to run the most family-friendly Government, but not one real step forward has been taken. We need a statutory backstop now. It is what the Labour Government promised in the previous Parliament—a statutory backstop so that if the ISPs have not introduced measures to enable parents to protect their children, they will be required to do so.

Furthermore, we need better price transparency. Many of the firms are bundling up people’s television contract with their mobile phone, internet connection and so on, making it difficult for the ordinary consumer to see what each is costing. We must do something about that and to help people switch from one provider to another. We must also see some action on security for people making payments over the internet. It is not clear from what the Government have said whether they propose to do that or not. That would increase security for consumers and would also be welcomed by businesses because they cannot expand e-commerce without more security on the internet.

Finally, people in this country are most exercised by nuisance calls. We know that in order to address the proliferation of nuisance calls, legal action is needed. It is extremely disappointing that after three years, two Secretaries of State, the promise of a Green Paper and the promise of a White Paper, none of that has happened. We need to see a Bill now.

2.36 pm

Nick de Bois (Enfield North) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) and although I do not necessarily draw the same conclusions, her argument about the effect of broadband on the economy is not in doubt.

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I shall do two things which, I think, will please the House: I shall be extremely brief and therefore observe the courtesy of listening to the following speaker. I am pressed because of another meeting so I hope the House will forgive me for being brief, which it will no doubt welcome, and for not staying for subsequent speeches.

I shall speak specifically about antisocial behaviour. The term underplays the awful way in which the lives of those on the receiving end of antisocial behaviour are transformed and how they enter into periods of intense frustration, worry, concern and even fear if they are the victims of repetitive antisocial behaviour. I am sure that other Members regularly see constituents in that situation. Sadly, I see them all too regularly—I would go so far as to say that in almost every single surgery I encounter a case of antisocial behaviour. The term worries me for two reasons. If it is used to describe extremely serious instances, it can lead to action not being taken swiftly enough. Some police forces struggle to deal with what they regard as an antisocial behaviour complaint. As a consequence, many incidents are repeated and go on for a long time.

Working with one of my local papers, the Enfield Independent, we came across a case in my constituency where for three years utterly unacceptable bullying behaviour was taking place against two shopkeepers and residents in neighbouring houses. One resident was having her bin set on fire regularly and was having stones thrown down on to her roof, and people’s doors were being trashed—all serious criminal behaviour which went without a response for nearly three years.

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): Has the hon. Gentleman, like me, experienced a lack of reporting by residents? They tell me that there is no point in reporting such incidents because they are simply not being dealt with by the police in a way that we would wish to see.

Nick de Bois: The hon. Lady makes a fair point, which will make my speech even shorter. There is a sense of frustration. The Government’s measure is vital and important, but it may not mitigate some of the reasons why people will still continue to be reluctant to report. That is due not just to a belief that something will not happen, but to fear. After coming across this incident, I found myself talking to six residents and two shopkeepers, and not one of them wanted to report the crime. They knew who was responsible and that it was consistently the same people, but they were fearful of repercussions if they took the matter further.

Lyn Brown: My residents told me that they were not reporting because the police did not have the resources to deal with the issue.

Nick de Bois: I will deal with that point now. I will not make the usual response that I will cover it later because I do not have clue how to answer it—I am sorry; I am probably being very unfair to other hon. Members. The point fits in with my theme.

The concept behind the community trigger is an excellent idea. It basically means that if five complaints are made, the police are obliged to investigate. That is a good and important concept. If there is a reluctance to complain because people doubt whether anything will

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happen—although I think the community trigger will encourage them because of the compulsion on the force to act—we need to be comfortable that the police can react and in a sufficiently timely manner. I live in a borough where the police have had to deal with extremely serious issues and I accept that there will be times when they may have to delay their investigation, but I hope they will investigate. I am afraid that there have been too many instances when as an MP I have had to prompt action when it should have been the citizen’s complaint that prompted the action. But the potential problem with the community trigger is that sometimes it is difficult to get one person to complain, so to get five may be quite a challenge.

I genuinely support the moves on antisocial behaviour and I am keen to see them go ahead, so I recommend to Ministers that in addition to the community trigger proposals where residents can complain, perhaps they should consider allowing locally elected councillors to be representatives of people, and where sufficient residents have expressed concern they could also trigger the process. I see those on the Front Bench nodding in agreement—they are not really, but I would welcome comments on that. My constituents ask me to do something about such matters, and if they feel more comfortable with their elected representative doing something, perhaps because of fear, that could be a positive role for a councillor who could use the community trigger to act on their residents behalf. If councillors are not elected to do that, what are they elected to do?

With antisocial behaviour being firmly placed on the Home Office’s agenda and in their sights for introduction into a Bill, I urge Ministers to ensure that enforcement can be met and that local police forces can be held accountable for that. We in this House can legislate, but we cannot implement measures on the ground. I hope that with the introduction of police and crime commissioners, local people will be able to hold their police force to account to meet the challenges that they have set them, but in London boroughs, which come under the Met police and the commissioner, it will be trickier.

I wholeheartedly support the measures in the Bill, but if there is frustration on the ground, I hope that Ministers will not regard their job as done once they have legislated. The job will be done when we have made a significant dent in this dreadfully unacceptable behaviour of those who want to terrorise their neighbours and vandalise their property.

2.45 pm

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I want to speak on a number of important issues. The Queen’s Speech seems to lack vision. There is no idea of a coherent society or how we make it a better and fairer society. There seems to be a lot of tinkering at the edges without really tackling the main causes of the main issues of the day. As my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) pointed out, we lack an economic vision—a vision to rebuild our society and use the talents of our people to improve the lot of all of us.

We often talk about community cohesion, but when we try to define what makes that it leads to all sorts of discussion. Key to community cohesion is a sense of respect for each other and self-respect, and key to that is

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thriving communities that offer job opportunities for our young people and for all our citizens. That would bring the welfare bill down. Many people are desperately looking for a job and would like to work more hours, but nothing in the Government’s proposed programme will help to create jobs.

The Welsh Government are playing their part in creating jobs and providing support to businesses. They have already created 4,000 jobs in the Jobs Growth Wales programme, and are on target to create another 4,000 this year and the year after. The focus is on helping the private sector to grow, so young people are helped into work and businesses are helped to grow. Jane Hutt, the Finance Minister in the Welsh Government, has recently announced a package of £75 million of additional capital investment to support the Welsh infrastructure investment plan. In addition, £400 million is to be spent on housing to help to realise a target of 7,500 affordable homes by 2016.

But we all know that the main economic levers are held by the UK Government, where the savage cuts in tax credits and the increase in the regressive tax VAT mean that millions of less well-off families are struggling to make ends meet, particularly as prices are rising very quickly, while those earning more than £150,000 are given a tax break. This is not only unfair, it is economic nonsense, because the least well-off spend their money quickly and it goes back into the local economy, whereas the better-off may wish to stash it away or spend it abroad. We have only to look at our town centres to see the dire effects of squeezing middle and low-income families. Research also shows that greater equality between the better-off and the less well-off members of society makes for greater community cohesion. We need a tax on bankers’ bonuses to provide money to invest in jobs, such as house building.

On immigration, what we really want is a crackdown on all forms of exploitation, whether of migrant workers or our own workers. There are still far too many examples of gangmasters bringing in groups of people, housing them in substandard conditions, making all sorts of deductions from their salaries and, with regard to their hours and working conditions, exploiting them ruthlessly. Far from tackling the problem, the Government seem to be doing the opposite. They have done away with the Agricultural Wages Board, which was one body that set down minimum standards for accommodation, and have put the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 under threat, whereas we would like to see it extended to cover those in the construction and care industries, for example.

Many Members will have visited the excellent exhibition on human trafficking opened by the Prime Minister. One of the calls was for some form of slavery Act. Perhaps that is a slightly dramatic term, but it would have been nice to see something in the Queen’s Speech that tackled that type of exploitation and began digging down into the real problems that exist not only in one or two parts of Great Britain, but right across the country, as the exhibition’s wall map showed. Simply not enough is being done to tackle human trafficking.

Another issue, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), is the overseas domestic workers visa. That is another thing the Government have done that has made it more difficult to trace people and rescue them from domestic slavery. That is what we really need to tackle when we talk about

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immigration. Trafficking and exploitation have continued, all of which is bad for not only those workers, but local people, who are obviously being undercut. I think that everybody would accept that what we really want is decent jobs with decent remuneration for local workers and migrant workers alike.

Helen Goodman: My hon. Friend is making an interesting case. I represent a constituency in the north-east, where we have high unemployment and low wages. Will she tell us what the situation is like with regard to unemployment and wages in her constituency?

Nia Griffith: We have two great scourges: first, unemployment, and secondly, underemployment and a low-wage economy. That means that people are dependent on tax credits. We would like the minimum wage to be increased at least in line with inflation and to move towards a living wage that gives people enough to live on without having to have their salaries topped up by tax credits. That is obviously an aspiration that many of us share. Certainly, some of our local councils are trying to work towards that.

Lyn Brown: I was interested to hear what my hon. Friend said about trafficking. I had a dreadful case in my surgery only last week in which a woman had clearly been trafficked from Bangladesh and used to undercut the minimum wage for the past 10 years. She was kept in servitude—practically slavery—the whole time while working for less than £50 a week, most of which was taken away for her bed and board. Does my hon. Friend agree that that needs to be tackled? We need to get to the traffickers, but the victims also need to be protected, because at the moment the Home Office thinks that it might deport that woman soon, and I will be writing to the Minister about the case shortly.

Nia Griffith: That is a good example, but sadly it is not an isolated one; there seem to be many such cases. A report from the Government’s own Department shows that we have not tackled the problem sufficiently. It has been suggested that a commission is needed to look into that. Whether or not that is the right way forward, we certainly need some action. It would have been nice to see a concerted effort in the Queen’s Speech to legislate to tackle human trafficking. Furthermore, the Government’s threat to pull out of the European arrest warrant system is yet another measure that could undermine our co-operation with other countries in dealing with the criminal gangs that cross borders.

