House of Commons
Thursday 28 May 2015
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Yesterday the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) raised a point of order asking whether the changes to our Standing Orders that the Government propose to bring forward would, first, breach the principle that all Members of this House are equal before the Chair, and, secondly, would have to be considered by me or by the Procedure Committee. I undertook to reflect and take advice before responding substantively.
I must make it clear that I am not party to the detail of what the Government are proposing, beyond what is set out in Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech. That is now available to all Members to read in Hansard and in the Votes and Proceedings, and in copies available in the Vote Office. No doubt the Government will provide more information in due course.
In general terms, however, I can say that it is for the House to decide how and whether to change its Standing Orders. From time to time, the Government table motions to make changes to the Standing Orders, sometimes in response to a recommendation of the Procedure Committee, sometimes on their own initiative. I would not accept the motion if it breached the rules of the House, but it is not for the Chair to judge the merits of a proposal. It is for the House to decide whether to agree to the Government’s proposal.
While it is certainly an important responsibility of the Chair to ensure that Members are treated fairly and impartially, in accordance with the rules of the House, this does not limit the power of the House to determine its own rules and procedures.
Business of the House
Mr Speaker, I wonder if I might take the liberty first of congratulating you on your re-election to the Chair and of welcoming all new Members to the House, where I hope they will feel they can make a fruitful and purposeful contribution.
The business for next week is as follows:
Monday 1 June—Continuation of the debate on the Gracious Speech, on the subject of Britain in the world.
Tuesday 2 June—Continuation of the debate on the Gracious Speech. The subject will be health and social care.
Wednesday 3 June—Continuation of the debate on the Gracious Speech, on the subject of devolution and growth across Britain.
Thursday 4 June—Conclusion of the debate on the Gracious Speech. The subject will be the economy.
Friday 5 June—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 8 June will include:
Monday 8 June—Second Reading of the Scotland Bill.
Tuesday 9 June—Second Reading of the European Union Referendum Bill.
Wednesday 10 June—Opposition day (1st allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 11 June—Second Reading of a Bill to be announced.
Friday 12 June—The House will not be sitting.
It might also be helpful if I inform Members of the planned dates for the future Adjournments of the House and for sitting Fridays in the coming Session. The House will rise at close of play on Tuesday 21 July for the summer recess and will return on Monday 7 September. The House will rise for the conference recess on Thursday 17 September and return on Monday 12 October. The House will rise for a short recess on 10 November and return on Monday 16 November. We will rise for the Christmas recess on Thursday 17 December and return on Tuesday 5 January, and we will rise for the February half-term recess on Thursday 11 February and return on Monday 22 February.
The proposed dates for sitting Fridays in the coming Session are: 11 September, 16 October, 23 October, 30 October, 6 November, 20 November, 4 December, 22 January, 29 January, 5 February, 26 February, 4 March and 11 March.
It might also be of interest to Members to know that I intend to bring to the House the motion allocating the Chairs of Select Committees to parties next week, in order to allow the process for the election of Chairs to proceed. I expect the debate to take place next Wednesday.
I thank the new Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business, and I would like to congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your re-election last week. I concur with the remarks you made yesterday in welcoming all new Members, congratulating Members who held their seats and commiserating with former colleagues who were defeated. As you rightly said, Mr Speaker, politics can sometimes be a bruising experience.
This is the most diverse Parliament ever, with a record number of women, LGBT, black and ethnic minority Members. The Parliament also contains those from other minorities such as the Liberal Democrats. I note—[Interruption.] Well, apparently they are not here at all, but I am sure everyone will get what I mean. I note that in the race to elect a successor to the former Deputy Prime Minister, Liberal Democrat candidates need the backing of 10% of their MPs. That should be easy, as by my calculations one Liberal Democrat currently constitutes 12.5%, and apparently they can nominate themselves.
Yesterday’s Humble Address was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was a legislative programme couched in fluffy soundbites, barely disguising a triumphalist Thatcherite agenda. The Prime Minister had the temerity to promise a one nation approach just weeks after he ran the most divisive election campaign in years, pitting one part of the UK against another. He claimed in his legislative programme that he would help working people get on, but his plans amount to a shamelessly partisan attack on workers’ rights and representation. As Her Majesty’s official Opposition, we will look beyond the rhetoric to the reality of this Queen’s Speech and hold this Government to account.
Today’s written ministerial statement from the Leader of the House listed the Bills announced yesterday. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving us the details of the length of the Session and the sitting dates, but we do not yet know what the mysterious Bill is that we are due to discuss on Thursday 11 June. Will he enlighten us now—or at least tell us when he will make that announcement?
On 9 June, I note that we are to debate the Second Reading of the European Union Referendum Bill. The Prime Minister has been desperately flying around European capitals trying to conduct negotiations on reforms that he has so far failed to specify in any great detail. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government have already ruled out treaty change as an option, because it has been dismissed by European leaders? Will Eurosceptic Cabinet Ministers such as himself be allowed to remain in government if they campaign to leave the EU against the wishes of the Prime Minister?
I would like to welcome the new Chief Whip to his place. I see that he has already broken the bad habits of his immediate predecessor by actually deigning to turn up for business questions. I hope the new Chief Whip will be as effective in his job as the last one was!
I also welcome the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) to his new post. Given that an eagle is a predator and a powerful emblem used by countries across the globe, I thought I would honour the right hon. Gentleman’s arrival by looking up what a grayling is. The dictionary defines it as “a small grey fish frequently used as bait”—[Laughter.] With that in mind, I look forward to working with him.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has learned many lessons from his time as Justice Secretary that he can apply in his new brief: tougher sentences for repeat offenders could be applied to the recidivists already lurking on the Government Back Benches; he is well acquainted with those pesky peers because they have defeated him so many times already; and given his record on banning books in prisons, I just hope he is not let anywhere near the House of Commons Library.
As we get business under way, we are all coming to terms with the election results. Apparently, with the Chancellor having promised to give Lynton Crosby a proper French kiss if the Tories got a majority, he has managed to deliver only a desultory peck on the cheek. This is, I am sure, one of the first of many broken Tory election promises.
The leader of the Green party has achieved her dream of making it to Parliament by taking a job as a junior researcher. The Scottish National party has taken to trying to occupy our Front Benches, but I think SNP Members have taken quite enough seats already!
First, let me say that I look forward very much to the weekly jousts that the hon. Lady and I shall have across the Chamber. She may be an eagle, and the grayling may indeed be a fish, but I should add that the grayling is often caught by a number of my colleagues on the Back Benches who enjoy spending the afternoon on a river bank. However, I look forward to proving that the fish can indeed prove mightier than the eagle.
As for the hon. Lady’s comments about the general election results and, in particular, about the Liberal Democrats, I am not sure that in her position I would be boasting about having reduced representation in the Chamber. I am not only delighted that a number of my colleagues vanquished their Liberal Democrat opponents at the election, but especially pleased that a number of my new colleagues beat sitting Labour Members. I am very proud of what they have achieved, and very proud to see them here. Along with all my colleagues, I congratulate them on those extraordinary results, and on the success that they have brought to their constituencies.
I must also tell election buffs that there will be no shortage of elections this summer. We have had a general election, but we now have the Labour leadership campaign and the Labour deputy leadership campaign. My colleagues may not have seen the hon. Lady’s campaign slogan, which is “We want Angela”. We must wait and see whether the Labour party does indeed want Angela, but I wish her the best for her campaign. It is a crowded field —of seven, I believe—and I wait with interest to see how successful she will be. She has all our good wishes.
I should point out to the hon. Lady that the “triumphalist Thatcherite agenda” she described won the general election. Given that she claims to be a champion of equalities, it is always a shame to hear her make disparaging comments about Britain’s first woman Prime Minister—something this party is immensely proud of.
Our party’s position on the European referendum is absolutely clear. We campaigned for a European referendum during the general election, and we will deliver a European referendum. By contrast, the Labour party campaigned against a European referendum, although its temporary leader appears now to have decided that Labour will support it. My question is this: do all the leadership candidates support it? We shall find out in the months ahead, but better a sinner that repent. The people of this country want a vote on Europe, and we will deliver it.
The hon. Lady asked what Bill we were to debate in two weeks’ time. She will discover that during next week’s business questions, and I look forward to continuing our jousts then.
Last August, The Times reported that the Prime Minister had promised the Magistrates Association that he would extend magistrates’ sentencing powers to a year by the end of the last Parliament. That was very welcome indeed. The former Member of Parliament for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Mr Simon Hughes, has boasted that he personally blocked the move. Now that we are not lumbered with the likes of Simon Hughes in this place, will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Prime Minister’s promise, which many us welcomed so much in August, will be delivered during the current Parliament?
I am a great supporter of our magistracy. Magistrates are volunteers, and they do a fine job for our country. They play an important role in communities throughout the country, and we should be grateful to all of them for what they do. I fear that my hon. Friend will have to wait for an announcement from my right hon. Friend the new Lord Chancellor, who is currently getting his feet under the table, but I know that my right hon. Friend agrees with me about the importance of the work done by magistrates, and I have no doubt that, as time goes by, he will present further proposals that will enable us to make the best possible use of them.
The issue has been widely debated in the House, and I know that it is of concern to the hon. Lady’s constituents. However, I also believe that it is important to ensure that we have proper, affordable supplies of energy for the future. We must deal with the issue carefully and sensitively. There will be plenty of opportunities for the hon. Lady to raise it during next week’s debate on the Queen’s Speech or by means of an Adjournment debate, and I know that she will be a champion of her constituents in this regard. I must say to her, however, that it is very important to, in particular, the pensioners in her constituency for us to ensure that there is affordable energy for all our futures.
Two issues are of concern in the area that my right hon. Friend and I represent. One is the dreadful rail service that is currently being suffered on the Brighton main line route to London, and the other is the decision that will have to be made in the wake of the Davies commission’s report on runway capacity in the south-east of England. Members who are interested in those issues will attempt to raise them in Westminster Hall, but I think that they are sufficiently important to be debated in Government time at an appropriate moment, and I invite my right hon. Friend to consider that.
As a neighbouring MP in Surrey, I well understand both the concerns that my hon. Friend has raised. I have many constituents who raise concerns about the rail service, and of course the question of airports is going to be a very live one for this Parliament. The Transport Secretary is on the Front Bench so will have heard my hon. Friend’s comments. When the time comes for the publication of the Davies report, the Transport Secretary will, I have no doubt, make a statement to this House and address these issues. I can assure all Members there will be plenty of opportunities to raise questions.
First, may I congratulate you very warmly on your re-election, Mr Speaker? I was one of your initial sponsors so it is particularly gratifying to see you in your place once again.
May I also congratulate the Leader of the House on being appointed to what I think is one of the great roles in this House? He and I entered Parliament together in 2001, and look at what has become of him! It is good to see him in his place. We on the Scottish National party Benches intend to keep in this Session to the good-natured but robust debates we have come to enjoy, and which have characterised business questions for much of the past few years.
Yesterday we found that the Government intend to make progress on their plans for English votes for English laws by changing the Standing Orders of this House. I listened very carefully to your ruling on this issue, Mr Speaker. I have to make an appeal to the Leader of the House: this is no way to discuss something of such constitutional significance. This affects the rights of individual Members of this House, and we have to have a Bill—we have to have legislation. I now hope that, for something as important as this, the right hon. Gentleman will think about it and bring a Bill before this House, so that we as hon. and right hon. Members have the opportunity to properly scrutinise and properly debate something as important as this.
When are we going to get a statement from the Scotland Office on the outcome of the leak inquiry into the botched smearing of Scotland’s First Minister? The former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), has already said that he would have resigned from that position over his role in this nonsense, but surely we must now hear from the Secretary of State himself on the role of the Scotland Office in this attempted smear.
Lastly, the Leader of the House is now clearly seeing that the real Opposition in this House sit on the SNP Benches. Labour, rudderless and leaderless, with its unedifying rush to the right—the Tory-lite right—by the leadership candidates, will not be holding this Government to account; it will be those of us on these Benches who will do so, and it is a job we look forward to.
First, on the issue of English votes for English laws, let me remind the hon. Gentleman that this is about creating a fair devolution settlement for the whole of the United Kingdom. In 10 days’ time we shall be debating the Second Reading of the Scotland Bill, which extends substantial powers to the Scottish Parliament. He must understand that it is important to make sure that we have a devolution settlement that is seen by all the people of the UK as fair for their interests. That is what we intend to do, and it is right and proper that it is debated in this House, and it will be. It is for this House to change its Standing Orders and it will be done, if it is done, by a vote of all the Members of this House, which is right and proper. If all Members of this House vote for a change, that change will happen.
On the Scotland Office and the leak inquiry, it is important to say that these matters are under careful consideration. There is some speculation at the moment that this may lead to a Standards Committee investigation. I think it is very important that if there is a possibility of further investigation, the person who holds my office does not at this stage comment one way or the other on it. It is clearly not desirable for there to be leaks wherever they happen, but I think the hon. Gentleman will have to wait for any due process that may take place.
Lastly, the hon. Gentleman made a point about how he sees the role of his party. I heard the shadow Leader of the House talk about the issue of who sits where. We shall watch that with interest from this side of the House: it is the first time I have seen anybody play musical chairs without the music.
May I congratulate the people of Ireland on the outcome of their recent referendum? It is to be applauded. Maybe someone should bake them a cake—although I know where the cake will not be coming from.
During the last Parliament I pushed hard on free transport to schools, and I would like a debate on this as soon as possible. Local authorities have discretion to give payments to parents for free transport, but they are increasingly refusing to do so. This is discriminating against many parents who are now having to find hundreds of pounds, and if they have two children attending school more than three miles away they could end up paying more than £1,000. Please may we have a debate on this issue to ensure that we can remove such discrimination against parents?
I know that my hon. Friend has argued that case before. He makes a compelling case on behalf of his constituents, and I simply suggest to him that he uses one of the opportunities in the next week during the debate on the Gracious Speech, or seeks to secure an early Adjournment debate, to ensure that those issues continue to be heard by Ministers.
We shall debate transport and the economy next week during the debate on the Gracious Speech, and I encourage the hon. Lady to bring forward thoughts about the issues that her constituency faces, or to seek an Adjournment debate when a Transport Minister can listen to her concerns. We as a Government have sought to create a balanced transport project, investing in roads when we need to, in rail when we need to and in alternative transport such as cycle routes when we need to.
The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who spoke for the Scottish nationalists, made a fair point. This House has to scrutinise in detail any changes that affect a Member, and I am sure that will happen, but does the Leader of the House agree that if we had a business of the House committee, such issues would be dealt with much more easily? Do the Government have any proposal—could we have a statement on such a proposal—to bring in such a committee?
I hear my hon. Friend and remind him that in the previous Parliament we provided Members with more freedom to set the timetable and subjects of debate than any previous Government. That will continue in this Parliament. It is right and proper that time is allocated to Back Benchers so that they can pick subjects for debate.
When can we debate early-day motions 4 to 30?
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Captain Thomas Clarke, aged 30, from Cardiff, Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan, aged 29, from Birmingham, Warrant Officer Class 2 Spencer Faulkner, aged 38, Corporal James Walters, aged 36, from Cornwall, Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas, aged 26, from Brecon, Sapper Adam Moralee, aged 23, from Newcastle, Captain Richard Holloway, aged 29, from Durham, Warrant Officer Class 2 Ian Fisher, aged 42, from Essex, Lance Corporal James Brynin, The Intelligence Corps, aged 22, from Shoreham-by-Sea, Flight Lieutenant Steven Johnson, aged 38, from Collingham, Nottinghamshire, Flight Lieutenant Leigh Anthony Mitchelmore, aged 28, from Bournemouth, Flight Lieutenant Gareth Rodney Nicholas, aged 40, from Newquay, Cornwall, Flight Lieutenant Allan James Squires, aged 39, from Clatterbridge, Flight Lieutenant Steven Swarbrick, aged 28, from Liverpool, Flight Sergeant Gary Wayne Andrews, aged 48, from Tankerton, Kent, Flight Sergeant Stephen Beattie, aged 42, from Dundee, Flight Sergeant Gerard Martin Bell, aged 48, from Ely, Cambridgeshire, Flight Sergeant Adrian Davies, aged 49, from Amersham, Buckinghamshire, Sergeant Benjamin James Knight, aged 25, from Bridgwater, Sergeant John Joseph Langton, aged 29, from Liverpool, Sergeant Gary Paul Quilliam, aged 42, from Manchester, Corporal Oliver Simon Dicketts, The Parachute Regiment, aged 27, Marine Joseph David Windall, Royal Marines, aged 22, Corporal William Thomas Savage, aged 30, from Irvine, Fusilier Samuel Flint, aged 21, from Blackpool and Private Robert Murray Hetherington, from the United States of America.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Lance Corporal Jamie Webb, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 24, from Wythenshawe, Kingsman David Robert Shaw, 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, aged 23, from Barrow-in-Furness, Sapper Richard Reginald Walker, 28 Engineer Regiment, aged 23, from Leeds, Captain Walter Barrie, 1 Scots, aged 41, from Glasgow, Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 29, from County Durham, Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 28, from Pokhara, Nepal, Corporal David O'Connor, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 27, from Havant, Hampshire, Corporal Channing Day, 3 Medical Regiment, aged 25, from Newtownards, County Down, Captain Carl Manley, Royal Marines, aged 41, Captain James Anthony Townley, Corps of Royal Engineers, aged 29, from Tunbridge Wells, Sergeant Jonathan Eric Kups, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, aged 38, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 3 Yorks, aged 29, from Skipton, Private Thomas Wroe, 3 Yorks, aged 18, from Huddersfield, Lance Corporal Duane Groom, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 32, from Suva City, Fiji, Sergeant Lee Paul Davidson, The Light Dragoons, aged 32, from Doncaster, and Guardsman Karl Whittle, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 22, from Bristol.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Corporal Jack Leslie Stanley, The Queen's Royal Hussars, aged 26, from Bolton, Sergeant Luke Taylor, The Royal Marines, aged 33, from Bournemouth, Lance Corporal Michael Foley, Adjutant General's Corps (Staff and Personnel Support), aged 25, from Burnley, Lancashire, Captain Rupert William Michael Bowers, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 24, from Wolverhampton, Sergeant Nigel Coupe, 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, aged 33, from Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, Corporal Jake Hartley, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 20, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, Private Anthony Frampton, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 20, from Huddersfield, Private Christopher Kershaw, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 19, from Bradford, Private Daniel Wade, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 20, from Warrington, Private Daniel Wilford, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 21, from Huddersfield, Senior Aircraftman Ryan Tomlin, 2 Squadron RAF Regiment, aged 21, from Hemel Hempstead, Lance Corporal Gajbahadur Gurung, Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 26, from Majthana, Nepal, Signaller Ian Gerard Sartorius-Jones, 20th Armoured Brigade Headquarters and Signal Squadran (200), aged 21, from Runcorn, Cheshire, Rifleman Sachin Limbu, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 23, from Rajghat, Morang, Nepal, Private John King, 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 19, from Darlington, Squadron Leader Anthony Downing, Royal Air Force, aged 34, from Kent and Captain Tom Jennings, Royal Marines, aged 29.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Guardsman Jamie Shadrake, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 20, from Wrexham, Wales, Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith, Corps of Royal Engineers, aged 26, from Aldershot, Lieutenant Andrew Robert Chesterman, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 26, from Guildford, Warrant Officer Class 2 Leonard Perran Thomas, Royal Corps of Signals, aged 44, from Ross-on-Wye, Guardsman Craig Andrew Roderick, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, aged 22, from Cardiff, Guardsman Apete Saunikalou Ratumaiyale Tuisovurua, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, aged 28, from Fiji, Corporal Alex Guy, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 37, from St Neots, Cambridgeshire, Lance Corporal James Ashworth, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 23, from Kettering, Private Gregg Thomas Stone, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 20, from Yorkshire, Corporal Michael John Thacker, 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, aged 27, from Swindon, Wiltshire, Captain Stephen James Healey, 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, aged 29, from Cardiff, Corporal Brent John McCarthy, Royal Air Force, aged 25, from Priorslee, Telford, Lance Corporal Lee Thomas Davies, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, aged 27, from Carmarthen, Corporal Andrew Steven Roberts, 23 Pioneer Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps, aged 32, from Middlesbrough, Private Ratu Manasa Silibaravi, 23 Pioneer Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps, aged 32, from Fiji, Guardsman Michael Roland, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 22, from Worthing and Sapper Connor Ray, 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), aged 21, from Newport.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Sapper Elijah Bond, 35 Engineer Regiment Royal Engineers, aged 24, from St Austell, Rifleman Sheldon Lee Jordan Steel, 5th Battalion The Rifles, aged 20, from Leeds, Private Thomas Christopher Lake, 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, aged 29, from Watford, Lieutenant David Boyce, 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards, aged 25, from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, Lance Corporal Richard Scanlon, 1st The Queen's Dragoons Guards, aged 31, from Rhymney, Gwent, Lance Corporal Peter Eustace, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 25, from Liverpool, Private Matthew Thornton, 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 28, from Barnsley, Private Matthew James Sean Haseldin, 2nd Battalion The Mercia Regiment, aged 21, from Settle, Yorkshire, Rifleman Vijay Rai, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 21, from the Bhojpur District, Deaurali East of Nepal, Marine David Fairbrother, Kilo Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 24, from Blackburn, Lance Corporal Jonathan James McKinley, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 33, from Darlington, County Durham, Sergeant Barry John Weston, Kilo Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 40, from Reading, Lieutenant Daniel John Clack, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 24, from North London, Marine James Robert Wright, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 22, from Weymouth and Corporal Mark Anthony Palin, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 32, from Plymouth.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Lance Corporal Paul Watkins, 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales's), aged 24, from Port Elizabeth, Republic of South Africa, Highlander Scott McLaren, The Highlanders 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 20, from Edinburgh, Private Gareth Leslie William Bellingham, 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Stafford), aged 22, from Stoke-on-Trent, Corporal Lloyd Newell, The Parachute Regiment, Craftsman Andrew Found, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, aged 27, from Whitby, Rifleman Martin Jon Lamb, 1st Battalion the Rifles, aged 27, from Gloucester, Lance Corporal Martin Joseph Gill, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 22, from Nottingham, Corporal Michael John Pike, The Highlanders 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 26, from Huntly, Scotland, Lieutenant Oliver Richard Augustin, Juliet Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 23, from Kent, Marine Samuel Giles William Alexander MC, Juliet Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 28, from London, Colour Sergeant Kevin Charles Fortuna, A Company, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 36, from Cheltenham, Marine Nigel Dean Mead, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 19, from Carmarthen, Captain Lisa Jade Head, 11 EOD Regiment RLC, aged 29, from Huddersfield, Colour Sergeant Alan Cameron, 1st Battalion Scots Guards, aged 42, from Livingston, Scotland, Major Matthew James Collins, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, aged 38, from Backwell, Somerset and Lance Sergeant Mark Terence Burgan, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, aged 28, from Liverpool.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Private Daniel Steven Prior, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 27, from Peacehaven, East Sussex, Lance Corporal McKee, 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, aged 27, from Banbridge, County Down, Northern Ireland, Lance Corporal Liam Richard Tasker, Royal Army Veterinary Corps, aged 26, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, Private Robert Wood, 17 Port and Maritime Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, aged 28, from Hampshire, Private Dean Hutchinson, 9 Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps, aged 23, from Wiltshire, Lance Corporal Kyle Cleet Marshall, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 23, from Newcastle, Private Lewis Hendry, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 20, from Norwich, Private Conrad Lewis, 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 22, from Bournemouth, Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major) Colin Beckett, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 36, from Peterborough, Ranger David Dalzell, 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, aged 20, from Bangor County Down, Private Martin Simon George Bell, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 24, from Bradford, Private Joseva Saqanagonedau Vatubua, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 24, from Suva, Fiji, Warrant Officer Class 2 Charles Henry Wood, 23 Pioneer Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, serving with the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force, aged 34, from Middlesbrough, and Corporal Steven Thomas Dunn, 216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron, attached to 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment Battlegroup, aged 27, from Gateshead.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Private John Howard, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 23, from Wellington, New Zealand, Guardsman Christopher Davies, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, aged 22, from St Helens, Merseyside, Ranger Aaron McCormick, 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, aged 22, from Coleraine in County Londonderry, Senior Aircraftsman Scott 'Scotty' Hughes, 1 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, aged 20, from North Wales, Sapper William Bernard Blanchard, 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), aged 39, from Gosport, Hampshire, Corporal David Barnsdale, 33 Engineer Regiment, aged 24, from Tring, Sergeant Peter Anthony Rayner, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, aged 34, from Bradford, Rifleman Suraj Gurung, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 22, from Gorkha in Nepal, Corporal Matthew Thomas, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Sergeant Andrew James Jones, Royal Engineers, aged 35, from Newport, South Wales, Trooper Andrew Martin Howarth, The Queen's Royal Lancers, aged 20, from Bournemouth, Kingsman Darren Deady, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, aged 22, from Bolton, Captain Andrew Griffiths, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, aged 25, from Richmond, North Yorkshire, Lance Corporal Joseph McFarlane Pool, The Royal Scots Borderers 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 26, from Greenock, and Lance Corporal Jordan Dean Bancroft, 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, aged 25, from Burnley.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Sapper Ishwor Gurung, 69 Gurkha Field Squadron, 21 Engineer Regiment, aged 21, from Pokhara, Nepal, Sapper Darren Foster, 21 Engineer Regiment, aged 20, from Carlisle, Rifleman Remand Kulung, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), aged 27, from Nepal, Lietuenant John Charles Sanderson, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), aged 29, from Oklahoma, USA, Marine Adam Brown, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 26, from Burtle, near Glastonbury, Lance Sergeant Dale Alanzo McCallum, 1st Battalion Scots Guards, aged 31, from Hanover, Jamaica, Sapper Mark Antony Smith, 36 Engineer Regiment, aged 26, from Swanley, Kent, Corporal Matthew James Stenton, The Royal Dragoon Guards, aged 23, from Wakefield, Lance Corporal Stephen Daniel Monkhouse, 1st Battalion Scots Guards, aged 28, from Greenock, Staff Sergeant Brett George Linley, The Royal Logistic Corps, aged 29, from Birmingham, Sergeant David Thomas Monkhouse, The Royal Dragoon Guards, aged 35, from Aspatria, Cumbria, Senior Aircraftman Kinikki 'Griff' Griffiths, aged 20, Marine Jonathan David Thomas Crookes, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 26, from Birmingham, Marine Matthew Harrison, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 23, from Hemel Hempstead, Major James Joshua Bowman, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 34, from Salisbury, Lieutenant Neal Turkington, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 26, from Craigavon, and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 33, from Khibang village Magdi District, Nepal.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Marine David Charles Hart, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 23, from Upper Poppleton, North Yorkshire, Bombardier Samuel Joseph Robinson, 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 31, from Carmarthen, Private Thomas Sephton, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 20, from Warrington, Trooper James Anthony Leverett, Royal Dragoon Guards, aged 20, from Sheffield, Corporal Seth Stephens, Royal Marines, Corporal Jamie Kirkpatrick, 101 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), aged 32, from Llanelli, Bombardier Stephen Raymond Gilbert, 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 36, from Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, Colour Sergeant Martyn Horton, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 34, from Runcorn, Lance Corporal David Ramsden, 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 26, from Leeds, Private Douglas Halliday, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 20, from Wallasey, Merseyside, Private Alex Isaac, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 20, from the Wirral, Sergeant Steven William Darbyshire, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 35, from Wigan, Lance Corporal Michael Taylor, Charlie Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 30, from Rhyl, Marine Paul Warren, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 23, from Leyland, Lancashire, Marine Richard Hollington, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 23, from Petersfield, Trooper Ashley Smith, Royal Dragoon Guards, aged 21, from York, Corporal Taniela Tolevu Rogoiruwai, aged 32, from Nausori, Fiji, Kingsman Pomipate Tagitaginimoce, aged 29, from Nausori, Fiji, and Marine Steven James Birdsall, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 20, from Warrington.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Lance Corporal Andrew Breeze, B (Malta) Company, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), aged 31, from Manchester, Private Jonathan Monk, 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, aged 25, from London, Lance Bombardier Mark Chandler, 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, aged 32, from Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, Corporal Terry Webster, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), aged 24, from Chester, Lance Corporal Alan Cochran, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), aged 23, from St Asaph, North Wales, Marine Anthony Dean Hotine, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 21, from Warminster, Marine Scott Gregory Taylor, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 20, from Buxton, Corporal Stephen Curley, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 26, from Exeter, Gunner Zak Cusack, 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 20, from Stoke-on-Trent, Corporal Stephen Walker, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 42, from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, Corporal Christopher Lewis Harrison, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 26, from Watford, Sapper Daryn Roy, 21 Engineer Regiment, aged 28, from Consett, County Durham, Lance Corporal Barry Buxton, 21 Engineer Regiment, aged 27, from Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, Corporal Harvey Holmes, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 22, from Hyde, Greater Manchester, Fusilier Jonathan Burgess, 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, aged 20, from Townhill, Swansea, Rifleman Mark Turner, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 21, from Gateshead, and Guardsman Michael Sweeney, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, aged 19, from Blyth in Northumberland.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Rifleman Daniel Holkham, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 19, from Chatham, Kent, Lance Corporal of Horse Jonathan Woodgate, Household Cavalry Regiment, aged 26, from Lavenham, Suffolk, Sergeant Steven Campbell, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 30, from Durham, Lance Corporal Scott Hardy, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 26, from Chelmsford, Private James Grigg, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 20, from Hartismere, Suffolk, Captain Martin Driver, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 31, from Barnsley, Corporal Stephen Thompson, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 31, from Bovey Tracey, Devon, Lance Corporal Tom Keogh, 4th Battalion The Rifles, aged 24, from Paddington, London, Rifleman Liam Maughan, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 18, from Doncaster, Rifleman Jonathan Allott, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 19, from North Shields, Corporal Richard Green, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 23, from Reading, Rifleman Carlo Apolis, 4th Battalion The Rifles, aged 28, from South Africa, Sergeant Paul Fox, 28 Engineer Regiment, aged 34, from St Ives, Rifleman Martin Kinggett, 4th Battalion The Rifles, aged 19, from Dagenham, Senior Aircraftman Luke Southgate, II Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, aged 20, from Bury St Edmunds, Lance Sergeant David ‘Davey' Walker, 1st Battalion Scots Guards, aged 36, from Glasgow, Lieutenant Douglas Dalzell, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards from Berkshire and Sapper Guy Mellors, 36 Engineer Regiment, aged 20, from Coventry.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Kingsman Sean Dawson, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, aged 19, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester, Rifleman Mark Marshall, 6th Battalion The Rifles, aged 29, from Exeter, Lance Sergeant Dave Greenhalgh, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 25, from Ilkeston, Derbyshire, Lance Corporal Darren Hicks, from Mousehole, Cornwall, Warrant Officer Class 2 David Markland, 36 Engineer Regiment, aged 36, from Euxton, Lancashire, Corporal John Moore, The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 22, from Lanarkshire, Private Sean McDonald, The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 26, from Edinburgh, Corporal Liam Riley, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 21, from Sheffield, Lance Corporal Graham Shaw, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 27, from Huddersfield, Lance Corporal Daniel Cooper, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 22, from Hereford, Rifleman Peter Aldridge, 4th Battalion The Rifles, aged 19, Corporal Lee Brownson, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 30, from Bishop Auckland, Rifleman Luke Farmer, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 19, from Pontefract, Captain Daniel Reed, 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, aged 32, from Rainham, Kent, Private Robert Hayes, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 19, from Cambridge, Sapper David Watson, 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), aged 23, and Rifleman Aidan Howell, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 19, from Sidcup, Kent.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Lance Corporal Tommy Brown, The Parachute Regiment, Lance Corporal Christopher Roney, A Company, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 23, from Sunderland, Lance Corporal Michael David Pritchard, 4th Regiment, Royal Military Police, aged 22, from Maidstone, Corporal Simon Hornby, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, aged 29, from Liverpool, Lance Corporal David Leslie Kirkness, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 24, from West Yorkshire, Rifleman James Stephen Brown, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 18, from Kent, Lance Corporal Adam Drane, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 23, from Bury St Edmunds, Acting Sergeant John Paxton Amer, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, from Sunderland, Sergeant Robert David Loughran-Dickson, 4th Regiment Royal Military Police, aged 33, from Deal, Kent, Corporal Loren Owen Christopher Marlton-Thomas, 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD), aged 28, Rifleman Andrew Ian Fentiman, 7th Battalion The Rifles, aged 23, from Cambridge, Rifleman Samuel John Bassett, 4th Battalion The Rifles, aged 20, from Plymouth, Rifleman Philip Allen, 2 Rifles, aged 20, from Dorset, Sergeant Phillip Scott, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, aged 30, from Malton, Warrant Officer Class 1 Darren Chant, 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards, aged 40, from Walthamstow, Sergeant Matthew Telford, 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards, aged 37, from Grimsby, Guardsman James Major, 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards, aged 18, from Grimsby, and Corporal Steven Boote, Royal Military Police, aged 22, from Birkenhead, Liverpool.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Corporal Nicholas Webster-Smith, Royal Military Police, aged 24, from Glangwili, Staff Sergeant Olaf Sean George Schmid, Royal Logistic Corps, aged 30, from Truro, Corporal Thomas 'Tam' Mason, the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 27, from Rosyth, Corporal James Oakland, Royal Military Police, aged 26, from Manchester, Lance Corporal James Hill, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, aged 23, from Redhill, Surrey, Guardsman James Janes, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 20, from Brighton, Acting Corporal Marcin Wojtak, 34 Squadron RAF regiment, aged 24, from Leicester, Private James Prosser, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, aged 21, from Cwmbran, Acting Sergeant Michael Lockett MC, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, from Monifieth in Angus, Acting Sergeant Stuart McGrath, 2nd Battalion, The Rifles, aged 28, from Buckinghamshire, Trooper Brett Hall, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, aged 21, from Dartmouth, Kingsman Jason Dunn-Bridgeman, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, aged 20, from Liverpool, Corporal John Harrison, The Parachute Regiment, Private Gavin Elliott, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 19, from Woodsetts, Worksop, Nottinghamshire, Lance Corporal Richard Brandon, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, aged 24, from Kidderminster, Sergeant Stuart 'Gus' Millar, The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 40, from Inverness, Private Kevin Elliott, The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 24, from Dundee, and Sergeant Lee Andrew Houltram, Royal Marines.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Fusilier Shaun Bush, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, aged 24, from Warwickshire, Sergeant Paul McAleese, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 29, from Hereford, Private Jonathon Young, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's), aged 18, from Hull, Lance Corporal James Fullarton, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, aged 24, from Coventry, Fusilier Simon Annis, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, from Salford, Fusilier Louis Carter, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, from Nuneaton, Sergeant Simon Valentine, aged 29, from Bedworth, Private Richard Hunt, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, aged 21, from Abergavenny, Captain Mark Hale, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 42, from Bournemouth, Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton, 40th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Lowland Gunners), aged 23, from Easingwold, North Yorkshire, Rifleman Daniel Wild, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 19, from Hartlepool, Private Jason George Williams, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 23, from Worcester, Corporal Kevin Mulligan, The Parachute Regiment, aged 26, Lance Corporal Dale Thomas Hopkins, The Parachute Regiment, aged 23, Private Kyle Adams, The Parachute Regiment, aged 21, Craftsman Anthony Lombardi, aged 21, from Scunthorpe, Trooper Phillip Lawrence, Light Dragoons, aged 22, from Birkenhead, Warrant Officer Class 2 Sean Upton, 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 35, from Nottinghamshire and Bombardier Craig Hopson, 40th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Lowland Gunners), aged 24, from Castleford.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Guardsman Christopher King, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, aged 20, from Birkenhead, Liverpool, Captain Daniel Shepherd, 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps, aged 28, from Lincoln, Corporal Joseph Etchells, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, aged 22, from Mossley, Rifleman Aminiasi Toge, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 26, from Suva, Fiji, Corporal Jonathan Horne, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 28, from Walsall, Rifleman William Aldridge, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 18, from Bromyard, Herefordshire, Rifleman James Backhouse, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 18, from Castleford, Yorkshire, Rifleman Joe Murphy, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 18, from Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, Rifleman Daniel Simpson, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 20, from Croydon, Corporal Lee Scott, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, aged 26, from King's Lynn, Private John Brackpool, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, aged 27, from Crawley, West Sussex, Rifleman Daniel Hume, 4th Battalion The Rifles, Trooper Christopher Whiteside, The Light Dragoons, aged 20, from Blackpool, Captain Ben Babington-Browne, 22 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, aged 27, from Maidstone, Lance Corporal Dane Elson, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, aged 22, from Bridgend, Lance Corporal David Dennis, The Light Dragoons, aged 29, from Llanelli, Wales, Private Robert Laws, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 18, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe MBE, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and Trooper Joshua Hammond, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, aged 18.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Major Sean Birchall, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, aged 33, Lieutenant Paul Mervis, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 27, from London, Private Robert McLaren, The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 20, from the Isle of Mull, Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher, 2nd Battalion The Rifles, aged 19, from Reading, Lance Corporal Nigel Moffett, The Light Dragoons, aged 28, from Belfast, Corporal Stephen Bolger, The Parachute Regiment, Lance Corporal Kieron Hill, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), aged 20, from Nottingham, Lance Corporal Robert Martin Richards, Armoured Support Group Royal Marines, aged 24, from Betws-y-Coed, North Wales, Sapper Jordan Rossi, 25 Field Squadron, 38 Engineer Regiment, aged 22, from West Yorkshire, Fusilier Petero 'Pat' Suesue, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, aged 28, from Fiji, Marine Jason Mackie, Armoured Support Group Royal Marines, aged 21, from Bampton, Oxfordshire, Lieutenant Mark Evison, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, aged 26, Sergeant Ben Ross, 173 Provost Company, 3rd Regiment Royal Military Police, Corporal Kumar Pun, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, Rifleman Adrian Sheldon, 2 Rifles, from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Corporal Sean Binnie, 3 Scots, aged 22, Lance Sergeant Tobie Fasfous, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, aged 29, Corporal Dean Thomas John, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, aged 25, from Neath, and Corporal Graeme Stiff, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, aged 24, from Munster, Germany.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Lance Corporal Christopher Harkett, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, aged 22, from Swansea, Marine Michael 'Mick' Laski, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 21, from Liverpool, Corporal Tom Gaden, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 24, from Taunton, Lance Corporal Paul Upton, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 31, Rifleman Jamie Gunn, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 21, from Leamington Spa, Lance Corporal Stephen 'Schnoz' Kingscott, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 22, from Plymouth, Marine Darren 'Daz' Smith, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 27, from Fleetwood, Lancashire, Corporal Daniel 'Danny' Nield, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 31, from Cheltenham, Acting Corporal Richard 'Robbo' Robinson, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 21, from Cornwall, Captain Tom Sawyer, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 26, from Hertfordshire, Corporal Danny Winter, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 28, from Stockport, Marine Travis Mackin, Communications Squadron United Kingdom Landing Force Command Support Group, aged 22, from Plymouth, Sergeant Chris Reed, 6th Battalion The Rifles, aged 25, from Plymouth, Corporal Liam Elms, RM, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 26, from Wigan, Lance Corporal Benjamin Whatley, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 20, from King's Lynn, Corporal Robert Deering, Commando Logistic Regiment Royal Marines, aged 33, from Solihull, Rifleman Stuart Nash, 1st Battalion The Rifles, aged 21, from Sydney, Australia, and Lieutenant Aaron Lewis, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 26, from Essex.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Lance Corporal Steven 'Jamie' Fellows, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 28, from Sheffield, Marine Damian Davies, aged 27, Sergeant John Manuel, aged 38, from North East England, Corporal Mark Birch, aged 26, from Northampton, Marine Tony Evans, aged 20, from Sunderland, Marine Georgie Sparks, aged 19, from Epping, Marine Alexander Lucas, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 24, from Edinburgh, Colour Sergeant Krishnabahadur Dura, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 36, from the Lamjung District of Western Nepal, Marine Neil David Dunstan, aged 32, from Bournemouth, Marine Robert Jospeh McKibben, aged 32, from County Mayo, Rifleman Yubraj Rai, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 28, from Khotang District, Eastern Nepal, Trooper James Munday, aged 21, from the Birmingham area, Lance Corporal Nicky Matson, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 26, from Aveley in Essex, Private Jason Lee Rawstron, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 23, from Lancashire, Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary 'Gaz' O'Donnell GM, 1 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, aged 40, from Edinburgh, Ranger Justin James Cupples, 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, aged 29, from County Cavan, Ireland, Corporal Barry Dempsey, The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 29, from Ayrshire, Signaller Wayne Bland, 16 Signal Regiment, aged 21, from Leeds and Private Peter Joe Cowton, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 25, from Basingstoke.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Sergeant Jonathan Mathews, The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 35, from Edinburgh, Lance Corporal Kenneth Michael Rowe, Royal Army Veterinary Corps, aged 24, from Newcastle, Corporal Jason Stuart Barnes, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, aged 25, from Exeter, Lance Corporal James Johnson, B Company, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 31, from Scotland, Warrant Officer 2nd Class Dan Shirley, Air Assault Support Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, aged 32, from Leicester, Warrant Officer 2nd Class Michael Norman Williams, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 40, from Cardiff, Private Joe John Whittaker, 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 20, from Stratford-upon-Avon, Corporal Sarah Bryant, Intelligence Corps, aged 26, from Liverpool, Corporal Sean Robert Reeve, Royal Signals, aged 28, Lance Corporal Richard Larkin, aged 39, Paul Stout, aged 31, Lance Corporal James Bateman, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 29, from Staines, Middlesex, Private Jeff Doherty, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 20, from Southam, Warwickshire, Private Nathan Cuthbertson, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 19, from Sunderland, Private Daniel Gamble, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 22, from Uckfield, East Sussex, Private Charles David Murray, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 19, from Carlisle, and Marine Dale Gostick, 3 Troop Armoured Support Company, Royal Marines, aged 22, from Oxford.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Drummer Thomas Wright, 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Forresters, aged 21, from Ripley, Derbyshire, Guardsman Neil 'Tony' Downes, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 20, from Manchester, Lance Corporal Paul 'Sandy' Sandford, 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, aged 23, from Nottingham, Corporal Mike Gilyeat, Royal Military Police, aged 28, Corporal Darren Bonner, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 31, from Norfolk, Guardsman Daniel Probyn, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 22, from Tipton, Lance Corporal George Russell Davey, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 23, from Suffolk, Guardsman Simon Davison, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 22, from Newcastle upon Tyne, Private Chris Gray, A Company 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 19, from Leicestershire, Warrant Officer Class 2 Michael 'Mick' Smith, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 39, from Liverpool, Marine Benjamin Reddy, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 22, from Ascot, Berkshire, Lance Bombardier Ross Clark, aged 25, from South Africa, Lance Bombardier Liam McLaughlin, aged 21, from Lancashire, Marine Scott Summers, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 23, from Crawley, East Sussex, Marine Jonathan Holland, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 23, from Chorley, Lancashire, Lance Corporal Mathew Ford, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 30, from Immingham, Lincolnshire, Marine Thomas Curry 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 21, from East London and Lance Bombardier James Dwyer, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 22.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of James Thompson, Trooper Ratu Sakeasi Babakobau, Household Cavalry Regiment, aged 29, from Fiji, Trooper Robert Pearson, The Queen's Royal Lancers Regiment, aged 22, from Grimsby, Senior Aircraftman Graham Livingstone, Royal Air Force Regiment, aged 23, from Glasgow, Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson, Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment, aged 51, from Nottingham, Lieutenant John Thornton, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 22, from Ferndown, Marine David Marsh, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 23, from Sheffield, Corporal Damian Mulvihill, 40 Commando Royal Marines, aged 32, from Plymouth, Corporal Damian Stephen Lawrence, 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), aged 25, from Whitby, Corporal Darryl Gardiner, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, aged 25, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, Sergeant Lee Johnson, 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, aged 33, from Stockton-on-Tees, Trooper Jack Sadler, The Honourable Artillery Company, aged 21, from Exeter, Captain John McDermid, The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 43, from Glasgow, Lance Corporal Jake Alderton, 36 Engineer Regiment, aged 22, from Bexley, Major Alexis Roberts, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, aged 32, from Kent, Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman, 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 36, Private Brian Tunnicliffe, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), aged 33, from Ilkeston, Corporal Ivano Violino, 36 Engineer Regiment, aged 29, from Salford and Sergeant Craig Brelsford, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 25, from Nottingham.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Private Johan Botha, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, from South Africa, Private Damian Wright, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 23, from Mansfield, Private Ben Ford, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, aged 18, from Chesterfield, Senior Aircraftman Christopher Bridge, C flight, 51 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, aged 20, from Sheffield, Private Aaron James McClure, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 19, from Ipswich, Private Robert Graham Foster, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 19, from Harlow, Private John Thrumble, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 21, from Chelmsford, Captain David Hicks, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 26, from Surrey, Private Tony Rawson, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 27, from Dagenham, Essex, Lance Corporal Michael Jones, Royal Marines, aged 26, from Newbald, Yorkshire, Sergeant Barry Keen, 14 Signal Regiment, aged 34, from Gateshead, Guardsman David Atherton, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 25, from Manchester, Lance Corporal Alex Hawkins, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, aged 22, from East Dereham, Norfolk, Guardsman Daryl Hickey, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 27, from Birmingham, Sergeant Dave Wilkinson, 19 Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 33, from Ashford, Kent and Captain Sean Dolan, 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, aged 40, from the West Midlands.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Marine Richard J Watson, 42 Commando Royal Marines, aged 23, from Caterham, Surrey, Marine Jonathan Wigley, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 21, from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, Marine Gary Wright, 45 Commando Royal Marines, aged 22, from Glasgow, Lance Corporal Paul Muirhead, 1 Royal Irish Regiment, aged 29, from Bearley, Warwickshire, Lance Corporal Luke McCulloch, 1 Royal Irish Regiment, aged 21, Corporal Mark William Wright, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 27, from Edinburgh, Private Craig O'Donnell, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, aged 24, from Clydebank, Flight Lieutenant Steven Johnson, aged 38, from Collingham, Nottinghamshire, Flight Lieutenant Leigh Anthony Mitchelmore, aged 28, from Bournemouth, Flight Lieutenant Gareth Rodney Nicholas, aged 40, from Newquay, Cornwall, Flight Lieutenant Allan James Squires, aged 39, from Clatterbridge, Flight Lieutenant Steven Swarbrick, aged 28, from Liverpool, Flight Sergeant Gary Wayne Andrews, aged 48, from Tankerton, Kent, Flight Sergeant Stephen Beattie, aged 42, from Dundee, Flight Sergeant Gerard Martin Bell, aged 48, from Ely, Cambridgeshire, Flight Sergeant Adrian Davies, aged 49, from Amersham, Buckinghamshire, Sergeant Benjamin James Knight, aged 25, from Bridgwater, Sergeant John Joseph Langton, aged 29, from Liverpool, Sergeant Gary Paul Quilliam, aged 42, from Manchester, Corporal Oliver Simon Dicketts, The Parachute Regiment, aged 27, Marine Joseph David Windall, Royal Marines, aged 22, and Ranger Anare Draiva, 1 Royal Irish Regiment, aged 27, from Fiji.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Lance Corporal Jonathan Peter Hetherington, 14 Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare), aged 22, from South Wales, Corporal Bryan James Budd, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, aged 29, from Ripon, Lance Corporal Sean Tansey, The Life Guards, aged 26, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, Private Leigh Reeves, Royal Logistics Corps, aged 25, from Leicester, Private Andrew Barrie Cutts, Air Assault Support Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, aged 19, from Mansfield, Captain Alex Eida, Royal Horse Artillery, aged 29, from Surrey, Second Lieutenant Ralph Johnson, Household Cavalry Regiment, aged 24, from Windsor, Lance Corporal Ross Nicholls, Blues and Royals, aged 27, from Edinburgh, Private Damien Jackson, 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, aged 19, from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, Corporal Peter Thorpe, Royal Signals, aged 27, from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi, Intelligence Corps, aged 24, from Birmingham, and Captain David Patton, The Parachute Regiment, aged 38.]
[That this House salutes the bravery of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan and records with sorrow the deaths of Sergeant Paul Bartlett, Royal Marines, aged 35, Captain Jim Phillipson, 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, aged 29, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, Lance Corporal Peter Edward Craddock, 1st Battalion The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, aged 31, Corporal Mark Cridge, 7 Signal Regiment, aged 25, Lance Corporal Steven Sherwood, 1st Battalion The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry, aged 23, from Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, Private Jonathan Kitulagoda, The Rifle Volunteers, aged 23, from Clifton, Bedfordshire, Sergeant Robert Busuttil, the Royal Logistic Corps, Corporal John Gregory, the Royal Logistic Corps, and Private Darren John George, the Royal Anglian Regiment.]
These early-day motions honour the names of the 453 British soldiers who died in Afghanistan—most of them as a result of the decision to invade Helmand in 2006. Is it not crucial that we inquire into what happened in Iraq—we are still waiting for Chilcot—and what happened in Helmand before we contemplate engaging in new invasions as recommended by Lord Dannatt?
The thoughts of this House should be, and will always be, with the families of those who lost their lives in Afghanistan and of those before them who lost their lives in Iraq. They did a vital job for this country; we cherish their memories.
The hon. Gentleman will have many opportunities to raise those issues immediately. He makes a point specifically about the Chilcot report. It has been the view of this Government, and of the previous Government for some time, that we are keen to see that report at the earliest opportunity, but it is of course for Chilcot himself to decide when he is ready to publish, when all the issues have been resolved.
The coalition did much good work to support our market towns and high streets, and I am sure this Government will want to continue that. An important component of the vibrancy of our high streets and market towns is, however, high street banks. NatWest is proposing to close a number of branches in northern Lincolnshire, including in Barton-upon-Humber. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate about the importance of high street banks to the vibrancy of our local market towns?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend, particularly in relation to rural areas of Britain. Lincolnshire is a very spread-out county, and the loss of services from rural market towns can have a serious effect on communities. I commend him for his work in championing his area—and all the Members, and new Members, for Lincolnshire who I know will focus clearly on how we protect services in rural areas. I encourage my hon. Friend to request an Adjournment debate or to raise the matter during the debate on the Gracious Speech. The protection of services in rural areas remains a matter of the utmost importance and will continue to be so for the Government and for hon. Members.
The increase in the number of kites, buzzards and other birds of prey and raptors across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has resulted in pigeon lofts being savaged and songbird numbers being decimated. As bird of prey numbers increase, other bird life decreases. I asked for a debate on this issue in the previous Parliament, so will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on it now, as it is very important for the future of all bird life across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
It is important that we ensure good environmental stewardship; some of the more controversial countryside issues in recent years have been about that. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. People only have to drive through parts of the home counties to see the extraordinary number of red kites in the skies, bearing in mind that a few years ago they were almost extinct across most of the United Kingdom. I am sure that his points will be picked up by my colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and I encourage him to draw attention to the issue in this Parliament, both at questions and through the system of Adjournment debates.
Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), this is not just about the protection of public services in rural communities; it is also about fair funding across rural communities in this country, particularly in Lincolnshire, as I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), whom I welcome to her new place, am all too well aware. May we have a debate, in Government time, on fair funding for rural communities, so that my constituents and those who make their homes in rural Britain can know what this Government intend to do to ensure that their public services are properly funded?
I hear very clearly the point that my hon. and learned Friend makes. I represent a county where similar arguments have often been made, although it is less geographically spread than his own. He will, of course, have the opportunity to raise this issue in next week’s Gracious Speech debate on English matters as well as those relating to devolution, and I hope he will make that point to Ministers.
Given that both of Redbridge’s NHS trusts are in special measures, primary care is in crisis and our accident and emergency waiting times last winter were among the worst in the country, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the impending closure of the accident and emergency unit at King George hospital, which is opposed by the overwhelming majority of the people of Ilford North?
First, may I praise my hon. Friend for the work he has done in this area? We are talking about a group of people who have suffered badly as a result of what happened. I will ask my colleague the Secretary of State for Health to respond to him and indicate what is planned next.
During the pre-election period, the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean escalated significantly and HMS Bulwark was redeployed —I am sure that all of us in this Chamber would pay tribute to the service personnel. Given that escalation and deployment, will the Foreign Secretary come to this House to make a statement on the current state of affairs?
The crisis in the Mediterranean has clearly been a matter of great concern for everyone involved. The loss of life has been tragic, which is why HMS Bulwark is deployed there. The Secretary of State will be in this House as part of the debates on the Gracious Speech and the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to raise that question directly with him.
There is no evidence of any dangers posed by second-hand inhalation of e-cigarette vapour, yet a recent ruling of the House of Commons Commission means that Members and their staff who have given up tobacco and choose to vape are no longer permitted to do so in their private offices, with the use of e-cigarettes being restricted to designated areas outdoors, where users of e-cigarettes are exposed to harmful second-hand tobacco smoke. I chair the all-party group for e-cigarettes, so I am keen to stimulate informed debate about these devices and I wonder whether we might consider the consequences of the Commission’s ruling.
I commend my hon. Friend for his work in this important area. May I suggest that he put that matter formally to the Administration Committee when it is formed? As I have already said, we will start the process of shaping Select Committees in the next few days. When that has happened, he will have the opportunity to make a representation to the Administration Committee about the changes he would like to see.
I am told by headteachers in my constituency, particularly in the most deprived areas, that it is not unusual to place adverts for science and maths teachers nationally and not receive a single application. Will the Leader of the House grant an urgent debate on the impact of this Government’s education policy on the recruitment of teachers and the long-term supply of science, technology, engineering and maths teachers?
I am proud of what we have done to encourage the growth and development of sciences in this country. It is a matter of record that while we had to take difficult public spending decisions in the previous Parliament, we also managed to protect the science budget and to do all we could, through the development of apprenticeship programmes and of higher standards in schools, to encourage more people to learn sciences, develop science skills and, hopefully, go on into teaching. Teach First offers an opportunity to get smart people into deprived areas to provide high-quality teaching, and we will continue with that policy.
Yesterday, I was present for Her Majesty’s most Gracious Speech. Had I not been, I would have accepted an invitation from Red Funnel to hear the announcement that its new vessel, Red Jet 6, is to be built on the Isle of Wight. She is the first vessel of her kind to be built in the UK for 15 years, and the contract was won in competition with shipyards around the world. Will the Leader of the House find time to hold a debate on the future of British shipbuilding?
May I congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituents on winning that contract? The Red Funnel line is vital to them. As he knows, I travelled on it recently when I came over to visit him. I met some of the staff who work on the line, and I was very impressed with the service, which is crucial to the island. I know that my hon. Friend will use the opportunities that are available to Back Benchers to continue to bring forward debates on this and other matters of importance to his constituency in the way he has done since we were both first elected in 2001.
Under commissioning arrangements brought in by the right hon. Gentleman’s Government, dermatology services in Nottingham were procured separately and elective services transferred to a private provider. Since then, the majority of consultant dermatologists have left Nottingham—indeed only two remain. Patients face delays, and some have to travel to Leicester or Derby for services they could previously receive locally. A nationally renowned research-based team has also been broken up. When will the Secretary of State for Health come to the House to apologise to my constituents for undermining our national health service?
Over the past two or three months, we have heard endless stories from the Opposition about how the Government are destroying the national health service. Let me remind them that the British electorate simply did not believe them, and the reason for that is that we have steered the national health service forward, and we have more people being treated and more doctors and nurses in our health service. We will continue to improve and to spend money on the service.
May I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your re-election and the Leader of the House on his new appointment? Let me also mention the excellent Conservative manifesto on which this Government will seek to govern. It contains a commitment to introduce fair funding for schools. Members of the F40 group across this Chamber will recognise the need for that pledge to be made a reality. When will the Education Secretary come before the House and tell us when we will finally see fair funding for local authorities and schools in F40 areas?
The Secretary of State will be here for Education Question Time. We start the timetable for daily oral questions next week, and a few days after that there will be an opportunity to put that question to her. I am proud of the progress we have made in our education system over the past five years. Standards are rising and young people from all backgrounds have a better start in life and better chances. This country is rising up the international education league tables, and I want that progress to continue in this Parliament.
In Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove and across the country there have been alarming reports of children returning to school malnourished. I would be grateful if in Government time we had a debate to discuss this urgent situation in my constituency and across the country.
I welcome the hon. Lady to the House. She makes an important point. We recognise that there are still some deep-rooted social problems in our communities. That is why we established the troubled families programme and why we will do everything we can to improve the situation in those families. It is a central part of what the Government have worked on and will continue to work on. The best way of ensuring that all families in all parts of the United Kingdom have the chance to prosper is by getting more people into work and getting our economy growing so that everyone shares in that prosperity.
May we have an urgent debate on BT’s provision of broadband within Nottinghamshire for areas such as Lamin’s Lane and Burntstump Hill, where constituents of mine have been connected because of a fault in the system, only to be disconnected later because BT wants to reconnect them to a system that does not supply superfast broadband?
I do not know about the circumstance to which my hon. Friend refers, although it sounds as if something has gone badly amiss in his constituency. I have no doubt that he will be champing at the heels of BT to ensure that that situation is rectified. He will have the chance in the debate next week on the economy to raise matters related to broadband, which is an important part of our strategy of ensuring that this country has the modern infrastructure—not simply transport but IT infrastructure—that we will need to continue the economic progress we have made in the past five years.
It is worth putting on record our sympathies and condolences to the people of Nepal in what we all agree was a terrible series of events. I am pleased that Britain has provided aid support, financial and otherwise, to the people of Nepal, and we will continue to do so. The Secretary of State has just returned from Nepal. She will be in the House to answer questions at the appropriate time and the hon. Gentleman will be able to ask her for more details about the support that we are providing.
May we have a statement from the appropriate local government Minister on the policy of Her Majesty’s new Government on Gypsies and Travellers? This week Traveller caravans invaded the London Road car park in Kettering, causing massive disruption to town centre residents and workers. Last week, a neighbouring local authority granted yet further planning permission for inappropriate Traveller encampments in the countryside, leading to a further over-concentration of such developments around the village of Braybrooke in my constituency. The previous Government had a consultation on this. May we please have the results of that consultation and early action to ensure that Gypsies and Travellers abide by the same rules that everyone else has to abide by?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I have experienced an unwanted incursion in my own constituency in the past 36 hours. This is a genuine problem for communities up and down the country. Powers exist for both local authorities and the police to deal with incursions quickly and effectively if they choose to do so. A lot of this requires local willpower. I encourage my hon. Friend to put maximum pressure on his local authority and the police to ensure that that happens. He will have the opportunity to raise the Government’s policy on 29 June in Communities and Local Government questions, and I have no doubt that Ministers will take note of his remarks today as well.
The country was shocked by the death of Olive Cooke, who had been pursued by charity fundraisers. Vulnerable pensioners around the country are regularly and relentlessly being targeted not only by charity fundraisers but by criminal organisations, many operating from outside the UK. This causes great distress, not only to them but to their family and friends who are concerned about their welfare. I recognise that dealing with this effectively will require cross-departmental action. Will he put that to his colleagues and ensure an early statement on how we can stop this gross exploitation?
I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman: it was a shocking case and an example of wholly inappropriate behaviour. This Government will bring forward measures to address issues in the charitable sector. That will provide an opportunity to debate and discuss these issues, but I hope he will make a point of continuing to push on this matter during this Parliament. He will not find opposition in any part of the House to ensuring that charities operate in a way that is acceptable and, frankly, consistent with the role they are supposed to play.
The House will have noticed today that Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, has stepped down from his role as middle east peace envoy. The whole of the middle east region is in a very dangerous situation, whether that be through further threats to countries such as Jordan or Lebanon, the refugee crisis going into Turkey or IS possibly infringing on a NATO country such as Turkey. An important debate has to be held in this country on how we see the middle east peace process and how we handle the middle east. May I urge my right hon. Friend to find Government time outside the debate on the Queen’s Speech so that we can properly address all those issues, which have become more and more paramount in recent months, and so that the view of this House and what Her Majesty’s Government should be doing to try to bring about peace in the middle east can be addressed at the earliest opportunity?
I absolutely echo and endorse my hon. Friend’s comments about the situation in the middle east. These matters will of course be debated on Monday, but we will undoubtedly return to them in this House in the near future. I note my hon. Friend’s comments about Tony Blair. I think we should put on record our thanks to Tony Blair for the work he has done. I saw an interesting statistic the other day. The Labour party has had eight leaders in the past 40 years. Only one of them has won a general election, and he is the only one they never talk about.
Has the Leader of the House had time yet to study yesterday’s figures from the Office for National Statistics, which show that the city with the lowest disposable income per person is now Leicester? He may also be aware that over the last four years child poverty increased in Leicester. Will he therefore ensure that when the Chancellor comes to the House and outlines his £12 billion of social security cuts, he will also lay before the House estimates for what impact the cuts will have on child poverty over the next four years?
Where the hon. Gentleman and I disagree is that I do not think the solution to Leicester’s problems is providing Leicester with more welfare. I think the solution to Leicester’s problems is creating jobs, supporting business, encouraging the development of new skills and creating a better environment for young people in Leicester to grow up in. That is what this Government will seek to achieve.
I thank the Leader of the House for visiting my constituency a few weeks ago, when he would have seen some of the stunning countryside we have in Pendle. One of the most popular policies in our manifesto with my constituents was the plan to create a £1 billion brownfield regeneration fund, to help to bring forward brownfield land for new housing developments, rather than greenfield land. Pendle has 46 hectares of brownfield land, 40 hectares of which is assessed as suitable for housing. May we therefore have a debate on ensuring that we provide record numbers of new homes and protect our green fields at the same time?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we have to provide new homes for the people of this country. We also have to protect the character of this country. We will have to get that balance right over the next five years, but I am absolutely clear that we cannot possibly go on with a situation where too many, particularly among the younger generation, cannot aspire to own their own homes. That has to change.
For some time now we have seen the monopolisation of our high street banking system by a select number of institutions. It has recently come to my attention that in Salford and Eccles a number of high street branches have been earmarked for closure. Would the Leader of the House be amenable to an open and frank discussion about the future of our banking system, so that we can offer a service that truly serves the people, rather than the interests of shareholders and hedge fund managers?
I welcome the hon. Lady to this House. Obviously it is important for all of our constituencies that we ensure that a proper range of services is available to our constituents. At the same time, commercial decisions have to be taken by organisations that are looking to make sure that they deliver the right service in the right places. These issues are never easy, but she will have the opportunity to make a request for an Adjournment debate—which, by the sounds of it, would have support on this side of the House as well. These are issues that can and should be debated in this House; there are opportunities for her to requisition such a debate.
I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your much deserved re-election as Speaker.
Next Wednesday’s debate is entitled “Devolution in Britain”. I wonder whether that is deliberately designed to exclude Northern Ireland from the debate, given that we are part of the United Kingdom. If the debate is solely about devolution to the towns of Great Britain, will the Leader of the House make room for a debate on devolution across the rest of the United Kingdom, given what is happening in Northern Ireland and the precarious place in which devolution in Northern Ireland now stands?
May I start by extending the Government’s good wishes to the First Minister of Northern Ireland? We wish him a speedy recovery. May I also say that we, as a Government, remain absolutely committed to the process of devolution in Northern Ireland. There are issues and challenges at the moment, as the hon. Gentleman knows. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is working hard with representatives of both communities to try to ensure that the progress that has been made can continue.
The subject of next week’s debate is chosen not by the Government but by the Opposition, so I cannot dictate the title of the debate. However, I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues from Northern Ireland who want to discuss devolution issues in that debate will be able to catch your eye to do so, Mr Speaker.
When will we see the Bill promised in Government time on the repeal of the foxhunting ban? It would enable us not only to flush out those Government Members who, like many of us, do not support the repeal of the ban, but to work out the Scottish National party’s position. Apparently, it is that SNP Members will not—possibly—vote against the repeal because the cruelty in question is to animals in England and Wales, rather than animals in Scotland.
In the latter part of his question, the hon. Gentleman makes an interesting and broader point. Although I extend a welcome to all the new SNP MPs in this House, they will of course have to decide about the rights and wrongs of voting on matter in our constituencies where we have no ability to vote on the same matters in their constituencies. On foxhunting, there is a clear commitment from this Government that the matter will be voted on. We will bring forward our plans in due course. The hon. Gentleman will have to wait to see exactly what is proposed, but that will happen.
Carcraft of Rochdale, a second-hand car dealership, which has its headquarters in my constituency, recently, suddenly and unexpectedly announced its closure, with the loss of more than 100 jobs in Heywood and Middleton and more than 500 in its outlets in the north and the midlands. Will the Leader of the House launch an investigation into the business practices of Carcraft of Rochdale?
I extend our sympathy and support to those who have lost their job. It is never welcome news for any of us when we lose a significant local employer in our constituency—it has a really challenging effect on those involved. At least they are facing the challenge of finding a new job in a labour market that is improving rather than one that is getting worse, where the opportunities are better than they were. The hon. Lady can use a number of the means at her disposal, such as Adjournment debates and oral questions, to raise issues related to her constituency. I know she will take the opportunity to do so, and this is one such opportunity.
Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has recently tried to borrow £15 million to cover its day-to-day running costs and is going to run a £15 million deficit this year. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Health Secretary to come to this House and make a statement about the dire state of hospital finances in many parts of our country, which has been directly caused by the arrangements set up under the Government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012 and by their failure to fund the NHS properly, and which is now having an impact on patient care?
I have to say, the chutzpah of Opposition MPs on this issue is enormous. We are the party that has continued to increase spending on the NHS. We committed in the general election to increasing spending on the NHS. I remind the hon. Lady that the front runner in her party’s leadership contest is the person who told us that we were irresponsible for increasing NHS spending.
Fixed odds betting terminals continue to plague our high streets, bringing misery and debt to many families and individuals. Given the conflicting views of the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), when can we have a statement on the matter? It is vital to many people in the United Kingdom that the issue is resolved and something is done about it.
I, too, congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your re-election.
Given that the Gracious Speech signalled the Government’s intention to devolve more powers to those city regions with metro mayors, will the Leader of the House ensure that when he brings forward his proposals to change the Standing Orders of the House in relation to English votes for English laws there will be no unintended consequences impacting on the 27 Members of Parliament from Greater Manchester who, to use his own logic, will be able to vote on health matters relating to his constituents, but not on health matters relating to their own constituents?
When we bring forward our proposals, there will be plenty of opportunity for this House to scrutinise them, but we are not offering to Manchester the chance to take the kind of powers that are being offered to the Scottish Parliament. When we bring forward those proposals, which I think are right for England, the interesting question for Labour is whether it will support them. Are English Labour MPs going to defend the right of their own constituents or are they going to put party advantage first?
I was shocked to be told by a Minister towards the end of the previous Parliament that there had been only nine prosecutions for non-payment of the minimum wage during the preceding five years. Given that allegations have been made about a number of companies operating in my constituency, when will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the enforcement of the minimum wage?
The hon. Gentleman can apply for such a debate at any time. We condemn unreservedly employers who do not pay the minimum wage. They are breaking the law; it is as simple as that. I hope and expect that the relevant authorities will take action wherever they find such breaches.
You, Mr Speaker, could have advised the Leader of the House as well as I can that the word “chutzpah” is pronounced “khutzpah”. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the most vindictive, mean piece of legislation announced yesterday was the attack upon the political levy, which is an attempt to withdraw funds from the Labour party—the Opposition? Will that legislation be drawn wide enough for us to put down amendments to include those hedge funds and all the other City institutions that give money to those people in the Tory party who sit on millionaire’s row?
I remind the hon. Gentleman that people who donate money to the Conservative party make an individual choice to do so. A large number of trade union members vote Conservative, but still end up putting their money into the Labour party. It is time they had a choice. I extend my sympathies to the hon. Gentleman. It will be a difficult Parliament for him because whenever he stands up to ask a question, he will not know whether, when he sits down again, he will find an SNP MP already in his place.
Indictment against FIFA Officials
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement as to the implications for the Football Association and the home nations of the indictment preferred against certain FIFA officials by the Department of Justice in the United States and the criminal proceedings opened by the Attorney General of Switzerland.
The arrests that took place in Zurich yesterday, along with the statements released by both the US Department of Justice and the Swiss Attorney General, were shocking in both scale and scope. However, they were also far from surprising. Anyone who has spent time looking at FIFA, as the Culture, Media and Sport Committee did during the previous Parliament, will know that this is merely the latest sorry episode to suggest that FIFA is a deeply flawed and corrupt organisation.
The revelations have shown how important it is for sports bodies to uphold the highest standards of governance, transparency and accountability. That is what we ask and expect of all our domestic sports bodies in the UK. International bodies should be no different. That is particularly true for an organisation such as FIFA, an organisation that should be the guardian of the world’s most popular sport, not one whose members seek to profit personally from the passion of the game’s fans.
I welcome the investigations now under way into the allegations of bribery and corruption, and I fully support the Football Association’s position that significant and wide-ranging reforms are urgently needed at the very top of FIFA, including a change of leadership. I also welcome the statement from UEFA, which has called for a postponement of the election, and the statement from Visa this morning. It is important that other sponsors reflect on their links to FIFA and consider following Visa’s lead. The Minister for Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), will be writing to her European counterparts later today to set out our concerns and seek their support for change.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the insight team of The Sunday Times, without whose investigations many of these allegations may never have come to light. Football is the world’s game, and it is our national game. It is a fundamental part of British life and culture. Yet these revelations have dragged the game’s reputation into the mud. The time has clearly come for a change, and we will offer whatever support is necessary to the Football Association to see that change realised.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer, and indeed for coming to the House this morning to answer the urgent question. Football, as he says, is our national game. It is the most played and watched sport in the United Kingdom and worldwide. The whole House will share his concerns following the events of yesterday. Under the failed leadership of Sepp Blatter, FIFA has again let down fans across Britain and across the world.
Given that, what discussions is my right hon. Friend having with the home nation associations in relation to the unfolding scandal, which, as is clear from the charges brought against FIFA officials in the United States, reveals a pattern of corruption that has existed over decades? Does he think, as seems obvious to everyone except Sepp Blatter, that the election of a new president of FIFA should not now go ahead this week? What steps will he take in conjunction with the home nations to ensure that the election does not take place and that FIFA has the opportunity to elect a president who can rid it of corruption and lead the organisation though what is undoubtedly the worse scandal in its history? Can he assure football fans across the country that his Department will make reform of FIFA a top priority so that the organisation serves football worldwide and does not exist merely to line the pockets of its officials?
Although I doubt that my right hon. Friend has yet read the 161-page indictment preferred by the US Attorney General, he will know from his work on the Select Committee in the previous Parliament that the English Football Association made an unsuccessful bid for the 2018 World cup, which cost something in the region of £19 million. The bid had the backing of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales and David Beckham, among others, but it received only two votes. What investigations does he now intend to carry out to examine whether the bid failed owing to bribery and corruption on the part of FIFA officials? Will he discuss with the English Football Association the steps that can now be taken to recover the £19 million that was wasted and that could have gone to grassroots community football in this country? Can he say what steps the Government will now take to recover any money they wasted on the failed bid? Does he think, as no doubt many Members do, that the bidding process for hosting the World cup in 2018 and 2022 should now be reopened?
At least some of the criminal behaviour that founds the US indictment and the criminal investigation by the Swiss Attorney General made public yesterday is alleged to have taken place in the United Kingdom. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had overnight with our Attorney General and the Home Secretary as to whether a criminal investigation should be commenced in this country and, if appropriate, charges brought? Given the scale of the corruption revealed by The Sunday Times and by “Panorama” as long ago as 2010, why has no action been taken to date? Can he assure the House that a full criminal investigation of any unlawful behaviour in this country will now be launched?
Finally, given the importance of this issue to the whole country, or at least to those of us who follow the beautiful game, will my right hon. Friend undertake to return to the House next week to update hon. Members on further developments and to ensure that Parliament is kept fully informed of developing events in relation to a corruption scandal that affects something that is at the absolute core of our national life?
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for bringing this matter to the House today. I share a lot of the concerns that he has expressed.
On the attitude of the English Football Association and the football associations of the other home nations, I will of course be in touch with them. I hope to speak to Greg Dyke later. I am very pleased that all four football associations from the home nations have taken the same approach in supporting UEFA in calling for a change of leadership and, now, for a postponement of the election that is due to take place tomorrow.
The allegations that are now coming out of the US Attorney General’s indictment have of course been around for a very long time. One of the striking things has been FIFA’s reluctance to carry out any proper, thorough, independent, transparent investigation of them. The Garcia report was not published in full and failed to address some of the most serious allegations. I hope that one of the consequences of these latest moves by the American authorities is that we will now have a proper investigation that will lead to the reforms all of us want. I very much welcome the moves already made by UEFA, and I hope that other football associations will now come behind it, but it is a matter for the English FA and the other associations, in the first instance, as to how they proceed tomorrow and in the days that follow.
My hon. and learned Friend is right that there have been calls in this House for the English authorities, particularly the Serious Fraud Office, to look into the allegations of corruption. We had a debate on that in the previous Parliament led by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), who has also done a tremendous amount in this area. I am sure that that will have been heard and that those allegations are being looked at.
Finally, my hon. and learned Friend asked that I come back and report to the House. As Mr Speaker will be aware, it is DCMS questions next Thursday, and I suspect that this matter may well come up on that occasion.
I warmly congratulate the Secretary of State on taking up his new responsibilities. There was a time before he was Chair of the Select Committee, but none of us can remember that any more, so we know that we have somebody who knows his onions on these matters. I join him in the tribute that he made to The Sunday Times and that the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips) made to “Panorama”. Some of this would not be coming out now had it not been for that investigative journalism.
Yesterday the whole world saw that beneath the mask the beautiful game has a very, very ugly face. Can anyone be in any doubt at all that FIFA is rotten to the core and needs swift and wholesale reform? What is particularly galling is that the value of the World cup is not created by FIFA but by the many millions of loyal fans around the world. Football belongs to the mums and dads taking their children to their first match and to the youngsters lining their bedroom walls with posters, not to the fat cats who have creamed off millions of pounds for themselves. Is it not inconceivable that Sepp Blatter should continue in post now that his own election as president in 2011 is under investigation by the Swiss authorities?
What investigations have been undertaken in this country into whether British nationals and British banks have been involved? Is the Secretary of State absolutely confident that British authorities have not been rather reluctant to investigate seriously? Is it not a bit embarrassing that it has ended up being the Swiss and the Americans who are bringing this to light rather than the British? Is he absolutely confident that no licence fee money has found its way into corrupt hands? Did any of the sponsors who are now, very reluctantly, raising their voices knowingly provide money that was used for a bribe?
Does the Secretary of State share our concerns about the 2022 World cup? Matches will be played indoors in temperatures exceeding 40° C. Hundreds of workers have already died building the stadiums—an estimated 62 per match that will be played. Human rights are systematically being abused. Should not Qatar immediately suspend its kafala visa system for migrants working on the stadiums and improve all workers’ conditions? What representations have the Government made to Qatar on the detention of BBC journalists investigating human rights abuses there?
Now that Visa, McDonald’s, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Hyundai and UEFA have all finally raised major concerns about the 2018 and 2022 competitions, should not the bidding rounds be reopened? If not, is it not time for the major football associations of the world to consider creating alternative competitions for those dates?
I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for his kind words. I am not sure that he will have endeared himself to the Father of the House, who was my distinguished predecessor as Chairman of the Select Committee, but I am grateful to him for his remarks.
I cannot promise that we will always be in complete agreement when we debate matters on the Floor of the House. However, on this occasion I share a lot of the concerns that the hon. Gentleman expressed. In particular, I agree with him that a change in leadership of FIFA is very badly needed. I want to pay tribute to the FA, particularly David Bernstein, Greg Dyke’s predecessor, who first called for that change and indeed supported alternative candidates. As I mentioned earlier, all four home nations are supporting the candidacy of Prince Ali.
The investigation in this country is a matter for the Serious Fraud Office, as I have said, but I have no doubt that it heard the calls made in the last Parliament for an investigation and that it will look closely to see whether any laws have been broken in this country. I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the £15 million put up for the England bid for 2018. It is too soon to say that the competition should be rerun, but we will wait to see what the outcomes of the criminal investigations are and whether there has been serious malpractice. A lot of very serious allegations have been made, and we now need a proper investigation into them.
On the specific points that the hon. Gentleman made about Qatar, I welcome the fact that the Qatari Government have now brought in a workers charter. I hope that it will lead to an improvement in the condition of migrant workers, but we are obviously concerned about the reports of exploitation. I was also very concerned about the detainment of the BBC journalists, which appeared to be an infringement of freedom of the press. As I said, this is an area where the freedom of the press has played a vital part in exposing wrongdoing within FIFA, which just reinforces why the principle of the freedom of the press matters so much.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that these very serious matters need to be investigated quickly, and we will give every support we can to the US and Swiss authorities in doing so.
I, too, welcome the Secretary of State to his new post. Following on from his lead, will he confirm that the Government stand ready to support the Swiss and US authorities in their investigation? Will the Government accede to a request to share information they hold relative to the England World cup bid in 2010—information gathered on other bidding nations as part of the tournament process? Should the Football Association share with the authorities the information in its secret dossier, which was revealed to the Select Committee, because it may contain relevant information for the prosecutions by the US Attorney General and the Swiss authorities?
I once again pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he has done in this area, particularly for his efforts to assemble a coalition in Europe to press for fundamental change in FIFA. On the help that we can give the authorities, I am very happy to confirm that we will make available any information we have that may be helpful in the investigations. Allegations were certainly made, particularly by Lord Triesman as chairman of the team for the 2018 bid. They were dismissed by FIFA at the time, but I have no doubt that the authorities will be willing to take them a lot more seriously than FIFA appeared to do. I want to thank Lord Triesman for coming forward at that time and The Sunday Times for producing evidence. I would also like to pay tribute to you, Mr Speaker, for your efforts in ensuring that those allegations were properly heard and that the right of Parliament was defended.
I join others in warmly congratulating the Secretary of State on his appointment. It is well deserved. I cannot think of anyone in the House who is better placed to deal with these matters than he is. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) on his elevation to the shadow Cabinet. I am sure that Department for Culture, Media and Sport questions will now be box office as a result.
May I press the Secretary of State on the comments made by the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips)? Of course it is for the SFO to conduct the investigation, and it would be wrong for the House to direct it to do so, but has the Secretary of State had a discussion with the Attorney General, because it is possible for him to review with the head of the SFO any information that could be of relevance to the international inquiries?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. As I have observed elsewhere, I hope my appointment sets a useful precedent for Select Committee Chairmen.
As the right hon. Gentleman says, the SFO investigation is a matter for the SFO, but it will have heard the calls today and the calls made by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) in the debate in the previous Parliament—I understand that it is considering them. I have not yet had an opportunity to talk to the Attorney General, but I will be happy to do so, and to make it clear to him and to the SFO that we will assist in any way we can.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment. I hope other Ministers will forgive me when I say that, when the new Government were put together, his was the best appointment made by the Prime Minister.
The Secretary of State should be very proud of his record on this issue, and of the leadership he showed when he was Chairman of the Select Committee. We know from those inquiries that FIFA is clearly corrupt, that Sepp Blatter has been leading the way in that corruption, and that somebody has to make a stand. If the election goes ahead and Sepp Blatter is re-elected, unbelievably, as the head of FIFA, will my right hon. Friend encourage the home nations to withdraw from FIFA and to make a stand, or if they were to make that decision, would the Government support them?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend who, I am delighted to see, maintains his record of doing nothing to curry favour with the Chief Whip.
As my hon. Friend says, we need to look at the matter carefully. What happens after Friday if Sepp Blatter is re-elected will need careful consideration, primarily by the FA. It has been taken for granted up until now that Sepp Blatter will win, but the election has not yet taken place, and elections do not always produce the outcome that the experts predict. We shall wait and see. I shall certainly be seeing Greg Dyke very shortly to discuss the attitude of the FA. There are a number of options. Whether one would resort to the nuclear option my hon. Friend suggests is a matter for the FA, but we will need to discuss that option with it.
We are in regular contact with Qatar—we have a good and strong relationship with the Qataris. Obviously, we will raise any concerns that are brought to our attention about the conditions of migrant workers. As I have said, the workers charter to which the hon. Gentleman refers has been introduced—it was developed with the International Labour Organisation to protect the rights of migrant workers. I understand that the Qataris are keen to address any concerns that have been highlighted, but we will go on pressing them when any further concerns are brought to our attention.
I wish this were a happier occasion to welcome my right hon. Friend to his richly deserved position at the Government Dispatch Box. The behaviour of FIFA—not just currently, but over decades—would make any football fan weep with anger. Does he agree that, in the short term, the best and most effective leverage over FIFA comes from its commercial sponsors, which pour many hundreds of millions of pounds into it? Will he use his and the Government’s influence on those sponsors to persuade them to stop spending so much money supporting a systemically corrupt organisation?
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. I welcome the statement that has already been made by Visa, and I hope that the other sponsors will follow suit. One assumes that commercial organisations wish to make sponsorship deals to attach themselves to a brand that is popular and successful, not one that is tarnished and regarded as corrupt. They are, therefore, well placed to press FIFA to make fundamental changes. If it fails to do so, they will have to consider whether to continue their sponsorship. That is obviously a matter for them, but I welcome the moves that have already been made by sponsors to put that message to FIFA.
I share the incredulity of many football fans that Sepp Blatter and the senior leadership of FIFA can remain in their positions after these allegations, which have been going on for some time. Does the Secretary of State agree that the Swiss Government need to take a serious look at how they regulate and oversee the activities and finances of international sporting organisations, including not only FIFA but the International Olympic Committee, UEFA and many other bodies located in Swiss territory?
I am sure that the Swiss authorities will do that, but they are acting in co-operation with the US Justice Department and have clearly taken the allegations seriously. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the IOC, and it is worth noting that some 15 to 20 years ago similar allegations of corruption swirled around that body. It acted decisively and carried out wholesale reform, cleaning up the whole bidding process for the award of the Olympic games. That is a good precedent for the kind of action that we now want to see FIFA also undertake.
On that point, does the Secretary of State really believe that FIFA can re-establish its reputation as a clean, non-corrupt organisation? Is it not now time for UEFA and other organisations to form a new global football body to try to have a fresh start?
How many UK companies are involved in World cup construction, particularly in Qatar? What assessment have the Government made of British involvement in the next two World cups, and what is their position on the role of British companies, again especially in Qatar?
I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a precise answer about the number of companies involved, although I would be happy to obtain those figures for him. It is certainly the case that some very successful British companies are involved in the preparations for the World cup, and we strongly support and assist that involvement. If there are concerns about working conditions, I do not believe that they are in areas where British companies are involved, but we will continue to talk to them and to the Qatari Government about those issues.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his well-deserved appointment and thank him for his statement today. Football fans in Kettering will be greatly concerned about the FIFA allegations because, at the grassroots level, Kettering Town football club is struggling to find a permanent home while at the top of the game tens of millions of pounds have allegedly been paid in bribes. I am sure that football fans in Kettering would want their MP to ask the Secretary of State why this matter has been left to the United States, which is not well known as a leading soccer nation, when many European countries, with well-established football reputations, have failed to take this long-overdue legal action.
As I said earlier, I have not yet had the chance to read the full indictment from the US authorities, but it is well known that they take such allegations seriously. I welcome the fact that a proper investigation will now take place. Ideally, it should not have been left until the US authorities—or any national authority—acted, because the allegations have been made to FIFA repeatedly over the last two years. That body should have investigated the allegations rather than sweeping them under the carpet, which has been its practice until now.
Twenty years ago today, I joined 26,000 other Huddersfield Town fans at Wembley for a memorable play-off victory. Will the Secretary of State reaffirm the importance of this issue, because our beautiful game does not belong to Blatter and his corrupt cronies, but to the fans?
My hon. Friend is entirely right—and, in a sense, that is the greatest sadness. The game generates passion among millions of people in this country and around the world, and the World cup should be the greatest event in football, yet it has been tarnished by the potential allegations of corruption over the allocation of the World cup in 2018 and 2022 and by the apparent corruption among so many members of FIFA. For the fans’ sake, this has to be addressed, because it is dragging football down and doing huge damage to a game that so many people love.
FIFA has investigated itself many times and given itself a clean bill of health. Why have previous allegations not been taken sufficiently seriously and why has it taken action by the United States authorities to get us to where we are today?
FIFA has previously promised that allegations will be investigated, but when Garcia was appointed to carry out an inquiry, not only did his report fail to address some of the most serious allegations, but it was redacted and not published, much to the distress not just of all those observing FIFA but of Mr Garcia himself. FIFA’s repeated failure to take these allegations seriously and to conduct proper inquiries has led to the position we are in today.
My right hon. Friend described the nuclear option in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), but that is not the nuclear option; that is simply sending in the infantry. The real nuclear option, which would cause Armageddon in the football world, is a boycott of the World cup by UEFA. As my right hon. Friend said, UEFA has acted honourably and is today trying to make representations to boycott the congress. Will he send the Minister for Sport to meet her counterparts in Europe to discuss the option of UEFA boycotting the World cup in 2018, which would have such an impact commercially on FIFA that it would have to take notice?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that if we are to bring effective pressure to bear on FIFA, we need to assemble as large a coalition as possible. UEFA has already taken a good lead on this, and we will be approaching other European football associations, and football associations from other parts of the world, to try and build as wide and as strong a coalition as possible. I mentioned that the Minister for Sport is writing to her counterparts today, but I am sure she would be happy to take up his suggestion of having meetings with them in due course to discuss how best to take the matter forward. I do not think we are yet at the stage of boycotting the World cup, which might cause concern to the many people who enjoy the World cup, but there is no question but that something has to be done.
Four years ago, the original chairman of our World cup bid, Lord Triesman, named four people—Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Ricardo Teixeira and Worawi Makudi—for seeking bribes in return for their supporting our bid. How is it then that four years later we are in this position and still blaming a corrupt organisation, FIFA, when the actions concerned are criminal? Why has it taken the United States to act—this is the repeated question from across the House—when British institutions, banks and authorities could have got involved and could and should have done more? Will the Secretary of State come back to the House and tell us what lessons have been learned, so that we can be sure that rotten apples with big international footprints will not in future be left alone by our authorities for the fear that we have in this country about taking them on?
My hon. Friend is right to say that these allegations have been around a long time. They were made by Lord Triesman to the Select Committee in the last Parliament and indeed by The Sunday Times, which published a huge amount of evidence suggesting very serious corruption. As to why criminal investigations have not taken place, I believe the Serious Fraud Office has been looking at this. I will speak to the Attorney General and I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is sitting alongside me, as she will have heard our hon. Friend’s comments. The important thing now is to act together to make sure that a thorough investigation is carried out. My hon. Friend mentioned Mr Jack Warner. One thing about which the Select Committee report expressed surprise was the fact that FIFA dropped its investigation into Jack Warner, yet he is now one of the individuals who has been arrested in Zurich.
High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill
Presentation and resumption of proceedings (Standing Order No. 80A)
Mr Secretary McLoughlin, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mrs Secretary May, Mr Secretary Duncan Smith, Secretary Sajid Javid, Secretary Greg Clark, Secretary Elizabeth Truss, Secretary Amber Rudd and Mr Robert Goodwill presented a Bill to make provision for a railway between Euston in London and a junction with the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre in Staffordshire, with a spur from Old Oak Common in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to a junction with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link at York Way in the London Borough of Islington and a spur from Water Orton in Warwickshire to Curzon Street in Birmingham; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First and Second time without Question put, and stood committed to a Select Committee (Standing Order No. 57 and Order, 29 April); to be printed (Bill 1) with explanatory notes (Bill 1-EN).
European Union Referendum Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Mr Secretary Hammond, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary David Mundell, Mrs Secretary Villiers, Secretary Stephen Crabb, Mr Oliver Letwin, Mr David Lidington and James Wharton presented a Bill to make provision for the holding of a referendum in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 1 June; and to be printed (Bill 2) with explanatory notes (Bill 2-EN).
Secretary David Mundell, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mrs Secretary May, Secretary Michael Gove, Mr Secretary Duncan Smith, Secretary Amber Rudd, Mr Secretary McLoughlin, Mrs Secretary Villiers, Secretary Stephen Crabb, Greg Hands and Damian Hinds presented a Bill to amend the Scotland Act 1998 and make provision about the functions of the Scottish Ministers; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 1 June; and to be printed (Bill 3) with explanatory notes (Bill 3-EN).
Point of Order
Yesterday you kindly addressed the House before we debated Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech, and you made it clear that there is a responsibility within this House in how we conduct ourselves and how we should encourage members of the public to conduct themselves. You will have noticed yesterday that, whatever our political views, it is unreasonable for Members to be attacked for their views by members of the public whether they agree with them or not. There is nothing we in the House can do about that, but I seek further guidance from you, Mr Speaker, about what consequences and powers you have if individuals of this House are encouraged to be targeted by any other Member within the House, as was instanced once or twice in previous Parliaments.
That is an ingenious attempted point of order, but at this stage, with my not being privy to details that may be known to the hon. Gentleman, I am inclined to regard the question, though potentially important, as hypothetical. In the rather wise words of the late Lord Whitelaw, it is perhaps best to cross bridges only when one comes to them. We will leave it there for now, but if what is mulling in the hon. Gentleman’s brain becomes a concrete and specific point, I will treat of it when that moment arises.
Debate on the Address
Debate resumed (Order, 27 May).
Question again proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
Home Affairs and Justice
The Gracious Speech we heard yesterday set out the Government’s programme for the first Session of this Parliament, including a series of important measures on justice and home affairs. It is a programme that will build on our strong record of achievement under the last Government. Crime is down by more than a quarter since 2010; over 870 bogus colleges have been shut; the driving licences of over 9,500 illegal immigrants have been revoked; our benefits system have been tightened; over 1,700 people have been arrested as a result of sham marriage operations and more than 600 removed; and more than 24,000 foreign criminals have been removed since 2010 and our deportation laws have been streamlined.
In the past five years, we have implemented a programme of radical police reform, introduced a landmark Modern Slavery Act, worked to transform the criminal justice system by improving support for victims, rehabilitating offenders and making prisons more effective and legislated to strengthen our response to the grave threats we face from terrorism. Now, with a strong and clear mandate for government, we must build on those achievements, and work even harder to create a safer and fairer Britain for all. The programme of legislation that my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and I will set out today will ensure that we can continue to cut crime, protect victims, reduce net migration, ensure justice is done, and work to prevent terrorism. It will support the wider work of the Government—a Government for working people; a Government for one nation.
The Gracious Speech referred to a policing and criminal justice Bill. As I have said, in the last Parliament we implemented a programme of radical police reform to make policing more accountable and transparent, and to give back to the police the professional discretion and freedom to do what they do best: fight crime. We abolished the unaccountable institutions and abandoned the centralised approach that had existed before, and established a sensible new framework of institutions and processes. We introduced crime maps, beat meetings, and police and crime commissioners, making police forces properly accountable to the communities that they serve. We established the College of Policing, and new schemes such as direct entry and Police Now. We set up the National Crime Agency, beefed up the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and made Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary properly independent.
Police reform is working. Crime is down by more than a quarter since 2010, and, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales, it has never been lower. Today policing is more professional, more accountable and more transparent. However, much work remains to be done, and the policing and criminal justice Bill will ensure that we can go further and faster with reform.
Estimates provided by the House of Commons Library suggest that we are likely to lose 300 police officers in Leicestershire because of the cuts that are to come. When will the Home Secretary be able to give us the actual figure?
When we first came to office, we made it clear that we would have to reduce public sector spending because of the economic mess that we had been left by the last Government. We had been bequeathed the largest deficit in our peacetime history, and the previous Chief Secretary to the Treasury had said, “There is no money.” At that time, Labour Members kept telling us that we would not be able to reduce spending without crime going up, but, as we have seen very clearly, spending has been reduced and crime has fallen.
The Home Secretary may be aware of two separate shooting incidents that have taken place in my constituency over the past 10 days, one of which was tragically fatal. Happily arrests are being made and investigations are continuing, but will the Home Secretary tell us what steps the Government are taking, and what resources they are giving Greater Manchester police so that they can tackle the continuing tragedy of gun and gang-related crimes?
We have done a significant amount in relation to both gang-related crime and firearms. On firearms, we have introduced a new offence applying to middlemen, because the firearms used in attacks are often hired out by those who possess them. We are also doing some work across Europe in relation to the availability of firearms, and the way in which they are brought into the United Kingdom.
We have attacked the problem of gangs on two levels. Our work in connection with “Ending Gang and Youth Violence” has focused on the street gangs that have often been such a problem in many areas, and some of the work done by Greater Manchester police in bringing agencies together to deal with gang-related crimes has served as a model for others. We have also set up the National Crime Agency, which has enhanced the ability of the police to deal with the organised crime groups that often lie behind such crimes. Incidents such as those to which the hon. Lady has referred are, of course, tragic, and, as she has said, the police will be properly investigating them. We have enhanced their ability to deal with incidents of that kind.
The Home Secretary talked about the cuts that are to come. What would she say to Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, who leads on counter-terror for the Met, and who has warned that further cuts in neighbourhood and mainstream policing would put at risk the fight against terror?
Over the last five years, the Government protected the money available for counter-terrorism policing, and I am pleased to say that the figures from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary show that the proportion of police officers on the front line has gone up over the last five years. The Metropolitan police force is one of the forces that has maintained police numbers, under the Mayor of London, and it has actually been recruiting new members.
But of course it is not just about the numbers on the front line; it is also about how those officers are deployed on the front line. Does the Home Secretary share my concern that in Greater Manchester there are now proposals effectively to merge neighbourhood policing and response policing? The fear of the communities I represent is that those bobbies will be taken off the beat and will instead be sucked into responding to calls.
The hon. Gentleman made an important point at the beginning of his remarks, and I suggest that he might sometimes make it to some of his colleagues, because he is absolutely right that it is not about the number of police officers; it is about how they are deployed. That is a decision taken by the chief constable of an area, who will of course be discussing that with the police and crime commissioner. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman might like to take it up with his local police and crime commissioner whom he might know quite well from his time in this House.
The Metropolitan police were able to maintain the figures that the Mayor committed to, and indeed the force is recruiting police officers at the moment, as are a number of forces around the country.
I referred to the policing and criminal justice Bill and there are a number of measures in that that I believe will bring important reform. First, we will change pre-charge bail to prevent the injustice of people spending months or even years on bail only for no charges to be brought.
Secondly, we will amend the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to ensure that 17-year-olds who are detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes under that Act.
Thirdly, we will strengthen the powers and extend the remit of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to better allow it to comment on the efficiency and effectiveness of policing as a whole.
Fourthly, we will overhaul the police disciplinary and complaints systems to increase accountability and transparency. We will enable regulations governing police conduct to be extended to cover former police officers, ensuring that misconduct cases can be taken to a conclusion even when an officer leaves that force. We will make the police complaints system more independent of the police through an expanded role for police and crime commissioners, and there will be a new system of “super-complaints” which will allow organisations such as charities and advocacy groups to lodge complaints on behalf of the public.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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?
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 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 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.
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?
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—
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.
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?
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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. 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 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, 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”.
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 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 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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
Those are some of the issues that I hope the House will be able to debate and develop during the year.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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—
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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