Before I turn to the substance of the Queen’s Speech and the related issues that my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary has deliberated on very effectively, may I reflect on the nature of last week’s events? Having been the Home Secretary at the time of the 11 September attack and the subsequent dangers, I am mindful of the need for security. However, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the way in which we operate the closures in central London around the Queen’s Speech. To close substantial portions of the area around Westminster from Monday to Friday is, in my view, unnecessary. We should protect the Queen—the royal personage—in any way we can, but there has been an extension in what happens over recent years. I mention that only because

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it is damaging to the London economy and extremely frustrating for the populace, and it does not necessarily do Parliament any good.

Secondly, as we have seen in the debate over the past few days and way beyond, a fixed-term, five-year Parliament can be seen to run out of steam. If we are to continue with fixed-term Parliaments, I think that it is time to re-examine whether they should last for four years, rather than five. Irrespective of whether a coalition is still required, which I sincerely hope it is not, it is clear from history that Governments need to refresh themselves. That is part of our democracy and considering such a change would be a positive move in responding to the changing needs of the population and the political debate. Four-year Parliaments might allow us to have two Queen’s Speeches: one at the beginning of a Parliament and one two years in, which would allow time for substantive debate and measures that have been carefully planned and thought through. I commend the idea of returning to those issues to Front Benchers on both sides of the House.

We face a moment of rapid change that is unprecedented in our history. There is economic, social and cultural change, some of which we touched on yesterday afternoon during the urgent question and the statement. We face an explosion in communications that brings globalisation and issues on a moment-by-moment basis not just into people’s front rooms, which we used to say in relation to television, but into their hands as they use mobile technology. The immediacy of such issues has changed how people see the rapid change in the world around them.

When we were in a position of economic success, with continuing growth, continuing substantial falls in unemployment and rises in wages, and it was possible to invest in improved public services, globalisation appeared to be benign, if not somewhat bewildering, to the populace. The same is not true at a time of deep austerity, with the results of the global banking meltdown—and it was a global banking meltdown; the previous Labour Government were not responsible for the collapse of the sub-prime market in the United States or the recession across Europe. It is risible that people still repeat that calumny over and again, particularly members of the junior partner in the coalition, who were enthusiastically in favour of the public spending that we were engaged in before 2010 and suddenly changed their mind. Indeed, so was the Conservative party, because until autumn 2008 and a change of mind at the Tory party conference, the main thrust of public expenditure was supported by the Conservative Opposition.

I mention that because the confusion, bewilderment and sense of powerlessness that affects so many of our constituents has a knock-on effect on the way they see the political environment around them, and on whether they trust or believe that traditional politics can meet their needs—hence the rise of the UK Independence party and its temporary, God willing, success in the European Union elections and some local government contests.

Old certainties have gone and people are unclear who they should blame for what is happening around them. Is it a change in the world situation and the insecurities that drive asylum seekers and movements of people across the world? Ten and a half million people have

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been moved outside their homeland either compulsorily or through fear of the danger of death and torture. People are desperately looking for a better life, and hearing about it in the way I have just described and in a fashion that was not present years ago. Bewilderment and a subliminal fear come from those uncertainties, and people are looking to someone to find answers.

We have the chance to debate these issues today, but that rarely happens any more on television or radio, and certainly not in the print media or through the inanity of many bloggers. We are not reaching, talking to or having a dialogue with—never mind listening to—the fears of people, but there is nothing new about that.

One great advantage of being a Back Bencher is that one has the chance to read. I have been reading the biography of Roy Jenkins that came out a few months ago. He was not a favourite politician of mine, not least because he was paraded as one of the most liberal and radical Home Secretaries in history, whereas most of the legislation he took credit for was promoted by Back Benchers. My irritation at that has been overwhelmed by going back and reading extracts of speeches and articles that he wrote. Fifty-five years ago, he was talking about the challenge of whether we should enter what was then the European Economic Community. He talked about a bigger issue of people living in an atmosphere of illusion or reality, and the unwillingness to address Britain’s position in the world. He spoke about a challenge of living in a sullen and incomprehensible environment in which people looked only to the past.

I fear that we are in that moment once again. People hanker for a past that did not really exist, and they look for certainties that are no longer there. They fear that politicians do not have answers to their questions, and they lash out at anyone near them. I think we must try in our own way across all three major political parties to provide answers that are credible. Nobody can underestimate the bewilderment, and no one should belittle the cry for help from our constituents, above all in a constituency such as mine.

People will be aware of the considerable tensions that have arisen after a large influx of people from Slovakia of a Roma background. They are fleeing unbelievable persecution and standards of living that are third world, to say the least. Incidentally, Slovakia managed a turnout of only 13% in the European Union election—I do not think that is a functioning democracy. People come to the UK from that background and those norms of living, and as part of the debate about British values and a society that can address those challenges, we need to invest in and help people through those difficulties. That applies to both the host community, which suddenly finds its way of life affected dramatically, and incomers who need to learn quickly how best to adapt to and adopt the standards of behaviour and norms that we take for granted.

Those big issues require us not to provide simplistic soundbites but to address the underlying complexities. This afternoon I appeal for us all to come together to address those things that are practical and can be addressed. In essence, we are dealing with the transitions of life—transitions that are brought about by economic, social and cultural change globally, and those that affect people in their daily lives as the language and the vista and nature of the community around them changes. We must consider how best the Government, and therefore politics, can assist in that endeavour.

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My right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) mentioned immigration, and the importance of getting a grip on things that are possible within the current powers of the Westminster Parliament. There are many pressures outside and many changes we all want, and people can collaborate and work together at local level. There are also global changes that need to be dealt with by a proper debate in a reformed European Union and on the transnational scene. As my right hon. Friend rightly said, many things that could be dealt with at a local as well as national level would assist. I want to touch on some of those today and suggest that in doing so, we might politically give people hope that not only will they be listened to, they will be talked to realistically, be respected, and be told the truth about what we can and cannot do.

For instance, it was never going to be feasible to get net migration below 100,000 unless, as has been pointed out, we rapidly changed the passport system and encouraged our own people to leave the country. We could achieve it that way but that is nonsense. We could never achieve net migration of under 100,000 unless we remove from the statistics those who come here to study as graduate and postgraduate students. The commonsense of doing that has been pressed on the Government over the past four years, and I think it would have got all-party support and told people the truth. If we do not tell people the truth, and if we pretend that we can achieve targets that are frankly unachievable, when we do not achieve those targets we undermine confidence in all the other measures that have been taken.

We have a tendency at the moment to rewrite history—I imagine there is nothing new about that. We all like to paint what we are doing as day zero, and that what came before as either inadequate or totally deniable.

Pete Wishart: I am one of the people who think that Labour got it just about right on immigration when they were in government. Will the right hon. Gentleman join me in not being bullied by the Tories and UKIP who want Labour to apologise? Labour should stand up for what it did because it did the right thing. Will it say to the Tories and UKIP, “We got it right on immigration and we will not be bullied out of our former position”?

Mr Blunkett: The truth is that we did not get it entirely right because no Government get everything entirely right. That is another part of rebuilding trust in the political system.

I mentioned day zero because the tendency to suggest that nothing that came before was satisfactory, adequate or even addressed the issues undermines fundamentally people’s belief that we know what we are doing, or that what happened in the past can be recorded as at least partially successful.

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Blunkett: I will give way but I first want to tell the House about Peter Kellner, the president of YouGov. Earlier this year he pointed out that if the five major retailers in this country acted like political parties, nobody would shop at Tesco, Asda or Morrisons ever again. Although they compete—and rightly make offers

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to people, as part of the market—they do not trash the idea of supermarkets. If they did, people would turn, as they do with UKIP, to the corner shop. I will give way before I go too far on the analogy between corner shops and Nigel Farage.

Mr Field: Perhaps if I represented a Scottish constituency I would hold the same view on immigration as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), given that very few of the newcomers wish to go to Scotland—they wish to settle elsewhere. Would my right hon. Friend accept that the ball is in the court of the vice-chancellors? They all have tough policies that students must pay outstanding fees before they get their degrees. If the vice-chancellors ran a similar system—refusing to award degrees until students fulfil their promise to go home—perhaps the Government would have a different attitude to the number of students coming here. It would not be a problem if they actually went home.

Mr Blunkett: There are all sorts of practical ways in which we could assist universities to ensure that people in those circumstances leave the country after graduating, such as the possibility of returning part of the fee. My right hon. Friend has strong and, I think, reasonable arguments to make on this issue, but I do not agree with him on some issues.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman mentioned targets and suggested that, in principle, they are not wrong, but that the Government’s target—of reducing net migration to tens of thousands—was wrong. I think he mentioned a figure of 100,000. If he agrees with targets in principle, but disagrees with the target set by the Government, what does he think is the right target for net migration?

Mr Blunkett: I did not actually say that I agreed with targets, but in one perverse way I do. The points system that I started to introduce before I left the Home Office at the end of 2004, and how it is used now to bring in the skills that we need from outside the European Union, are themselves targets, by the very nature of the way in which they are set, the advice that is taken from the independent commission and the way that we respond. Part of the difficulty that we have been debating—and it gets tangled up with the issue of whether we should be in or out of the European Union—is the nature of free movement.

Mark Pritchard: The Leader of the Opposition has apologised to the British people, who want to see net migration come down. It is not just the policy of the coalition Government: it is the British people who want to see net migration come down. Non-EU migration has come down. EU migration is still a challenge, and it is one that the Government will face as the Prime Minister renegotiates power back from Europe—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. The hon. Gentleman has been a Member for a long time and he knows that interventions are not an opportunity to make a speech—he can always add his name to the list—but are supposed to be brief.

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Mr Blunkett: I mentioned a moment ago that there were things that we did not get right. For instance, we did not do anything like enough to work with host communities to prepare them for integration. We did not do enough to expand the gateway programme for entry into the UK under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which would have provided a sensible, planned process—as the small experiments we indulged in did achieve—for giving people the chance to escape from horrendous circumstances. I pay tribute to the Home Secretary for introducing the anti-slavery legislation, which builds on the modest progress we made 10 years ago, including the sexual offences legislation. It raises, of course, the issue that people face death and torture, organised criminality and slavery, and we need to deal with that. Expanding the gateway programme would have reduced the fear of a massive influx of asylum seekers. Incidentally, the number was reduced from 110,000 in 2002 to under 30,000 by the time I left the Home Office, and it is much lower today. The asylum issue was paramount in people’s minds 12 years ago, but now the issue is movement within the European Union.

Incidentally, before that, when we were not doing so well as an economy, British workers went to other parts of Europe. Those of us who are old enough—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) and I are—remember the television series, “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” about British workers working in Germany. There is nothing new about this—the question is the volume, the flow, the preparations made and the measures taken. Some—indeed, all—of the measures outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford are reasonable, and we could add others.

First, we could include conditionality in relation to entitlement to benefits, toughening that entitlement substantially, and ensuring that people cannot draw benefits for family who live abroad, including child benefit. In 2007, I talked at length to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer about this, and his officials were adamant that proper checks were made—but I doubt it. We need clear, enforceable rules that give people confidence that we know what we are doing. We also need points systems and clarity about the need for particular skills; tough benefit rules; tough conditionality requirements; action to avoid exploitation, by working with employers to enforce the minimum wage; and action to ensure that people return to their country of origin if they do not find a job, because they are not holidaymakers or visitors. Those are all practical steps that all three major parties could support.

What would not be practical—and I say this honestly to some of my good friends with whom I agree on many other issues—is to withdraw the right of free movement. We could go back to the time we joined the European Union, or to 1958 and the treaty of Rome, and pretend that everything should have been different, but we are where we are. If we have freedom of movement, we should not prohibit people from working legally. If we did that, they would work in the sub-economy. They would be here, and they would undercut British workers, their conditions and their wages. In 2004, at a time of substantial economic growth and when we needed people to work—and the offer was on the table for young people in our country to gain the skills and take up the

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jobs—the vacancies were filled by people from what are now the central and eastern parts of the European Union, the E8 countries. We found that when we allowed—and I take total responsibility for this—people to register, work legally and pay tax and national insurance, 40% of them were already in the country. It is the same now for the Romanian and Bulgarian entry, which was not a calamity as people in UKIP predicted. Some of the people now working openly were in the country before January and had been to and fro from Bulgaria and Romania under the existing limited scheme.

We need to tell people the truth: there are things we can do and things we cannot do. There are targets that can be met and targets that are foolish. If we tell people the truth we might get their respect. The Office for National Statistics needs to be very careful in the assumptions it makes—I have had correspondence with Andrew Dilnot on this—from very dubious source evidence.

I am sorry to keep going back into history, but we have to learn from history rather than live in it. In 1968, Anthony Crosland, who was a very radical, free-thinking moderniser at the time, made a speech at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference which was then written up into an article. In it, he said there was a real fear that by the year 2000 there would be a population explosion of between 15 million and 20 million. Between the census of 1971 and 2001, the actual uplift was 3.2 million.

I do not underestimate the bigger challenge that we face now, but I simply say to the House—one does not get this opportunity very often, Madam Deputy Speaker; in all the recent debates I have spoken in I have had between six and 10 minutes to speak, so forgive me—that we need to have a serious, open, non-partisan, non-knockabout debate on immigration, otherwise the issue will corrode people’s confidence in the political system. It will erode any kind of sensible debate on our future in Europe. It will undermine people’s belief that we can do things sensibly on their behalf and that we are listening to their cry for help; not patronising them by simply mouthing whatever it is that they want to hear, but suggesting practical measures we can carry through. If we do that, we might be able to calm the debate and deal with the issues thrown up in recent weeks. What are British values? What do we expect from people in our communities? What can we demand of people who come in from the rest of the European Union or the rest of the world in terms of their response to the norms of our society? Getting those questions right might do all of us a favour.

Above all, it might restore confidence in the democratic political process, which is so crucial to getting people to vote and to take seriously the one other thing that is offered to them—hope. At the moment, so many people in the most deprived parts of Britain, who are facing the most severe aspects of the austerity programme, lack hope. Above all, in the general election next year we must give people that aspiration and hope for the future. If we do that, they might respond with a belief in becoming engaged as active citizens and backing their party of choice by voting, and above all with a belief that democratic politics is something they want to espouse and support; that might come to fruition.

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2.3 pm

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett). He said a number things that I agree with and made a number of points I disagree with. The idea that we should have a more sensible, rational debate is one I completely support. I cannot let go the comments made by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field). The idea that we would say to students that they have to leave the country before they can graduate strikes me as profoundly damaging.

Mr Frank Field rose—

Dr Huppert: If the right hon. Gentleman would like to change what he is saying, I would be delighted to hear him clarify his remarks.

Mr Field: I will not change what I am saying, but I will say it more slowly and clearly so that the hon. Gentleman actually understands it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) suggested that one way to modify the immigration figures is to take students out of them. One of the problems with doing that is that we have a large number of students coming here. They say they wish to study here, but continue to stay here and work. The change I would like to see is to challenge vice-chancellors to have as many students as they want, provided they undertake, on behalf of the Home Secretary, to ensure that those students fulfil their promise to come here, graduate and leave. The universities do—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I am not having interventions that are speeches. Interventions are exactly that, and I think the right hon. Gentleman has got his point across.

Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab): He did say he would speak slowly.

Madam Deputy Speaker: He spoke at a reasonable speed; there were just too many words.

Dr Huppert: I understand what the right hon. Gentleman is saying and I continue to disagree with what he suggests. One issue he raises, on whether students would have to leave before they graduate, concerns the process of graduation. There is also the question of post-study work visas, which are incredibly valuable. If he talks to the vice-chancellors of Cambridge university and Anglia Ruskin university—two universities in my constituency—he will hear that there is demand. We want people to come here; it makes sense. Once we have trained some of the brightest and best people here, we want them to contribute to the economy. We want them to set up companies that will employ people here locally. I have to say that what he suggests would be incredibly damaging to the economy in my constituency and in many other areas. I hope that is not somewhere we will go.

There are issues around immigration, and huge issues around the rhetoric used. There is far too much negative rhetoric that is, frankly, xenophobic. That is something we have to try to avoid. It has no place in the discussions we are having.

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We benefit massively from immigration. We benefit financially—there is a lot of evidence of that—and culturally and socially. It is a good thing for us to do. There are, however, associated downsides and the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough was absolutely right to highlight them. The solution is to try to fix those problems. Where people coming in means that we run out of school places, the correct solution is not to throw people out of the country, but to create school places so they can be educated and to make sure there is housing. The correct solution is to deal with the problems. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say—many people have pointed it out—that there are problems with the violation of the national minimum wage. That is why we should ensure that people are paid the national minimum wage and why the Government have acted. We have just had the first naming and shaming of people who have been failing to pay it. Immigration is a good thing and we should tackle the problems associated with it.

It frustrates me that so many people are following the concerns raised by UKIP and trying to tack towards them. That is self-defeating. The more that Conservative and Labour politicians chase the UKIP line, the stronger UKIP becomes, because that tells people that it is even stronger.

Mr Stewart Jackson: Does the hon. Gentleman agree—he probably does not—or concede that he sounds terribly out of touch, given that 77% of the public say that immigration is a huge problem? His arguments would carry more conviction if he were prepared even to look at the free movement directive. I have some sympathy with him on non-EU migration, particularly in the higher education sector, but he cannot have it both ways. People want immigration to be reduced, so he must look at—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. We have got the point. I am going to keep on saying this: interventions are not speeches. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) is waiting patiently to make his speech.

Dr Huppert: I think it unlikely that the hon. Gentleman and I will ever reach agreement on this issue—we certainly have not yet. There are concerns but we have to fix the problems it causes, not attack the fundamental basis. The hon. Gentleman can have a look at studies—I do not have the reference immediately to hand—by University College London, for example, that show the fiscal benefits from EU migration. The trend is badly wrong and is being followed by far too many people.

Mark Pritchard: The hon. Gentleman is an academic; he deals in facts. He mentions tacking to the right because of UKIP. Is it not a fact that there was a manifesto commitment by the Conservative party to reduce net migration to tens of thousands? That was in 2010 when UKIP was at 3% in the national poll. It is now at 12%. I am afraid the facts do not bear out his comments.

Dr Huppert: The hon. Gentleman is correct on that point: it is true that the Conservative party had a commitment to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. I did not think that that was a good idea at the time. It is very hard to see how it can be implemented.

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Part of the problem is that the only way to implement it—the Select Committee on Home Affairs has criticised this specifically —is to adjust some of the measures until we see very disproportionate changes in some areas. He is right that the Conservatives have been consistent. We saw a larger number of Conservative Members signing amendments to try to stop Romanians and Bulgarians coming into the country than we saw Romanians and Bulgarians flooding into the country, which seems to be the wrong way around.

It is not just Conservatives. I was interested to see that even the National Union of Students specifically passed a motion that called on the Labour party to stop pandering to “anti-migrant politics.” That is something I hope the Labour party will live up to.

I was not planning to spend all my time talking about migration because I wanted to talk more broadly about the Queen’s Speech and where we are four years into this Government. The Government started in a difficult position. The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough was keen to say that the finances were not the fault of the last Government. We can have that interesting discussion, but there is no doubt that in 2010, this country was in a difficult situation. One pound in every £4 the Government spent had to be borrowed. Whether we accept the right hon. Gentleman’s case that everything was fantastic and it was just unfortunate, or whether we take the view that it was in some sense the fault of the Labour Government over 13 years, it was a difficult time. I would not have chosen the first opportunity for my party to be in government to be at a time when, as the former Chief Secretary said, there was no money left.

Where are we now? We see a growing economy with unemployment substantially reduced. In my constituency, unemployment has gone down by some 40%. I welcome that; more people in employment, and in full-time employment. That is a great success and there are successes in other areas, such as renewable energy. Relevant to home affairs, the main subject for today, crime is down consistently. I welcome that. Every year that we debate police funding there has been a suggestion that crime is about to start shooting upwards. Every year it continues to go down.

We have made some progress on something very dear to my heart: civil liberties. That was what got me involved in politics. Before I came here, I was on the national council of Liberty. We have dealt with the Government’s storing of the DNA of innocent people on central databases. We have got rid of authoritarian identity cards. It is a great pleasure to see the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims in his place. The first Bill from the Government passed by the House got rid of identity cards, which were expensive, intrusive and unnecessary. [Interruption.] We see that the Labour party continues to want to bring in identity cards at great expense. It is a shame, as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said, that the only thing Labour has apologised for is their immigration policy and not many other measures.

We have got rid of control orders and the idea of internal exile without trial. Even yesterday, however, we heard the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) complaining that the Government

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have stopped people being exiled inside this country without having a trial. We have improved libel laws, provided same-sex marriage and ended child detention as a standard thing for immigration purposes, putting that into law recently. We have ended discrimination against illegitimate children who used not to be able to inherit their citizenship if they were unfortunate enough to have been born too early. We have done many things. But there is more still to do. I look forward to doing much of it.

The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), in her address on the Gracious Speech, said that the Conservatives had been held back by their coalition partners. I am very proud that we have stopped many things where we have disagreed. There are a number of things that we have simply not allowed to happen: for-profit schools; firing at will; the removal of housing benefit from the under-25s. There are a number of things that we have stopped.

However, it is not just a question of the things the Conservatives have been prevented from doing. There are things we have done, and things we would like to do that we have been prevented from doing because of the Conservatives. These include the mansion tax, to make sure that the richer in society pay more towards our finances, electoral reform and House of Lords reform. They also include getting more housing built, and environmental measures have been blocked. On reviewing surveillance post-Snowden, we have seen very little movement from the Home Office; indeed, we have no idea what the status is of the data retention directive rules. We would like to go further: to strengthen the Information Commissioner’s office and extend freedom of information. We want to have more evidence-informed policy so that when the expert advisers to the Government say that something is inappropriate and disproportionate, we do not see the Conservative party interpreting that to mean that it should go ahead with it or, indeed, the Labour party backing it. There is much more that we would like to do.

But there is good stuff coming. There is very good stuff in the Queen’s Speech where we have been able to agree and show that coalitions can work, and that two very different parties can find areas on which we agree.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman’s flow as he sets out all the things that he thinks are so good. Perhaps he could say when the Government are going to do something about the fact that most people in poverty now are in work. Perhaps he will say something about people affected by the bedroom tax and by having to pay council tax for the very first time, or about the thousands and thousands of people who as a result of his Government’s policies are having to rely on food banks. How proud does he feel of those?

Dr Huppert: I do not in any sense think that the economy is in a perfect place. The hon. Lady did not mention the fact that the last Government tried to suppress people getting help from food banks. I am very pleased that there are food banks to help people. The problem is not people getting help from food banks; it is people who are unable to get help from food banks because they do not know about them or because there is not a food bank available for them. The hon. Lady

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should have a look at why it was that under the last Government, whom she presumably supported for 13 years, inequality increased. Why did the richest pay less of the share of taxation? This Government have changed that. Why did unemployment go up under the last Government? I have a lot of sympathy for many of the stated aims of the Labour party on equality, but the problem is that they simply did not deliver it.

Let me return to the Queen’s Speech, which contained very good things. There was a shared agreement that we needed to do much more to help small businesses to thrive, something which we can agree will make a big difference. Small businesses make a huge difference to our economy, and will build our prosperity. I have been working hard on issues to do with local independent shops in particular, and this will be very helpful.

I am particularly pleased by the announcement on pub reform, which will make a big difference to people who have tied pubs across England and Wales. It is a great tribute to the fantastic work by a number of people who have campaigned. The statutory code and the independent adjudicator will make a big difference to keeping pubs open. My constituents have been able to open pubs again. We have been praised by everybody from the Campaign for Real Ale to the Labour shadow Minister for our work to try to save pubs. This will help us to do it.

We are also helping people who have any sort of income to be able to spend money in those pubs, businesses or anywhere else by increasing the personal allowance to £10,500. That is 26.6 million people who have had their income tax cut, making them better off and allowing those on low incomes to pay no income tax at all. The hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) prompts me to point out that the last Government increased the tax on the very low-paid when they got rid of the 10p tax rate; they doubled the tax rate paid by some of the lowest earners. I am proud that we have reduced it instead. That is a much fairer and more progressive system, and I am proud that somebody on £10,000 a year will not pay anything. I am proud that we managed to persuade the Prime Minister, who originally opposed it, to go ahead with the proposal.

We are also making a difference on apprenticeships, something my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is very proud of. We should aim—this is a shared aspiration—for 2 million apprentices by the end of the Parliament. In my constituency I am seeing the difference that that is making, with the fantastic Cambridge regional college now having something like 5,000 apprentices studying. I have gone to see many of them to see how much of a difference it makes to their lives. It is helping them to get on.

Michael Connarty rose—

Dr Huppert: If the hon. Gentleman would like to congratulate my regional college, he is very welcome to do so.

Michael Connarty: I would congratulate anyone who introduced proper apprenticeships, particularly the 5,000 in his constituency. How many of those people are doing three-year courses that will be recognised by City and Guilds to make them tradesmen, which we are very

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short of? How many are bogus apprenticeships with people doing short-term courses that are basically work experience?

Dr Huppert: I am very sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman attack these people. I look forward to his meeting some of the apprentices he thinks are bogus. He can come to see them and the programmes that they think are making a difference in enabling them to get training, to set up their own businesses and to make money, and tell them that he thinks what they are doing is bogus. I do not have the exact number of how many apprenticeships are for three years. I am sure that he can find out, but I find it depressing that he is so obsessed with attacking what the Government are doing about apprentices that he will attack the people who are making something of their lives by doing apprenticeships. Unfortunately we saw for many years—this predates the last Government—that apprenticeships and vocational education were simply not given the importance and standing they deserve. That is something we absolutely have to change.

Let me move on to some of the Home Office Bills. We have a Serious Crime Bill. Serious crime costs us something like £24 billion a year, so it is essential that we make more progress in dealing with it. We have huge problems with our confiscation legislation. Matrix Chambers has said:

“The confiscation legislation of the United Kingdom is complex and difficult to construe.”

That is absolutely right. We should be making sure that we can recover more money. That has been a weak link for a long time.

It is right to clarify the Children and Young Persons Act 1933—something for which Liberal Democrat Members including my hon. Friends the Members for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) and for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) have long campaigned—to make it clear that emotional cruelty that is likely to cause psychological harm to a child should be an offence. The current law on neglect is outdated and goes back to Victorian times. It is right to transform it.

Extending FGM-related offences to acts done outside the UK by UK nationals and residents is also very much welcome. My hon. Friends the Under-Secretary of State for International Development and the Minister for Crime Prevention have been working very hard on this issue. We should finally take action on female genital mutilation.

We also see progress on a sensible drugs policy aimed at reducing harm, which should be our aim for all of what we are trying to do through our drugs policy. We see decisive action on trying to deal with the cutting agent. A huge amount of the harm caused by illegal substances is, in fact, caused by the cutting agent with which they are mixed. By taking action against them, we will make a difference to people’s lives and stop the harm. I hope we can go even further. I am looking forward to the international comparative study on drugs policy and on new psychoactive substances, on which my hon. Friend the Minister for Crime Prevention is also working hard. We should do what works, and what will reduce the harm caused to thousands of people around the country—not do just what sounds as though it is tough. We need to do things that actually make a difference.

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That is also the case with modern-day slavery, on which I hope we will see cross-party agreement. We are definitely not dealing well enough with trafficking at the moment; we have to get it right. UNICEF estimates that something like 10 children a week are being trafficked into the UK, which is simply unacceptable. It is right that the Government face scrutiny by the Joint Committee. I wish all Bills could go through a proper scrutiny process because I think this House is at its best when it discusses things rationally, rather than there being two sides having a row.

I was pleased that there were various things we did not see in the Queen’s Speech. We did not see another immigration Bill. We have already had some discussion of this, but immigration, like many issues, is not always about passing more legislation; it is about getting things right. To my mind, the biggest problems surrounding immigration are not about our laws; they are about whether the right decisions are made—by what used to be the Border Agency, but is now back in the Home Office—correctly and promptly. Bringing back exit checks will, I think, make more difference to public certainty and the control of our borders than any piece of legislation we could propose in this area.

There is much more I could say about data retention directives and cybercrime, but I would like to raise one issue about which I have been concerned. I have spoken to a number of colleagues about it—my hon. Friends and also, for example, the hon. Member for Guildford (Anne Milton). I was approached by someone about the issue of revenge porn, which is happening more and more often. People take naked or indecent images of partners and then, once the relationship ends, they share them online, publishing them very widely—to the great mental torment of the people concerned. It is mostly but not always women who have agreed to have an explicit photo taken, but never agreed for it to be broadcast to all and sundry on the web as a means of revenge. It destroys people’s lives because of the psychological effect, the shame and the great humiliation caused when these images can be seen by anyone. The problem is getting worse, as Women’s Aid, the National Stalking Helpline, UK Safer Internet Centre and everybody increasingly accept.

Talking recently to a constituent of the hon. Member for Guildford, I was shocked to discover that there is currently no sanction to deal with this problem. At the moment it is not a criminal offence to share the image because the photo was taken legitimately. Consent was given for the photo or the film, but not for it to be shared. Typically, the problem is not covered under the harassment legislation, which requires something to have happened more than once, but once the image has been published online, it is broadcast for ever more. Reputable websites will take down these images when asked, but the person involved has to ask each website to do so, and for that to happen they normally have to prove that it is them in the photo, which means going through the rather humiliating process of taking a photo of oneself with a sign and sending it off. That makes the whole process much worse.

I do not often call for new criminal sanctions—it is not my natural style. In this case, however, I think we need to make a criminal sanction available when people

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share indecent images in the knowledge that consent would not have been given. I hope that the House will look further at this. It will need careful work to get the details right, ensuring that we do not accidentally criminalise activities that should be allowed, but we do need to take action in this area.

It will be an interesting year. I do not think this Parliament is over. If it focuses on scrutinising what is happening and ensuring that we look carefully at legislation rather than rushing it through in an effort to pass more and more Bills, that would be helpful. Over the last four years, we have contributed to a more liberal and fairer Britain, but there is much more to do. Some of it will happen this year; some of it will happen in later years.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. It would be advisable for Members to aim to deliver their speeches in between 10 and a maximum of 15 minutes, including interventions; otherwise, all the Members who wish to speak will not be able to. If everyone speaks for 20 minutes or more, there will simply not be enough time. I am not going to impose a time limit, but I hope Members will be respectful of each other and ensure that we move on comfortably to the winding-up speeches.

2.25 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): First, it is a pleasure to contribute so early on to today’s debate. One of my favourite events at Westminster is without doubt the opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech. Many of my constituents tell me the same thing. There are some things in this world that no one can do as well as we British can. When I say that, I very much have in mind the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It reinforces what a privilege it is to be a Member of this House.

I welcome the proposals put forward by Her Majesty’s Government, and I anticipate their execution in the coming year. While many positive steps have been taken to improve the situation of the hard-working people of this country, I cannot help but point out where some policies are conspicuously absent or lacking punch. I will pose some questions in my contribution.

Reports from some medical analysts have shown that the health service faces a bill of an extra £1 billion every year to treat immigrants and asylum seekers. Analysis by Migration Watch UK has found that the cost to the NHS of treating new arrivals with AIDS alone threatens to amount to some £900 million a year. What do the Government intend to do to cut this exorbitant drain on taxpayers’ money by those who are not entitled to free health care and should be paying into the system? What proposals do the Government have to put a halt to the increasing trend of health tourism? Perhaps the Minister could outline in his reply what discussions have been held with his counterparts in the Department of Health to ascertain how the outstanding bills can be paid.

The Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Clare Gerada, has expressed similar concerns about the Health Secretary’s initiative, saying doctors

“must not be the Border Agency”,

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and she is right. The Border Agency must be the Border Agency, and the health service must be the health service. The question she poses is how the policy can be enforced. Perhaps the Government will give us some indication of that. What measures, for instance, do the Government have in mind not just to limit health tourism but to retrieve the money spent by the NHS on immigrants not entitled to our free medical care, while not placing an extra burden on our hard-working health workers? Have the Government considered stricter visa applications for those with pre-existing medical conditions, or the reintroduction of embarkation checks to pick up patients leaving with a debt to the NHS? Those are just two steps that could have been taken to address the problem. We must not, of course, create an atmosphere detrimental to our openness to foreign business or hard-working legal immigrants, but we cannot allow the abuse of the system to continue.

Let me provide an example from Northern Ireland, whose Health Minister Edwin Poots has done a fantastic job in alerting the Government to the problems of health tourism in our Province. His findings, which have been reported on “ConservativeHome”, show that up to 80,000 more people could be registered to use the NHS in Northern Ireland than actually live in the Province. Is that possible? If those statistics are true for Northern Ireland—and they are—we clearly have a much greater problem when it comes to the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. What steps will the Government take to address this issue? In Northern Ireland alone, this has the potential to cost the NHS some £250 million.

What do the Government intend to do to prevent citizens from the Republic of Ireland, for instance, travelling to the north of Ireland to use the NHS for free? Are rules and regulations in place? Can this be stopped? Has the Home Office reconsidered the border issue with the Republic, which has numerous facets—not simply health tourism, but education and smuggling?

The Chairman of the Committee for Education in Stormont, Mr Mervyn Storey, has drawn attention to the issue of those who take advantage of the education system without making any contribution to it through their tax or employment. He has expressed his concern about how much this education and health provision to immigrants is costing Northern Ireland.

Nor is it only in Northern Ireland that the education system is being exploited by poorly regulated immigration. Education is one of the most important public services provided by the Government, and it costs the UK over £88 billion a year. Not only are illegal immigrants taking advantage of our primary and secondary education, but Migration Watch UK has highlighted how thousands of foreign students are not leaving once their education visas for university expire. In her first major speech on immigration, the Home Secretary committed herself to restoring faith in the immigration system, but—as some Members have already said, and as others will probably say later—the level of net migration remains unacceptably high. According to MigrationWatch UK, £5 billion was spent on the education of immigrants in 2009. What plans have the Government to prevent immigrants from coming to our country to avail themselves of our world-leading education system and then leaving?

An even more worrying statistic comes from the National Audit Office, which has found that 50,000 bogus students came to the United Kingdom in 2012.

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By “bogus students”, I mean immigrants who apply for UK student visas but come here to work rather than to study. While praising the efforts of the Home Office, which has closed 600 bogus colleges, I must ask what further measures are being taken to ensure that immigrants who have no intention of studying cannot abuse our visa system, and to track down further bogus colleges. Students are currently departing at a third of the rate at which they are arriving: for every 100 who come here, 66 stay and 33 return.

I welcome the Government’s pledge to introduce a modern slavery and human trafficking Bill. A similar Bill was introduced in Northern Ireland by Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley, and provides a sterling example of how seriously the issue of human trafficking needs to be taken. I respect what the Home Secretary said earlier about how she intends to deal with it, and we will take an honest approach to any measure that the Government introduce. I believe that if it is anything like our Bill in Northern Ireland, which is very specific, it will go a long way towards addressing these matters.

I particularly welcome the clauses in the Bill that will give better protection to child victims, but I feel that more could be done. I think it imperative to ensure that children are fully protected, and that the Bill should have referred explicitly to all the most common possible forms of child trafficking and exploitation. The EU trafficking directive sets out the issues for us. I intervened on the Secretary of State earlier to ask about the prohibition of child exploitation, which is often not recognised by the judiciary. I think it crucial for the Bill to make it clear that children do not need to be coerced or deceived, or to have violence used against them, to be victims of trafficking as set out in internationally agreed definitions. There are definitions throughout Europe, and indeed throughout the world, which we can use as guidelines.

While the provision of personal advocates for trafficked children is welcome, I feel that the Government could do more to protect victims by legislating for all unaccompanied and separated migrant children to have access to independent legal guardians. Language and cultural barriers mean that separated migrant children are less likely to be aware of, and know how to access, their rights as children. Access to guardians could make the position much more acceptable, and could make it easier to help those who need help most at the time when they need it.

I was pleased to note that the Government would introduce a Serious Crime Bill. It is particularly pleasing that the Bill includes a clarification of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to make it explicit that emotional cruelty which is likely to cause psychological harm to a child is an offence. Our current law on neglect is shamefully outdated and inadequate. Embarrassingly, the United Kingdom is one of the only countries in the world that fails to recognise emotional neglect as the crime that it is. Do the Government intend to remedy our country’s shortcomings swiftly and satisfactorily? I hope that the answer will be yes, but how will that happen? The current legislation states ambiguously that cruelty to a child must be “wilful” to be considered a criminal offence. Will the Government ensure that neglect is not too narrowly defined, and replace “wilful” with “intentional”?

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While the Serious Crime Bill recognises emotional neglect as a criminal offence, I urge the Government to take further steps to provide earlier and more effective interventions for neglected young people, and to secure the prevention of neglect in general. I should also like to know what steps the Government have in mind to ensure that adolescents who have experienced neglect are adequately supported, and enabled to overcome their earlier experiences and become successful adults.

The issue of borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has highlighted a surge in the number of people who fly to the Republic, cross the border into Northern Ireland, and then take the boat to Scotland carrying cigarettes and other untaxed goods that rob customs, and hence the taxpayer. Last week my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea) commented on the loss to the Exchequer of as much as £100 million as a result of that border issue. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what steps are being taken to deal with that.

This is not strictly relevant to today’s debate, but I welcome the Government’s commitment to dealing with the issue of plastic bags. Northern Ireland has been very successful in that regard. The Executive has given £6 million to the Department of the Environment for various projects, and plastic bag use has declined by 80%. That is another example of what happens when good proposals are implemented.

However, I was disappointed by the lack of proposals to implement the Government’s promises of legislation for plain packaging for cigarettes, a subject that arose during Health questions today. There is clear evidence that such a move would greatly help the fight against cancer, and would reduce the number of children who take up smoking—an issue about which I feel very strongly. I do not pose this question directly to the Minister, but I should like it to be recorded in Hansard: why are the Government dragging their heels? I hope that a fear of the tobacco industry has not got the better of them.

I should also like to know what plans the Government have to regulate the new e-cigarette industry. That is an issue that arises every day, and we feel some concern about it. The new product has not yet been subjected to the rigorous tests undergone by other approved nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum, which could ensure its safety and effectiveness. An estimated 2.1 million adults in Great Britain use electronic cigarettes. We need regulation, and we need the product to be tested.

I must observe the time limit that you suggested, Madam Deputy Speaker, so that others will have an opportunity to speak. I am anxious for well-deserved praise to be given to the Government for measures such as the solidification of the married tax allowance, which my party has supported along with the Conservative party, but I must also emphasise that much more can and must be accomplished during the coming year.

2.36 pm

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): The debate has been very interesting so far. In my speech, I shall take up the theme of immigration, which I think has been the central issue today. Let me say first, however,

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that I do not consider this to be a zombie Parliament. I think that some very important pieces of legislation are being introduced. There are some with which I do not agree and for which I will not vote—such as the recall Bill, which undermines parliamentary sovereignty—but others are fantastically important, such as the Serious Crime and Modern Slavery Bills.

I am inordinately proud of this Government’s achievements, in view of the very difficult financial inheritance and legacy that we were left by the last Government. That was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert). We are building a sustainable economy, and moving 5 million people from out-of-work benefits into meaningful work. In my opinion, the fact that more than 1,000 people in my constituency were parked on incapacity benefit in 2010 constitutes a badge of shame. We are now developing university technical colleges for technical and vocational education, all over the country. We are opening new free schools and academies, and creating new apprenticeship programmes.

Michael Connarty: They are bogus.

Mr Jackson: They are not bogus, as my hon. Friend said. I think it unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman should denigrate young people who are, in good faith, seeking to improve their life chances and skills by taking worthwhile courses. If he can suggest any alternative, let him do so, but in 13 years the Labour party did very little to tackle the issues. It was happy to leave thousands, if not millions, of young people innumerate and illiterate when they left secondary school, and primary school, too.

We are focusing on infrastructure; we are reforming welfare; and we are reducing the deficit, which is the major imperative for the nation. I pay tribute to the Liberal Democrats for being far-sighted enough to join us in our efforts to do what was right for our country and our constituents, rather than aiming for short-term, partisan party advantage.

Listening to the shadow Home Secretary’s speech was a pitiful experience. Rolling out examples of Passport Office failures does not speak of a party which, in 11 months’ time, will seek to govern this country. It is bandwagon jumping, and it is pitiful that it does not have a more coherent home affairs programme to put before the House, not least because it is the party that told us 15,000 Polish people would come to the UK after 2004, and it was only out by a factor of about 100. It completely underestimated the numbers that were coming to this country. It is the party that is not believed on immigration. Some 77% of people say that it is a very important concern to them, and the only reason the Labour party is interested in it now is because of the election results in places like Doncaster and elsewhere across the country, where its own core blue-collar, working-class vote does not believe it and does not believe that it has the solutions to deal, long term in a sustainable way, with the problem that it created when in government, which was open-door, unrestricted, unfettered immigration. Incidentally, we will not take any lectures from a party that lost both a Minister of State and a Home Secretary because of its cack-handed mismanagement of the immigration system when it was last in government.

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I am not wholly critical of the Labour party, however, because we heard a very considered, erudite and typically thoughtful speech from the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett). He touched on an important point. The issue of immigration can be almost directly linked to a feeling of a crisis of authority and to the estrangement of ordinary people—voters who are not that interested in the minutiae of politics—and the lack of faith and trust that they have in the political system. That is a function of the European Union and of how distant and unaccountable it is, but it is also a function of the fact that they do not believe in the institutions of our country to get things done in a timely way that affects their lives for the better. The right hon. Gentleman was right to make that point.

The Government have done a good job in very difficult circumstances. They were right to concentrate on reducing the net migration figure as a policy priority. I hope they achieve that, and at least they are trying. Interestingly, when the shadow Home Secretary was grilled by John Humphrys on the “Today” programme a few weeks ago, she was big on motherhood and apple pie, saying we should reduce immigration, but she was not specific on whether Labour would adhere to any target number. It is incumbent upon a responsible Opposition to offer proper alternatives, and she was somewhat remiss in that respect.

We have clamped down on bogus colleges; we are doing something about health tourism; and we are also looking at access to benefits, English language skills and the income earnings threshold—all policy issues that could have been looked at and acted upon in the previous Parliament.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field). He has been largely a lonely voice over a number of years in voicing these issues. Some people came close in the past to as good as calling him and others xenophobic or racist for doing so, but he has been proved right. It is important that we have a proper, balanced and reasonable debate on the level—the unprecedented scale—of migration. Between 2004 and 2011, 34,000 people came to my constituency and were granted national insurance numbers. In two schools in my constituency no children speak English as their first language, and there are over 40 schools where the rate is well over 50%. That is an issue of resources and resource allocation, and it is very important. It is nothing to do with xenophobia or racism. It is about keeping the bargain of trust and faith with our constituents.

That brings me on to my European Union Free Movement Directive 2004 (Disapplication) Bill, a ten-minute rule Bill that I put to the House in October 2012. I think that in many respects I was ahead of my time. I will put my cards on the table: I am a member of Better off Out and I will campaign actively to leave the EU, but I will respect whatever decision the British people take when we have a referendum under a majority Conservative Government in 2017. However, I respectfully say to the Government that they need to look at what I was proposing in that Bill 18 months or so ago, which was not to rip up the free movement directive. It is not a tablet of stone; it is not a holy grail. It is a piece of living European law. The Spanish looked at registration controls—registration when people entered the country, when they changed jobs, when they married, when they

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had children—as a way of reducing the pull factor, and we should be looking at that, too, complementing and building on the announcements we have already made and the regulations we have laid on matters such as welfare tourism and access to social housing.

I ask the Prime Minister to look at that again and perhaps to introduce further regulations that finesse and nuance the free movement directive, not because we are xenophobic—not because we do not want decent, hard-working Polish citizens, Lithuanians and people from the Czech Republic coming to our country, contributing and adding to the variety and diversity of the country—but because many of the people we represent are concerned about large-scale immigration and the length of time that it has been going on.

Pete Wishart: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern about inward migration, but does he have any concerns about outward migration? Should there be a limit on the number of UK people who go to Spain for a happy and contented retirement?

Mr Jackson: That is a fair question, but many of them are older and are very unlikely to need to go to accident and emergency or their maternity unit. Many of them are unlikely to be putting their grandchildren in primary schools, too. There is a balance to be struck between the use of public services and the resources needed.

I accept that the hon. Gentleman might have touched on an important issue in that there are hot spots in respect of such demands, however. In my constituency we have food processing, agriculture, horticulture, packaging and logistics, and younger people will come over with their partners and have children and there will be a big strain on schools, but I accept that might not be the case in the west country or the south of England. It will only be the case in hot spots. One of the things that the Government need to do is reboot the migration impact forum, specifically to assist local authorities. One issue is the number of children who come into a school but are gone at the end of the academic year, for instance. The Government need to look at this.

The Government also need to ensure that everyone who comes to this country is properly exercising their treaty obligations. That is all we are asking. We need to do some work on contributory pensions with the Germans and other key partners.

Mark Pritchard: Is it not clear today that, should there be a breakaway Scotland, it would have to endure uncontrolled immigration while England, post a renegotiation with Europe under the Prime Minister, would have controlled immigration?

Mr Jackson: My hon. Friend makes a pertinent point, although it is a hypothetical situation, as I think the people of Scotland are sensible enough to vote the right way on 18 September and reject the narrow chauvinistic nationalism of the Scottish National party. They know which side their bread is buttered on, and they will remain part of our great United Kingdom.

I strongly welcome the Modern Slavery Bill. We in Peterborough and the fens have seen some very unpleasant, distressing and nasty cases of modern slavery around agriculture and horticulture. We have seen the ghastly

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conditions some people have been forced to live in, the way they have been physically maltreated and assaulted, the way they have been lied to and traduced and cajoled into a terrible lifestyle—a twilight world of abuse—by some pretty unscrupulous criminal gangs. One of the enduring legacies of our Government, which we will proudly defend our record on next May, is this Modern Slavery Bill, because we believe politics is in many respects a moral imperative, and, for us, if we rescue even one person from this ghastly twilight world, we will have succeeded.

I therefore think it is right that we are targeting individuals, but we need to look at the poor conditions that some of those individuals are housed in, too. We need to look at section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which some local authorities are using to tidy up neighbourhoods that are affected by these slum houses.

I pay tribute to Anthony Steen, the former Member for Totnes, for the fantastic work that he has done over the years. He was leading, encouraging and proselytising on this issue eight years ago, before it became fashionable. He has done a great job, and I hope that the Bill will be a testament to him. We have made good progress in this area, but there is more to do. The watchwords of the legislation should be “tough but fair”. We need better collaborative working with other European Union countries and better inter-agency working. The Bill represents an excellent start, and the Ministers involved should be very proud of their efforts.

2.50 pm

Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson), as we are both alumni of the London Nautical school, albeit a few years apart. I leave it to Members to judge what has happened to the educational standards there since I left, but it is a pleasure to follow him. This is the first time that I, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett), have spoken in the Chamber in the past couple of years in a debate without a time limit on Back-Bench speeches. Nevertheless, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am aware of your exhortation and I shall attempt to be as brief as I can.

I am not sure whether this Queen’s Speech is the final act of this Government or the epilogue. It is patently clear that it is not designed for a full Session of Parliament; it is not a full programme at all. Given the provisions for five-year Parliaments, this Parliament will be dissolved at the end of March, so this is a programme for little more than nine months, including the times when the House is in recess.

The Queen’s Speech contains some welcome measures—I cannot think of any Queen’s Speech introduced by any Government that did not contain some welcome measures—although the devil will be in the detail, and more information needs to be obtained. The Modern Slavery Bill, which the Home Secretary and others have mentioned, commands universal support across the House, and we can only hope that it will have the desired effect.

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The measures relating to child care costs will also be welcome, provided they do not merely translate into increased prices from the providers of child care, as has been the case in the past. I also welcome the further reforms to pensions, although we should tread warily, given the history of mis-selling of pension products once that market had been liberalised. I also note that the Government intend to introduce a more collective approach to pensions, along the lines of the system currently operating in the Netherlands. My understanding, however, is that the Netherlands Government are considering changing their scheme. We must also bear in mind the fact that the contributors to that scheme pay substantially more than people in this country are used to contributing to their pensions. None the less, I am sure that we can make progress in that regard.

Other measures are more contentious, even though this Queen’s Speech is very thin. The infrastructure Bill will contain measures on fracking, and the Government are engaged in a three-month consultation period on that at the moment. There are those who are opposed to fossil fuels, full stop, and who would never accept the case for fracking, even if it were totally safe for the environment and for residents. However, there is always a conflict in which the broader national interest is set against legitimate local concerns. Everyone will be keen to see the results of the Government’s consultation.

Further controversy might arise over the proposed levy on plastic carrier bags, as the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said. I would have thought that such a proposal would have registered as one of Lynton Crosby’s barnacles, yet it still seems to be in the Queen’s Speech. We must assess the environmental impact of 7 billion bags being used each year. If the Bill’s objective is achieved, I am not sure who will get the income from the levy. I suspect that it will simply save the supermarkets an awful lot of money and increase their sales of bin-liners, because that is what most people use their plastic carrier bags for, but we shall have to wait and see how events unfold.

Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): It was a delight to hear Her Majesty say the words “plastic carrier bags”, but I am sure that that is not the reason why they were put into the Queen’s Speech. Money will be raised from the levy initially, although I believe that it will deter people from using such bags in the longer term. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this will provide the supermarkets with an opportunity to direct that money towards some kind of social networking or community action groups within their areas, in order to support local communities?

Jim Dowd: The charitable and philanthropic activities of the supermarkets are of course to be welcomed wherever they occur; most supermarkets have community schemes of some kind. There is a paradox involved, however. If the aim of this tax, levy or cost—whatever we care to call it—is to reduce demand, very little income will be generated by it. I was as amazed as everyone else to hear Her Majesty utter the words “plastic carrier bags”, as I am not sure how often she comes across such things, but it was not clear whether the objective of the measure is to depress demand or to raise revenue. We will discover from the details whether it will be beneficial. I openly confess that the first job I

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ever had was in my local supermarket. In those days, we had nothing so glamorous as plastic carrier bags. We had brown paper bags with handles that almost invariably came off when anyone put more than a couple of tins of beans in them.

The hon. Member for Peterborough mentioned the proposed recall provisions—the so-called recall provisions. I think they are inadequate; they do not command a wide degree of public trust. I have also seen early-day motion 25, tabled by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), and that does not make much sense either, even though he is a stern critic of the Government’s proposals. Far more consideration needs to be given to this matter. We need to reach a conclusion that will be workable and viable, and that will command public support.

I am deeply disappointed by the absence of one measure from the Queen’s Speech, despite a previous indication from the Prime Minister that it would be included. The absence of a commitment to ban the use of wild animals in circuses is extremely disappointing, especially as the Prime Minister pledged that action would be taken when he met a delegation from various animal welfare charities in April this year. This measure might well be one of Lynton Crosby’s barnacles that the Government have rejected, but it is undeniably extremely popular with the public and I cannot understand why the Government do not just introduce this simple measure, given that it has such widespread public support.

In the light of that, I have today tabled the following early-day motion:

“That this House is deeply disappointed that the Gracious Speech did not contain measures to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, despite repeated pledges from Ministers that action would be taken; notes that since the House of Commons voted unanimously in favour of a ban in 2011 big cats have returned to Britain and is concerned that the continued delay may lead to other wild species being forced to perform in circuses; further notes that the draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill has already been scrutinised by the Environment and Rural Affairs Committee; supports Animal Defenders International and other animal welfare organisations in their ongoing campaign to end this outdated practice and calls on the Government to introduce legislation to ensure a ban can be introduced during the current session.”

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op): I agree with my hon. Friend that it is a great shame that the Government have not included such a measure in the Queen’s Speech. Will he join me in encouraging Government Members present today to take back the message that the Government should at the very least provide a hand-out Bill to a Member who has been successful in the ballot for private Members’ Bills? In that way, we might just get this into legislation.

Jim Dowd: My hon. Friend’s suggestion sounds as though it has the virtues of brevity and simplicity, but unfortunately, given the technicalities of such a Bill, I do not think that it would get through the private Members’ Bill procedure. I speak as one who was responsible for the Government’s private Members’ business for a number of years. If that were the only route that could be adopted, however, such a Bill would deserve as much support as possible and the Government should give an undertaking to give it whatever support they could, perhaps along the lines of the support that they gave to the European Union (Referendum) Bill last

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year. The signatories to my early-day motion come from all parts of the House, and I am sure that it will generate support.

Although it does not feature in specific legislation, the economy features prominently in the Queen’s Speech and it would be churlish not to admit that the recent narrative on the economy has moved in the Government’s favour. It is easy to forget, however, that the Chancellor’s original five-year plan said that by now the deficit would have disappeared and we would be paying off debt. Of course we are not doing either. Debt is growing at an unprecedented rate; the Government are now borrowing more money than the Labour Government did in the previous 13 years. The old five-year plans in the Soviet Union were rewritten every year, and that is rather what the Government have done.

Even what economic good news there is has been based on a couple of questionable propositions, not the least of which is quantitative easing, as it is now called. It used to be called printing money. It has robbed savers of millions of pounds, the full effect of which we will not see for some time. These are unorthodox fiscal measures. The housing bubble is not an unqualified good either for people in London and my constituents or people in other parts of the country. It is a huge problem for the children of my constituents who are trying to buy property in London for the first time, and it is skewing the economic recovery.

Beyond the measures that I have mentioned, the Queen’s Speech is thin, bordering on anorexic. That is because the most significant political developments in the next nine months or so will take place not just outside this Chamber but outside this building. I highlight just three. The first is the referendum in Scotland. However it turns out, I am certain that there will need to be a major reconsideration of how the United Kingdom is organised. If the result is against the nationalist case, we will need as a minimum to resolve the West Lothian question in a durable and sensible fashion. I do not wish to intrude, but my position is rather similar to that of David Bowie and Barack Obama, although as the President said the other day, it is a matter for the folks up there.

The second political development is EU reform. I am glad that all three major party leaders in the House have agreed that Mr Juncker is not an appropriate appointment as President of the EU. My fear is that he represents a strain of Eurocrats—I am never sure whether the phrase is derived from bureaucrat or aristocrat, which is certainly how they behave—who fail to understand the feeling of a large swathe of people right across the nations of the EU. They have the gravest disillusionment and doubt about the efficacy and efficiency of the organisation, and those who simply swing on as if nothing has happened and behave as if the project has an inevitability and momentum entirely of its own fail to understand what we need. I hope that we will have a candidate who will more readily reflect those priorities.

I will be candid, Madam Deputy Speaker; I am a member of the Labour for a referendum campaign. I do not accept the artificial timetable that the Conservatives have instituted of 2017. I think there should be a reform process and once it has reached a decision, whenever that might be, a package should be put to the British people for their approval. After all, the only referendum

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we have ever had on membership of what was then the European Economic Community was provided by a Labour Government.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): The hon. Gentleman refers to the artificial timetable. When would he want to have a referendum on our membership of the EU?

Jim Dowd: Once the process is complete; once progress has been made and it has been established that there is no further progress to be made. Putting down the finishing line before you have described the course is a ridiculous proposition and it was designed wholly and solely—I sat on the European Union (Referendum) Bill Committee—to keep Conservative Back Benchers happy. That is all it was.

As everyone knows, the other facet of the coalition Government is that the Prime Minister has spent more time rowing with his Back Benchers than he has ever done with the Liberal Democrats. That is the point that I want to come to now—the separation of the coalition. It has already unravelled so we will just see how the parting of the ways occurs.

In the European and local elections of the week before last, the biggest losers by a mile were the Liberals. I am delighted to say that in my constituency we also resisted firmly, as they did across London, the blandishments of UKIP. There are no Liberal councillors now in the London borough of Lewisham or the London borough of Bromley, and no Tory councillors in the London borough of Lewisham for the first time in history, but that is another consideration. So we feel that we did quite well in our small corner.

The reason why the Liberal Democrats were almost wholly obliterated in large parts of the country is that people do not know what they stand for any more. They used to be the party of “a plague on all your houses”. UKIP has supplanted them in that, so what purpose do they have? The answer in most people’s estimation is precious little. I heard a defeated Liberal councillor say, “We need to get out and get our message across more clearly.” I think it is the other way round. I think they went out with their message and people understood it and rejected it. That is the truth of where they are. There is no automaticity about recovery between now and the election. I shall miss some of them, though. There was a fabulous anti-war song by Roy Orbison back in the ’60s called “There won’t be many coming home.” When I look at the Liberal Benches now, I think to myself that after the next election there won’t be many coming back.

Jim Shannon: Don’t sing it.

Jim Dowd: No, I wouldn’t.

A lot of people said that the coalition would not last. I always thought that it would, and so it has proved, but the most intriguing question was always going to be how it disengaged. The Conservatives have worked themselves into a position in which they will get the credit for anything that, rightly or wrongly, is perceived to have gone right, and the Liberals will get all the blame, and that bodes ill for them.

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We are exactly where we are, but the position is exacerbated by the Liberals promising to do one thing before an election and doing the total reverse afterwards. They cannot get away with behaving in that fashion and people do have memories and will exercise their judgment in the light of that. It will be hugely entertaining in the next few months to see how the coalition parties defend the coalition but attack each other. They will do so more and more ferociously as next May beckons.

Lord Ashcroft has embarked on an expensive round of weekly polls, principally on behalf of the Conservative party, although to give him his due, he makes them freely available to anyone who wants to read them. The polls have shown a number of changes just in the past week between the three parties. Perhaps we are in three or perhaps we are in four-party politics. I think that we may be in three-party politics in so far as UKIP has supplanted the Liberal Democrats in the national political scene. We will wait for it all to unravel. We are in for an intriguing and exciting time, but one thing is certain—this coalition will end with a whimper, not a bang.

3.8 pm

Jessica Lee (Erewash) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me in this important debate. Often in this House we debate matters that self-evidently divide us, but I wish to focus my remarks on two aspects of Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech that are likely to unite us.

The Modern Slavery Bill represents the first of its kind across Europe and it sends a strong message internationally that the UK is leading the way in putting an end to modern slavery. Others in the House and outside have been far more involved than me in the journey to bring this important legislation before the House. I see sitting across the House the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) and I would also mention the former Member of Parliament Anthony Steen. Both of them are notable individuals who have done so much in this area. The matter goes right through Government—from the Minister for modern slavery who has been appointed, to the Home Secretary. The Prime Minister himself feels strongly and passionately about the importance of progressing this Bill. It is a credit to all that we see it included in the Queen’s Speech.

It is, of course, impossible for any of us here to imagine how deeply traumatic the experiences must be for the many victims of modern slavery and what they have endured. I have read accounts, as I am sure many others have, of young women and children being drugged, beaten and forced into prostitution and taken to a land a long way from their home. Those stories are compelling and deeply moving.

Turning to the details of the Bill, which I warmly welcome, I think that progress has been made since it was published in December 2013. The first development is that slavery victims who are vulnerable witnesses will automatically have access to support in giving evidence. There is a wider debate about how victims more broadly are supported when giving evidence in criminal cases, and the passage of this Bill will be very timely and enable us further to explore that important aspect. The last thing anybody wants is for a victim of slavery, who has already been through so much, to find the trauma of giving evidence any more difficult than it needs to be.

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The second point is about ensuring that victims get reparations from the trafficker or from their slavemaster for the abuse they have suffered. The justice that we all seek in the case of traffickers must, in a modern, compassionate society, be balanced by the need to help victims rebuild their lives. Obviously, that is not just a financial point—far from it—but we need to stand up as a country and a society and support those victims in the difficult passage they will have in rebuilding their lives and moving on.

Thirdly, there must be connections between agencies in the work that will be required. The Bill now includes a requirement for public authorities to notify any information they have about potential victims of modern slavery. That responsibility to share information is very appropriate and takes us further along the path towards improved contributions by and work across agencies. Finally, the creation of an anti-slavery commissioner has to be right. It is an important development and will ensure that investigations and prosecutions are as effective and progressive as possible. It creates the leadership necessary to implement these changes.

With world leaders having gathered on the beaches of Normandy last week to commemorate the D-day landings and mark the bravery and sacrifice of so many for future generations, it is worth reflecting that the whole purpose of the landings was to ensure the future freedom of this country, so it is quite poignant that, in the Queen’s Speech debate, we seek to support and bring freedom to those victims in our society who are held against their will and who suffer so much at the hands of others. The Modern Slavery Bill is legislation of which the Home Secretary and the whole House will in time, I am sure, be extremely proud.

I turn now to the proposed changes to the law on child neglect. I disclose my interest as a family law barrister who has spent over 12 years representing and working with vulnerable families, often at times of crisis. It has been a sad feature of the family and civil courts that, until now, when severe neglect and emotional harm suffered by children is an aspect of a case there has been no prospect of the perpetrators being pursued in the criminal courts. Once the changes come into effect, that will change. Society has moved on a great deal since the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and the law needs to reflect that. I have no doubt that by extending the criminal law to cover not only physical but emotional harm to children, we will not reduce the seriousness of the crime. It is the just and right thing to do.

To clarify, this is not about children who are a bit unhappy or who have fallen out with their mum and dad. Child neglect is far more serious and has to do with a long-term emotional impact on children living in an environment where they have been subjected to physical violence, perhaps sexual violence or suffered extreme neglect, such as malnutrition, inadequate living conditions or a lack of medical care. Many MPs and charities have campaigned for the change. I note, in particular, the work of Action for Children, a charity with which I have worked for many years on different topics and which has led the campaign extremely effectively.

Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab): The hon. Lady is making a very thoughtful and interesting speech. Will she put it on the record that she

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shares our disappointment, as I am sure she does, that the number of convictions for child cruelty has fallen in recent years? It was 720 in 2009 and only 553 in 2013. Although, of course, the changes are to be welcomed, the overall conviction rate has gone down.

Jessica Lee: I am grateful for that intervention. What we have before us is the means to change things and at last bring criminal law into line with civil law—a change that is due and that will be effective, and I have no doubt that prosecution rates will reflect that.

The proposed changes do two important things. First, as I said in response to the hon. Lady, it allows the criminal law to catch up, if I can put it that way, with civil law, where the definition of emotional harm is well accepted, and the test of significant harm includes emotional abuse. Secondly, there will be consistency between our civil law and criminal law as to the definition of child neglect, which is of great importance. Society’s understanding of child development and the impact on children of harm by those who care for them has come on leaps and bounds since the 1933 Act. By implementing this change in the months ahead we can be confident we are taking a positive step to assist vulnerable children across our country.

3.17 pm

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Erewash (Jessica Lee), who may have one of the most unusual-sounding constituencies. She must be commended for her work on modern slavery and on children in particular.

I want to address what we now refer to as “the Scotland bit” in the Queen’s Speech. We are always grateful to Her Majesty for acknowledging Scotland in her Gracious Speech; it usually comes about two thirds of the way through, and again this year we were not disappointed. In the Queen’s Speech Her Majesty confirmed that her Government will

“make the case for Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 4 June 2014; Vol. 754, c. 4.]

No surprise there; that is what we would expect her to say. In fact, it would have been quite remarkable had she said something else. Imagine if, for example, she had said, “I look forward to my subjects in Scotland securing the normal powers of an independent nation. I look forward to them enjoying the resources that will make their country one of the most dynamic and prosperous in the world.” Of course, she did not say that. Her Majesty knows, as we all know in Scotland, that the whole range of facilities available to this Government and this House will be pitted against Scotland in the next few months to try to influence the vote.

All the donors and cronies down the corridor will be engaged in trying to make sure that Scotland remains in the United Kingdom. All the resources available to all the Opposition parties will be engaged in ensuring that Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. All of Whitehall, all Government Committees and all Select Committees will be engaged in trying to ensure that Scotland remains a part of the United Kingdom. I am one of six Scottish National party Members, so I am very much aware of the range of forces pitted against us. Out of 650 Members of the House there are maybe 10 of us calling for Scottish independence, and thank

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goodness for the hon. Member for Leeds East (Mr Mudie), who has now joined the call. If we add the 800 Members from down the corridor, there are 1,400 Westminster parliamentarians who are against Scottish independence versus the six of us. That seems like reasonable odds to me. It is reasonably fair. What we have to do now is recognise, as the Queen did in the Speech, that the entire resources of Westminster—the whole of the House of Commons and the whole House of Lords—will be ranged against Scotland. Last week they even enlisted Lego figures in their fight to stop Scotland becoming independent, to much laughter and ridicule.

In the Scotland bit of her speech, Her Majesty confirmed that the Government

“will continue to implement new financial powers for the Scottish Parliament”.

These are not the new financial powers that the Prime Minister apparently signed up to only last week. These are the remaining consequential issues from the Scotland Act 2012 that need to be tidied up.

More devolution is all the rage in Scotland. We cannot walk around one of our big cities without tripping over some Unionist or UK commission looking into the issue. It is like the proverbial buses all turning up at once. It has got me and all the other people in Scotland wondering why they are doing it now. Is it anything to do with the prospect of a referendum on independence? Surely not. Yet that is almost certainly the case. It is curious because our Unionist friends did everything to keep a “more powers” option off the ballot paper for the referendum in September. They would give us anything else, such as the right to administer the referendum. They even allowed us to frame the question. It is we who were in charge of the franchise. The one thing they did not want was a “more powers” option on the ballot paper. Now we are expected to accept that they are sincere in delivering all these shiny new powers, when they did so much to keep them off the ballot paper. There are two things that we say about that: “Aye. Right. Fool us once and we’ll blame you. Fool us twice and it’s our fault.”

Michael Connarty: Might not the logic be to expose the fact that what has been offered by the Scottish National party was the lunacy of independence, as against staying within the Union where we could negotiate changes, and to expose the paucity of the hon. Gentleman’s argument that independence might be better for the people of Scotland, whereas we know that it would be a disaster for them?

Pete Wishart: The hon. Gentleman has his own view, but why not offer the option on the ballot paper? There was accommodation with the Scottish Government about that. We were quite happy and relaxed about a third question being put forward. The Scottish people should always get what they want. That is my view and I am sure it is the hon. Gentleman’s view, so the question could have appeared on the ballot paper, but it was rejected. It was the one thing that the Government did not want included.

We have been here before. The hon. Gentleman will remember this. It was in my own constituency—Alec Douglas-Home trooping up to Perth city hall in 1979.

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What did he say to the Scottish people? “Vote no and we’ll give you something better. We’ll give you a better Parliament” than was on offer in 1979. What did we get? Eighteen years of Thatcherism, the destruction of our industrial base, and Tory obscenities like the poll tax. We will not be fooled by that again.

One of the funny consequences of all this—it is quite ironic—is that the party that so defiantly opposed the Scottish Parliament in any form of Scottish devolution is now the party of more devolution. It has made a more substantial offer than the party of devolution, the Labour party. We might be in the ridiculous situation whereby in the next Parliament, Labour Members oppose a Conservative Government offering many more powers than they ever intended to offer. Incredible, but that may be the case.

There is only one way for the Scottish Parliament to get more powers. There is only one way to ensure we get the powers that Scotland needs, and that is to vote yes in the independence referendum. If we do not, we leave it up to this House. We leave it up to the largesse of predominantly English Members to give us more powers. I know lots of English Members. Some of them are very good friends of mine. I do not detect a mood around the House that if Scotland votes no, they will rush in to give us more powers to reward us. I get the sense that they are much more interested in issues such as the Barnett formula. They believe their own propaganda and are concerned that Scotland gets more than the rest of their English regions. They are more concerned about that than about giving us power over income tax or more powers over welfare.

The other thing that consumes English Members is the West Lothian question about what Scottish Members could do here. Maybe it is just me, but I do not see a groundswell of English Members of Parliament queuing up to reward Scotland for turning down the prospect of independence. They are more likely to be thinking, “Scotland’s had its chance. It’s time for my region for a change.”

Other than the Scotland stuff, there were no other constitutional issues in the Queen’s Speech. That means that we will leave this Parliament with the House of Lords commanding the same position in our democracy as when the great reforming Liberals took part in government. What a disgrace. That unelected, crony-stuffed, donor-inhabited affront to democracy will remain in the same condition as when we came into Parliament.

The Liberals had lots of red lines when it came to the constitutional debate. I am not blaming the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) personally, although he is looking at me as though I am. They could have made much more of reforming the House of Lords. They went for AV—the inconsequential mouse of a reform measure—when they could have done something about that place, so we are left with it. In his parting shot, the Liberals’ Lord Oakeshott hinted that cash for honours is still very much a feature of securing a place next door. It is an absurd place and I hope that the next Queen’s Speech will enable us to do something about that affront to democracy. This Government this time round have done nothing.

Some have described the Queen’s Speech this year as a speech for a zombie Parliament. If it is a zombie Parliament, it must be a phantom Queen’s Speech, because it does not address the political dynamic that

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exists throughout the United Kingdom, what is going on and what should be debated. A few Members have said that. I think I am the only Member to raise the subject of UKIP. The party won an election a couple of weeks ago and made significant gains. Nobody wants to talk about UKIP here. Nobody will address the issue of what it has done. UKIP is pulling the strings of this Government and they are responding in the only way they know how—pandering to UKIP’s agenda instead of challenging it.

I am much more interested in what Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition are going to do. I challenged the shadow Home Secretary on that today. They are at a defining point. They are at a critical and crucial moment. The Labour party has two choices in relation to the immigration/UKIP agenda. It can challenge the assumptions that it is based on, do something about it, take it on, risk not being the favourite of the right-wing press and maybe alienating a few voters who have bought into this pernicious agenda; or it can pander to it and accommodate it.

I have seen the letters from Labour Members encouraging the party leadership to accommodate the UKIP agenda and saying that it could be addressed. They must reject it, stand tall and do the right thing. I know it is difficult sometimes for the Labour party to do this but it must offer leadership. If the Opposition offer leadership on immigration and challenge UKIP on its agenda, they will get my support. I will help them out. But they must not give in to it. They are in a critical position on the immigration/UKIP question. Don’t blow it, Labour. The nation is watching. Labour cannot face two ways on this—it either takes UKIP on or accommodates it. I very much hope Labour does the right thing.

Labour has let itself be bullied by the Tories and UKIP. It is appalling. Labour has been bullied into apologising for its years of immigration. That is one of the best things the Labour Government did and I cannot believe that the Opposition have been bullied like this. Stand up to them, for goodness sake! They should not be afraid to say that they got it right on immigration. It has been fantastic for the whole of the United Kingdom. It has made the city we are in one of the greatest cities in the world. Only about 30% of the people who live and work in London came from this place; the rest are from overseas. What has immigration done for us, as Monty Python might have asked? Look at this place and see what it has achieved, then try and argue that immigration is not good. Come on, Labour. Get on with it. Stand up to them and do the right thing.

I shall deal quickly with Home Office issues, few of which affect Scotland. We are practically independent when it comes to policing and judiciary arrangements. Thank goodness for that. When the Home Secretary turns up to the Police Federation for their annual meeting, she is booed, jeered and shouted down. Then I see our Cabinet Secretary turning up to the Scottish Police Federation and being cheered to the rafters for what we are doing for police officers in Scotland, compared with what this lot are doing here.

I welcome the Modern Slavery Bill. Even though it is for England and Wales only, I hope it is successful and I pay tribute to the many Members who have spoken in support of the measure. In Scotland we have our own people-trafficking Bill and we will continue

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to work with the UK on the matter, particularly in areas such as extra-territorial intervention and maritime policing.

Legislative consent motions will be required for some of the measures in the serious crime Bill, and I know that again, my colleagues in the Scottish Government will work closely with the Home Office to ensure a co-ordinated response to serious crime. But Scottish National party Members want more than that. Grateful as we are to Her Majesty, we want more than the Scotland bit. It is great that in every Session of Parliament it is included, and we look forward to it, but we do not want the insignificant wee bits here and there, the bits of Bills that apply to Scotland. We want a legislative programme for Scotland in the interests of the people according to our agenda and our priorities. We do not want to be dictated to by a Government for whom we did not vote. That is what we will get on 18 September. That is what the Scottish people will vote for.

3.30 pm

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). I have been desperately trying to think of something that I could agree with him on at the start of my remarks, but we will just have to let that pass.

I support the provisions in the Queen’s Speech. There is a great deal in it about modern slavery, about child protection, on which we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Jessica Lee), and about trafficking. In particular, there is a great deal about cybercrime and strengthening the legislation around disabling IT systems. We need a reorientation in the criminal justice system to address that issue, which is a massive and growing problem that threatens not only financial loss but organisations’ economic stability.

Of the 11 Bills in the Queen’s Speech, I want principally to address my remarks to those on pensions tax and private pensions, and the Bill on infrastructure and what it means for our energy security and for fracking. The pensions legislation was described by the Prime Minister as the centrepiece of the Queen’s Speech, which in many ways it is. It is hard to think of an issue that affects so many people so much as what they will have to spend in retirement. We have systematic under-provision of retirement income throughout the country. There is a rule of thumb that says that pensioners are divided into three slugs of a third each. One third broadly has some kind of public sector pension, possibly not enough, but nearly always more generous than the next third, who are broadly in some kind of private sector scheme. Increasingly, the gold-plated private sector schemes have been closed, but even those people are better off than the final third who have no provision at all. The pension reforms in the Queen’s Speech, and lately in Parliament, have addressed those last two-thirds.

In the comparison between public and private pensions—this is not a dig at public pension provision; we need good and generous provision—it is worth reflecting on the fact that a pension that is inflation-proofed at around £15,000 per annum would cost £400,000 to purchase in the private sector. Virtually no one can do that. The average pension pot in the private sector is about £35,000. A problem is about to hit us.

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The structural issue in the UK comes of a policy point versus the EU. We have chosen to pay relatively low pensions to people on the assumption that they will be topped up by the private sector. Nearly every other country in Europe has chosen not to go down that route but has higher provision. The Pensions Minister has made some progress in addressing that. We have paid £40 billion per annum tax relief into the pension system to mitigate this problem, but it has not worked and it is not working. There is a massive distrust of the pension system among the punters out there. I have lost count of the number of people who have told me that they would rather bite off their right arm than invest in a pension. Typically, that is because there is a view that so much goes in charges. There has been a market failure. For a pension pot, about 30% or 40% can go on charges, and the provisions need to address that.

The same is true of annuities. Until quite recently, pensioners have been buying annuities without going on the open market. There have been inconsistent and inappropriate products. In my constituency, about 1,200 people per annum are buying an annuity, of whom more than a half are buying the wrong product. That is just wrong. This is compounded by the auto-enrolment initiative and its success, making the need for action even stronger.

The Government have introduced legislation to allow small pots to be combined; they have provided a cap on pension charges at 0.75%, half the amount the Opposition had in terms of stakeholder provisions; they have dramatically and structurally changed the annuity rules so that annuities no longer need to be taken out, which has burst the whole market wide open; and they have removed many of the abusive features of pension funds, such as active market discounts whereby pensioners who remain in a pension fund having left the company pay more in charges. Most interestingly, in this Queen’s Speech they have brought forward a collective defined contribution idea, which is a paraphrase of the Dutch solution, to try to make progress on costs. Broadly, the assumption there is that there is a collectivisation of risk with pension schemes coming together with the idea that costs will be reduced, which I very much hope happens. There is evidence that in Holland the average pension is 20% to 25% higher than in the UK. The collective schemes may be one reason for that, and another is a much higher propensity to use passive investments. I very much welcome what is going on in that area.

It is worth pointing out that in Holland these collective schemes, which are brought forward in the Queen’s Speech, tend to be industry-specific. Pensioners share the risk, but there is also an element by which pensioners can be penalised, even after they have retired, something which is not currently allowed in UK law. There is therefore an intergenerational issue to be fixed there, but it is an important first step, which I support.

In summary, the Government have addressed some of the issues in the pensions industry, including under-provision in the private sector, but there will remain a massive problem, which I have not talked about at length. The £40 billion of tax relief that we have put into the pension system is to a large extent misdirected, and at some point some Government will have to address that and make progress on it.

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The Infrastructure Bill, and the encouragement it gives to the exploitation of unconventional gas, either coal gas or shale gas, is important in relation to the three tenets of our energy policy—decarbonisation, lower cost and security of supply. We hear a lot about whether we should frack. Is it important that we do so? We talk as though it is an option, as though no one else is fracking.

The world has changed when it comes to fracking. It changed about five years ago when the United States went into the industry at great velocity. That changed our entire energy supply market. It is now a net exporter of energy and gas, as opposed to an importer. That has implications for its foreign policy—what it does in the gulf of Arabia and all that goes with that—but even more important in terms of how it relates to us is the fact that now its chemical feedstock and electricity costs are one-third of what ours are in the UK. That is a massive competitive change; it is a game-changer. The consequence of that is not necessarily whole businesses immediately moving from here or from Germany to America; it is rather that a new unit or distillation plant in Teesside or the north west will now be built by global companies in America to take advantage of costs that are one-third—not 10%—cheaper than ours. We have to address this situation.

Daniel Kawczynski: I do not know about my hon. Friend’s constituents, but this week alone I have received more than 100 letters from mine who are concerned about fracking. Does he accept that the Government need to do more to convince British people of the need for fracking, and what is his constituents’ perception of fracking?

David Mowat: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I accept that we need to do more to convince people that we need fracking; that is one of the reasons I am making a speech about it. It is a little bit about leadership—if we think something is the right answer, we go with it.

I do not want to say that there are no environmental issues associated with fracking, and of course it is important that we frack in the right areas; there will be some places where we should not frack and some places where we should. All that is true, but it is not a reason to turn our backs on this industry. The case that I am putting to my hon. Friend and to other Members is that the world is already fracking. This week, Germany gave the go-ahead for fracking; it had been reluctant to do that, but did so under pressure from its industry. We need to decide as a country how competitive we wish to be, but one of the vehicles of being competitive is cheap prices for energy and chemical feedstock, and fracking is one of the ways in which those cheap prices will be delivered.

There are three tenets of energy policy, the first of which is decarbonisation. Fracking—or gas, I should say—is an element of any decarbonisation strategy that we seriously wish to pursue. In this country, something like 50% of electricity comes from coal and oil. Replacing that coal and oil with gas is the single quickest and most effective way of reducing our carbon footprint. Indeed, of all the countries in the OECD, the one that reduced its carbon by the most in the last five years is the USA. It has done that because it has reduced its coal expenditure and usage, and instead used gas.

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The UK—perhaps slightly counter-culturally—already has one of the lowest amounts of carbon per capita and per unit of GDP in the EU. A strategy based on replacing our coal with gas, and doing so more quickly, would lead to even more progress in that regard.

I have talked a little bit about cost, but it is self-evident that there is a correlation between GDP and energy usage. We cannot rebalance our economy on differentially high energy prices, particularly if we are rebalancing it towards manufacturing, and part of the solution is cheaper gas prices.

It has been said that our having unconventional shale gas in the UK does not necessarily reduce prices, and to an extent that is true. However, it is rather like saying we should not have exploited North sea gas or oil 30 years ago because there is a world market for North sea oil and we cannot guarantee that lower prices would—

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): The hon. Gentleman is doing a very good job in answering the question that his colleague, the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), put about selling the whole idea of fracking. Does he agree not only that there are environmental benefits to fracking but that when one way to tackle fuel poverty, provide fuel security, make UK industry more competitive and even attract some industries that have gone overseas to come back again is to have our own supply of gas from the shale gas available to us?

David Mowat: I agree with the hon. Gentleman on all those points, and he made them succinctly and well. Fracking is not something that we can turn our backs on, and I am very pleased that it is in the Queen’s Speech. The point I was making was on the relative cost of energy. I have heard it said in this place that just because we produce shale gas, that will not necessarily reduce our gas prices by 60% or 70%, to the level they are in America. Of course, there is some truth in that; there is a worldwide market in gas, in the same way that there is in oil.

That said, the gas market is a little bit less mobile than the oil market. The European gas hub, which would be affected by gas prices, is smaller than the global market for crude oil. One of the reasons that we in this country cannot benefit from US gas in the way the US benefits from its gas is that the cost of the US sending it to us would probably double its price; it would still be cheaper, but it would be double the price that we would pay vis-à-vis the US. The summary of all this is that we need to get on with it.

The final point, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson), is that of security of supply. Whether we like it or not, North sea production is coming down. There may be many things that we can do, either with an independent Scotland or with Scotland within the United Kingdom, to keep that supply going for as long as possible, but gas production in particular is considerably down; it is now something like half what it was at its peak.

Although we in this country have not up till now had to use Russian gas—most of our imported gas has come from Norway—I think I saw a report last month saying that Gazprom and Centrica have signed their first deal, so there is an element in all this of security of supply vis-à-vis the geopolitics of Europe as well.

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I hope that the provisions in the Queen’s Speech to make it easier to exploit shale are proceeded with. What the legislation is really saying is that someone’s property rights do not necessarily extend to stopping people drilling a mile under their house or land. That seems to me as logical as saying that someone’s property rights do not extend to preventing aeroplanes from flying over their land. I believe that that was an issue in the USA at one time, and it had to be legislated away in much the same way as we are legislating here for fracking.

3.46 pm

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): I cannot say how pleased I am to follow the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat). On both the topics that he centred on, the Government pay much attention to him. On pensions, he sketched out the areas where the Government really have to face the issues that he raised, because they are important not only to the House but to our constituents.

I will talk on one topic, which is the Modern Slavery Bill. I apologise that I was not present to hear some of the opening comments and the kind comments that various Members made. I will begin by making the roll-call of those who should have credit for this measure. The hon. Members for Erewash (Jessica Lee) and for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) quite rightly said that slavery would not be a topic in the House or in the country if not for the work of Anthony Steen. It was Anthony Steen, through his Human Trafficking Foundation, who first made me interested in this topic, and it was Patrick White in my office who said how important it was, which led to my commitment to it. The hon. Lady was absolutely right that without the work of Anthony Steen—first, towards the end of his period as a Member, and then in the work that he has done to extraordinary effect with the HTF—we would not have had a Modern Slavery Bill included in the Queen’s Speech.

As I say, it is slavery on which I wish to comment, and I wish to continue to draw attention to those who should rightly claim credit for the Bill. The idea for a modern slavery Bill was set out in a report published a little over a year ago by the Centre for Social Justice, so the Government have responded extraordinarily quickly by presenting the Bill. I do not think that we would have had that report had it not been for Philippa Stroud, who now works at the Department for Work and Pensions, and Fiona Cunningham, who worked at the Home Office. Had they not been working carefully to ensure that this moved up the Government’s agenda, I do not think that it would have been on the list of topics that the Home Secretary thought should command her attention and, more importantly, her departmental time. The Bill therefore has three immediate heroes: Philippa Stroud, Fiona Cunningham and the Home Secretary.

My purpose in speaking in this debate is to draw attention not only to a glaring omission in the Bill, but to a provision in it that I do not think we would now see had it not been for the work of the Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill and, in particular, the contribution that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) made to it. The glaring omission, as he knows—he piloted a private Member’s Bill on this very topic—concerns supply chains. Although the Bill will deal much more effectively with countering the horror of modern-day

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slavery in this country, the plain and brutal fact is that most of the slaves on whose labour our standard of living is supported work in other countries, producing the goods and services that we buy.

For all the reasons that were given to the evidence review for the Bill, to the Joint Committee and for my hon. Friend’s private Member’s Bill, I hope that Members will table amendments that persuade the Government that supply chains must be included in this measure. We know what the Home Secretary’s opinion is, because before she began talking about a Bill in detail, she said that she wished it to cover supply chains, so clearly there are other forces at work that overruled her in that respect. I think that we need to come to her aid and ensure that she wins the argument, not some officials in No. 10 who are against it. I hope that all those employers, large and small, that publicly support extending the measure to supply chains will now front up and lobby No. 10 to ensure that the Bill is complete in that important respect. If the Government still have some doubts about that, I hope that Members here and in the other place will ensure that the Bill is complete when it goes for Royal Assent.

Sammy Wilson: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that businesses in the United Kingdom have a duty to check that their supply chains do not use labour that is tantamount to slave labour to produce cheap goods that can then be sold in this country?

Mr Field: I am immensely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but I would take his argument a stage further. I think that the Prime Minister has a duty to protect British business men and women from undertaking activities that are deemed to be heinous crimes. I think that the Prime Minister needs to develop a level playing field, so that not just the good businesses ensure that their products are not tainted by slavery; those that are slower in coming up to the plate must also make their contribution.

Emily Thornberry: My right hon. Friend was not here when the shadow Home Secretary raised her concerns about the new domestic workers visa and the fact that 60% of people on it have no salary at all. Will he comment on that?

Mr Field: All the Joint Committee’s recommendations were unanimous, and they certainly were on that. However, to be honest, in listing the things that I hoped the Government would do, I did not think that they would jump to attention on that one, given that they deliberately made a change in policy. We did not include it in the Bill because changing it does not actually require an Act of Parliament; it requires the will of the Home Secretary. If this Home Secretary does not see her way to changing it, I hope that a future Home Secretary will.

One of the impacts of the evidence review on the Joint Committee has been for the Government to include in the Bill a section on victims. It is morally right that the Bill will be victim-focused. However, even if we cannot do it for the right reasons, we ought to do it for another reason: that the Government are serious about escalating the number of successful prosecutions. We

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will not increase the number of successful prosecutions unless those victims of slavery feel that they are secure in this country. I am immensely grateful to the Government for listening to the arguments put on that front and for including a major section of the Bill that transforms the position of victims of slavery in this country. I commend them for doing so.

For all the good measures in the Bill, it is still incomplete. Victims of slavery came to give evidence to us at all our evidence sessions before and during the Joint Committee. It is impossible for any of us in the Chamber to describe the horrors that people go through when they realise they have been trapped and now have a slave existence. How anyone recovers from that train of events, God only knows, but many do so, and we wish many more to do so. This crime is probably one of the most heinous in the world today. We now have an opportunity to make this not just a good Bill, because it is already good, but the very best in the world—a world leader. I hope that that will ring in all our ears when we start the parliamentary process in this place and, perhaps more importantly, in the other place, where it is easier for reason to prevail on a Government than it is here.

3.56 pm

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), who, as ever, made a thoughtful and important speech on an issue that generally unites the House rather than divides it.

I apologise to the House for being away for a short time while I was attending the Health Committee, but of course I was here for the opening speeches and the first few contributions. I want to focus on a number of areas related to home affairs, including policing in my constituency, immigration and criminals in our jails, including several issues that have arisen following a visit that I recently made to a prison near my constituency.

As I said in my earlier intervention on the Home Secretary, I welcome the social action, responsibility and heroism Bill. Some people might not think that it is necessary, but those who try to do good as volunteers or just as passers-by in society often feel that the law is against them and they are not protected, as may well be the case, and anything that gives a nod in that direction is important.

I have mentioned my own experience working as a first responder with the ambulance service every weekend. One of my staff members—they are all trained as first responders as well—recently came across somebody who was in cardiac arrest, and had sadly died, but was laid out on the side of the road. He was the first one on the scene who was prepared to do anything to try to assist that person. There is not only the fear of getting involved, which is very difficult to get rid of, but the fear in the backs of many people’s minds that if they do something they may make the situation even worse and then end up being sued for it.

This applies not only to such experiences. Whenever it snows in my village, I clear the section of the path between the old people’s home and the pub, and people say as they are going past, “Be careful or you’ll get sued.” Thankfully, I have not been; I think some of the residents of the old people’s home have enjoyed being able to get to the Percy Arms. Although I have not faced

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any legal action, a lot of people have the perception that, if they try to do right, they will fall foul of some legal issue and end up being arrested or sued in the courts. I very much welcome this Bill as a nod in the right direction in that regard.

I want to say a little about crime and policing locally. I have never been a particular fan of the reductions in the police budget, which is why I always try to speak every time that we agree the police estimates, but I will not rehash my previous speeches on that subject. An awful lot more needs to be done on partnership working with the police. Whenever I meet the police locally, they outline the financial savings that they have to make, and I am fully conscious of the difficulties involved in that. However, I still get the impression—I will give a practical example in a moment—that the police have not fully embraced proper partnership working and engaging with other agencies such as local authorities and other emergency services. When they talk about partnership working, they seem to mean that they are prepared to work with other police forces, but when it comes to working with others there is still something of a silo mentality. More needs to be done by the leadership nationally, to drive the issue forward and make sure that some of the savings can be realised. I am concerned that when it comes to back-office costs and senior management, not enough is being done at the top to share work between agencies other than police forces.

My constituency is represented by two local authorities: the East Riding of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. North Lincolnshire council has been very forward thinking in playing its part not only in helping the police and crime commissioner to achieve his crime plan, but in reducing crime and the fear of crime locally. The council has funded a number of CCTV projects, including in Epworth and Winterton in my constituency, for which I and the ward councillors were pleased to secure the funding.

The council has also funded police community support officers for rural communities. Crime mapping and the allocation of police service resources focus on crime hot spots, which tend not to be in rural areas, so in my own area, North Lincolnshire council worked with me on a project to find funding for five police community support officers—two on the Isle of Axholme, one in the Burton and Winterton policing team, one in the Brigg team and another in the Barton team. They are now in post and are having a real impact.

Unfortunately, the area in which we are having trouble with the police force locally relates to the need to go further and expand the project with even more council-funded PCSOs. It is not often that one public body tries to throw money at another, only for the intended recipient not to want it, but that is a problem in my own area at present. The council is not able to shovel more money at the police force to employ more PCSOs, and none of the various reasons for that are acceptable either to myself as a local representative or to local people who tell us strongly that they do not believe that policing in our rural communities is being prioritised, because the crime rates mean that resources are not being allocated to them. When the local authority steps up and says, “We will buy in that extra provision to make people feel safe,” and the police say they do not want it, something is obviously going very badly wrong.

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I am not criticising Humberside police, who have done a fine job of handling the significant financial challenge that they face. Their officers are dedicated and they have a good chief constable and senior officer team, but their intransigence on this issue is a cause of deep concern and regret. A lot more needs to be done regarding partnership working, and the police need to change some of their practices to properly embrace that.

It was interesting to hear the pro-immigration speech of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and I suppose we should respect him for that. I expect him to be pro-immigration, given that he wants to make very large numbers of Scottish people immigrants in England. Perhaps it is no wonder that he is so pro-immigration.

What concerns me about the immigration debate is that since the Euro election results, too many people seem to want to jump up and say that we should respond by informing people that they are wrong to think what they think about immigration. I find that deeply patronising and insulting to my constituents. I have seen that happen in my own area. When the migrant support grant went, I was summoned to a meeting to discuss it. There has been significant immigration from the European Union to the town of Goole since 2003. When I intervened on the shadow Home Secretary earlier, I asked her to apologise to the people of Goole, who have seen up to between 20% and 25% of their town come from eastern Europe. She chose not to apologise for that or for visiting my constituency recently without informing me. That is the context of why people in Goole are very concerned about immigration, and they should be listened to.

I was called to that meeting to talk about that fund by people, none of whom live in the Goole area, who wanted to tell me how awful it is that the people in Goole think the things they think. Yes, people sometimes do not use language that we might like them to use, but I find it wrong to brush aside their concerns in a patronising way and to talk down to them, saying, “Oh, Mrs Smith, you really mustn’t use language like that. How dare you.” Mrs Smith is not a racist. She is concerned about her community when her street in Goole—in many cases, a street of terraced houses—is suddenly peopled by large numbers of young males from eastern Europe. That has changed the dynamic of her street, and her concerns are legitimate.

This is not about rounding on Mrs Smith to make her better understand why immigration is good for this country and why she should put up with it, but about responding to her concern. She is concerned not about people who want to contribute coming to my constituency to work, but about the uncontrolled nature of the numbers and, in some cases, the types of people. Some of the large number of young people behave in a way that many in our area do not understand and do not consider acceptable, and they want that behaviour to be challenged. It very much concerns me that, since the vote in Europe, the debate seems to be all about how awful it is that people think such things, as opposed to trying to address their genuine concerns.

In my constituency almost half, if not more, of the intake of some schools are children—mainly Polish and Latvian—for whom English is their second language. Some of our GP lists have been closed, so there is a mad

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situation in which people whose children return to Goole after having temporarily moved away now cannot register with the GP who was their family GP when they were growing up. To use the example of Mrs Smith, she would of course look at that and think, “How is it that my son or daughter, who was born and bred in this town, cannot now go to the doctor who has cared for them all through their life, while someone can suddenly appear from another country and register with that doctor, with no controls on their ability to do so?” The anger comes from such a perception, and until we start to recognise that people have legitimate concerns—I have mentioned housing issues—we will get nowhere.

I am sorry to say that none of the current responses of any of the parties is acceptable or goes far enough. To try to get tough on non-EU immigration and all the rest of it in order to bring down the numbers is fine as far as it goes. However, the situation in my constituency is not about non-EU immigration, but EU immigration. We have to do something about the free movement of labour across Europe. We are losing people and losing the country on this issue, and until we address that fact, UKIP or other fringe parties of that nature—I would not necessarily call UKIP a fringe party now—will gain traction. I hope that in the next year or two, if we get a renegotiation on Europe, this issue will be addressed. Uncontrolled EU immigration is no longer acceptable and is not working.

Jim Shannon: The hon. Gentleman has mentioned housing, employment opportunities and health. The same also applies to education, in that school places have been lost to those living in such areas because of the level of immigration.

Andrew Percy: Absolutely. In fact, I mentioned schools in relation to their intake. We have had the problem of people living just outside the catchment area of the school that they went to as a child, but finding, because of this massive pressure on places, that they cannot get their child into their old school. All that feeds into a perception of unfairness and of immigration being bad, which I do not think people at the top have necessarily understood.

Sammy Wilson: Not only have we not put in the infrastructure to facilitate the huge increase in the number of people, but even when concerns are legitimate, people who wish to discuss them are immediately silenced by being dismissed as racist. They are not racist and do not intend to be racist at all, but they have genuine concerns that need to be addressed. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is half the problem?

Andrew Percy: Absolutely. Because I had criticised the uncontrolled nature of immigration into my own town, when I was dragged to the meeting with various agencies, I was told that the things I had said were unacceptable. Needless to say, that meeting did not last very long or end very well when I robustly thanked the people for coming from their lovely villages in the richest parts of the East Riding of Yorkshire, where they do not have to live with large amounts of uncontrolled immigration. I thanked them for sharing their views, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that when

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people raise legitimate concerns, they are patronised and spoken down to by people who, all too often, do not live in these communities.

Mr Frank Field: Were any of the people who came to the meeting, other than the hon. Gentleman himself, elected?

Andrew Percy: Absolutely none of them were elected; the right hon. Gentleman makes a good point.

I would like to conclude on two small points. The second issue that I hope the Home Office will address, and about which it can do something practical, is foreign-registered vehicles, which feed into people’s perception of unfairness. I asked a couple of parliamentary questions in the previous Session about foreign-registered vehicles overstaying the six-month limit, and found that on one occasion there had been four prosecutions in the whole of the United Kingdom for vehicles staying beyond the period permitted. When I asked a similar question on another occasion in the previous Session, I believe that precisely zero vehicles had been prosecuted.

The issue is one of vehicles not being recorded when they arrive at the United Kingdom border, or when they leave. People in my town see the same vehicles and report them to my office, and we report them to the police. They see vehicles that have been here a year, possibly even two, that are still in our town and are not registered, paying tax or subject to UK insurance. The Government must take a lead on this issue. The only way to solve it is through better control at the border.

Finally, I want to discuss prisons, although I am perhaps stretching a debate on home affairs, given the Ministers present. I recently visited HMP Lindholme in Doncaster on the edge of my constituency. I was staggered when the governor told me about the problem there with mobile telephones and how much crime is being directed from inside the prison. Something must be done about that. We were told that for about 1,300 prisoners they had recorded 600 or 700 mobile phone signals coming from inside the prison. The blockers are not in place, although the technology is catching up.

The Government could take a strong lead on something that the governor and her team raised with me: when they identify the contracts of the phones being used inside the prison, the mobile phone operators are not very keen to terminate the numbers. That could be achieved relatively simply, so I hope that Ministers will look at that and seek to take a lead on it. It seems to me, as it would to my constituents, incomprehensible that people can direct criminal operations from behind bars. Something really must be done about that.

Having danced around some issues that are important to my constituents, I will leave it there and look forward to the Minister’s response.

4.13 pm