When it comes to the rest of our immigration policy, I think we all understand that we need to be absolutely fair and to deal with people in a proper and timely manner, but we must also be careful not to become a country to which nobody wants to come. One of the problems we have in west Wales is getting the skilled doctors we need in our hospitals. We all want to see our young people trained, and thank goodness the Welsh Government are trying to limit student fees to £3,500 a year, unlike this Government, who have let them rocket to £9,000, which I am afraid will deter many from studying medicine. Obviously we want to see our own students coming through, but at the same time we are dependent on attracting the right quality of specialists

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from abroad. We want to be absolutely certain that we continue to attract those specialists and that I do not have hospital registrars coming to my surgery because they are having difficulty renewing their visas and sorting things out.

On antisocial behaviour orders and the proposal to replace them with much weaker measures, it seems to me that we need something stronger, not weaker. We know that ASBOs are not perfect, but we want stronger measures, not weaker ones. They must follow things through, not with a civil action that takes for ever but a proper criminal case that acts as a deterrent against people getting an ASBO.

Yesterday the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) spoke eloquently about the relationship between alcohol and disorder and the failure to go for minimum pricing. As she said, that is not about beating the poor with a high price but about protecting many members of society from a lot of the results of alcohol abuse, whether it be domestic violence, difficulties in our inner-city areas, or wanton acts of violence. She clearly made the connection between health inequality and the availability of very cheap alcohol.

The hon. Lady also talked about plain packaging for cigarettes and, as a doctor, made a clear case for the reasons why we should do everything we possibly can to deter our young people from taking up smoking. It is a great sadness to me that this Queen’s Speech does not give us any measures on plain packaging. Even more worrying was the insinuation that possibly some of the information we were given about plain packaging, such as it leading to more smuggling of cigarettes, was inaccurate in having been portrayed as coming from the police.

That brings me to the other missing feature of this Queen’s Speech—the transparency that we need on lobbying. We know that there will always be vested interests and that people can declare those interests and explain on whose behalf they are speaking, but we remain concerned that there is a lot of veiled and dishonest lobbying where people are not up front and it is not exactly clear who is behind it. It would have been nice if the Prime Minister had been able to announce yesterday that he was going to do something about what he has called

“the next big scandal waiting to happen.”

Indeed, there was the scandal that led to dinners for donors in Downing street. Those are some of the issues that need to be addressed further, and it is a great shame that that will not happen in the next legislative Session.

I return to the police, particularly those in my own area. I recently had the pleasure of meeting the new chief constable of Dyfed-Powys police, Simon Prince, and had very meaningful discussions with him about how to make our communities better and safer places. I was pleased to notice his emphasis on the need for partnership with other organisations to make a cohesive community and for a coherent approach to tackling and preventing problems, as well as a better understanding of the role of the police in society.

One worry that we have locally is the threat to take away the police helicopter. It is clear to anyone who knows the Dyfed-Powys area, with its mountains and its long coastline, much of which is rocky, that a fixed-wing aircraft, which may have its uses for reconnaissance and search purposes, does not offer the necessary versatility

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that the helicopter affords. Indeed, a review carried out last summer by five air support unit executive officers concluded with the recommendation

“to place the fixed wing in St Athan and to retain the rotary option”—

namely, the helicopter—

“at the current base at Pembrey.”

Furthermore, only a couple of years ago some £1.5 million of public money was spent at Pembrey to create an absolutely state-of-the-art helicopter base, so it would be a real waste of that money if the helicopter were to move elsewhere. I ask Ministers to address that issue very seriously.

On mesothelioma, I am very pleased about the programme to help people who cannot trace their original employer. A lot of the people I meet have worked for many different employers. Sometimes they have been self-employed. They may have been working in different facilities, perhaps doing a plumber-type job, and going round to all sorts of different providers. So far they have had no one to turn to for compensation. I hope that it will be a properly funded programme that will give them the money they so desperately need. I also hope that it will not involve delays, because one of the horrible features of this disease, which is a very nasty one, is that once it becomes visible it is not very long, perhaps only nine months to a year, before people pass away. There have been cases where money has come far too late to be of any help, so the Bill needs to make money available to stave off that problem in the interim period before the compensation comes through.

On legal aid, I have been seriously lobbied, perhaps for the first time ever, by solicitors, who admitted that they might not be the most appealing, cuddly group in society. Nevertheless, they made the very good point that it makes no sense for only four firms to provide legal aid for such a huge area—the Dyfed-Powys police area is the largest in England and Wales and the fourth largest in England, Wales and Scotland—when most of those who currently operate there are from small family firms. There are no large providers. Will the Government consider seriously the number of providers that can be employed in a particular area?

Another anomaly follows on from that. If someone who has committed a crime and has been helped at a police station by a firm of solicitors is involved in another incident before that case gets to court, they might be helped by a different firm the second time around. Indeed, three or four different firms could end up attending to that person and they would all have to turn up at court. Rather than cutting down on costs, that seems wasteful.

I can see that you are anxious for me to finish, Mr Deputy Speaker, so I shall conclude my remarks on that note.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Speeches are now averaging about 10 or 11 minutes each. I do not want to impose a time limit, so I would be grateful if Members could respect others who wish to contribute.

3.1 pm

Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith), who made a good contribution about the

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importance of community cohesion. I want to address the need for legislative changes to safeguard elderly people in the place they call home, and comment on a scandal in south Wales.

Whether they are looked after by a public or private provider, the law should ensure that elderly people’s care is excellent, and respect their dignity, individuality and choice. Care should be delivered with professionalism and compassion. Where care standards fall short, the elderly and their families should have confidence that there will be effective sanctions and redress.

This House has rightly scrutinised the shocking scandals in Stafford hospital and the Winterbourne View care home for adults with learning disabilities. I want to highlight the disgraceful treatment in care homes for the elderly in south Wales, the full details of which have yet to reach the public domain.

Gwent has recently seen a failure to secure justice for care home residents following the collapse of serious criminal charges, which has left the families of an alleged 103 victims feeling aggrieved and abandoned. An £11.6 million investigation known as Operation Jasmine began in 2005. It produced 10,500 pieces of evidence and led police to brand the negligence discovered as “death by indifference”. However, just two convictions have been secured for wilful negligence since the start of the inquiry in 2005. It took so long to bring charges against the director of the residential care homes who was investigated that, by the time his court case was scheduled in March, Dr Das had suffered an assault, leaving him unfit for trial.

I have been speaking to the families affected by the stymied Operation Jasmine, who are still grieving over this shameful crime—a crime without punishment. The neglect and indifference in these care homes continues to appal. There are little things, such as losing a mother’s false teeth for days on end or dressing her in a neighbour’s damp or dirty clothes, and big things—the stories that chill the blood—such as the dad who challenged his family on his return to a care home, “Why have you put me here?” The same father was left curled up like a dog for hour upon hour, slowly developing pressure sores that exposed the bone underneath.

How can we use that sorry experience to inform the reform of the law of wilful neglect, to extend corporate responsibility or to reform our social care legislation? First, I want a public inquiry so that we can understand how Dr Das was able to continue running care homes despite damning reports by the inspectorate, and so that lessons can be learned.

According to a former employee, Dr Das

“would pull up in his Rolls Royce and complain they were spending too much on incontinence pads”

at his care home in Ebbw Vale in my constituency. He failed to pay care home registration fees, and paid the outstanding tax and national insurance for his staff only on the eve of a hearing on HMRC’s petition to wind up his company. He settled his gas and electricity bills only when the energy companies threatened to cut off the gas to his care homes. He failed to ensure that all staff had proper Criminal Records Bureau checks and that sufficient numbers of trained staff were available for cover. Dr Das gave false evidence to the Care Standards Tribunal, both orally and in writing, with the intention to deceive. The tribunal found that:

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“Dr Das has developed an extraordinary capacity for self-delusion”.

Given the weight of the evidence compiled by Operation Jasmine, I hope that the Welsh Government or the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales will agree to an inquiry.

Secondly, we must look at the law on wilful neglect. If a patient does not die from poor care and does not have a loss of capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, the guidance of the Crown Prosecution Service says that a criminal offence is difficult to identify. The Prime Minister was therefore wrong when he told me on 1 May that the criminal law was already there to deal with care home abuse. It is not.

The deputy chief constable of Gwent police, Jeff Farrar, told me today:

“The depth and quality of evidence obtained in this inquiry and the engagement throughout with expert witnesses and the CPS was substantial. And it is not only frustrating, but difficult to see how if such cases occurred in the future (where the death of an elderly person in a care home was attributed to omissions as opposed to deliberate acts) the police could ever produce sufficient evidence to reach the threshold test for charging these offences.”

Others agree with that view. The Joint Committee that scrutinised the draft Care and Support Bill recommended that organisations—not just employees—that are found to have contributed to abuse or neglect in a care setting should be liable to criminal prosecution for breach of corporate responsibility. Age UK believes that neglect should be classified as abuse, whether wilful or not, because of the difficulty of proving intention. Therefore, if someone is abused or neglected as a result of incompetence or indifference, it should still be seen as abuse.

I hope that the Government will engage with voluntary organisations and MPs of all parties to improve the legislation. Prevention is the best option and inspection procedures must be robust and transparent, but when neglect occurs, those who are responsible must be brought to justice so that everyone knows that callous and degrading care will be punished. Finally, high standards of patient care must not be sacrificed to boost personal profit, as when Dr Das enjoyed his Rolls-Royce while penny pinching and cutting the supply of incontinence pads to the residents in his homes.

3.8 pm

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): I am very glad to have an opportunity to say a few words on the Queen’s Speech. It was a Queen’s Speech that could best be described as the creation of one Lynton Crosby, the chief Tory strategist. It is extraordinary that an important, symbolic and historic event that takes place every year should this year have the fingerprints all over it of an Australian huckster. The Lynton Crosby effect can be seen in both what is in the Queen’s Speech, and what is not in it. What runs through the speech, the way it was briefed and its theme, show that this speech has anti-immigration measures as its centrepiece.

In the wake of recent local elections, politicians on all sides are clearly focused on the UKIP vote and what we need to do to appeal to that. There are, however, too many myths about immigration. It is a myth that we have not been allowed to talk about immigration during

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past decades. My Government had a major Bill on immigration or nationality in every Parliament, and I do not think a day has gone by over the past 20 years in which a tabloid paper has not run an anti-immigrant story, whether it is asylum seekers eating swans or Romanian ladies in headscarves who are the latest threat to the body politic. The myth that no one is allowed to talk about immigration is just that.

It is also a myth that Labour had an open-door policy on immigration. I do more immigration casework than most Members of the House because of the nature of my constituency, and we have filing cabinets full of cases, many of which went on for months, moving into years. The assertion that under the previous Government immigrants and asylum seekers could just walk into the UK is a myth that wants quashing.

I do not doubt that the polls are right when they reflect concern about immigration. I note, however, that the more diverse an area, and the longer immigrants have been there, the less frightened people are of immigration. Fear takes hold in parts of the country where there are hardly any immigrants. Some Labour Members like to point to the children or grandchildren of earlier waves of immigrants who have difficulty with immigration and say, “Look, this West Indian and this African are worried about eastern European migrants.” I have been an MP for more than 20 years, and in a part of London that has seen successive waves of immigration I have noted that it is always the last group of immigrants but one to arrive who feel that they can complain about the latest group. It is almost as if being able to complain about the latest group of immigrants cements someone’s status as a real British national. I do not say that that does not reflect real concerns about immigration, and where there are such concerns, whether about job insecurity, low wages, or an absence of housing, this House and my party should address them. However, it is important not to get swept up in myth making.

In an extraordinarily cynical manoeuvre, the Government —on the instructions, I imagine, of Mr Lynton Crosby—have made immigration one of the centrepieces of the Queen’s Speech, yet a number of the measures that they suggest will not, in practice, achieve the effects that the general public might think. For instance, the Prime Minister spoke about being able to throw out foreign national prisoners almost as soon as they are sentenced. Well, we will see whether that can happen. All prisoner exchange agreements with non-EU countries turn on the consent of the prisoner, and until now, prisoners from Jamaica, which has the largest number of foreign nationals in British jails, and prisoners from Nigeria have always refused to go back to their countries of origin to serve their sentence. I do not know what will change.

An issue was raised in the context of the Queen’s Speech about stopping immigrants who are not entitled to NHS treatment from receiving it. Of course we should not facilitate health tourism—no Opposition Member defends that—and of course hospitals should be able to get back money that they are owed. There is, however, a danger of blowing this up into a huge issue when the sums of money, given the total NHS budget, are not necessarily that great. If hospitals and doctors are to query the entitlement of people who walk through their door, given the nature of things the danger is that they will query those from visible minorities who may

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well be not just British nationals, but third-generation British nationals. What will that do for community cohesion?

Lyn Brown: One thing that worries me is that such rhetoric could prevent people who are sick with transmittable diseases from going to the doctors because they are worried about whether they are entitled to do so. That will cost us more, as people who are entitled to health care pick up diseases. Does my hon. Friend agree that such rhetoric will also cost more in terms of lives and serious illnesses in our communities?

Ms Abbott: I am glad my hon. Friend raises that public health aspect of the rhetoric and the media narrative of stopping immigrants from approaching doctors and the health service. Many who are perfectly entitled to approach their doctor will feel inhibited, and there is a danger of disease incubation—people might finally go to the health service only when they are far gone, which will cost a lot more. Another danger is communicable disease. The pronouncements on stopping immigrants from unwarrantedly accessing NHS health care are not just wrong, toxic and unworkable, but inimical to good public health.

The Queen’s Speech is a Lynton Crosby public speech partly because of the immigration theme that runs through it, which is all about rhetoric. The measures will either not deliver or deliver in a minimalist way. All it does is heighten fears. The Government believe that it is to their advantage to do so.

The Lynton Crosby effect is both what is in the speech and what is not in it. We know that his company, Crosby Textor, is on a retainer with British American Tobacco in Australia to fight plain packaging. I put it to the House that it is no coincidence that a man who made his considerable sums of money fighting plain packaging in Australia turns up as the Conservative party’s chief political strategist, and it suddenly drops its commitment to plain packaging.

Dropping that commitment cannot be because of the evidence. I do not ask the House to believe me on the significance of plain packaging; the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), who has responsibility for public health, said just weeks ago that she was persuaded having seen the evidence—the Department of Health has seen the evidence. What happened between the Department of Health forming a view on plain packaging and the Under-Secretary coming out in public in favour of it, and a Queen’s Speech that does not mention it, even though it is the preferred solution of medical experts and smoking cessation campaigners? Lynton Crosby happened. The idea that thousands of people could have their health endangered because of the malign influence of Lynton Crosby on Tory party policy is very regrettable.

The House must remember that tobacco remains the biggest cause of health inequalities in terms of death rates—it is more significant than any other factor. As I have said, there is complete consensus, including among the British Medical Association and medical and smoking cessation campaigners, that plain packaging is a key aspect in reducing levels of smoking and improving the health of the population, but because Lynton Crosby raises an eyebrow, it seems to have been dropped from the Queen’s Speech.

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Another measure missing from the Queen’s Speech that has tremendous public health implications is a minimum price for alcohol. I am proud to tell the House that the Labour party’s policy is to support a minimum price for alcohol because there is a consensus—again—among campaigners, doctors’ organisations and anybody concerned about alcohol abuse, and even among some Government Members, that something must be done about the deluge of cheap alcohol. We have gone from the situation in the 19th century when people were worried about pubs and clubs, to worrying about men, women and children buying cheap alcohol in the supermarket and corner shop and doing themselves real damage drinking at home. We are seeing rising levels of liver disease as a result of the consumption of cheap alcohol. At one point the Prime Minister said that he was persuaded by the arguments for a minimum price, and brave statements were made by the Home Secretary. What happened then? Lynton Crosby came in as chief political adviser and the commitment to a minimum price on alcohol disappeared, again to the detriment of the health of thousands of our people.

This is the Lynton Crosby Queen’s Speech. It is disgraceful that he is able to abuse his position as a political adviser to interfere with the legislative programme of this Government. The health of thousands of people will suffer as a result of that interference, and the malign narrative on immigration that is being propagated is no way to build social cohesion. It rests on myths, rather than facts, and is no way to build what we on the Opposition Benches would like to see: one nation politics.

3.21 pm

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): I enjoyed the start of this debate and I recognise that I have not been here for all of the speeches in between, so I am grateful for the chance to say a few words.

I want to follow on from the speech by the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and the speech made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), who talked about the importance of public health.

Back in 1986, I was made Minister with responsibility for roads—painting white lines on national roads—and someone asked me what I was going to do to improve road safety. I asked how one measured the change in the level of road safety. Within 20 minutes, we were discussing casualty reduction. Casualties can be counted, however inaccurately. I asked what was the dominant factor, and was told that young men drinking more than the legal limit of alcohol and then going driving mattered a lot. I received consistent advice from virtually every respected group in the country that three things had to happen: the legal limit had to be lowered, which would criminalise more people; policing had to be stepped up; and penalties had to be increased.

In those days, there were approximately 2 million occasions a week when young men would drive a car having consumed more than the legal limit for alcohol. They were not necessarily over the limit when they drove. The number of drink-related deaths when the driver or motorcycle rider was above the legal limit when killed, or the passenger was killed, was 1,200 a year.

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The figure now is between 200 and 250. Four-fifths of a socially acceptable, illegal, body-bending habit evaporated with no change of law, no change of sentencing and no change to enforcement.

Considering the difficulties that younger people face, whether they are our own children or somebody else’s, does matter. If we had an 18-year-old who said, “Do you know that interest rates have been at 0.5% for a long time, the rate of unemployment has fluctuated between this, that and the other, and the rate of inflation on different measures is between this and that?” we might say in response, “I hope you are doing A-level economics.”

If that 18-year-old said, “I am in court on Monday on a serious criminal charge,” or “My husband”—or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, or a stranger—“and I have become pregnant; what should we do now?” or “I have decided to become a lifelong smoker of 20 a day, seven packs a week, at more than £7 a pack in after-tax income, so you, the parent, are more likely to bury me than me bury you,” each of us might regard the second set of announcements as more significant and more important to us than interest rates, the rate of unemployment and the rate of inflation.

I estimate that the figures for those taking up crime for the first time to be about 1,800 a week. Those figures can be obtained by asking how many people get convicted each week for the first time, having committed an offence for which the sentence could be six months or more.

When I first raised the matter, the Home Office claimed it did not have the information, but it did—although it is probably now with the Ministry of Justice. As part of our national statistics, those figures should be coming out regularly, both nationally and regionally, so that the media might start paying attention to how it is that so many of our young people—a third of males by the age of 30—have been convicted of a serious criminal offence. That is why I told the Home Secretary earlier that we need to pay attention to the numbers who commit offences for the first time and for how long, on average, they go on doing so. There are relatively few lifelong serious criminals.

In her speech yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) said that 200,000 teenagers took up smoking every year. If 40% of our young people are taking up smoking—almost the same level as 25 years ago—all the measures taken since then, such as removing promotions from the front of tobacconists and raising prices significantly, must have been inadequate.

Why and when do people take up smoking? Very few take it up after the age of 21. It is something that teenagers take up. Ask a young person who is smoking, “How old are you?”, and they might say, “I’m 15”, “I’m 13” or “I’m 18”. If we say, “You’re too young to smoke,” effectively we are saying, “You’re doing an adult thing.” We ought to say, “Oh dear, a child. Only children take it up. I’m sorry you’re one of them,” and walk away.

We might also say to that child, “If you are a smoker, try not to be the first person to light up in any group and try not to smoke in front of someone who is younger than you.” Whatever the merits or demerits of

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plain packaging—it is not an argument I want to get into—what is certain is that smoking is a social disease: people pick it up because those around them are doing it. We need to change that culture. In effect, we need to make smoking like picking your nose: it goes on, but it should be in private, not public, and people should just disapprove. Before we changed the law, people did not smoke in a church, chapel, temple, mosque or synagogue. It just was not done. It was not expected.

We must do for smoking what we did for drink-driving. What was effective for drink-driving was, first, telling hosts, whether in a pub, club, party or at home, “Always have alcohol-free drinks within reach. No one should ever have to ask for an alcohol-free drink.” That is not just for drivers, but for those who are temperate, who make up 10% of the population, for those who were alcoholics, who also make up 10% of the population, for those who are pregnant, those who want to be pregnant, those who have drunk too much and those who are on a diet—there are all kinds of reasons.

Secondly, we want to ensure that passengers pick an alcohol-free driver. If I were going on a holiday to the Costa Lot from Gatwick and saw the pilot coming out of a bar and tottering slightly as he walked up the front steps of the aeroplane, I might think, “This plane is not for me”—planes can fly themselves, but cars cannot. In my time, five young men would get into a car and drive to the pub. Each would buy a round of drinks and four passengers would get back into the car knowing that the driver had had five drinks and that they had paid for four of them.

Thirdly, if like me someone drinks and drives, they should decide in advance which it is going to be that night. If in years to come, I get held for drink-driving, people will point to this speech and say, “Ya-ha-ha, hypocrite!”, but the fact is that between host responsibility, passenger choice and the drinking-driving choice, things become much better. That has become the norm and young people, instead of being four times as bad as their parents, are probably four times as good.

I want to turn to sex. Between 40% and 45% of people in this country get involved in a conception that ends in a termination—a formal abortion. We have nearly 400,000 abortions a year in this country, which is 40,000 a year more than we had 25 years ago, despite all the sex and personal education, the availability of contraception, the advice and politicians saying, “Say no.”

The only thing we cannot inherit from our parents is celibacy, unless we are conceived in a glass dish. We say to people, “Think about family planning or birth control.” After a good party, we might think about having it off. If we do, do we wait for the embarrassment afterwards of saying, “Cripes, we’ve conceived, we’ve already got five children” or “What did you say your name was?”, or “I know we’ve lived together for two years, but we hadn’t planned this.” We need to give people the confidence to use more than the words “family planning” and “birth control”. It is a choice between what embarrassment people want: between talking beforehand about contraception or afterwards talking about the consequence of having conceived.

We can drop down to the Dutch figures, which are one quarter of ours, in about six months, if we start using language that is helpful to people, as we did with

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drink-driving. So often in Parliament, we use language that does not relate to people in their homes, in their lives or on the streets. It worked with drink-driving.

Too often in politics we believe that the law is the answer to questions. The law can make something into a crime, but it does not necessarily stop it happening—we would not have 80,000 people in jail tonight if it did. The law can give people rights, but they cannot always use them. The law can also provide a system of dispute resolution, which can often be useful, but not always.

There are some good things in the Queen’s Speech about fairness, but if we rely too much on the law to make the changes that affect our social health, we will be relying on the wrong weapons or crutches. Openness and language matter enormously.

The last thing I want to talk about is fairness. One of the issues that came up at the end of the last Session was leasehold reform. I believe we have to go much further. There are 3 million leaseholders in this country. There was a time, 40 or 50 years ago, when George Thomas—later Lord Tonypandy, but in between the occupant of the Speaker’s Chair—was campaigning for leasehold reform because so many people living in the terraces in the Welsh valleys were being exploited by the leasehold system.

Leasehold enfranchisement came. Now we have leasehold valuation tribunals, which are supposed to be a cheap, simple and effective way of resolving disputes between leaseholders and freeholders and their managing agents. There is an organisation called Lease that provides advice. It gets just over £1 million a year from the Government, but it needs much more help. I am seeing Lease tomorrow and I hope to work with it to tell Government what they need to do.

There are two or three Departments involved: the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Justice and one other—I forget which one. They need to put together a taskforce to analyse why some cases do not get to a leasehold valuation tribunal fast, why they cost far more to resolve than the £500 advertised as the fee and why clever lawyers manage to put down the leaseholders and let some freeholders—not all, but some—abuse the system. I will give the House one example of abuse. The freeholder, through their managing agent, can arrange insurance and make the leaseholders pay the premium without saying openly what the commission is and without necessarily testing the market. That is just one example; I could give a number of others.

When we look at fairness, which is mentioned in the Queen’s Speech, let us hope that we can build it in and use this place to bring some of the issues into the open, so that they can be resolved properly by those who are doing things anyway, who can find ways of doing them better. Doing things better is what matters most. It certainly worked when I had responsibility for reducing casualties on the road; it can work in other fields as well.

3.32 pm

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): When Members of this House trooped along the corridor to the other place yesterday to listen to the Gracious Speech, we hoped to hear some good news—perhaps an admission that the Government’s economic policy was

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misguided and that we would see a new focus on growth and jobs, rather than self-defeating austerity. Although that hope may have always been forlorn, I had at least hoped to see some progress on issues where I know the Government are not implacably opposed to progress. Sadly, my constituents, and everyone else’s too, were let down.

I know that Ministers want headlines about immigration, offender management and crime, but Home Office Ministers had a chance to keep in with their colleagues in the Department of Health, working with them to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol and helping to put a stop to some of the antisocial and criminal activities that our people and police officers have to deal with, while at the same time saving lives and hard cash for our under-pressure NHS. I will return to what Home Office Ministers should put before this House a little later.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), I just cannot understand why Ministers have a blockage when it comes to taking opportunities to improve our society by making it safer and healthier. Despite laudable statements about the need to tackle smoking and excessive drinking, there is no sign of legislation to combat them. However, I hear that the Prime Minister said again yesterday—after the Queen’s Speech, that is—that measures on both smoking and drinking would be introduced, so where are they? The British Medical Association chair of council, Dr Mark Porter, said he was “bitterly disappointed” that standardised packaging for tobacco and the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol had been ditched, adding:

“If the government U-turns on its pledge to deal with alcohol and tobacco related harm, we will have to question its commitment to protecting the nation’s health”.

The decision to drop a proposed Bill to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes and tobacco, seemingly taken over the heads of the officials and Ministers who wanted it, robs us of an effective new tool to combat smoking.

Let us not forget that smoking is a major but preventable cause of death and disease, and the attitude that we should wait and see how Australia’s action works out represents a public health failure at a time when innovative action is needed. An unattributed Government source was quoted in The Sun as saying:

“Plain packaging may or may not be a good idea, but it’s nothing to do with the Government’s key purpose. The Prime Minister is determined to strip down everything we do so we can concentrate all our efforts on voters’ essentials. That means growth, immigration and welfare reform.”

I would have thought the health of the nation was also a key purpose. Perhaps the source should have added that the Government were also determined to keep in with the powerful tobacco and alcohol lobbies, whose coffers seem bottomless and whose tactics are shameless as they work to condemn generation after generation to the respiratory diseases and cancers that their products cause.

We know, thanks to documents produced by the tobacco industry, that it invests heavily in packet design in order to appeal to specific target audiences, even young people. Can that be right? The tobacco lobbying industry keeps asserting that there is no evidence to suggest that that makes any difference. If that is the case, I wonder why great sums of money continue to be spent on lobbying against this change, and on the

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marketing itself. Surely the industry could save money in both respects. We have to assume that it is either knowingly throwing good money after bad or not being fully honest with us. Perhaps Home Office and other Minsters could also take an interest. Do the activities of the tobacco lobby—hiding behind the organisations that it funds, making false claims about its marketing strategy and contributing so spectacularly to the ill health of our nation—constitute crimes against our people?

We know from research by the British Lung Foundation that smoking is a habit that people tend to take up at a young age. More than 200,000 children start smoking each year in the UK and around two thirds of smokers start before the age of 18. It is well known how hard it is to quit smoking. It is estimated that an enormous 70% of smokers continue to smoke despite wanting to quit. Plain packaging would help to de-glamorise the buying of cigarettes and show that we as a nation are serious about preventing children from taking up smoking.

There are also no proposals for action on introducing a ban on smoking in cars when a child is present. I have put the case in this House for such a ban many times, including twice introducing private Members’ Bills. With colleagues, I ensured that such provisions were tabled as a new clause to the Children and Families Bill. I hope that, in the absence of other action, the Government will back that new clause in a few weeks’ time when the Bill comes back to the House on Report. That will be a wonderful opportunity for them to do a little thing to reduce the effects of smoking.

When I spoke to officials in the Department for Health, however, I was told that the Government were reluctant to go forward with a ban on smoking in cars when a child is present because they were keeping their powder dry for a big fight with the tobacco industry over plain packaging. So when are we going to have that fight? Not in this parliamentary year, it seems. Those campaign groups, individual campaigners and concerned parents who have contacted me and others to put the case for a ban will be disappointed that the Government have taken action on neither issue.

In retreat, the Government have essentially said to the tobacco industry that if it shouts loudly enough, puts enough adverts in national newspapers and has its lobbyists exert as much pressure as they can muster, it will get its way and the Government will capitulate. If the Government had had the courage, they would have introduced in the Gracious Speech a Bill to ensure that all cigarette packets had the same plain design, and to ban smoking in cars when children were present. Those would have been bold, progressive moves that would have been popular and right.

It is not just tobacco that the Government have capitulated on. The Home Secretary, the Prime Minister and others have promised a new approach to tackling alcohol abuse and binge drinking. I believe that that could be done through minimum unit pricing, but that is another policy that seems to have fallen down the back of the No. 10 settee. The British Medical Association’s director of professional services has urged the Prime Minister:

“Be courageous: this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save lives, to save the country money. Both of those are very good deals for him. And it will get him the thanks of an awful lot of

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people. Not just doctors and nurses but also the families of problem drinkers who desperately want the government to do something to help them help the people they love to kick the habit and to save their lives.”

I agree, and I had hoped that the Prime Minister would face down the alcohol industry lobbying and do the right thing. Once again, however, the families of heavy drinkers and the victims of drink-fuelled antisocial behaviour have been let down, despite the stated views of medical professionals, campaign groups and victims.

Professor Steve Field, a Government NHS adviser, said:

“On minimum unit pricing of alcohol we must not wimp out of that decision. It’s vital for people’s health, particularly the health of more vulnerable people. It will probably save around 1,000 lives a year and will also reduce admissions to hospital. It will also reduce the burden of long-term care and it will also help with social cohesion because a lot of alcohol triggers violence, it triggers domestic abuse, and if you look at society as a whole, we urgently have to do something about alcohol, of which”

minimum pricing

“is the first step. The government must take control and it’s up to them.”

I, too, regret the fact that the Government have passed up this opportunity. When the Minister winds up today’s debate, perhaps he will confirm whether the Government are going to wimp out after all.

If the Government are so preoccupied with tackling the economic issues we face, I would have hoped to see a better set of proposals to do just that. Instead, we see yet more dithering, yet more fiddling around the edges and yet more misdirected supply-side measures when a lack of demand is what is holding us back. They should have started with a jobs Bill. Unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment, continue to hold us back. My Stockton North constituency has a youth unemployment rate of 1,280 and general unemployment stands on the cusp of 10%. Nationally, more than 1 million young people are out of work. The Government have to do better by young people, who too often do not recover from early setbacks in their careers.

I do not have the precise figures on under-employment, but anecdotal evidence suggests that we are suffering particularly acutely in the Stockton borough as more and more people are forced to take low-paid, part-time jobs. We could create thousands of jobs—quality jobs—by replacing, for example, the huge number of police officers that have been lost under this current Government. A jobs Bill, as proposed by my right hon. Friends the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Leader of the House, would be a welcome start. That would see the introduction of a compulsory jobs guarantee, which would ensure a paid job for every adult who is out of work for more than two years.

A Labour jobs Bill would also guarantee a six-month paid job for all young people out of work for over a year, paid for by a bank bonus tax, with those offered a job being required to take it. It would also require large firms getting Government contracts to have an active apprenticeship scheme to help ensure that opportunities to work for the next generation exist and that the Government are taking real and meaningful steps to promote them actively.

We have seen the cost of living sky-rocket during this Parliament, with even those in work feeling the pinch. Thanks to the Government’s refusal to get a grip on

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energy costs, the perverse decision to increase VAT and the cut in in-work benefits, people in my constituency are feeling the pinch like never before. Prices are rising faster than wages, and people are now £1,700 a year worse off than they were in May 2010. Even my local fish and chip shop in Norton village is getting battered by this Government! A drop in demand means that it has to close earlier and reduce staff hours so that staff wages are much lower.

The Government should have taken Labour’s advice to cut VAT back down to 17.5%. They should have taken real action on fuel bills, introduced tough new fare caps on train routes and brought greater regulation to bear on estate agents who routinely rip off those in the private rented sector. My party have shown that we are willing to take action across the board to tackle the injustices and iniquities of the private sector where it is not working in the best interests of all of those who rely on it. As the Labour party, we are willing to go where the Government are not—making the interventions that will boost public health, tackle unemployment and ensure that those who are in work get a fair deal from the businesses with which they interact.

This Government’s failures border on the criminal. The Gracious Speech was a chance to correct some of the Government’s wrongs; sadly, what we have ahead next year is a programme that is light on legislation and light on action—above all, it is a missed opportunity.

3.43 pm

Gemma Doyle (West Dunbartonshire) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to today’s debate. Yesterday’s Gracious Speech was, I think, the third since I was elected to represent West Dunbartonshire in 2010. As with the previous two, however, I am afraid that yesterday’s was simply another wasted opportunity by a Government who should be getting to grips with the real challenges facing the UK. As other Members have mentioned, yesterday’s speech was more important for what it did not include than for what it contained.

Across the UK, people are really struggling. They may be unable to get a job because of the flatlining economy or struggling to make ends meet because of the cost-of-living crisis. I can assure Members and Ministers that the people of West Dunbartonshire are absolutely no different; in fact, they are at the sharp end of this Government’s crisis. The Prime Minister promised there would be a change for the better when he went into Downing street in 2010, but the truth is that things are getting much worse, not better. In West Dunbartonshire unemployment is up, youth unemployment is up and long-term youth unemployment is now 10 times the level it was in May 2010—more than 1,000 young people are looking for a job. It is an absolute scandal.

It does not look as though things will be changing any time soon. Currently in my constituency, more than 12 people are chasing every job—and, almost unbelievably, the number has been as high as 40 people out of work for every advertised job in the last three years. In fact, I frequently hear of jobs—part-time jobs that do not require any skills or qualifications—for which more than 100 people have applied. That, if nothing else, should be setting off alarm bells for this Government.

Yet the Government repeatedly say they want to reward those in work; indeed, the Home Secretary said so in her opening remarks today. However, those in work

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who are having their tax credits and housing benefit cut will struggle to see how what the Government are saying to us here in this Chamber matches up with what they are doing to people around the country. There are simply not enough jobs for people to go into. The vast majority of people who are sitting at home are not doing so because they do not want to work: they are being failed by a Government who are unwilling or unable to get growth in the economy and to create the jobs they desperately need.

This Government have cut public sector jobs in my constituency. By now they have, I think, given up repeating the mantra that the private sector will sweep in and make up for all the jobs they have cut. If any Minister wants to come to my constituency and talk about how the private sector can be helped to grow, they will be very welcome, but so far that growth is not happening, and we face an unemployment crisis.

The national insurance holiday, which we first heard about in the Budget, is welcome. Indeed, it is very similar to the scheme we were calling for, but it is three years too late. The Government should have introduced it much earlier. Instead, we have we have had three years of flatlining growth.

The Gracious Speech contains no real plans to get the economy back on track, and nor are there any plans to help people struggling with the rising cost of living. All we have had is more of the same from an out-of-touch Government: no answers and nothing to say to the people of this country.

Scotland is being hammered by two Governments that are one and the same, both putting misguided ideology ahead of necessary action and legislation, and both bereft of ideas when Scotland needs solutions. When Labour delivered devolution to Scotland, we did so in order to create aspiration and achievement in the good times, and to protect the people of Scotland from the worst excesses of a Tory Government in the bad times. We could now have a Scottish Government using their ingenuity to bring forward creative proposals, but we do not have that. They could, and should, be straining every sinew and using every mechanism at their disposal to help the Scottish people, but instead they are standing on the sidelines, and today the Scottish National party is not even interested in turning up to debate these issues—I think there was a brief intervention from one SNP Member at the very beginning of this debate.

The Scottish Government are standing on the sidelines and rubber-stamping Tory measures such as the bedroom tax. They have passed no legislation to protect people from this policy. They have done nothing to help councils and housing associations in Scotland deal with the fallout from the bedroom tax. In fact, just last week I was told in confidence of a Scottish Government official who had a civil servant who let it slip that they had been told that everything they do must be about winning the referendum. That is absolutely scandalous, because power is a privilege and it must be exercised with caution and in the best interests of the people. At the moment, in Scotland, it is being used in a desperate attempt to win a campaign that is not about the interests of the Scottish people; it is about the interests of the First Minister.

There is an alternative for people throughout the whole of the UK: Labour’s plans in our alternative Queen’s Speech offer the real change that this country needs. I urge Ministers to look at it, because it gets to

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grips with the issues they need to deal with. It includes a jobs Bill, to introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee; a consumers Bill, to tackle rip-off energy bills and train fares; and a finance Bill to kick-start the economy, to get it moving again. Those are the changes and the things that people out there want to see.

Our plans also include an alternative immigration Bill with real economic powers to put an end to workers having their wages illegally undercut by employers exploiting migrant labour; it would double the fines for breaching the minimum wage and give local councils the powers to take enforcement action. Those are the things we want to see happen. However, the plans that we heard from the Government yesterday and from the Home Secretary earlier today fail to deal with the big problems to do with the exploitation of foreign workers to undercut local workers. The Queen’s Speech was also very much a missed opportunity to tackle the problem of illegal immigration. We want to see a much fairer system of controls and limits on students, cutting the number of bogus students but ensuring that we have a much more effective system for the migration we need. Legitimate students should not be targeted by the Government to bring immigration down; they are an easy target but not the right one.

There are things that the Home Secretary could be doing, but she is not. The new Schengen information system, which will share information on migrants travelling within the EU, will guarantee the authenticity of documents and help to identify illegal immigrants. So far, for some reason, the Home Secretary has failed to sign up to that—she is refusing to do it. Unlike some Government Members, I am not scared of immigration, because our country has benefited greatly from it, just as other countries have benefited from emigration from this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), in her contribution, set out well the beneficial impact that immigration has had on her town. Indeed, I suspect that few Members of the House are not partly the product of a story that involves immigration at some point in the tale.

There are issues that need to be addressed, and unless the Government get to grips with the problems, immigration will continue to be an easy scapegoat and the byword for all the problems faced by the Government. Immigration should not be the scapegoat, but that is what they are using it for at the moment. I therefore urge the Government to deal with firms that are not paying the national minimum wage, with recruitment agencies that are only advertising and using overseas labour, and with the slum landlords profiting from substandard and overcrowded housing. There is nothing in the Government plans to deal with those three pressing key issues. I hope that the Government are anticipating our amendments to their Bill, which the Leader of the Opposition has stated that we will table, and that they might work with us and support those amendments.

The Home Secretary did announce plans to break up the UK Border Agency. I agree that reform of the UKBA is absolutely needed; all of us who deal with casework involving the UKBA would recognise that. Serious issues need to be fixed and tackled; we have seen lower levels of enforcement and huge delays for

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people coming through the airports last summer. Those problems need to be tackled, and we do not want to see a repeat of that.

The Government are still failing to acknowledge that things have got worse and not better on their watch, including on deportations of foreign criminals, where the number has decreased. Surely the first step to solving problems is to accept responsibility. It is not good enough to keep blaming other people, whether they are officials in the UKBA or elsewhere, or indeed the system, as the Home Secretary did earlier—she blamed the appeals system. She presides over that system, so she needs to get to grips with it.

It is worth recapping some of the facts and the failures: the backlog in finding failed asylum seekers has gone up; the number of illegal immigrants who have been deported has gone down; the number of foreign prisoners who have been removed has gone down; the number of businesses fined for employing illegal workers has gone down; fingerprint checks on illegal migrants at Calais have been stopped; basic security checks on 100,000 missing asylum and immigration cases have been dropped; and the e-Borders technology has been delayed. I do not know how anyone could describe that as anything but a catalogue of failure.

The Government must get this issue right. The plans that they announced yesterday have been found wanting. I hope that they have listened to some of our proposals, and that when the immigration Bill comes forward we will be able to get it right. Unfortunately, at the moment we are simply getting more of the same from an out-of-touch Government: no ideas, no answers, and nothing to suggest. People across the UK deserve an awful lot better.

3.55 pm

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): I am most grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important Queen’s Speech debate. It is also a great pleasure to follow the eloquent and thoughtful contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle).

I begin by welcoming some things in the Queen’s Speech. First, I welcome the inclusion of Bills for High Speed 2. I fully support the project which cannot come a day too soon, because faster and better infrastructural links to Birmingham, to the north-west and, ultimately, to Crewe, with proper connections to various regions, will bring great benefits for businesses, tourists and other travellers to and from my north-east Wales constituency. I welcome those Bills and I only hope that the project moves on as speedily as possible, because it is absolutely vital.

Secondly, I welcome the carry-over of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. It will be a very proud moment indeed for this House and for this country when it is on the statute book.

Thirdly, I welcome the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, but I would welcome it even more if budgets such as that for North Wales police were not facing cuts of 20% and antisocial behaviour orders were not being scrapped. I welcome the inclusion in the Bill of gun-related laws, but I hope that the Home Secretary and her team will consider carefully the points about gun ownership and those with a history of domestic

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violence that were made earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper). We only have to see what has happened in America and the power of the National Rifle Association there to know what the power of the gun lobby can be like, and we in this country also need to be vigilant about it.

I welcome the chance to discuss immigration in this House. Indeed, as some Members have said, it has happened at fairly regular intervals and I do not believe it is an issue we should be frightened of. We should discuss it in a sensible and constructive way. If there is a debate more widely in the country, it would be foolish for us not to follow and listen and respond thoughtfully to the points that are made and to deal with them in legislation.

There are some serious issues and omissions that the Government need to address. Why is more not being done to tackle the use of foreign labour to undercut local workers? As residents of Black Park and Chirk in my constituency told me at the last election, how can it be right that some jobs are advertised only in eastern European languages for agency workers and offer only the worst possible terms of employment? The constituents who ask those questions, and others like them, are absolutely right to do so.

Also, what are we to make of the fact that there have been no prosecutions for breaches of the national minimum wage in the past two years when a recent King’s college study found that between 150,000 and 250,000 workers in the care sector alone are being paid below the national minimum wage? Is it any wonder that many people in this country are angry when such abuses go unpunished? Why can we not extend the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to other sectors?

On immigration, it is beyond belief that the Government are considering the measures that they have announced. I remember that two or three years ago we were told that a national register for landlords would be impossible. It would be too bureaucratic and difficult for the landlords, and would add red tape to the work that they already did, yet now we are told that landlords are expected to be almost the main body policing the system of immigration by identifying illegal tenants. It is nonsense that on the one hand the Government can say it is too bureaucratic to do that, and on the other they can pass the buck straight on to landlords.

There are some issues that never made it into the Queen’s Speech. Plain packaging for cigarettes is one; a lobbying Bill is another. Dare I say that I suspect the two are rather intimately connected? My party would have brought in a new jobs guarantee Bill. It is a pity that none of these will make it on to the statute book, as all would have been a credit to this House and would have brought long-term social and economic benefits.

Finally, I turn to another matter that I would like to have seen in this Queen’s Speech, one that I know has great support across the political spectrum and has been raised in various guises in this House by various Members, including me on numerous occasions. I refer to death or serious injury on the roads caused by uninsured, unlicensed or careless drivers. In last year’s debate on the Queen Speech, I welcomed the aspects of the Crime and Courts Bill that brought into effect new

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provisions on drugs and driving. It is in the spirit of welcoming this change that I call on the Government to be bolder on the issue.

I have raised in the House before the case of Robert James Gaunt. Robert was a nine-year-old boy who was tragically killed in March 2009 while crossing the road in the village of Overton in my constituency by a driver with no licence or insurance, who failed to stop. He was a driver who did not report the accident and, even worse, who attempted to cover up his crime by re-spraying his car. For ending the life of this innocent young boy, the driver incurred a pitiful sentence of 22 months. That was at the very limit of what was possible under the law for that offence. When 1,300 people signed the Justice for Robert petition to back longer sentences for this crime, I promised to stand up for Robert’s memory on their behalf and I will continue to raise the issue here in the House.

I hope the Government will therefore support my ten-minute rule Bill that comes to the House this summer. It will call for the Government to undertake a review of the maximum penalties for driving offences that lead to death or serious injury, for I believe that this measure and any like it that speak up for road safety cannot come a day too soon, and I trust that Ministers will listen sympathetically to my request on this vital issue.

4.3 pm

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): I am not alone in being disappointed with the Queen’s Speech as it failed to deal with any of the real issues and challenges facing our country, such as 1 million young unemployed, the rise in the cost of living, especially for those on low wages, no investment in the growth of our economy, and no real reform of the banking system. The Chancellor said that his austerity measures would bring the budget deficit down by 2015. He has already accepted that that will not happen, and the triple A rating which he considered a holy grail has also gone. In real terms he is borrowing even more to balance the budget. The GDP to national debt ratio is heading towards 80%.

When Labour came to power in 1997, the GDP ratio to the national debt was 42%. By early 2008, it was down to 35%, just before the global recession started. The Government then had to act to save the banks and avoid a worsening financial crisis. As a result, they had to borrow additional money, and the national debt went up, but figures show that by 2010, the GDP ratio to the national debt began to fall again. However, with the austerity measures of the current Chancellor, without a growth plan for the economy, the GDP ratio to the national debt is now some 80%.

These figures are important because it is often said that the Labour Government left the country in an economic mess, but the Opposition know that that is not the case, because the facts and figures from the Treasury and other Departments show that we were financially prudent. It is not just me who says that; that famous left-wing body, the International Monetary Fund, has said the same. It has stated clearly that the actions taken by the previous Prime Minister and the Chancellor were the right ones in light of the situation that we faced and—these words are important—the global recession. Much as the Labour Government would have liked to control the whole world, we certainly did not

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run the USA or Japan, or any of the other advanced nations, but they experienced a similar global crisis. That is important: it was a global crisis and had nothing to do with the suggestion that somehow the Labour Government were financially mismanaging the economy. If anyone is mismanaging the economy, it is the current Government, who are borrowing £164 billion extra to cover the budget deficit.

It makes sense that, if one is not going to invest in the economy, if there are to be no jobs in the economy, and if people are not paying their taxes, the revenue that a Government receive will obviously be less. In order to continue to meet the budget deficit, they will have to borrow more, which is exactly what the Chancellor has done. As a result we now have a higher national debt, the economy is not moving, and again the famous left-wing socialist institution, the IMF, has said that the Government need to change their course. The Chancellor needs to change his course. He must bring in programmes and investment to stimulate growth in the economy. Austerity alone will not be enough. Those who have suffered the most from the austerity and cuts have been the disabled, the elderly, those on low wages, and often women with small children. Their economic situation has been made worse, and their cost of living has risen the most.

But the Government are not satisfied just with taking away people’s economic rights and financially hitting them; they are also taking away some basic civil rights. The cuts to civil legal aid for bodies such as the employment, health and disability tribunals, and in family cases, has meant that many people are now unrepresented. There have been cuts to funding for the citizens advice bureaux, which last year in Bolton South East saw 14,000 people who were suffering, including the vulnerable, disadvantaged and poor, and those on low incomes, and now they will suffer even more. If they have a problem, they will not be able to go to a tribunal. They will have no legal representation and there will be no one to explain their rights to them.

There are further proposals to cut criminal legal aid, which again affects ordinary people most. We hear about the famous few rich defendants, the big criminals, but the majority of those who face criminal charges are not the rich, but ordinary people. The myth that all criminal lawyers earn millions and millions of pounds is another complete lie. Yes, there is the odd Queen’s counsel or barrister who will earn that sort of money from legal aid, but more than 95% of the members of the Bar and people practising criminal law earn nowhere near that. In fact, their earnings are often very average, compared with those in other sectors. The idea that the majority of barristers somehow get £1 million a year from legal aid is a complete distortion of the truth. In fact, it is a complete lie.

The Ministry of Justice now wants to introduce something called price-competitive tendering, which will undermine access to justice and damage our judicial system. People should be able to choose a lawyer on the basis of quality, rather than being given the one with the lowest price. Price-competitive tendering will force bidders to tender at least 17.5% below the current magistrates’ rates, and if they get the contract they will also be able to continue working in the Crown courts.

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With cuts of 35% on criminal advocates’ fees already coming in, all we will see is the really experienced and talented lawyers simply not practising criminal law and inexperienced newcomers taking up cases instead.

There might not be much sympathy for people charged with criminal offences, but I believe that in this country we still have the principle that someone is innocent until proven guilty. Being able to defend oneself from incarceration in the criminal justice system is a fundamental part of a democratic society. That is something we should be proud of, not something we should try to hide or do away with by making it harder for people to access criminal legal aid. Price-competitive tendering will have a great impact on our criminal justice system.

A sad thing in politics in this country is that for a number of years now there has been constant criticism of our judges when they take decisions that the Executive are not happy with. I practised law for more than 20 years, in different courts, and there were times when I did not agree with the judge’s decision, but I did not start bad-mouthing the judge. Instead, we had a system of appeal that allowed us to take the matter further so that someone more senior could consider it, because errors can occur and it can be useful to have another pair of eyes to look at decisions that have been taken. Surely that is the only proper way for politicians to behave in cases involving judges.

Our judges are of a very high calibre. They are not ignorant people who do not know about the real world. They know what the real world is like and they know the law. I think it is about time politicians across all political parties started giving the judiciary the respect it deserves. Ultimately, an independent judiciary is very much a hallmark of a civilized democratic society. That is something we should be proud of in this country. We should not constantly be denigrating judges.

Things that we now take as being accepted were not accepted 20 years ago, and that is because our judges have effectively been applying the law in a way that has benefited many people. For example, it is now perfectly acceptable to take on a public authority or a Department for any wrongdoing. That was not the case until a number of years ago. It is only because our judges have said that public authorities and bodies should be accountable and scrutinised that that is now accepted as normal business in this country. That was very much down to judges.

Many years ago, Lord Denning brought in the equitable principle in the famous High Trees House case. I know that ex-lawyers sometimes tend to go on about the law, but I mention that case because it was the first time people in common law partnerships, especially women, were given some rights over the properties in which they lived and were looking after the children but where they were not the income winners and had no rights at all. That case allowed them to have some rights. We have a lot to be grateful to our judges for, so denigrating them is just not right. If a Government are not happy with a judge’s decision, they have a mechanism of appeal, and the final appeal is to the Supreme Court, which is full of very eminent and high-calibre people who make the decisions.

I am disappointed that the Gracious Speech did not deal with some of the health issues that are big challenges for our society, such as drinking and smoking. Everyone

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accepts that cigarettes cause cancer and many other illnesses. This was an opportunity for the Government, who said themselves that they want to deal with this, but it seems that because of powerful lobbyists and other groups plain packaging is now off the agenda and alcohol is not being tackled. Members have already talked about the impact of alcohol and cigarettes on people’s lives and the illnesses they cause. It is therefore sad and regrettable that this action has not taken place.

Another disappointing aspect of the Queen’s Speech relates to immigration. It is right that there should be a debate about immigration, and nobody is running away from that. People who have come to this country should be able to claim benefit if they have paid taxes to the Treasury. If they have not made those contributions, it is right that they should not be able to benefit from welfare provision. No one is arguing that that is wrong. However, the Government, who are trying to deal with UKIP in a knee-jerk reaction to what happened recently, have brought in policies requiring landlords and doctors to act as policemen. Instead, they should be making sure that the border is being patrolled properly so that people are not coming into the country illegally. They should also be making sure that the UK Border Agency becomes more effective in dealing with people who should not be in this country and should be sent back. That is the way to deal with it; it is the state’s responsibility. Making individual citizens act as spies is wrong; it is like George Orwell’s society coming to fruition. Yes, some big landlords with thousands of homes in their property portfolios might be able to carry out the searches suggested by the Government, but in my constituency a lot of people who have a small home and may be renting one room will now be criminalised if they do not carry out certain checks. That is plain wrong, as is asking doctors to spy on people. The Government and the law enforcement agencies should be patrolling these things, not creating a snooping society. That is completely the wrong approach.

The Queen’s Speech did nothing at all to try to stimulate our economy. We would have liked a jobs Bill that meant a paid job for every adult who had been out of work for more than two years; guaranteed six months’ pay for young people; a requirement—this is very important bearing in mind the wholesale privatisation that is taking place under this Government—that large firms should agree to apprenticeship schemes whenever they are given a Government contract; a Finance Bill that reversed the VAT rise and the 10p tax rate; and a consumer Bill that dealt with rising energy costs, which now average £300, and rail fares, which are going up by 9%. The rail companies should be offering people the cheapest available fare, not expecting them to search around for hours on end trying to find a good deal. We should ensure that energy companies are regulated properly and are not exploiting the consumer. Despite everything that has been said, banks are still not lending enough to small businesses, which are the backbone of our country. A specialised British investment bank should have been set up, with regional banks to support businesses. We should force banks to lend to small companies so that they can grow and create employment.

The content of the Gracious Speech is a real damp squib. It was an opportunity for this Government to be visionary, but they have been nothing of the kind.

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4.19 pm

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. It is interesting that we should hear the Government’s plans so soon after so many of us had the opportunity to listen to the voice of the people in the county council elections in the shire counties of England.

I spent almost all of the previous four weeks home in the beautiful shire county of Derbyshire, specifically in my home town of Chesterfield. For those few short weeks we Derbyshire people seemed to be very popular among the political class. The Prime Minister came to Derbyshire twice during the campaign, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), to whom we were grateful for also visiting us after the campaign to join our celebrations. The Chancellor also came to see us, as did the Home Secretary, who took in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner). I believe she saw the beautiful Crooked Spire church, which, I am sure she was told—I do not know whether a plaque has been put up there yet—is where I got married. If that information has escaped her, I am glad to be able to remind her of it.

It is hardly surprising that Derbyshire was the focus of so much attention. No Government have lost in Derbyshire and won the country since the war. The verdict of the people of Derbyshire was pretty clear: a huge win for Labour, with 43 Labour councillors compared with 18 Conservatives, just three Lib Dems and not a UKIP councillor in sight. UKIP if you want to, but the people of Derbyshire certainly did not. It was a triumph for Labour leader Anne Western and the Labour team at county hall.

In electoral terms it was a decisive win, with Labour majorities in many seats that we hope to win in 2015. Despite the victory, however, those of us who spent considerable time on the doorsteps could not escape the sense of despair among voters—the sense that politics should be capable of offering so much more, that our Government are running out of ideas and that our great country, which fought off the massed forces of fascism from 1939 onwards, had the vision to create the national health service, has been present at the birth of so many of the world’s great inventions and is home to some of the greatest educational establishments in the world, should be capable of so much more.

The Queen’s Speech had Crosby’s fingerprints are all over it. They left quite a mark—besmirched it, we might say—but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North said yesterday, the speech failed completely to grasp the magnitude of the moment. It is ironic that the person in charge of the Government’s xenophobia strategy is himself an immigrant. I am from a family of immigrants: my family have only been in the UK since about 1066. In fact, Her Majesty, who gave the Gracious Speech, has Germanic roots herself. We should embrace our country’s history and the fact that it is made up of so many different people.

Is this really it? Is this all the Government have to offer? The response to the drubbing that the Conservatives took is a dog whistle here, a hint at red meat there, more divide and rule, and no overarching vision for the kind of country that this Government aim to create before leaving power.

What is this Government’s vision? They have lost the triple A status and there has been no reduction in the deficit in the past year. What do they want the last two

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years of their cruel, divisive, incompetent and directionless reign to be about? The Home Secretary seems to think it is funny, but the people of Derbyshire were not laughing when they reflected on her and her party’s record last week. Austerity has failed, so what is the alternative vision for which this Government will be remembered? Will they now simply indulge in the most pernicious kind of blame game? If the Government have no vision or cannot agree on what they want to do, let us have a general election and give the people of this country some real alternatives.

All we have seen on immigration is incompetence and confusion. Only one in 1,000 students suspected of abusing the immigration system have been deported. Some 106,000 cases reported by universities have led to just 153 deportations. More worryingly, only 658 cases were even investigated.

At the very same time that the Government are doing so little to investigate potential abuses of the system, we have seen a big drop-off in the entirely legitimate and indeed vital numbers of foreign students, who offer revenue for our universities. At recent meetings with representatives from Sheffield, Leeds and the university of London, they have all highlighted problems resulting from the reduction in foreign student numbers.

We get the benefit of highly qualified workers when some of these students stay on. Often they return to their countries as the greatest advocates of life in Britain and are vital to our ability to trade. We all want to see an increase in exports and foreign students are an important means by which that can be achieved.

The Government’s immigration fiasco does not end there. When I speak to businesses across the country in my capacity as a shadow business Minister, I am constantly upbraided by businesses—technological and manufacturing firms in particular—about how much of an obstacle to success the confusion on immigration is.

People are concerned that UK workers are undercut in the jobs market and that the Government turn a blind eye to abuses of the minimum wage. Indeed, with their workfare policy, they seem as keen as ever to send out the message that people should be grateful for what they get and to push more workers into poverty. People are concerned that foreign workers, legal and illegal, are working for less than the minimum wage. The fuzzy line between the cost of housing and work is enabling unscrupulous firms to exploit workers’ desire to put money on the table. I am talking not about those who do not contribute, but about the very people who are fighting day and night to earn enough money so that their family can eat. Where was the Government’s acknowledgement of their failure to enforce the national minimum wage? Where was the Bill to tighten up the rules to ensure that those loopholes are closed?

People are concerned about recruitment agencies that recruit only migrant and foreign labour. That is why Labour proposes that the system be toughened up to ensure that firms that act in that way are stopped and that British workers get a fair crack of the whip when they are trying to get into the jobs market. Where was the Government’s commitment to do something about that? Is it any wonder that the voters in Derbyshire rejected the governing parties so wholeheartedly last week?

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Let me touch on other reasons why Derbyshire’s voters rejected the Government. On banking, we needed to see real reform. Government net lending has fallen in 18 of the last 24 months as more and more of the Government’s money has been given to the same big four banks. That was a problem when the Government came to power, and yet it has got worse in month after month. Failed Government strategy follows failed Government strategy. In the three months to February 2013, there was an additional £4.8 billion fall in lending to small businesses.

Labour proposes something bigger. We propose a local banking network to put banks back at the heart of their communities. There must be a fundamental change in decision making to ensure that decisions about businesses are taken by people who understand those businesses, not by somebody 70 miles away. Bank lending should no longer focus more and more on London; there must be proper regional and local banking that sees money lent to small businesses within local communities.

The people cannot be fooled. They know that they are worse off under this Government than before 2010. They will be £891 worse off by 2015. They know that there is a cost-of-living crisis, but they have seen no action on train fares, payday loans or fuel costs. They have seen no action on the construction industry at a time when it is struggling. Labour has proposed a reduction in the VAT on home improvements to 5%, which is supported by the Federation of Small Businesses. Young people face a jobs crisis. Let us end the debate on whether they want work or not. Let us expose those who do not by having a jobs guarantee that ensures that all young people know that they will have an opportunity to get into work.

There is no serious growth strategy. The only growth strategy seems to be, “Let’s see if we can get kids to buy fags or get people to drink themselves stupid on cheap supermarket booze.” The Government have dropped the plans for plain cigarette packaging and minimum alcohol pricing that the Prime Minister promised. Where was the promised legislation on pub companies that we expected to hear about in the Queen’s Speech? We must support our pubs. We must ensure that more people drink in them and that less people drink at home, where much more problem drinking occurs.

As colleagues have said, the Queen’s Speech was an opportunity for the Government to show that they had listened to the message that came from people across the country last week and to show that they have a strategy to do something about the problems that face us. We now know that the Government will not take the serious action that is required, but will limp on with the Liberals and Conservatives unsure about what they can agree on. The Queen’s Speech has demonstrated that this is a mongrel Government without a proper agenda. The country is ready for something better.

4.29 pm

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): This has been, as usual, a good and positive debate that has covered a range of issues on home affairs and justice, in particular those relating to immigration, antisocial behaviour and preventing reoffending. A number of other contributions have covered a wider range of political issues, including comments on care standards in Wales by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith),

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on the role of HS2 by the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) and on energy by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert).

Many strong concerns were raised about the economy, including by my hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle), who made a pertinent point about the role of the Scottish National party in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) mentioned broadband, and my hon. Friends the Members for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) and for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), spoke strongly about the economy. My hon. Friend for Warrington North (Helen Jones) made a passionate and heartfelt speech, again on the economy. We also heard a strong plea from my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) about plain packaging for cigarettes.

I am sure Ministers in other Departments will read and cogitate on those issues in due course, but I want to focus on matters of home affairs and justice. Immigration, antisocial behaviour and the prevention of reoffending are extremely important. I know that not only from having heard this debate, but from experiences in my constituency. As the hon. Member for Enfield North (Nick de Bois) said of his constituency, not a surgery or week goes by in which I do not receive correspondence on the pressing issue of antisocial behaviour, which impacts on real people’s lives, day in, day out.

My constituency in north Wales has seen an influx of people from eastern Europe who came to work in large numbers because there were skill shortages and the economy demanded them. They now face big issues, which have been touched on by hon. Members, concerning the role of agency workers, the undercutting of the minimum wage, and the difficulties and challenges of housing. Those are key issues in my constituency, as elsewhere.

Let me set out what the Opposition welcome in the Queen’s Speech. My right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) hinted at some of the issues, and I wish to reaffirm those commitments today. We broadly welcome the details on the College of Policing, and will look in detail at how to ensure it set standards in an appropriate way. We welcome measures on dog control and gun manufacture, and we look at those in detail although we may wish to strengthen them in due course. I welcome the important regulation on forced marriage, and particularly proposals on police accountability and extending the role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to private sector contractors—an equally important issue mentioned previously by my right hon. Friend.

As a member of the shopworkers union, I welcome the action on shoplifting, and we will look at strengthening that important measure against retail crime. I will look in detail—the provisions have only been published today—at issues to do with the police negotiating board. We will reflect on that and undoubtedly be constructive, as I always try to be, when the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill is in Committee.

We must also consider the important issues of immigration, antisocial behaviour and crime. We will judge the relevant Bills, and hopefully be constructive on their effective measures. On immigration, the Government are proposing a number of measures that we will consider in detail. I particularly welcomed

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contributions by my hon. Friends the Members for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins), who expressed their strong views about the benefits of immigration to this country. Immigrants have made this country what it is, and we must ensure that we reflect their importance in any legislation brought forward, as the hon. Member for Cambridge said.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) indicated that the measures could lead to policy and implementation problems on housing, and Government Members such as the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire spoke in support of the immigration Bill. From my perspective, that Bill features limited measures that fail to deal with the big problems highlighted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, such as exploitation of foreign workers and undercutting the local work force, and it is a missed opportunity to tackle illegal immigration, which is getting worse.

The measures in the immigration Bill are limited. Legislation on article 8 matters is already under consideration. As my right hon. Friend has said, the Government allowed the deportation of 900 fewer foreign criminals in 2012 compared with Labour’s last year in office. For part of that year, I happened to be the Justice Minister responsible for deporting foreign criminals, and signed the agreement with Nigeria that the Government trumpet as one of their great achievements.

There are current regulations in the Department for Work and Pensions guidance to deal with limiting benefits for EU nationals, and the Government have looked at the issues of private landlords. The hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith), who spoke about migrant access to the NHS, should know that hospitals already have the legal duty to recover any charges owed from overseas patients. The most important issue highlighted by my right hon. Friend was tough action, including substantial fines, on businesses that use illegal labour. Eight hundred fewer businesses have been fined for employing illegal workers—2,092 were fined in 2010, but only 1,215 were fined in 2012.

The tools are there, and we will scrutinise the immigration measures, but as my right hon. Friend has indicated, the Government could do more. I would welcome clarification from the Minister on the NHS proposals. Will they be in the immigration Bill or the national health service Bill? He will know that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have devolved health services. I would welcome clarification from him on how the proposals will work in practice in terms of costs and access to the NHS, because Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland provide locally based health services that are accountable to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland Ministers.

We need to look carefully at the local residency test, because councils can already set residency tests on housing matters. I would rather the Minister looked at the issues my right hon. Friend has mentioned—labour market issues. She was supported by my hon. Friends the Members for Slough, for Llanelli and for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones), and the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd). How can we enforce the minimum wage and strengthen rules on gangmasters? How can we ensure we extend the Gangmasters Licensing Authority? How can we prevent rogue landlords from exploiting migrant workers by

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giving them overcrowded, overpriced accommodation? What about barns and mobile homes being used as accommodation for migrant workers? I give notice to the Minister that we will return to those questions when that Bill and others are before the House in due course.

The hon. Member for Enfield North made a thoughtful speech on the blight of antisocial behaviour; I hope my remark does not ruin any prospects he has for future preferment. I am pleased the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire has arrived in the Chamber. She indicated strongly that antisocial behaviour is a destroyer of quality of life. She focused on early years intervention. I hope that, in due course, she will vote for the funds that will help to support such intervention, which she is currently voting to cut.

The hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray) gave strong support to dangerous dogs measures. She will have the Opposition’s support in getting them through. However, we will want to look at strengthening those measures during the passage of the Bill. We want to ensure that we tackle the scourge of dangerous dogs in a positive way.

Helen Jones: Will my right hon. Friend undertake to consider during the passage of the Bill specific measures to protect postal workers? Simple measures such as fitting cages behind letter boxes can protect postal workers from dogs. The dogs might not be inherently dangerous, but they are left running free in the home.

Mr Hanson: That is a very good point and we will reflect on it with the Minister. I put leaflets through doors on occasions. In my first by-election campaign—in Grimsby in 1977, canvassing for my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Austin Mitchell)—I had my finger bitten. I have some sympathy with the point my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North makes.

Tackling antisocial behaviour is crucial, and although I have been able to have only a brief look at the Bill, I believe it weakens the tools to do that. It will weaken antisocial behaviour orders with a power that will not lead to a criminal record if breached. Although antisocial behaviour orders are not perfect, we want to see them improved, not weakened. We will scrutinise the proposals closely during the passage of the Bill. The proposals will weaken the protection of our communities and, in the words of the Metropolitan police, the Home Secretary has previous on this: she has watered down the use of DNA, provided stricter controls on the use of CCTV, cut police numbers over and above the safeguards set by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, put pressure on the use of restorative justice, and considered stopping the European arrest warrant. Instead of standing up for the victim, the Home Office is watering down measures.

Rehabilitation is important, because nearly everybody who goes to jail comes out at some point. We have to make them better people. The hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier) made a typically thoughtful speech on rehabilitation and how the prison system can ensure that offenders do not reoffend. We had many a joust when I was a Minister and he was a shadow Minister, and in his time in government, he took this issue forward. Where I disagree with him is on what appears to be the wholesale privatisation of the

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probation service on all matters except serious crime. I am in favour of partnership with the private sector and voluntary sectors, but that is a real issue.

The right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd placed on record his concern about cuts to legal aid. The hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) focused strongly on rehabilitation and public health, and his points were well made.

In conclusion, a lot of measures that we wished to see are missing, and may well appear in amendments or new clauses in due course. The Government should tackle economic and online crime, create a new specific offence of identity theft, strengthen the Information Commissioner’s powers, and look at breaches of data protection and cyber security. On economic crime, there should be proper measures and stronger investigative powers for agencies. On shotguns, there should be improved and more detailed licensing to stop the kind of incidents that my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford mentioned earlier. We need to look at questions relating to the seizure of assets from criminals and to build on the work of Labour in government. We should build on proposals for testing private sector contracts with a detailed framework on the use of the private sector in policing. We want to introduce proposals to strengthen police accountability in our communities.

Finally, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford and the shadow Home Office team want to see greater action taken on violence against women and girls. A national duty should be placed on all public services to respond to and record domestic and sexual violence. Measures should be in place to strengthen action to ensure that violence against women and girls is ended.

There are measures proposed in the Bill and in the Queen’s Speech that we will support and some that hit the wrong targets. Some are missing and should have been included, and we will seek to ensure that the Government include them. This is not a Government who are concerned about crime and justice; this is a Government who have watered down measures introduced by the previous Labour Government. The Government are cutting police numbers, ensuring that we cannot protect our society as we would wish. We will not just hold the legislation in the Queen’s Speech to account, but suggest alternatives. If the Government do not accept them, we will implement them in two years’ time.

4.44 pm

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green): I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this debate. In the time remaining, I shall restrict my response to matters relating to home affairs and justice. I know that other important issues were raised, but I think I should operate within that limit. My other self-denying ordinance is to respond only to matters that are in the Queen’s Speech, rather than to the many that others might have wanted to see in it.

The Government’s clear priority is backing people who work hard and want to get on in life. The Home Office and the Ministry of Justice help with this by keeping the country safe and secure, while protecting Britain’s hard-won civil liberties. Various contributions from Opposition Members suggest that the latter

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point is a genuine divide between the two parties of the coalition and the Labour party, which appears to want to restrict civil liberties at every available opportunity.

The programme for home affairs business for the new Session, as set out in the Gracious Speech, builds on the many reforms and successes that we have delivered over the past three years. We oversaw safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic games—I am sure that the House will join me in paying tribute to the police and security services that helped to deliver them—and have revolutionised the accountability of the police through the election of police and crime commissioners. Perhaps most important—I hope that the shadow police Minister, the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), notes this fact—recorded crime is down by more than 10%, and the independent crime survey for England and Wales shows crime at its lowest level since records began. Despite the turmoil in many countries around the world, our streets and our society are safer than they have been for many years. Furthermore, we have cut net migration by nearly one third, while welcoming those who want to contribute to our economy and support British businesses. Those are major successes, but further bold reforms are needed, and the ambitious measures debated today will continue the Government’s relentless focus on protecting the public.

I shall turn to the individual measures, starting with immigration. I congratulate the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), who is no longer in her place, on at least coming up with a concrete immigration policy—it puts her ahead of her party’s Front-Bench team. That policy, however, was to bring back identity cards. I am happy to assure her and the House that the Government will not be taking her advice on that matter. As I said, however, net migration is already down by nearly one third under this Government. That itself is a significant success, but we of course need to do more, both in terms of the performance of the immigration system, as my hon. Friends the Members for Crawley (Henry Smith) and for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) and the hon. Members for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) and for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) said, and in terms of legislation.

I shall deal with some of the detailed points made about immigration. I am happy to tell the shadow Home Secretary what the Office for National Statistics actually said about the cause of falling immigration. Its February 2013 press release stated that

“the recent decline in net migration since the year ending September 2011 has been driven by a fall in immigration”,

contrary to what she asserted earlier. The hon. Member for Slough asked for a commitment that those who were guilty only of immigration offences should not be deported. I say to her that people should comply with the law, and if the criminal offence is an immigration offence—it could be trafficking or fraud—it is still a criminal offence, and to suggest that people who commit immigration offences should gain benefits from it seems completely unacceptable.