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1. The matter of the Government's legislative programme, as outlined in the Queen's Speech as it relates to Wales, be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for its consideration;
2. The Committee shall meet on Tuesday 3rd July at half past ten o'clock and between four o'clock and six o'clock at Westminster to take questions under Standing Order No. 103 (Welsh Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)) and to consider the matter of the Government's legislative programme as outlined in the Queen's Speech as it relates to Wales, under Standing Order No. 107 (Welsh Grand Committee (matters relating exclusively to Wales))-- [Mr. Ainger.]
29th June, 6th July, 7th and 14th December 2001, and 15th February, 22nd March, 3rd and 17th May, 14th and 28th June 2002.--[Mr. Ainger.]
David Winnick (Walsall, North): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am rather concerned about repeated newspaper reports, including one today, that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is not to be reappointed. I wonder whether we are being softened up for her contract not being renewed.
You will know, Mr. Speaker, how all of us were tarred in previous Parliaments by allegations of sleaze and why the Committee on Standards in Public Life was appointed, and later the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. The criticism made about this public official and servant of the House seems to be that she has been over-zealous. I put it to you that she is carrying out her duties in a responsible manner and that, if her contract were not renewed, it would, in my view at least, send out all the wrong signals. I wonder whether you would take that on board.
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-- [Mr. Sheerman.]
Mr. Speaker: I have selected for debate the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. In addition, under Standing Order No. 33, I have selected for a separate Division the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. After the first Division, I shall call a Member on the Liberal Democrats to move the amendment formally.
The House will know, because of the 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches, that many Members wish to speak. It would be offensive if hon. Members approached the Chair during the opening speeches. I would not appreciate such an approach. Anyone wishing take part in the debate should listen to the opening speeches.
I should like to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) for his work as Home Secretary over the past four years. He was a diligent and hard-working Home Secretary and, in my dealings with him, I always found him to be most courteous to the Opposition. I wish him well in his new responsibilities at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and I hope that he will not find the domestic arrangements at 1, Carlton gardens too cramped.
Finally, before I get down to the business before the House today, I should like to congratulate the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) on his appointment as Home Secretary--although the fact that he got the job came as little surprise to those of us who read The Sun. I wish him and his ministerial team well in the tenure of their new posts, but I remind them that the past few days, during which there have been several important Home Office issues on the front page of just about every newspaper in the country, are the norm, rather than the exception. In that context, I condemn the recent violence in Oldham, Burnley and elsewhere, and echo the calls on all sides for restraint and dialogue.
As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said last week, we can welcome certain elements of the Gracious Speech, although even some of them are not without danger. The Government have said that they intend to build on Conservative legislation--although they did not quite use those words--on the seizure of criminals' assets. We need to remember that, under English law, there is a crucial difference between those who have been convicted of a criminal offence and those who have not yet been convicted. While we support the seizure of assets from those found guilty by a court, I myself resist the confiscation of assets prior to conviction.
Similarly, there is widespread concern, not just among Opposition Members, about the Government's plans both to reveal routinely to juries defendants' previous convictions and to curtail the right to jury trial itself, which we vigorously and, indeed, successfully opposed in the previous Parliament. In developing their proposals for the reform of the justice system, I hope that the Government will be mindful of the need to ensure both justness and fairness. The fight against crime should be just that--the fight against crime--and not an excuse for a general deprivation of civil liberties.
In the Gracious Speech, despite all their election rhetoric, the Government failed either to introduce legislation to improve victims' rights or, indeed, to reform the licensing laws, both of which were promised. The Labour manifesto promised to
The week before the election, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), who was then a Minister and to whom I have given notice of my intention to raise this matter, made the following announcement, which we understand had the Prime Minister's full backing: