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Fifthly, we will enshrine in legislation the revised core purpose of the Police Federation of England and Wales, and make the federation subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Sixthly, we will introduce measures to improve the police response to people with mental health issues. The Bill will therefore include provisions to cut the use of police cells for section 135 and 136 detentions, reduce the current 72-hour maximum period of detention, and allow more places, other than police cells, to fall within the definition of a “place of safety”.

Finally, subject to the outcome of a public consultation, we will provide enhanced protections for children by introducing sanctions for professionals who fail to take action on child abuse where it is a professional responsibility to do so.

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): Will the Home Secretary also include the Official Secrets Act and the fact that restrictions from it remain, including this week stopping people coming forward and assisting police in getting those who have perpetrated historical child abuse brought to justice?

Mrs May: The hon. Gentleman has raised this issue on a number of occasions in the House and the answer I will give him now is no different from that I have given previously. It is already possible for arrangements to be put in place so that people can come forward and give their evidence without concerns about the Official Secrets Act. It is now an issue for Justice Goddard in relation to the child sexual abuse inquiry. It is for her to discuss the matter, if she wishes to, with the Attorney General, ensuring that arrangements are in place so that people come forward. The hon. Gentleman and I share the same intention: people who have evidence, who have allegations of child sexual abuse, whether it has occurred recently or in the past, should be able to come forward to the inquiry and ensure that those allegations—where appropriate; where they are specific—can be investigated by the police. We all want to ensure that we recognise what has taken place, that evidence is brought forward and that the inquiry is able to come to proper judgments about what went wrong in the past and how we can ensure that it does not happen in the future.

In addition, the Bill will allow us to deliver further reforms to the criminal justice system to protect the public, to ensure offenders are punished appropriately and to make our systems and processes more efficient. We will also enshrine the rights of victims in primary legislation to make sure that victims are supported and protected throughout the criminal justice process, making it clear to criminal justice agencies that they must comply with their duties towards victims.

The Policing and Criminal Justice Bill will ensure that we can better protect the public, but we must also protect the public from specific harms, so I turn now to the trade in new psychoactive substances. I know that the ready availability of these substances on the high street is of deep concern to Members, to the public beyond and to many parents in particular. The issue was raised recently with me by new colleagues, whom I am happy to welcome to the House, my hon. Friends the Members for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) and for Torbay (Kevin Foster). The issue concerns many people in their communities.

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In 2013 there were 120 deaths involving new psychoactive substances in England, Scotland and Wales, so the Gracious Speech includes a Bill to introduce a blanket ban on the supply of new psychoactive substances. During the previous Parliament we took a number of significant steps to deal with the issue, including using enhanced powers under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, such as temporary class drug orders, to ban more than 500 new psychoactive substances. But with these existing powers we are always playing catch-up, banning new psychoactive substances on a substance-by-substance or group-by-group basis, while the suppliers stay one step ahead.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): May I congratulate the Home Secretary on her reappointment, and on her choice of Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis)? She has poached a former member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs to assist her.

I warmly welcome what she says about psychoactive substances, which is fully in keeping with the recommendations made by the Committee in the previous Parliament, but will she say something about prescription drugs? There has been a tendency for the use, and abuse, of prescription drugs to increase, so it is important, when looking at the whole issue, that we send out the strong message that they are abused as well.

Mrs May: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. He and I spent some time across the Committee Room from each other, discussing a number of home affairs issues during his very competent chairmanship of the Home Affairs Committee. As he says, the Committee came forward with proposals on the issue, and I am pleased, having looked at the issue and having had the expert panel, that we have come to the view that a blanket ban is necessary.

We have looked at the issue of prescription and other drugs, and I am happy to write to the right hon. Gentlemen. I think the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs may be looking at that, but I will confirm that and write to him.

The introduction of a blanket ban will ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the necessary powers to put an end to this trade and to protect our young people from the harm caused by these untested, unregulated substances. We will also continue to build on our balanced and successful approach to drug misuse—reducing the demand for drugs, restricting their supply and supporting individuals to recover from dependence.

Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): Those substances are a menace in my constituency, and I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. Will police forces have powers, for example, to shut down shops that sell them?

Mrs May: Yes, the point of the blanket ban on the sale of these substances is that it will include powers to be able to ensure that there will be sanctions for those who carry on trying to sell them. Another issue of concern is people being able to buy these substances over the internet, and we will be looking at that. In addition to the head shops, that is a matter of concern, and so all those angles will be covered in our Bill.

In recent years, we have seen the devastating impact that extremism can have, not just on individuals and families, but on different communities. Britain is an

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amazingly diverse, tolerant and inclusive country, which many people are rightly proud to call home. Here, everybody is free to lead their lives as they see fit; to follow any religion or none; to wear what they like; and to establish faith schools and build places of worship. But there are those who seek to sow division, to spread hatred and intolerance, and to undermine our values—cherished values such as our regard for the rule of law, democracy, equality and free speech, and our respect for minorities.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): Of course freedom of speech is a basic right that we should all respect and cherish, but does the Home Secretary agree that it comes with responsibility. People should not mock people’s faith, because that could lead to intolerance, which then leads into extremism and radicalism, which we should all do everything we can to prevent?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that with rights come responsibilities. Just as everybody is free to choose to follow whatever religion or faith they wish, so they should respect the right of other people to do that.

Extremism affects people in all corners of our country and comes in many forms—non-violent as well as violent; Islamist as well as neo-Nazi—and there are signs that it is a growing problem. In 2013-14, the civil society organisation Tell MAMA received 734 reports of anti-Muslim incidents—up 20% compared with the same period the previous year. In 2014, there were more than 1,100 anti-Semitic incidents, which is more than double the number of the year before. We also know that thousands of people follow extremist groups online. Extremism, and the twisted narratives that support it, cannot be ignored or wished away. We must confront it head on and form a new partnership of every single person and organisation in this country who wants to defeat it. We must unite around the values that so many of us share, and which allow us to prosper and live in peace. That is why Her Majesty’s Government will introduce a comprehensive counter-extremism strategy to promote social cohesion and protect people from extremism.

Rehman Chishti: Will the Secretary of State give way on one further point?

Mrs May: I am being very generous, but I will give way to my hon. Friend.

Rehman Chishti: The Home Secretary is being very generous and I am always very grateful to her. On the specific issue of counter-terrorism, she has done brilliant work on dealing with hate preachers coming into the country and on kicking them out of the country. One issue that urgently needs addressing is that some who have been banned from coming into this country are able to air their views here from satellite television channels from outside it. Will the new Bill be able to address that?

Mrs May: I can assure my hon. Friend that that is exactly one of the issues that we will be looking at. It may require legislation but it obviously requires discussions

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with internet companies and others, and I am pleased to say that the Prime Minister has appointed Baroness Shields, who, as my hon. Friend may know, is well versed in these matters of technology, to look at exactly this issue of extremist material online and how we can deal with it.

As part of our wider work on extremism, we will introduce an extremism Bill, which will provide three important new powers. Those will allow us to: restrict extremists, to stop them engaging in harmful activity, through new extremism disruption orders; ban extremist groups that promote hatred but which fall short of proscription through banning orders; and close premises that persistently host extremist speakers and events with new closure orders. As I have said, the Bill will form one part of our wider strategy, which contains a range of non-legislative measures, including a major new programme to help people in our most isolated communities play a full and successful role in British life. That will include training; help to find work; and intensive English language training. It is imperative that we work together to tackle extremism and that, as we do so, we challenge it from every possible angle.

It is clear that we must not only work hard to defeat damaging and divisive extremism, but ensure that, in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime, the security and law enforcement agencies have the powers and capabilities they need to keep us safe from those who have been twisted by extremism and seek to do us harm.

Last summer, we legislated to deal with two urgent problems relating to communications data and—separately—the interception of communications. That put beyond doubt both the legal basis on which we require communication service providers to retain data and the application of our laws on investigatory powers to providers overseas. But the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 contained a sunset clause, which means that new legislation is required before the end of next year. The Act contains measures to deal with only limited and specific problems, and there are still significant gaps in our law enforcement and intelligence agencies’ capabilities.

That Act also places a statutory obligation on the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, to carry out a review of investigatory powers. That review is now complete and will be published shortly. It is a comprehensive and thorough document and I wish to take this opportunity to thank David Anderson for his work.

The Government are considering the content of the report very carefully as we frame the investigatory powers Bill, which will be brought forward in the coming months. The legislation will cover the full range of investigatory powers that David Anderson has reviewed. Although I cannot provide full details on the Bill while we are still considering the report, I can assure the House that, in considering these sensitive powers, we will look to balance the important needs of privacy and security.

It is also right that any legislation should be given full and proper consideration and I can assure the House that hon. Members will be given the opportunity to scrutinise this legislation thoroughly.

In the previous Parliament, we took robust action to reform the chaotic and uncontrolled immigration system that we inherited from the Labour Government. We transformed the immigration routes for migrant

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workers, reduced red tape and increased flexibility for businesses, and introduced a new route for the exceptionally talented. We took action to ensure that students who want to come to Britain really are coming here to study.

Yvette Cooper: Will the Home Secretary confirm that net migration is now at 318,000, which is more than 70,000 higher than when she took office? Will she tell us, given that she has reaffirmed that she wants to keep her net migration target, in what year does she plan to meet it?

Mrs May: The right hon. Lady has correctly quoted the last figure that was produced by the Office for National Statistics. When I said that we brought control into the system of immigration, we did just that. Earlier, I mentioned that we shut 870 bogus colleges that the Labour Government had allowed to exist to bring in people who wanted a back-door route to work rather than people who wanted to study here in the United Kingdom. Yes, there is more work for us to do. We introduced measures in the Immigration Act 2014—

Yvette Cooper rose—

Mrs May: If the right hon. Lady lets me finish this sentence, I will allow her to intervene again.

We introduced measures in the Immigration Act 2014 to make it easier and faster to remove those who have no right to be here and to restrict access to our national health service, bank accounts and rented property for those who are here illegally.

Yvette Cooper: The Home Secretary promised—“no ifs, no buts”—that she would meet her target and get the figure down to the tens of thousands. Instead it is three times that much. Will she answer the question? If she is going to keep that target for the future, in what year will she meet her net migration target?

Mrs May: We fully accept, as the figures show, that we did not meet the net migration target, but it is absolutely right that we retain that ambition. The question for Labour is: does it think that immigration into this country is too high, and if it does, what would it do about it? Interestingly, during the election campaign, immigration was a subject on which Labour was surprisingly silent, but I was not at all surprised given its record in Government.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): My right hon. Friend is right to point out how completely inadequate the previous Labour Government were in controlling immigration, but she missed out one important issue: their immigration policies led to children being imprisoned. Those policies were reversed under the coalition Government, but we still have a far too pervasive estate of immigration detention. What measures is my right hon. Friend considering to move us further away from the terrible immigration policies of the previous Labour Government?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend has raised an important point. One of the early moves that the coalition Government made was to prevent the detention of children for immigration purposes. He also raises an important point about the detention estate. The Home Office is

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looking at what estate is required and at the whole question of periods of detention. I and, I suspect, my hon. Friend would prefer to see people detained for a very short period—in fact, many people are detained for only a matter of days, and the majority of detentions are for less than two months. It is important that we have a system for identifying and quickly deporting people who should not be here. That is why we took some measures in the Immigration Act 2014, and I will come on to the further measures that we intend to take to enable that to happen.

Keith Vaz: The problem is not the willingness of this House to pass tough legislation to deal with illegal migration but the ability of the system to enforce it. In the last Parliament, only 3% of the allegations made to get people removed resulted in deportation, and the Government rightly abandoned the campaign with their bus asking people to leave the country, thanks to the work of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). The campaign was a mistake, and she stopped the bus in its tracks. We need an effective system of removal, and that is where we are being let down at the moment.

Mrs May: The right hon. Gentleman makes the obvious point that we want to be able to remove the people who are here illegally and have no right to stay here. We inherited a system with many appeal routes, and people could constantly churn around the system. There was no concept of deporting foreign national criminals first and allowing them to appeal from outside the country. Those are changes that the Government have already made, but further legislative changes need to be made to enhance our ability to deal with the issues. One of the other changes that the previous Government made, which the right hon. Gentleman supported, was to break up the UK Border Agency and create a separate immigration enforcement body.

Keith Vaz: We recommended it.

Mrs May: The right hon. Gentleman says that he recommended it. We brought immigration enforcement into the Home Office so that we could focus more clearly on the system of removals and its efficiency.

Margaret Hodge (Barking) (Lab): There is an enormous gap between the recently published figures on net migration and the ambition set out by the Conservative Government. The right hon. Lady has now been the Secretary of State for five years, and she owes it to the House and the public to say by how much she expects to reduce net migration over the coming Parliament.

Mrs May: I suggest that the right hon. Lady looks at the Conservative party manifesto, which made it clear that the Government’s ambition to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands remains. The reason we say that is simple. We recognise that uncontrolled immigration has an impact on people’s lives, on public services and on jobs, and helps to hold down wages at the lower end of the income scale. Indeed, the hon. Member for Dagenham and Rainham (Jon Cruddas), who was in charge of Labour policy before the election, said that the migration policy of the Labour Government was a covert wages and incomes policy. That was precisely its

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impact. So we recognise the impact of immigration, and that is why we continue to set ourselves that ambition and why we wish to build an immigration system that works in the national interest, is fair to British subjects and legitimate migrants, but is tough on those who flout the rules or abuse our hospitality.

Now that we are no longer encumbered by a coalition, we can take stronger action. We can create an immigration system that is tougher, firmer and fairer. We will introduce a new immigration Bill, which will ensure that we can remove those with no right to be in the UK more quickly, create a fairer labour market for working people and deny illegal immigrants access to public services. We will take the radical step of making illegal working a criminal offence, to make Britain a less attractive place for people to come and work in illegally. That will provide a firmer legal foundation for seizing the earnings of illegal workers as the proceeds of crime. We will also create a new enforcement agency to crack down on the exploitation that fuels illegal immigration.

We will further reform the immigration route for migrant workers and consult on the introduction of a levy on work visas under tier 2 of the points-based system to fund the development of skills. If we are to close the skills gap more quickly, we must reduce our reliance on foreign labour. We will also introduce a requirement that all public-facing public sector workers must speak fluent English. We will act to tighten up access to our public services and protect them against abuse by people who are here illegally. We will build on measures introduced in the Immigration Act 2014 to provide a more immediate impact and extend into previously unregulated public service areas. We will deny financial services to illegal immigrants, building on the existing power to prevent them from opening a bank account, and we will make it easier for landlords to evict illegal migrants from rented accommodation.

In addition, we will build on our reforms to speed up the removal process by extending the power introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 to require individuals to leave the UK before bringing an appeal against a decision in all human rights cases, except where there is a real risk of serious, irreversible harm as a result of the overseas appeal. This power is already making a difference, with over 800 foreign criminals deported since July 2014, and our new Bill will take those reforms even further. We will also create a power to require that foreign national offenders are tagged when released on bail by an immigration tribunal.

Finally, I want to turn to a subject that cuts across many of the home affairs and justice issues I have mentioned. Time and again, we have seen how the current framework of human rights law as applied by the European Court of Human Rights has led to rulings that have prevented us from removing dangerous foreign criminals from Britain. That has been the case in too many other instances, helping rapists, murderers and illegal immigrants rather than their victims or the law-abiding majority. Where we can, we have taken action. Even under the coalition, we legislated to deal with abuse of article 8 of the European convention on human rights—the right to a family life—by requiring the courts to have regard to Parliament’s view of the public interest in such cases, as set out in the Immigration Act 2014.

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But the time has come to look at our human rights laws. We will bring forward proposals for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. This would reform and modernise our human rights legal framework and restore common sense to the application of human rights laws, which has been undermined by the damaging effects of Labour’s Human Rights Act. It would also protect existing rights, which are an essential part of a modern, democratic society, and better protect against abuse of the system and misuse of human rights laws.

In the last Parliament we made significant strides forward in reforming the police and our immigration system and passed important legislation to counter terrorism. The programme of legislation I have set out today will build on that work. It will ensure that we can go further and faster with police reform and ban harmful new psychoactive substances; challenge extremism which threatens lives, families and communities; crack down on illegal working and continue to build an immigration system that is tougher and fairer; and reform and modernise our human rights law. This is a programme that is on the side of working people and which helps us to create a safer and fairer Britain. It is the programme of a Government for one nation, and I commend it to the House.

11.38 am

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): This is the second day of the debate on the Queen’s Speech, when we are debating some of the gravest challenges that our country faces: public safety, national security, citizenship and the wellbeing of our communities; how we counter the extremism that poisons minds and terrorises communities; how we ensure high standards in policing and make sure that we still have police on our streets; how we control and manage migration, tackle exploitation and remain an outward-looking country; and how we protect our security, our liberty and our democracy. However, before I turn to the substance, let me congratulate the Home Secretary on her reappointment to this great office of state. It is no secret that I wish today that it had been me standing in her shoes—and not just because she usually wears such particularly cool shoes. She and I perhaps have more in common than either of us normally likes to admit. After all, we are both running for the leadership of our parties, even if I am the only one who will publicly admit it. However, I wish her the best of luck. [Interruption.] And, as I see from the expression on the Justice Secretary’s face, I fear she is going to need it.

We wanted to be on the other side of the House because we wanted a very different Queen’s Speech. Yes, there are things in it that are from our manifesto, and yes, there is some common ground, yet overall it is a Queen’s Speech that claims to be about one nation but does more to divide us than ever—a Queen’s Speech that claims to help working people, yet takes away working people’s rights.

There were things we really wanted on home affairs and justice: a new offence to outlaw exploitation of immigration undercutting pay and jobs—it is modern slavery and it should be a crime—a new law to tackle violence against women, stronger laws against child abuse, stronger protection for victims, and plans to save money by abolishing police and crime commissioners. Seriously, after turnout last time of about 13%, I cannot

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believe even the right hon. Lady is looking forward to another round of police and crime commissioner elections next year.

Let us look at what is in the Queen’s Speech—or at least what was almost in the Queen’s Speech. Two weeks ago, the Government promised the Queen’s Speech would announce the repeal of the Human Rights Act. Two weeks on, the repeal has been repealed. We have been here before, because two years ago, the Home Secretary promised Tory party conference that she would abolish the Human Rights Act; she promised us a document and a draft Bill, and said that she was prepared to pull out of the convention altogether. But what happened? No document, no plans, no Bill. Last time, it took her two years to ditch her promise; this time, it has taken her two weeks. The British Bill of Rights has disappeared again, and we still have no idea what the Government want to do—which rights they want to repeal, whether they want to be in the European convention or out, or whether there will even be a Bill.

This time, the Home Secretary cannot blame the Liberal Democrats for the chaos. This time she and the Justice Secretary have to take responsibility and this time they are going to have to work together to sort it out. I bet that will be fun for them. Look at them—they cannot even bear to sit next to each other on the Front Bench. I bet the Home Secretary was really pleased at the right hon. Gentleman’s appointment. He is probably the only person in the Government who could make her relationship with the former Deputy Prime Minister look like a good one. Last summer, the Justice Secretary told friends that the Home Secretary was “dull and uninspiring”. Then she said he was a “wild-eyed neo-con”. He said she

“lacks the intellectual firepower and quick wits”.

No wonder they want to abolish the right to free speech.

One can understand the poor old Prime Minister trying to find the Justice Secretary a job that he could actually do. He clearly could not stay at the Department for Education—he upset the entire teaching profession and lost so many teachers’ votes. He clearly could not stay as the Chief Whip—he upset all his Back Benchers and lost an awful lot of parliamentary votes. So the one job the Prime Minister thought the right hon. Gentleman could do was go and be in charge of justice and prisoners—because at least they do not have the vote.

The only real reason the Government are back-pedalling on the abolition of the Human Rights Act is that they know that their plans will unravel in Parliament. Still they have not told us which rights they want to ditch. The right to be free from torture, the right to free speech, the right to a fair trial, the right to protest and freedom of association—these are inalienable rights. They are protection for individuals against the abuse of power by the state. The Human Rights Act has helped victims of crime let down by the justice system to hold the police to account. Think of the young woman in Winchester who was raped, but when she went to the police for help, they failed to investigate for six months, threatened her with prosecution instead, and told her she was a liar. They arrested her. That rapist is now behind bars and that young woman has had justice, an apology and compensation from Hampshire police, thanks to the Human Rights Act.

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The power of our Human Rights Act is that it recognises that rights come with responsibilities. It has qualified rights as well as absolute rights—victims’ right to justice means that convicted criminals lose their right to freedom—and it puts the power of remedy back in the hands of Parliament, respecting our sovereignty. It protects individuals against abuse of state power. It protects the rule of law.

Do this Government really want to withdraw from the European convention on human rights, from which the Human Rights Act was drawn? Do they really want to rip up the Good Friday agreement? Do they really want to join Belarus as the only country on the continent that is not prepared to accept international standards on human rights? Do they really expect Belarus, Russia, China or anywhere else in the world to take us seriously when we call on them to meet international standards on human rights, if we are running away from them ourselves?

That would be a shameful abandonment of Britain’s historic respect for the rule of law and a wilful destruction of the post-war legacy that Britain gave the world. It was a British Tory, David Maxwell Fyfe, one of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials, who drafted the convention. It was Winston Churchill who argued for the Council of Europe with the convention at its heart as the strongest bulwark against the hideous disregard for humanity that scarred Europe.

Labour, Conservatives and Liberals alike upheld the council, the Court and the convention as a means of bringing the British concept of respect for the rights of individuals—respect for our common humanity—to the wider world, so how did it come to this? This year is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and this month is the 70th anniversary of VE day, the ending of the holocaust, the deepest and most immoral betrayal of our common humanity in history, and we should be proud that our country, our Britain, was so determined to build a legacy and a convention so that it could never happen in Europe again. It puts us to shame, it shrinks and diminishes us, for a British Government to be trying now, on the 70th anniversary, to destroy that humanitarian legacy. We in the Labour party will do everything in our power to stop the Tory party destroying Churchill’s legacy. We will stand up for our human rights, responsibility and respect for our common humanity, and I hope that this whole Parliament will do so, too.

There are other Bills before us, including a new Bill on legal highs, which we welcome. We called for action and we will look at the detail. There is a new Bill on policing. I hope the Home Secretary now accepts the kind of reforms to police standards recommended by the Stevens commission that we set up in 2013—stronger action on disciplinary issues and better training and professional development. She also needs to deal with the Independent Police Complaints Commission because it still is not doing the job. She needs to come clean about how many police officers are going to be left once her next budget cuts have finished. Over 10,000 police officers are set to go in the next few years, yet 999 calls waits are up, rape and sexual offence prosecutions are down, neighbourhood police officers are disappearing from our streets, and more child abuse is being reported but less is being prosecuted. There are year-long delays

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in investigating online child abuse—year-long delays. That is not crying wolf. It is crying out for something urgently to be done.

Nowhere are those cuts more serious than when it comes to the terror threat. As Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the most senior counter-terrorism officer in the country, has warned, the loss of neighbourhood policing, mainstream policing teams, undermines the work on counter-terrorism, too. More needs to be done to tackle the threat of extremism, especially Islamist extremism linked to the rise of ISIL, to tackle hate crime, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and to tackle those who want to divide us. Therefore, we have called for new legislation. New powers will be needed, including proper checks and balances to make sure that powers are properly used and not abused. We will scrutinise the Home Secretary’s new plans carefully, as well as her new investigative powers laws. I hope she will confirm that there will be an opportunity for detailed pre-legislative scrutiny of those proposals.

The police need reforms so that they can keep up with new technology to keep us safe in a digital age, but the safeguards need to keep up with technology, too. The last draft communications data Bill was too widely drawn and put too much power specifically in the hands of the Home Secretary. We will scrutinise this one in detail and take heed of the report from David Anderson when it is published. I still urge the right hon. Lady to do much, much more on prevention of extremism in the first place, involving communities, local organisations and faith groups—something that, sadly, in the previous Parliament, the Government cut back repeatedly and that needs to be restored.

The Home Secretary made much of her new plans on immigration. The trouble is that we have heard much of it before. Four years ago she put forward new immigration rules and said that as a result the Government anticipated that net migration would fall

“from the hundreds of thousands…to the tens of thousands.”—[Official Report, 23 November 2010; Vol. 519, c. 169.]

That is what she promised—no ifs, no buts. Instead, all we heard from her today was an awful lot of ifs and an awful lot of buts. [Interruption.] She says that she never said, “No ifs, no buts.” Perhaps it was the Prime Minister who said it—how quick she is to disown him now. In fact, far from falling to the tens of thousands, net migration has gone up by over 70,000. She cannot blame the previous Labour Government for the big increase over the past five years. It is higher now that it was in 12 of the 13 years that we were in office, as well as higher than when she took office. She made this her target. She made this her big promise. She has failed repeatedly. The target is in tatters.

The Home Secretary also put forward rules that she said would allow the deportation of far more foreign criminals, yet she is deporting 500 fewer foreign criminals a year than she was five years ago. Two years ago she also brought in an Immigration Bill that she said would stop people working here illegally, yet the number of employers fined for employing illegal workers has gone down, not up. She is right to talk about enforcement, because the rules should be enforced, but who is going to do the job when she is about to cut far more enforcement officers in her next round of budget cuts?

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Mr Robert Syms (Poole) (Con): Given the right hon. Lady’s criticism of the Government’s position on immigration, if the Government bring forward proposals to toughen up the regime, presumably the Labour party will support them.

Yvette Cooper: We have already supported many of the measures that the Government introduced in the previous Parliament on a number of different areas, and we have called for measures in areas where the Government have refused to toughen up the rules, for example, student visitor visas, which the independent inspectorate has warned have been abused. The Home Secretary has repeatedly refused my calls to tighten up the rules in that area. We also think that we need more enforcement staff in order to do the job, which again is something that she has repeatedly refused to do. Time and again she says one thing and does another, or promises one thing and then does the opposite. Immigration is important to Britain, but it needs to be controlled and managed so that the system is fair, so that people can have confidence in the immigration system and so that we can enjoy the historical benefits of people coming to this country, setting up businesses and contributing. We need a system that is controlled and managed for the future.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): I am grateful to the right hon. Lady, who is making an excellent speech. Does she also recognise that while the rhetoric about immigration is ever-present and ever-ongoing in the UK body politic, there are fishing boats tied up in the north-west of Scotland because of this type of debate? We need to get migrant workers in to work on the fishing boats, but that is not happening because of the migrant-phobic debate we are constantly having in the UK. We must realise that migrants sometimes help our economy and help jobs on land when they work at sea.

Yvette Cooper: The point I just made was that in a global economy, and also given Britain’s history, we have long seen benefits from people coming here from all over the world, making this country their home and contributing to our economy, and setting up some of our biggest businesses, including Marks & Spencer. But we also need a system that is fair and that is controlled and managed. That is why we have highlighted areas where we think stronger controls are needed in order to make the system fair; for example, better enforcement is needed. We want to see lower migration as well, but the system has to recognise the different kinds of migration, which I think is the point the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) is making.

The problem with the gap between the Government’s rhetoric and the reality is that in the end it undermines confidence in the whole system and faith in any immigration promise the Government might make. It also allows some people to exploit the issue in order to divide us. The Government are taking the British public for fools.

Richard Fuller: I commend the right hon. Lady for her passionate and effective speech. She talks about fair immigration policies. Does the Labour party support a reduction in the income limit for a spousal visa?

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Yvette Cooper: We said in the run-up to the election that that issue should be reviewed because there were anomalies around, for example, women British citizens who are likely to be earning less than men. They may therefore be treated differently by the immigration system; they may have a spouse who is earning far more than them. We said that the system ought to be reviewed to ensure that it does not have perverse consequences. People need to be able to support their family. If they want to bring a family member into Britain, it is important that there is that proof in the system, but it also needs to recognise people’s different circumstances.

Mrs May: What is the right level of net migration into the United Kingdom, according the right hon. Lady?

Yvette Cooper: Our problem with the net migration target is that it treats all migration as being the same. We would like, for example, fewer people coming in under the student visitor system, but more coming in as university graduates. We think there is a serious problem with trying to treat all migration as being the same. The approach that the Government have taken has repeatedly failed. The Home Secretary’s net migration target has failed. It is in tatters; it is just a mockery that takes the British people for fools.

Mrs May rose—

Yvette Cooper: I will give way to the Home Secretary if she can tell me when she expects to meet her fantasy net migration target.

Mrs May: I asked the right hon. Lady what she thought was the right level of net migration into the United Kingdom, and she has not answered that question. I give her another opportunity to do so. She says that she wants to affect net migration into the UK by changing the student visitor visa route. Student visitor visas are not included in the net migration figures.

Yvette Cooper: That is exactly the point, because the Home Secretary’s net migration target includes some kinds of immigration and not others. She has ignored student visitor visas because they are not included in her net migration target, but she includes refugees in her net migration target and wants to push it down.

Keith Vaz: The problem with having a net migration figure is that we cannot control the number of people who want to go out of the country.

Yvette Cooper: My right hon. Friend is right—that is a problem.

The Home Secretary’s net migration target includes students, visa overstayers, workers and refugees, but it does not include illegal immigration. That is why she failed so badly in the previous Parliament to deal properly with illegal immigration. It also does not include people who enter the country on short-term visas, even if they may then overstay and break the rules and abuse the system.

The problem for the Home Secretary is that by treating everything as part of her net migration target, she is failing. The area where her approach is failing most,

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and is most immoral, is the inclusion of refugees in the net migration target. That has created an incentive for the Home Office to resist giving people sanctuary, undermining our long tradition of humanitarian help. Ministers shake their heads, but let us look at the evidence about what they have done as a result of their direct incentive to cut the number of refugees that Britain accepts.

Eighteen months ago, I called on the Home Secretary to make sure that Britain was doing its bit to give sanctuary to some of those in greatest need in the refugee camps outside Syria. She resisted until she was forced to give in, and even then she accepted only 140 people. Last summer, she led the arguments in Europe to stop search and rescue in the Mediterranean, leaving people to drown in the waves in order to deter others from coming here. Now she is again refusing to help when the UN asks for help. Ministers are right to target people-smugglers’ assets and their empty boats before they can set sail, and right to try to build stability in the region, but that is not enough. Frontex has said that the main cause of the increase in boats is the situation in Syria, which has caused the worst refugee crisis since the second world war. Yet the Home Secretary is still resisting the UN’s appeal to give sanctuary to more Syrian refugees, and refusing to help the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide refuge to more of those fleeing Syria and so manage the boat crisis.

I do not expect the Home Secretary to sign up to an arbitrary quota system that is beyond our control, but I do expect her to offer to help. She should work with local councils to see how many more places we can offer and do far more to give desperate people sanctuary, because they are now fleeing not just from the civil war with Assad but from ISIL—a barbaric organisation that oppresses, persecutes and beheads people for their faith and for who they are. Throughout our history, from the Huguenots to the Kindertransport, this country has refused to turn its back on those fleeing persecution and seeking sanctuary. Just as she should not rip up the legacy of international standards on human rights, she should not rip up that legacy of international compassion either.

Mr MacNeil: I would add, by way of context, that although the debate in the UK makes it seem unique in leading on migration—that we are almost being “swamped”, which is the word we see in the tabloid press—the reality, according to Eurostat, is that the UK is No. 11 for the share of foreigners as a total of the population, behind countries such as Germany, Spain, Belgium, Ireland and many others. I do not think other countries have the same level of phobic debate that we now have here. It would be good to detoxify that debate and to recognise the contributions made by migrants, as the right hon. Lady did earlier.

Yvette Cooper: Every country in Europe is facing issues of immigration and of people moving across borders, but we should be clear in this House about separating the debate on immigration from that on asylum and refugees. They are two separate issues. Yes, we should have strong controls on immigration and we should have a sensible debate, but we should also make sure that we do not turn our back on our historical tradition of providing sanctuary for those in greatest need.

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In the end, that is what most disturbs me about this Queen’s Speech and this Home Secretary’s approach. We can point to many failures—failing to keep police on the streets, failing to help victims of child abuse and of the most serious crimes, failing on border enforcement, failing to restore confidence in the immigration system—but, worst of all, she is turning our country inwards, making it a smaller, narrower, darker place. We need to be proud of who we are, of the values for which we stand internationally and of our confidence, determination and international vision. We want the rest of the world to follow the standards that we have championed, the compassion that we showed when other human beings were persecuted or abused and the outward-looking, positive nature of the country we have always been. That is the vision that this Parliament and this Labour party should be championing now.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. There may need to be a time limit on Back-Bench speeches, but I will play it by ear and see whether a degree self-discipline helps us to get through the number of Members who wish to contribute. I know that the right hon. Gentleman I am about to call will wish to take account of that gentle guidance. I call Dr Liam Fox.

12.1 pm

Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con): The Gracious Speech sets out a programme with both vision and ambition. The Government have three historic tasks in this term: balancing the budget; doing so in a way that does not diminish our national security; and, of course, giving the British people a say on our future relationship with the European Union. The great dividing line at the general election was between those who believed in living within our means and those who believed there was a different way. The myth peddled by the left—that there is an easy and painless alternative to what they call “austerity”—was seen through by the British public.

Dealing with the deficit is the great unfinished business from the last Parliament. Let me remind the House of the actual figures. Government debt is almost £1.6 trillion, or 81% of GDP. Debt interest is £43 billion this year, which is more than 3% of GDP and more than 8% of Government tax income. Almost a tenth of what people pay in their taxes goes towards debt interest. This is a profoundly immoral policy, because it says that the generation coming after us should pay for our spending today. It is a wholly unacceptable way for the country to proceed economically.

I do not believe that overspending by more than £87 billion, as we are this year, fits anyone’s definition of austerity. It will not be easy to reduce our deficit, given the plans we have set out, quite understandably, on such things as the pension lock and the NHS. However, it is not just about shrinking the size of the state; it is about which state we are shrinking. In my book, we should not reduce the security of the state to pay for the welfare state.

Mr MacNeil: The right hon. Gentleman is painting an accurate picture of the disastrous state of UK finances and the mismanagement of them over the years. Will he tell us when the UK last did not have a black hole in its annual current account?

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Dr Fox: I take issue with the hon. Gentleman’s assessment, because we are seeing a rapid improvement in the state of Britain’s finances. He and his colleagues say that we should spend more money and do so for longer. The consequence of that would be to run up even more debt interest, which would be a further burden on taxpayers and a further brake on the economic growth that the country requires.

There are a number of risks to the security of the state: failing states, and transnational terrorism and fundamentalism, which is manifested at the moment most appallingly by ISIS. Our security services need not only appropriate funding but appropriate powers to do their job properly, which is why I welcome the Home Secretary’s proposals. To those who say that our security services are too great, and that their powers are too widespread, I should mention that in this country we spend more in a year on the elderly heating allowance than we spend on the budgets for all three of our security services combined. I welcome measures to help the security services do their job, but I reiterate that strong powers for the security services must be matched with strong oversight powers for this House of Commons.

Of all the threats we face, I believe that the single greatest threat facing both this country and our allies comes from Putin’s Russia. The actions that we have seen in Ukraine should make us realise that we are only one miscalculation away from a potential article 5 conflict on the European continent. We have seen the redrawing of Europe’s borders by force, which we thought we would never see in the years after world war two.

We have two simultaneous problems: the weakness of the west, and Putin’s aggressive stance. We in the west, collectively, watched a cyber-attack on Estonia, one of our NATO allies, and we did nothing. We saw Ukraine’s gas being cut off in breach of a treaty, and we did nothing. We saw the invasion of Georgia, where Russia still has troops, and we did not even call it an occupation. We have now seen Crimea torn away by Putin’s expansionist actions.

Putin’s attitudes themselves cause a problem. He still believes in the old Soviet idea of a near abroad—that Russia should be able to control the actions and policies of its geographical neighbours. That is unacceptable in the modern world. He also believes that the protection of ethnic Russians lies not with the constitutions or laws of the Governments under which they live, but with an external power, meaning Russia. When he hands out Russian passports to ethnic Russians in more and more countries on the periphery of Europe, we should be extremely worried.

We see the creation of an arc of instability as a matter of policy by Putin, involving Kaliningrad in the Baltic, the Republic of Srpska in the Balkans, and Georgia and the client state in Armenia. They add up to a very great risk facing European security. Russia is testing new weapons systems in Ukraine, and the Ukrainians need more secure communications, unmanned aerial vehicles and anti-artillery capabilities.

We need to face down the Russian threat as a matter of urgency, even if it is not at the top of what most people regard as their immediate political agenda. If we are to do so, we need a united NATO—united, properly funded and rebalanced. In the cold war, we understood that we needed military strength underpinned by economic power and based on a clear values agenda. Today, only four NATO

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members meet the 2% GDP target that is supposedly the floor of their contribution to NATO. As a consequence, NATO is too dependent on the United States. We would not have been able to go through the conflict in Libya without the United States. For all Europe’s pretensions to global influence, it is unable to deliver because it is unwilling to spend what it needs to spend to provide the capabilities that are necessary to underpin that.

We will have a full defence review. I simply say this to my right hon. Friends in the Government: defence is the first duty of Government. It is non-negotiable. We need to spend what we need to spend to keep us safe. We cannot begin with a number and work out how much defence we can get for it.

We need to maintain the primacy of NATO in the face of growing European Union pretensions in the field of security. I have watched as the European Union has tried to get further into the realms of a common defence policy. That will result in duplication and the diversion of scarce resources. It will weaken NATO and drive a wedge between us and the United States.

That brings me to the third of the Government’s challenges—the EU itself. It is worth reminding ourselves of what Chancellor Merkel has so eloquently said: Europe represents 7% of the global population, 25% of global GDP and 50% of global social spending. That is an utterly unsustainable position to maintain. In the European Union, eurozone unemployment is 11.4%, compared with 5.5% in the UK. That figure is hugely flattered by Germany’s 4.8% unemployment rate. Take Germany out of the equation and we can see how badly the rest of the eurozone is faring.

It is not that there is a crisis in the eurozone—the eurozone is the crisis, and it always has been since the creation of the flawed and fundamentally unstable and unsound single currency. The euro could have followed one of two models. It could have followed a purely economic model, only available to those who met the entrance criteria, or a political model, with ever closer union an indispensable tool in that. Of course, neither model was chosen. Instead, a hybrid was created and the wrong countries were allowed to join without ever meeting the convergence criteria. Having joined, those countries were allowed to follow fiscal policies that saw an even greater divergence from where they were supposed to be.

The price for all that is being paid especially by young Europeans. Some 4.85 million young Europeans are unemployed, 3.25 million of whom are in the eurozone. How many young Europeans will be sacrificed on the altar of the single currency before European leaders wake up to the truth and the impact of their folly? The euro is flawed, and de-risking the euro is the single most important task facing European leaders at present.

How different Europe looks now from how it was perceived at the time of the last referendum. In 1975, Europe was at the centre of the global economy and global political influence. We now see a backward-looking, introspective Europe, diminishing in both global economic importance and global political reach.

At some point in the next two years we will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset our relations with the European Union. We need to have a full and transparent renegotiation process, and we need to be right, not quick. The temptation is always to go for the

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renegotiation that can be achieved, for the sake of political expediency, rather than a more difficult one that might be less successful. That would be a great mistake, and I am heartened by what the Prime Minister has said in recent days. It is not just about migrants’ benefits or the City of London; it is about the creep towards ever closer union, which we have seen happening in a ratchet mechanism over the last couple of decades, and the core issue of sovereignty.

The European Union is increasingly taking on the trappings of statehood—a diplomatic service, a foreign policy and now even the suggestion of a European intelligence service, although I regard that as something of an oxymoron. Too many of our laws are being made beyond our borders, and that is the crux of the argument that we need to address and change in the renegotiations and the referendum that will follow.

On the timing, some people want to have a quick referendum and I have already heard others saying that we must be willing to say yes to a reformed EU without knowing what that will look like. We must resist any attempt to bounce the British people into an early referendum. We can wait until we are ready. We must give our people a full explanation of the choices, and the inevitable pluses and minuses on both sides of the ledger, because we have to have a clear resolution of this issue, not simply begin a repeating chapter.

As well as all those great national and international issues, we will want to champion some important regional issues. In the south-west, where we saw a blue tide sweep right up the peninsula with some phenomenal gains, we have some real problems with fair funding. In North Somerset, we have real problems with fair funding in rural areas for education, health and local government. We also face an environmental problem at the hands of the National Grid, whose electricity transmission plans would be a sore scar on our beautiful environment. If the Government believe in green energy generation, they should also believe in green energy transmission, which should be an equal partner in the Government’s policy.

The Government’s programme is ambitious and its aims give great cause for optimism. We are not the continuation of the coalition: we were elected as Conservatives and I look forward to our governing as such.

12.15 pm

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP): It gives me great pleasure to participate in this debate as the new SNP Member for Edinburgh South West and as the SNP spokesperson on justice and home affairs. It also gives me great pleasure to speak shortly after two such distinguished fellow female Members, the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary. I may not agree with much of what the Home Secretary says, but I applaud her chutzpah and her style. I agree with a lot of what the shadow Home Secretary says, and I also applaud her style.

As this is my maiden speech, before I address the subject matter of this debate I wish to say something about my constituency and my immediate predecessor, Alistair Darling. I have the honour of representing the South West division of Edinburgh, one of the most beautiful urban constituencies in the United Kingdom.

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That is perhaps not surprising as it is situated in the most beautiful capital city in the world—Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.

The constituency of Edinburgh South West stretches from the city centre through Dalry, Gorgie and Fountainbridge to the village communities of the Pentland hills, including Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno. My constituency contains leafy suburbs, such as Colinton and Craiglockhart and former council estates, including Wester Hailes, Broomhouse, Sighthill and Oxgangs. My constituency is often referred to as prosperous, and it has prosperous parts, but it is not without its pockets of urban deprivation. However, I am pleased to say that those same areas are also home to vibrant community projects such as the Whale arts centre in Wester Hailes, the Clovenstone boxing club and the Dove centre, to name but a few.

As well as the rural beauty of the Pentland hills, my constituency contains hidden gems of urban repose such as the handsome Saughton Park, which dates from the Edwardian era and is currently undergoing a restoration project.

No mention of my constituency would be complete, of course, without reference to the illustrious Heart of Midlothian football club, whose fans include my esteemed and right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond). I was particularly delighted to read earlier this week that Heart of Midlothian football club was one of the first companies to sign up to the Scottish Government’s business pledge to pay the living wage to all direct employees over the age of 18—may many others follow in their footsteps.

My predecessor, Alistair Darling, had a distinguished career in this House as part of a 30-year career in front-line politics. Like me, he is a lawyer and advocate, and he was a Member of Parliament from 1987 to 2015. During that time, he was one of only three people to serve continuously in Labour Cabinets from Labour’s victory in 1997 to its defeat in 2010. He did so latterly as Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he played a crucial role in steering the UK’s troubled banks back from the brink of catastrophe.

I must also pay tribute to Alistair Darling’s role as chairman of the Better Together campaign, which successfully campaigned for Scotland to remain part of the UK in last year’s independence referendum. I am able to pay such tribute both as a gracious loser and with the comfort of knowing that while my side may have lost that battle, recent events tend to suggest that we will yet win the war. I wish Alistair Darling every success and happiness in his future career outwith politics.

Alistair Darling’s three predecessors in what was formerly the seat of Pentlands attained, like me, the rank and dignity of QC at the Scottish Bar. The late Norman Wylie QC, formerly Lord Advocate and latterly Lord Wylie, a senator of the College of Justice, was followed by the right hon. Malcolm Rifkind QC and then by the right hon. Lynda Clark, formerly Advocate General and now Baroness Clark of Calton, also a senator of the College of Justice. It was part of my career plan to be a senator of the College of Justice, but having become swept up in recent exciting events in Scotland, I fear that might not happen now. I am proud to follow in the tradition of my constituency being represented by

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senior counsel and particularly proud that for the first time it is represented by senior counsel who is a member of the Scottish National party. In fact, because of the vagaries of the count, I am particularly proud to say that I am the first ever SNP MP to be elected in the capital city of Edinburgh.

I come now to the subject of today’s debate. As a lawyer, it is appropriate that I should make my first speech in the House in defence of human rights and the rule of law, but before I do that I want to say something about the Scotland Bill published earlier today by the Government. I very much regret to say that the Bill does not deliver on the cross-party agreement reached through the Smith commission, and I am happy to confirm that the SNP will be seeking to amend it to ensure it delivers on the Smith commission proposals in full.

The tone and tenor of the Government’s approach to human rights and civil liberties issues give me and my party grave cause for concern. While the Government appear to have been blown off course in their zeal to implement their manifesto pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act, I note that the Home Secretary has confirmed that a Bill will be brought forward to introduce a Bill of Rights and to repeal the Human Rights Act. Lest there be any doubt, I and my party are fundamentally opposed to the repeal of the Act and would consider it a thoroughly retrograde step if that were to be done. Any reduction in current human rights safeguards will threaten the fundamental freedoms to which everyone is entitled in a modern democratic society governed by the rule of law. We should not forget, as the shadow Home Secretary reminded us, that the people who have benefited from the human rights protection afforded by the Act are often the most vulnerable in our society—for example, disabled people affected by welfare reform and the families of military personnel killed on active service because the Ministry of Defence supplied them with outdated equipment.

Nor, as the shadow Home Secretary reminded us, should we forget that the United Kingdom was in at the foundation of the European convention on human rights and that it was brought forward largely at the suggestion of Winston Churchill. Since we became a signatory to the ECHR, both Scotland and the UK have been setting standards for the world in safeguarding human rights. The Scottish Government take pride in that, and I really wish that the UK Government would do the same.

The right-wing press likes to run stories about what a poor record we have in Strasbourg, but contrary to the impression in the press the UK loses less than 1% of the cases brought against it in Strasbourg. The right-wing press also likes to run scare stories about alleged—I stress the word “alleged” because everybody is entitled to a fair trial—foreign criminals who cannot be deported, but the UK has successfully managed to deport alleged foreign criminals, such as Abu Qatada, who was deported in a way that meant he faced trial with proper safeguards against the use of evidence obtained by torture. That is only right in a society that believes it ought to be governed by the rule of law.

It might have taken time to deport Abu Qatada, but the UK Government should be proud of doing things properly. Instead they have managed to give the impression that respecting human rights and upholding the rule of law are an inconvenience. Such an attitude is not the way forward. As the shadow Home Secretary said,

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every country in Europe, save Belarus, is a signatory to the ECHR. A UK withdrawal would send out entirely the wrong signal on the international stage.

In Scotland, the Human Rights Act is part of a larger picture. The rights in the ECHR are written into the devolution settlement by virtue of the Scotland Act 1998. In Scotland, we have a national action plan for human rights and a UN-accredited human rights commission. The SNP’s commitment to human rights extends beyond the civil and political rights in the Act to economic, social and cultural human rights. We believe in Scotland that human rights are central to the way we address the overall challenge of building a fairer and more equal society. Repeal of the Act is strongly opposed in Scotland. Indeed, last November, the Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Act.

Last year during the independence referendum campaign, the Prime Minister invited Scots not to leave the UK but to stay and lead the UK. With the overwhelming mandate we have received from the people of Scotland in the recent general election, I and my fellow SNP MPs intend to do just that, at least for the time being—to lead the UK. On this issue in particular, we would be proud to join other friends among Opposition Members, and possibly among Government Members too, in a progressive alliance of all Members who believe in the Human Rights Act and the value of participation in international instruments such as the ECHR.

The nationalism of the SNP is a civic nationalism that looks outwards and wishes to play a full part on the world and European stage. For so long as Scotland remains part of the UK, that is the approach that the SNP will advocate. I urge the House not to indulge in the narrow, inward-looking nationalism of withdrawing from the ECHR and drawing up its own Bill of Rights.

My message to the House, and in particular to those on the Government Benches, when considering whether to repeal the Act and leave the ECHR, can best be summarised by the words of my fellow countrywoman, Mary Queen of Scots, when she was on trial for her life before an English court:

“Look to your consciences and remember that the theatre of the whole world is wider than the kingdom of England”.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. As signalled on the annunciator, a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches will apply from now.

12.27 pm

Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). It is not given to many people to arrive here and make their maiden speech from the Front Bench as the official spokesperson for their party. In congratulating her, I simply say that it was not just an excellent maiden speech; it was an excellent Front-Bench speech as well. Clearly, the admiration that many of us in other parts of the UK have for the Scottish legal system and its practitioners is well based. I am sure she will be heard with great authority in the House for many years to come.

To add a personal note, it is a particular pleasure for those, like me, entering their fifth Parliament, not only to find ourselves sitting on the Government Benches

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once again, but, more importantly, to be able to welcome a completely Conservative Queen’s Speech for the first time in those 18 years. That shows how long it can take. My friendly message to Labour Members is that the political wheel does turn—eventually. If it takes 18 years for the Labour party to perfect the role of an effective Opposition, I will be content, and I wish them a long and happy time of it. Having sat on the Opposition Benches for my first 13 years in Parliament, however, I would pass on a piece of hard-won advice: do not blame the British people for getting it wrong or being fooled by your opponents, but accept that you might have been thinking and saying the wrong things. Until they make that leap of understanding—it took a long time for the Conservative party to make it—they will not take the first step on what can turn out to be a very long journey from the Opposition Benches to the Government Benches.

It is a great pleasure to have a Conservative Prime Minister describing his legislative programme as a one nation programme to help working people. There are those of us who described ourselves as one nation Conservatives when it was considerably less fashionable to do so than it now is. We in particular welcome not just the Queen’s Speech, but the underlying ideology. We have seen other parties try it—I think “one nation Labour” comes under the heading of a nice try that did not fly. Now we have a Prime Minister who firmly places himself in the tradition of Conservative one nation Prime Ministers, from John Major, Harold Macmillan, Baldwin and all the way back to Disraeli—Prime Ministers who recognised the need to unite a country that is too easily divided between classes, regions or even the constituent countries of the UK.

Let me deal with a number of Bills that the Home Office is bringing forward, although I may follow the always good example of my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) and stray slightly more widely at some stage. I shall start with the extremism Bill. I am sure that all parts of the House will welcome and accept the need for more effective action against extremist organisations and individuals, particularly those who seek to radicalise young people.

I know that Ministers will want to consider these two points on the detail of the Bill. First, we need to think about what the strengthened role for Ofcom will mean. As Ministers will be aware, Ofcom has always been a body that regulates after the fact rather than pre-censoring programmes beforehand. It seems to me that that important distinction should be maintained. Secondly, as mentioned in an intervention on the Home Secretary, there are now many different platforms through which extremist material can be broadcast so that young people can see it. Getting those platforms to take down the extremist content might be more effective and increasingly important in trying to combat such material than simply looking at traditional broadcasting regulation. It will be important to reflect on the details of the extremism Bill.

On the investigatory powers Bill, I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary make the point that we need to strike a balance between the freedoms and the privacy that are an essential part of democratic life in this country, and the need to be able to deal not just with terrorism but with organised crime. Organised criminals are as adept as terrorists at using communications data and new forms of communication

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to commit their crimes. The draft Bill that was before the House for some years included proposals to see the provisions on data taken out of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and to allow the creation of a new regulatory framework.

Let me make two basic points. First, the degree of oversight seems to me to be key—and not just the degree of oversight, but who operates it. There needs to be an important element of independence in that, whether or not it be judicial or parliamentary or some mixture of the two. Getting the oversight right will go a long way towards making more acceptable to those in this place who are very concerned about civil liberties the increased powers that might be necessary for the police and the security services. Secondly, I hope Ministers will address the amount of time for which data can be retained. Given that I was responsible for abolishing the Labour Government’s identity card scheme, I absolutely do not want this Government to go down the route whereby the state holds individuals’ private information for unnecessarily long periods. I urge Ministers to reflect on that.

On the immigration Bill, I know from personal experience that trying to cope with immigration is like squeezing a balloon: one pushes one side and something new pops up on the other side. There is a need for a constant refreshing of the means of control over immigration; the legislation and the controls need constant updating. I particularly welcome the idea of having a much more robust system on welfare for people coming here. The issue goes wider than immigration. If the welfare state is to continue to maintain legitimacy and people’s confidence, we must retain the idea that those who can should contribute and that when people need it, they can take out from it. That has been a settled idea, popular with the British people for generations. They think, “We will contribute if we can, and if we need it, we will take out”, but if people who are seen not to have contributed are able to take out, the moral basis of the welfare state will die away, which would be an extremely serious matter.

On the proposed policing and criminal justice Bill, I want to address one welcome and necessary issue—changes to how the police will deal with people with mental health problems. Police officers have told me that out on patrol they spend about a third of their time dealing with people who are by no definition criminals but who are suffering from mental health problems. Those police officers are aware that they are not paid to do that and that other mental health professionals would do much better for the victims of those mental health problems. The moves embodied in this particular Bill will be most welcome.

I welcome the new Lord Chancellor to his place, and I view it as appropriate to take a careful look at and consult on proposals for a human rights Act. I think we need to make Parliament and the British courts the arbiters of individual decisions, while writing into our law the original European convention on human rights, which contains essential freedoms. There are existing models in other countries, such as the German constitutional court, showing that national sovereignty can be combined with adherence to the convention principles and membership of the Council of Europe.

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I would be extremely reluctant to see Britain withdraw from the convention, which I think would send out all the wrong signals.

Finally, I welcome the European referendum Bill. I will be campaigning for Britain to remain a member of a reformed Europe. I agree with much of what my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset said, although it is possible that we might find ourselves on different sides of this argument. It is a grand strategic choice, which will affect Britain and its place in the world for decades. I hope that the debate will be conducted in that way. It is an extremely important debate about the future of our country and our ability not just to stay prosperous, but to project our voice in the world. I believe that that is best done within the European Union.

There is a large amount to welcome in this Queen’s Speech. It is the legislative embodiment of pragmatic moderate conservatism. As such, it deserves—and I am sure it will receive—the support of this House and the people of this country.

12.37 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I was delighted to hear the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). When I was elected 28 years ago, it was said that too many lawyers were entering the House of Commons. However, I think we should make an exception in her case and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer)—two very distinguished QCs who are making their maiden speeches today. The hon. and learned Lady will clearly be a star of this Parliament, and we will all want to hear more of what she has to say on these issues. I want to correct the hon. and learned Lady on one point. Edinburgh may be the most beautiful capital city in the world, but she needs to come to see Leicester, which is by far the most beautiful city in England.

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I want to say to the electors of Leicester East, “Thank you for sending me back for my seventh term”. It is good to see the House with so many new faces in it, and I particularly welcome the most diverse House of Commons that we have ever had, with more women and more members of the ethnic minority community than ever before. When my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and I were elected, there were only four MPs from the black and Asian minority communities; we now have 41, including the first woman of Asian origin ever elected in Scotland, the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh). I was about to say that she is sitting in her usual place, but that is, of course, usually the place of UKIP MPs—and we are delighted that she has taken it over. There are problems with seating, but we are very pleased to see her there.

This Queen’s Speech debate has been dominated by Europe and immigration. I agree with much of what the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) said about Europe, but not so much with what he said about immigration. I think the Government need to confront real problems on that issue. They made a start in the last Parliament. In the past, Labour Ministers have said “mea culpa” over the broken system that existed under successive Governments, both Labour and Conservative.

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I was pleased when the last Government abolished the UK Border Agency—as a direct result, I should say, of recommendations made in the last Parliament by the Home Affairs Committee, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) and others were members. The fact is, however, that while we can pass numerous Acts of Parliament in the House of Commons, we will have real problems if the system of enforcement does not work effectively. As I said to the Home Secretary earlier, only 3% of the allegations that are made about illegal migration result in deportation. I echo my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) in saying that Labour Members will support the Government’s efforts to deal with illegal migration and abuse by passing new legislation, but we must have an enforcement system that works, and it must go beyond some of the initiatives that we saw five years ago.

I am particularly concerned about what is happening in the Mediterranean. I do not believe that the solution offered by the European Union—a quota system—is the answer. To my mind, the answer is to give a huge amount of support to the countries of the Maghreb, because that is where the problem lies. Last year, 92% of the people who entered Italy had come from Libya. Sometimes we have to step back and remember the way in which our foreign policy decisions affect countries, bearing in mind that it results in attempts by refugees and asylum seekers to come to western Europe.

Along with others, including my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North, I went to Calais to see the large number of people who wished to come and settle in the United Kingdom. Many had paid up to €7,000 to people-traffickers in order to get to France, and they had one ambition: to come and live in the United Kingdom. It is far too late for us to deal with the situation in Calais. Even passing laws in the House will not deal with the problem; it must be dealt with on an EU basis, and that means that we must work with colleagues to deal with it at source. We must work with the transition countries, but we must also deal with the countries that are most affected by these crises.

In the last Parliament, the Home Secretary initiated a revolution in the landscape of policing. She is still in her job, and we shall be able to see whether that landscape has finally settled down. We hope very much that there will be no more change, because although change is sometimes very attractive, if we mess with the system any more, we shall see a great many disgruntled people operating in the system.

I am saddened to learn that Keith Bristow, whom the Home Secretary appointed to run the National Crime Agency, has just announced that he will stand down next year. A top cop who, when he was given the job, hoped that he would be there for a number of years to bed in the new agency is now going to leave. If policing is to be effective, we shall need to consider such personnel issues, and ensure that we carry the police force with us. I see that the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice is present. I am sure that he is in regular contact with all the stakeholders, but they have been through a great deal, and I think that we should now step back and ensure that the system beds in.

As for the question of the European Union, I am one of the Labour Members who feel that it is important to give the British people a choice in an in/out referendum.

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I am absolutely clear about how I will vote—I will vote to stay in the European Union—but I think that it was wrong for us to say, for years and years, that this House rather than the British people should make the decision. They now have a chance to make that decision, and my party is in favour of the referendum. We will support the Europe Bill that was included in the Gracious Speech.

However, I think that we should be careful with our use of the word “reform”. I know that the Prime Minister is busy this week—I believe that he will meet Angela Merkel tomorrow, he has already met the Danish Prime Minister, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, went to see him last Sunday—but we need the House to be involved in these decisions. I do not think that we can leave it entirely to the Prime Minister. It is not that I do not trust the Prime Minister—of course I do: he is the elected Prime Minister of this country—but I think that the House needs a say in what constitutes the reform agenda. It must be about more than just changing the benefits system; we need a fundamental reform of the way in which the EU performs its business.

To assist that process, I think that we need Members such as the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) and the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), as well as Opposition Members, to contribute their views on how the reform agenda can be developed. If that happens, the British people will see this as a genuine negotiation. The worst possible outcome for the Government would be a belief that the only purpose was to have a referendum, and that the matter would then be settled for a generation. If we take a proper, thorough look at the way in which the institutions operate, the British people will be satisfied that we have done a good job.

I saw no reference in the Queen’s Speech to our relations with India. I think that the way in which we have developed relations with the second-most populous country on earth has been particularly successful under successive Governments, and I therefore think it important for us to invite the Prime Minister of India, Mr Modi, to visit Britain. I hope that that is on the Government’s agenda, although it was not in the Queen’s Speech. The official visits have already been announced—it is the President of China who is coming—but I think that we ought to adopt an even-handed approach to China and India, given that they represent two-sixths of humanity.

Finally, let me say something about the national health service. As some Members will know, I suffer from type 2 diabetes. I know that you have a particular interest in the subject as well, Mr Deputy Speaker, for I have attended many meetings with you. Apparently we are going to increase the NHS budget. I want it to increase in support of preventive work on diabetes, given that 700,000 people in the country have diabetes but are entirely unaware of it. They include many members of the south-east Asian community, and many members of other communities. Unless we provide preventive care, the cost to the NHS will be even greater than the 10% of the budget that we are currently spending. We are spending so much money on an area of health policy that we cannot reverse, while we could be helping to prevent those with diabetes from acquiring the most serious strain, and even helping to put off the advent of diabetes for years.

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Those are some of the issues that I hope the House will be able to debate and develop during the year.

12.47 pm

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): Let me begin by congratulating the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) on her eloquent maiden speech. I look forward to her continuing contribution to this place.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate. The Gracious Speech set out a clear vision of what our country can be. It can be a country of security and opportunity for everyone at every stage of life: a country where people, whoever they are and wherever they live, can have the chance of a good education, a decent job, a home of their own, and the peace of mind that comes from being able to raise a family and enjoy a secure retirement.

I want to speak about what the Bills that were outlined yesterday mean for my constituents, the good people of Pendle—who, I am delighted to say, returned me to the House to speak on their behalf with an increased majority. I shall refer to a range of Bills, rather than concentrating on the home affairs elements that form the main focus of today’s debate. However, given that in the past 24 hours, lobby groups such as Amnesty have encouraged my constituents to email me about the Human Rights Act, let me put it on record that I strongly support the steps that the Government are taking to replace it with a British Bill of Rights. For me, this is an issue of sovereignty. I believe that it should be for British courts and British judges to uphold our rights and freedoms, as they did very well for hundreds of years before the current Human Rights Act came into force.

Let me now deal with some broader issues. The most important issue for my constituents is the need for the new Government to continue to build on the success of the last in pursuing a long-term economic plan which helps working people, rebalances our economy by supporting both manufacturing and the north of England, and allows workers to keep more of their hard-earned money.

We have already achieved a lot. Under the last Labour Government, 1.8 million manufacturing jobs were lost, hitting the north of England and constituencies such as mine hard. When the coalition Government came to power, the future of our country was by no means certain. We were still in the throes of recession, borrowing billions of pounds to bridge the gap between income and expenditure, confidence was at an all-time low and, to top it all, we were informed by the former Chief Secretary, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne), in his now infamous note, that there was no money left. It was against that backdrop—that toxic economic inheritance—that the coalition Government had to set about rebuilding and rebalancing our economy. That required tough, and at times unpopular, decisions and hard choices. In this Parliament we need to finish the job of clearing the deficit, rather than passing ever-increasing debts on to our children.

The Queen’s Speech sets our new Government on the right track. The ban on income tax, VAT and national insurance increases for five years will be very welcome

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to the people I represent, as will be the 30 hours of free childcare a week for three and four-year-olds from 2016-17.

Mr Syms: I am glad to see my hon. Friend back here with an increased majority. The childcare proposals are key to our being successful over the next five years.

Andrew Stephenson: Definitely. In the election campaign I visited many of the nurseries in my constituency, where we talked about childcare and the need to expand provision. The nurseries across Pendle and the rest of the UK will welcome the Government’s proposals.

Measures to further strengthen the northern powerhouse and support our businesses are also very good to hear. In March, the final funding package for the largest redundant mill complex in Lancashire, Brierfield Mills, which is located in my constituency, was agreed. Since I helped secure £1.5 million in Government funding to buy Brierfield Mills for the local council in March 2012, I have been actively involved in promoting the regeneration of that massive mill complex. A masterplan was drawn up in 2013, including a hotel, flats, offices and a pub, and after a hard-fought battle we helped to secure assisted area status for the site in July 2014, which helped to unlock additional funding.

Following extensive lobbying, the scheme became part of the Government’s growth deal with the Lancashire local enterprise partnership, in which there was a record £251 million of funding for projects across Lancashire. Using that funding, the LEP agreed to allocate £3.7 million, to go alongside £1 million of regional growth funding I helped secure and £3.5 million in funding from Pendle Borough and Lancashire County Councils, meaning work can now get under way and should be complete by the end of 2017.

Dawn Butler (Brent Central) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman talks about finishing the job. I wonder whether he has any idea how that will come across to my constituents in Brent Central, who have experienced a 50% increase in unemployment among black, Asian and minority ethnic young people. Also hundreds of people have had to move out because of the legislation on the bedroom tax.

Andrew Stephenson: Across this country in every constituency we have seen a fall in unemployment, so I would be very surprised if there has been an increase in the hon. Lady’s constituency. The last Government created 1,000 jobs a day. Some 2 million jobs were created across the UK by the last coalition Government and this Government—this majority Conservative Government, which won such an outstanding victory at the general election—now plan to go much further in helping people into work and helping people to support their own families.

I was talking about Brierfield Mills in my constituency because I feel that shows what can be achieved in terms of transforming local communities and boosting economic growth. I feel the measures in the Queen’s Speech will make even more projects such as that possible in the coming months and years.

Also in east Lancashire, on Sunday 17 May, the first train journey to Manchester from Burnley in more than 40 years took place, following the reopening of the Todmorden curve, a long-overdue investment finally

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made possible because of the coalition Government’s regional growth fund. Commitments by the new Government to push ahead with even more rail improvements that will benefit the north, including HS2, are therefore to be welcomed.

Marie Rimmer (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman understand that many of the jobs that have been created are part-time, insecure and low-pay jobs, with no protection in work? Does he also understand that many people are not on unemployment benefit purely because of the massive number of sanctions that take them out of receiving benefit, therefore varnishing the figures? He talks about rebalancing; this country has become more unbalanced with the wealthiest doubling their wealth while the poorest are suffering more, with many people visiting food banks—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr George Howarth): Order. The hon. Lady should realise that interventions must be brief.

Andrew Stephenson: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, but all I would say is she is completely wrong in every point she makes. Office for National Statistics figures show that 80% of the new jobs created under the last Government in the last year have been full-time jobs. We are starting to see wages rise. In the north of England, so often overlooked and neglected by the Labour party, we are starting to see a real economic recovery and this Government need to work to support that. That is why Conservative MPs across the country have been returned, the vast majority with increased majorities, and the hon. Lady’s party’s negative campaign was rejected by the British public.

Unemployment across Pendle has more than halved. Yesterday, on the same day as the Queen’s Speech, we saw that consumer confidence is now at a record high and people’s positivity about their job prospects and personal finances is at its highest level for seven and a half years. That is great news, as is the news that unemployment in Pendle now stands at just 2.5%, but there must not be an ounce of complacency from anyone in any part of this House. The Government must continue to do everything they can to support our businesses, large and small, and make the UK the best place to do business in the world, allowing those businesses to create the well-paid jobs our constituents want to see.

This is particularly important in Pendle, because while the vast majority of firms continue to expand, on the last day Parliament sat before the general election Rolls-Royce contacted me to say there would be a further 121 job losses at its sites in Barnoldswick in my constituency, a deeply regrettable decision given the huge support provided to the aerospace sector by the coalition Government, the size of Rolls- Royce’s order book and the fantastic skills workers have at the two Barnoldswick sites.

I raised my concerns with the former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the former right hon. Member for Twickenham, and I have already been in touch with the new Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills about what the Government can do to support workers. I am being kept updated on what is being done by the Barnoldswick Rolls-Royce skills and job retention action group. However, this just

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goes to show why the measures in the Queen’s Speech on continuing to support British manufacturing and the British recovery are so important.

Finally, I would like to turn to what was said in the speech about the NHS about implementing the NHS’s own five-year plan, increasing the health budget and ensuring the NHS works on a seven-day basis. In 2007, under Labour, Burnley general hospital saw its accident and emergency department downgraded as more and more services were transferred to Blackburn. Poor care was regularly front page news; there were reports on the high rates of hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA. Thanks to the action taken since 2010, we have seen a real improvement in the NHS in my area. In 2014, we saw the opening of a new £9 million urgent care centre at Burnley general hospital, a new £4 million health centre in Colne and a new £6.3 million A&E at Airedale hospital. Hospital-acquired infections have more than halved. Since 2010 East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has recruited 391 extra nurses and 40 more doctors. Also, in March this year, the last Government announced a £15.6 million cash boost to refurbish parts of Burnley general hospital, following extensive lobbying by the former Member for Burnley, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) and myself, but we need to go further, and that is why I welcome what was said in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech about further strengthening our NHS and the other Bills due to come before this House.

I believe Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech sets out a clear and ambitious programme for the year ahead and I look forward to working with the Government to deliver it.


Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me early in this debate on the Loyal Address and giving me the opportunity of making my maiden speech.

As another lawyer who is new to the House—it could be a theme this afternoon— I start by paying tribute to the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) and her contribution earlier. I can safely say that it set the standard for the rest of the maiden speeches to follow.

Ninety-six years ago, the first Member of Parliament for what was then the constituency of Pontypool made his maiden speech from the Opposition Benches. In it he paid tribute to the miners, the railwaymen and the women of the Women’s Industrial League. Those generations may be gone now, but their values have not, and we in Torfaen, the eastern valley of the south Wales coalfield, still have a great sense of unity and of solidarity that is based on a very simple principle: “you judge the strength of a society not by how you treat the wealthiest, but by how you treat the most vulnerable.”

It is a matter of great pride to me to stand here before you today, Mr Deputy Speaker, as the grandson of an eastern valley miner, and to succeed a Member of Parliament who was himself the son of an eastern valley miner. I want to pay the warmest of tributes to my predecessor, Paul Murphy. As a historian, I know only too well the challenges that Paul faced, first as the Minister of State in Northern Ireland from 1997 to 1999, chairing the talks process, and later, as Secretary

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of State, over a three-year period. As a historian I can only say I appreciate Paul’s monumental achievement in overcoming those challenges.

Paul is also a great figure in Wales’s political journey, having served twice as the Secretary of State for Wales to ensure that our devolution settlement bedded down and worked to the benefit of the people of Wales. Above all, Paul never forgot, while holding those great offices on the national stage, that his most important priority was always the people of the eastern valley. Paul always carried out those roles with great courtesy, great dignity and great integrity. That is why Paul Murphy is respected in all parts of this House. In Paul Murphy I know that I have the model Member of Parliament to follow.

I first met Paul Murphy on work experience at his office in 1997—a year that is remembered fondly by Opposition Members. After my work experience finished, he wrote a reference, in which he said that one day I would end up with a top job. Well, I cannot think of a greater job than representing the people of Torfaen.

Torfaen is defined by the Afon Llwyd, the grey river, that starts in the hills above my home town of Blaenavon, a world heritage site, and flows south through Pontypool and into the new town of Cwmbran. Indeed the very name of the constituency, Torfaen, comes from the river, because Torfaen, or rock breaker, was the name of the river in pre-industrial times. That river, and the landscape it has carved out, of a deep and narrow valley, is still a clue to its modern-day character, because, while every village and town in Torfaen is unique, we are as a community very tightly packed together. We are also, incidentally, a community that has benefited from migration from all over the UK and from beyond.

We have a great industrial heritage, one that can be experienced at Big Pit mining museum, the national mining museum of Wales. We also have a wonderful, rich cultural heritage of choirs, chapels and rugby, and I look forward to a great 2015-16 season at Pontypool rugby club.

In Cwmbran, there is the grave of John Fielding, who won the Victoria Cross for his heroism at the battle of Rorke’s Drift in January 1879. That grave is a fitting symbol of Torfaen’s great tradition of public service and self-sacrifice.

The past five years have been extremely difficult for the people of Torfaen, and I fear on the basis of this Queen’s Speech that the next five years will be more difficult still. I worry about cuts in our public services and in police numbers to a police service that is already severely under strain. We need a Government, more broadly, who change their economic policy, who truly work for the ordinary men and women of my constituency —a constituency in which scores of families have been forced over the past five years to rely, on a weekly basis, on food banks. We need a Government who seek to promote, not undermine, employment rights; a Government who look to give a future to people who are on zero-hours contracts so that they can move away from them and build a secure future for their families. Above all, for security of employment in Torfaen, we need a yes vote in the European referendum that will come before the end of 2017.

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I have been given a lot of advice since my arrival in this House. Probably the one piece that sticks in my mind is simply, “be yourself”. Prior to becoming a Member I was lucky enough to write biographies of two great figures of the Labour movement, Aneurin Bevan and Clement Attlee. I take my inspiration from that Labour Government of 1945-51—not just the great improvement that they brought about for working people in the post-war era, but their central political lesson that politics is ultimately about constructive achievement for people. There is another lesson from that Government and their great Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, one that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, may have some sympathy with. It is that democracy is about government by discussion, but it works only if we can stop people talking.

But it is to talk for Torfaen that I am in this place—a central duty and one I will never forget.

1.7 pm

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) on his maiden speech. He painted a vivid picture of his constituency and spoke with great eloquence and fluency in making his points. He also spoke with great soul and with a great sense of compassion for his constituents. That will hold him in good stead in this House, and all Members will benefit from his contributions in the years ahead.

The hon. Gentleman brought with him what I hope we all bring, which is a sense of energy from our engagement with the electorate over the past few weeks, as we participated in and celebrated our fantastic democracy. I am sure that he, along with me, will have heard one message from his constituents, which is that their main interest is to ensure and assure a better future for their children and grandchildren. We may differ on the prescriptions to achieve that objective, but that will be the thing we both remember from the recent election.

This idea of a better future arises not only in the sense of a better economic future for our constituents, but in the sense that we have a Government that will stand up for and defend the freedoms of our country, and reflect the best aspects and values of our great nation. Let me try to cover three aspects of that future in my contribution on Her Majesty’s most Gracious Speech.

On the issue of values as it pertains to the Home Office, work particularly needs to be done on the future of immigration detention. The Yarl’s Wood detention centre is next to my constituency, and it is part of a detention estate in this country that has grown under Governments of all colours and all stripes. It has grown from being one that focused on a range of people to being not a minor part of our immigration policy, but more of a default position. As the all-party group report published just before the election showed, we need to reconsider a number of aspects of immigration detention. First, we need to bring in a time limit for detention, so that people are not detained indefinitely. Secondly, we need to ensure that vulnerable people are not detained at all. I was encouraged when our Home Secretary said earlier that she and her Department are looking at a positive way in which immigration detention in this country can be reformed. At the moment, immigration detention is ineffective and costly, and a too frequently it leads to instances of injustice that are a

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stain on our country’s values. So I look to her and her ministerial team to engage positively with people from all parts of the House to reform immigration detention.

Also on values, I have some concerns about the Prevent strategy. Some of my constituents who are in positions where they will be or have been asked to engage in Prevent have told me alarming stories about the lack of precision in the guidance provided to them on how they can perform their role in ensuring that extremism does not take root in their particular areas of responsibility, be it in education, social work or other activities. During my term of office here, I will be looking critically at the Prevent strategy to make sure that it is being implemented with the best of intentions and in the way intended by the ministerial team.

This is a perilous area, because if we get the Prevent strategy wrong, we risk giving succour to those who say that it is an attack on a particular religion and that we are setting one part of society against another. I do not want that to happen; everyone in this country, no matter what their background, should have the right to freedom of expression. They should have the right to express their own religion and to say what they believe in their own way. They should not feel that they are targeted by some form of shadow organisation of activities that will point them out and sanction them if they behave in a way or say things that are thought, for not a very precise reason, to be extremist. So I will be a defender of those rights against the extremes of any Government policy put in place under the title of “Prevent”.

Our freedoms also depend on a strong military force that is engaged actively in preventing the decline of freedom around the world. I have concerns that the UK Government are not doing enough in a number of arenas around the world. We are not doing enough in our work with China to push back on China. It is an assertive power in the South China sea, where it is creating new land embattlements on the Spratly islands and other islands, and having a domain that is far in excess of any internationally recognised limits.

I am also concerned about freedoms in Bangladesh, and I hope the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development will look at the decline of the democratic space there and ensure that we are putting all the pressure we can on to ensure that democracy can flourish. I am concerned at hearing about people being targeted and murdered on the streets of Dhaka because of what they write. I am also worried about the fact that the Rohingya Muslims who have left Burma are not even welcome in Bangladesh, and I am worried about the last election in Bangladesh and about how the country will move forward in the next few years.

I am also concerned about the Government’s response in Nigeria in tackling the threat from Boko Haram. In all those things we see that there is a role to play for not only our military force, but our engagement through our international development efforts. I fear that if the UK Government do not assert themselves internationally in both ways, and have the resources to do so, the freedoms we have in this country, which we have taken for granted for generations, will be under threat.

The Government also need to take account of the most fundamental threat to our country’s future and our future generations; we need to continue the work of getting our economy back on track and of reducing our deficit, and then to begin the important task of repaying

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the debt. One crucial thing the Labour party did not understand in the last election was the importance of not only getting rid of the deficit, but reducing debt. The debt burden that we pass on to future generations is a stain on this generation’s excess. I want to support a Government—and I know I will be supporting one—that are determined in their efforts to ensure that we do not do that to future generations. An important part of that policy will relate to how we understand the work of wages in the UK. We need to find a way to encourage our private sector employers to pay the living wage. We need to find ways in which we can reduce the massive amount of corporate welfare paid out in tax credits, not by reducing people’s wages, but by reducing the dependence of companies on the wages they pay people being subsidised by the taxpayer.

We also need to move forward assertively with the Government’s extension of the right to buy. That policy offers something that also eluded the Labour party in the last election; it takes account of the fact that most people want the opportunity to own their own home, regardless of whether they live in a council house or one provided by a social housing association. I look forward to seeing the Government’s proposals on the right to buy.

Beyond that, there are one or two specific policies I hope we will cover in this Parliament. The arrangements for our emergency services—our fire, ambulance and police services—could do with reform. We could reform their boundaries so that they are contiguous; we could consider a merger of the red 1 and red 2 ambulance services with our fire service; and we could consider how to make greater use of national procurement so that we reduce costs in our emergency services. I hope the Government will engage with the unions and others to ensure that that happens successfully.

As a Parliament, we need to have a proper debate about the right to die. That may not be an issue to deal with in Government time, but we need to discuss it as a Parliament. I have constituents, as do all hon. Members, who confront this issue with very different perspectives, and we need to make sure we give them voice while we are here.

Finally, let me mention an issue that has affected some of my constituents significantly: safety for our taxi drivers. This is covered in the Law Commission’s proposals and is due to be covered in legislation, and I hope that taxi safety is one issue to which the Government will also give time.

1.17 pm

Margaret Hodge (Barking) (Lab): Thank you for calling me, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I welcome you to the Chair, as you oversee our proceedings.

We have just emerged from a long general election campaign, during which immigration featured as a hugely important and sometimes toxic issue. In Barking and Dagenham, immigration has been at the heart of politics for more than a decade. Indeed, in 2006, voters in my constituency were so angry with all mainstream politicians that they chose to protest and elected 12 British National party councillors to the local authority. Focusing on the issue of immigration has therefore been central to my constituency work for many years, and I am thankful that the good people of Barking and Dagenham worked with me to expel and keep out the heinous politics of the BNP by denying it any democratic mandate.

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My work and experience, however, leaves me depressed by the Government’s failure to learn the lessons of the past and frustrated by their approach, as set out today and in the Queen’s Speech. Although some proposals enjoy cross-party support, the Government’s overall approach continues to be based on a false prospectus, which is that we can somehow dramatically cut net migration, either by yet more domestic legislation or by some fantasy renegotiation of free movement in Europe. Despite the failure to deliver a reduction in net migration over the past five years, the Government continue to promise to do so during this Parliament. Yet all the facts show, unambiguously, that they will fail to deliver on their ambition, and the worst thing is that they know that now. Their pledge on numbers is hollow. They are delivering on rhetoric; but failing to realise the reality, and by so conning the British public they are further eroding any remaining trust people have in their political leaders.

Recent figures show net migration rising yet again. Standing at around 300,000, it is at almost its highest level ever and is more than 100,000 higher than the 2013 figures. Despite endless Acts of Parliament, a stream of bureaucratic reorganisations and all the tough talk, net migration is high and rising, and that is not just down to free movement of labour in Europe. Yes, net migration from the EU was up by nearly 50,000 during the year to September 2014, but net migration from outside the EU went up by almost the same number—54,000.

Migrants do not come to Britain to scrounge benefits. Many come to study, which is a good thing, as it brings much-needed income to our universities, strengthens our research and development capability and helps the next generation establish lifelong friendships and relationships that will support our international interests and strengthen UK security over decades to come. Most migrants come because they have secured a job, and we need their skills both to enable growth and to maintain our public services. Fewer than one in five comes to Britain to look for work. Even if we could stop those jobseekers at our borders, net migration would still be running at more than 200,000.

The truth is that people crossing national borders are a feature of the modern world. In the same way that capital crosses borders in a globalised economy, so people cross borders in a globalised world. Just as the Chinese are likely to provide the capital to build British nuclear power stations, and the Indians provide the capital for the Jaguar plant in the midlands, so people from other countries staff our hospitals and work in our industries. We cannot and will not buck that trend. I remember when we thought that we could cut the net migration numbers by toughening up the regime on asylum seekers. We did that, and then the numbers seeking work permits grew. We tried to close that route too, and then people tried to come in through the student visa route. The Government have now tightened up that avenue, potentially damaging our educational sector. Is the next step to get tougher on visitors and damage our vibrant tourism sector?

People come to Britain because we are a tolerant and open society and we have a successful and growing economy with plenty of opportunities. It is a good place in which to live, work and bring up a family. Migration

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will continue to happen and we should stop pretending that we can stop it. The dishonesty at the heart of the Government’s policy is what is impacting on people’s views. That dishonesty is breeding mistrust of politics and the political class. When the Government promise to cut the numbers and then fail, people lose trust in politicians and politics. What we really need from the Government is strong, open and candid leadership, which changes the conversation about immigration and talks about the reality of globalisation and the movement of people. Why are Ministers so frightened of telling the truth? Doing so should not stop us doing the things that we can and must do. Here again, the Government have failed to deliver over the past five years. It is the lack of control of our borders, more than the numbers coming in, that angers people and fosters suspicion and hostility.

When we examined those issues in the Public Accounts Committee, we were horrified by the sheer incompetence we found time and again. Some 50,000 people whose applications to remain in Britain had been rejected had disappeared into the community. Some 29,000 applications for asylum, which dated back at least seven years, remain unresolved, with many people still waiting for the first decision on their case. More than 10,000 foreigners who had been in prison have not been deported despite a tenfold increase in the staff who were supposed to be tasked with delivering the deportation of foreign national prisoners. Indeed we uncovered the fact that one in six foreign national offenders who had completed their sentences had absconded and disappeared into the community.

Let us get those things right and deliver the basics. That requires more than tougher rhetoric, or yet more Home Office legislation. It means simply delivering effectively and efficiently. That is how the Government can establish confidence in the immigration system and in how we control our borders. Getting a grip on the bureaucracy will achieve far more than passing more legislation in this House of Commons.

I welcome the cross-party consensus on the difficult issue of how we ensure fairness to everybody in the rationing and allocation of public resources. I first challenged the old orthodoxy in 2008 and I know from my work in the constituency that if we introduce the principle that people should contribute to a society and earn their entitlement before accessing the public goods that have to be rationed, whether it is social housing or benefits, we would be seen as being fair to everybody, be they recent immigrants or families who have lived in the UK for generations. Such an approach helps to lance the boil that so easily turns fear of the impact of immigration into racism and hostility to people of different races, creeds and colour.

I support the Government’s intention to develop that principle. We would all do well to understand that only 6% of EU migrants claim out-of-work benefits and many of them have earned that entitlement by working and living in Britain for many years. That does not absolve the Government of their responsibility to ensure that there are enough school places, GPs and hospitals and public transport facilities to meet the needs of everybody in our communities, including migrants and their families.

The Conservatives’ record over the past five years has been abysmal. While the Government wasted their very limited capital creating free schools in areas where there

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are a surplus of school places, they refused properly to fund new primary and secondary schools in areas such as mine, where there is huge pressure for more places.

The Government will not build a one nation Britain if they do not transform their approach to immigration. Honest explanations, not empty rhetoric, are what will unite Britain. Efficient administration, not pages of legislation, are what will convince people that the Government are in control. Investment in our public services, so that immigrants do not become the scapegoats, is what will help us build a united Britain where communities gain strength from their diversity.

1.27 pm

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge), for whom I have huge respect. None the less, I have to say that her speech did remind me of Talleyrand’s comment on the Bourbons, who, he said, had learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Labour should remember that one reason why it lost the trust of the British people is that it lost control of immigration. It is the responsibility of Government to control immigration. The British people demand it of us and this Government have set out the ways in which they will do so. I trust that the right hon. Lady will support them when we read the immigration Bill.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) for her speech. It was full of the vim and ginger for which she is renowned, but it sounded less a critique of the Gracious Speech and more a screen test for the leadership of the Labour party. She is a very brave lady, as she not only has taken on the shadow Home Office brief again, but is running for the leadership of her party. That is taking two very big gulps from a very poisoned chalice, and I wish her well, even if some of her colleagues do not.

There are some very strong Bills in this Gracious Speech and I shall touch on two of them. The first is the energy Bill. Energy security is a huge issue for our country; indeed it is a matter of national security. A decade or so ago, we were a net gas exporter. We now import most of our gas supplies. If we are to meet our carbon reduction obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008, we must switch off our coal-fired power stations in the next few years. They currently provide 34% of our generating capacity. To make up the shortfall in the short term, we will need more gas-fired stations, and that means importing even more gas. I do not think that the British people, British firms and British manufacturing wish to increasingly rely for their lighting and heating on the caprice of Mr Putin or on the direction of Glencore tankers as they change course on the high seas towards the highest bidder.

I hope that the energy Bill will focus on increasing the exploitation of our shale gas reserves, which can not only provide the Treasury with a welcome income stream and provide many thousands of new jobs, but help our energy security. I trust also that the Bill will look at increasing and enhancing gas storage facilities around our country so that we are not just a few hours away from running out of gas, as we have been in some winters.

I also hope that the Bill will deal with our creaking energy infrastructure—the pipes, the pylons and the power stations that keep our lights on and our water

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warm. All parties accept that we need to spend about £110 billion in just 10 years on that infrastructure. The big six—however much we sometimes criticise them—will supply £70 billion of that £110 billion investment on their current trajectory. We need more smaller companies to come in and meet the £40 billion shortfall. Otherwise, the poor old taxpayer and bill payer, the teacher, the plumber and the council worker, will have to make up the cost. The energy Bill is an important Bill, and I hope that it will contain those provisions.

Another extremely innovative Bill is the city devolution Bill, which will write the northern powerhouse concept into law and, I hope, make it a reality. I hope that the city fathers and the city mothers in the west midlands will take note of the provisions in that Bill. My own local large city, Birmingham, was known in the 19th century as the workshop of the world. Today it needs to be the science laboratory of the world. It is proud to call itself our second city. I say to people in the midlands, “Why have so little ambition? Why stop at being second? Why not try to be the first city of Britain?” If Birmingham and its environs is to be the first city of our country, it needs to take on that northern powerhouse to provide homes, skilled workers and integrated transport infrastructure. I trust that the leaders of our local councils will look at the Bill, talk to Ministers and realise the opportunities that can be found in a midlands powerhouse.

This is a strong Queen’s Speech. It is a fresh Queen’s Speech. It contains Bills that mean business. I believe that it seals the deal that we made with the country on 7 May, and I look forward to supporting it in the next 12 months.

1.34 pm

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): I am grateful to have the chance to speak about the contents of the Gracious Address, on what it is likely to mean to my constituents, on what should have been included, and on what my constituents need from this Government. Of course, the speech contains a lot of warm, but ultimately hollow, words. It talks about one nation, opportunities for those who are disadvantaged, boosting the economy and bringing the country together, but warm words often hide harsher realities, and sadly this legislative programme is no exception. The speech refers to boosting economic productivity and living standards, but were these not problems during the past five years? The last Government wasted more than three years presiding over flat growth and painful austerity, and the truth of the matter is that the economic situation is only marginally better now than it was in 2010.

The speech refers to the Government providing full employment with a requirement to report on the economy, on jobs and on apprenticeship creation. But all too often over the past couple of years I have heard about employers using apprenticeships as an excuse for cheap labour, with apprentices taken on, discarded when the apprenticeship is finished and forced to make way when a new batch is hired to replace them. That is not an entry to a career; it is exploitation. We can interpret the plans to reduce the legislative burden on small businesses to create jobs as code for a bonfire of health and safety protections for workers—something I have already seen happen under the most recent law changes.

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Now I have to admit that, at the time of the speech, I saluted the headline-grabbing promise that workers on the minimum wage would not pay tax, but sadly even that nugget of good news has been watered down to the less appealing promise that if someone works for 30 hours on the minimum wage they will not pay any income tax. Thirty hours on the minimum wage is not enough to live on, so someone working a typical 40-hour week on the minimum wage will see a quarter of their income liable to tax. Call me cynical if you will, and many do, but let us see what tax cuts the richest in our society get in the same legislation. During the election campaign, the Chancellor ducked time and again the question about cutting the top rate of tax.

There is a very long list of what is wrong with the measures announced in the Queen’s Speech, and I hope to catch your eye, Mr Deputy Speaker, in the forthcoming Second Reading debates so that I can go through them in more detail. Today we are highlighting the home affairs and justice elements of the address. While I welcome in principle the proposals to ban so-called legal highs, there is sadly little else to be welcomed in these two policy areas. Tackling illegal working by seizing the wages of the worker, who has probably been paid a pittance anyway, seems to me to target the wrong person. It is the employer who should face the harshest of penalties for exploiting the illegal worker. With measures to bring forward the snoopers charter, combined with the ability of the state to declare someone an extremist and severely limit their ability to work, we may face the sort of scenario normally reserved for dystopian movies.

At face value, plans to stop mentally ill people being held in police custody are very much to be welcomed, but when, as in Stoke-on-Trent, there just are not enough beds in secure units, what choice will police officers face? Will they have to put mentally ill people at risk because the resources simply are not there?

I add my voice to those defending the Human Rights Act 1998.

Looking more widely, perhaps I missed it during the Speech, but where was the announcement on freezing the amount of education funding per pupil? And what of the proposals that would create chaos for secondary schools if the manifesto commitment were kept to make secondary pupils re-sit SATS when they got to secondary school? Has that been sensibly dropped? Where will the £30 billion of austerity cuts fall? Who will face the axe? Will carers be in the front line for those cuts?

I hope that I am wrong, but I foresee a grim five years ahead. At the end of the next five years, our NHS will be unrecognisable, and not for the good. Private companies will have cherry-picked the most profitable parts, with the remaining core being delivered by the public sector and paid for by an ever-squeezed budget. Waiting lists for non-emergency surgery will go the way they did in the 1980s, with patients waiting years to have a hip or knee operation or forced to suffer the rationing of expensive medicines. Some might say that I am too sceptical, but the evidence is already there. In north Staffordshire our cancer and end-of-life care is about to be sold off on a 10-year, £1.2 billion project. In the running for the contracts are the likes of CSC Computer Sciences, which was paid billions of pounds to design an NHS record-keeping system that never worked, or

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United Health, also known as Optum, which is embroiled in the so-called hospice packing scandal in the US, or Virgin Care, which was warned by the Care Quality Commission about the operation of its other NHS services, or indeed Interserve Investments, the PFI provider that refuses to disclose the role in securing bids of Lord Blackwell, the former Conservative policy chief. I am afraid that all this talk of legalising euthanasia plays straight into the hands of a cash-strapped NHS. We are already hearing evidence of that in other countries.

During the last five years, my constituents have time and again seen draconian cuts to their welfare needs, punishing the poorest and those with disabilities. I have seen people with profound learning disabilities being sanctioned for “not trying hard enough” and people with terminal cancer told that they are fit for work. Indeed, it has almost become a sick joke that the Department for Work and Pensions will say that someone is fit for work provided that they are breathing. The massive level of success at appeal proves the truth behind people’s claims. People who find their benefit cut from one day to the next are increasingly having to fall back on charities such as the Trussell Trust. I worry that many on the Government Benches share the view of my Tory opponent in the general election, who disputed the number of people relying on food banks and said that he hoped to see more of them in future.

I fear that by 2020 we will have a society where people are almost literally starved into taking minimum-wage, zero-hours jobs and where people have to give up their family home or take in lodgers, or simply go hungry because of the bedroom tax—although of course by then it will be rare to have a council or housing association home, because, rather than the Government building more homes, by 2020 we will have seen the end of social landlords through an enhanced right to buy. Sadly, I believe that by 2020 we will also be back to 1980s standards of education, with a riot of free schools, many opening and closing to get round bad reports from Ofsted. We will see large class sizes once more and another generation lost, with no future, in a job market that benefits the unscrupulous employer.

But it need not be like that. Our NHS could still be saved. Instead of a mad rush to privatise everything for the benefit of Cabinet Ministers’ mates in the private health sector, we could invest £8 billion in a proper, joined-up health and social care system, where mental health is finally put on an equal footing with physical care, raising standards up, not pushing them down. We could reform welfare by ensuring a culture of targeting the very small number who abuse the system, while helping those who need help, and by supporting those with debilitating conditions and genuinely ensuring skills and training for those who need to be supported back into the workplace, rather than having these schemes that are just about money making for the training provider without giving any genuine help to people.

By making the minimum wage a living wage, we could end the need for working tax credits, which subsidise poverty pay from employers who know they can get away with it. We could have a tax system that ensures that there is no tax to pay on the basic level of income needed to pay for expenses such as accommodation, food, heating and lighting, while progressively taxing earnings so that those with the most pay the most. On immigration, we should have a properly staffed border

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system that ensures that those who come here to work can do so, provided they do not undercut pay and conditions for those working here, while also ensuring that those who want a free ride simply cannot have one.

I want to see our country grow and be strong in a self-assured way that does not need to victimise or be jealous of what others might have. But sadly, after another five years of Tory misrule, I fear it will be everyone for themselves and a justice system that lets the Government get away with it.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr George Howarth): Order. Before I call the next speaker, it might be helpful to say that, because of the good discipline that has been shown in speeches, we can now extend the speech limit to 12 minutes.

1.43 pm

Mr Robert Syms (Poole) (Con): Welcome back to the House, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I would like first to congratulate those Members who have made their maiden speeches. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) was fluent and confident, and we expect to hear more from her in the debates ahead. I thought the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) made a very impressive speech, without notes. I expect he will be a great contributor to the debates in this Chamber. Both of them succeed people who have had very distinguished parliamentary careers. I think history will treat Alistair Darling well when it comes to how he dealt with the difficult situation of the banks collapsing. Paul Murphy was a distinguished Secretary of State—latterly he was Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee—and a thoroughly decent man. Both will be missed.

Like many Members, I have waited 18 years for a Gracious Speech from a Conservative Government. Sometimes it felt like it would take longer than that—certainly after my first election in 1997, some of us wondered whether we would ever have a Conservative majority again. It has taken a lot of work, a lot of effort and, I think, some luck to get back to the situation we are in today. I think history will also treat the coalition Government well. They made a great contribution and started to put the country on the right track in terms of the economy. We have to continue the good work and continue to get the deficit and the debt down, as we pledged to do.

I was particularly pleased prior to the election that the Chancellor announced that we would start to reduce debt levels this year. I hope that over the next five years we will make progress back to a more solvent and dynamic economy. If somebody had said in 2010 that we would have created 2 million jobs, I would have said that, under the circumstances, that would be a very difficult ask, but we have created 2 million jobs. The challenge in this Parliament is to ensure that living standards pick up, that people start to get reasonable pay increases as the labour market tightens and that we do our best to encourage higher productivity.

One way of doing that is not to raise taxes, but to reduce taxes, to increase incentives for people in work. One of the particularly impressive achievements of the

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previous Government was to increase tax allowances and at the same time cap welfare, which greatly increased the incentives to work. We have to continue in that way, so that people really feel that they can take jobs and are better off taking jobs. Some of the angriest people in my constituency are people who feel they are working hard and not really getting far—they have got kids’ shoes to buy; they have got to pay for petrol for the car—while people in the same road seem to have an easier ride because they have accessed the benefits of the welfare state. The welfare state has to be a safety net—it is still important that it should be there—but the incentives should be loaded on those who take jobs and have families to bring up. We should do everything we can to encourage higher living standards.

I was particularly pleased with the Gracious Speech in that we will finally be able to get legislation through this House on a referendum on the European issue. While I have been in this House, we have had the treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon. On every occasion we have tried to get a referendum and we have been rejected. What we are doing is right and proper. I had just left school when we had the last referendum, and the vast majority of Members of this House did not have the opportunity to vote. We have to reset the relationship, and in doing so, we can be a real friend of the European Union. It needs reform. Clearly, the high levels of unemployment and the stodgy way that the eurozone is working at the moment mean that there is an opportunity both for Britain to meet its objectives and for our European partners to meet the objective of having a much more effective European Community. Therefore, I hope that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) said, we have high ambition for the renegotiation—that we do not rush, or over-rush; that we get it right and put it to the British people so that, at the end of the day, they can make a choice about where they see their future. It is important that we get this right, and I am sure that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor, who are tasked with this, will be doing all they can to get the right outcome.

I am also pleased that we will continue a lot of the work in the Home Office, as we have set out today. There is a real worry about the impact of the war in Syria and Iraq and about people returning to the United Kingdom, with a worry that many UK citizens may be a danger to their fellow citizens. That is a great challenge for the Home Office. It certainly has to be a high priority for the Government, and it is a worry for many of my constituents. It is also important that we have made many pledges on immigration. It is a job that we still have to finish—it was clear from the election that many electors were not happy that we had not made as much progress, but were happy to give us a chance to continue with the job. That is why it is important that we should bring forward tougher immigration policies in this Parliament.