Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 107 (Welsh Grand Committee (matters relating exclusively to Wales)),

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12 (House not to sit on certain Fridays),

Question agreed to.

27 Jun 2001 : Column 642

Points of Order

3.32 pm

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.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has made his views known. It is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If I may say so, we heard a party political broadcast. I would urge you and the House to take no notice of it.

Mr. Speaker: That was not a point of order.

27 Jun 2001 : Column 643

Orders of the Day

Debate on the Address

[Sixth Day]

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [20 June],

Question again proposed.

Home Affairs and Constitution

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.

3.35 pm

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald): I beg to move, as an amendment to the Address, at the end of the Question to add:

First, I should like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your re-election as the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn and on your re-election as Speaker of the House. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who opened the debate of the Queen's Speech for Conservative Members last week. On that occasion, he treated the House to one of the best speeches that Members have heard in recent years. It was all the more remarkable given the high quality of the contribution of the previous speaker, the hon. Member for

27 Jun 2001 : Column 644

Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), who seconded the Loyal Address. Even the Prime Minister said that my right hon. Friend's speech

It is just not for my right hon. Friend's acknowledged debating skill that his leadership will be remembered. He will for ever be known as courageous in the face of adversity; his was a cool nerve and his purpose was steadfast.

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

There was no mention of that in the Gracious Speech, but that is hardly surprising, as the Prime Minister has been promising such a measure since 1994, at least. The victims of crime, it appears, will just have to wait.

27 Jun 2001 : Column 645

The manifesto also promised

Indeed, the Labour party made quite a big issue of this at the election, sending text messages to young voters telling them,

Extra time for what? Was it extra time for Labour to spend breaking its promises?

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:

Now, however, the hon. Gentleman has realised the truth and has accused the Prime Minister of "bad political judgment" and of breaking his promises to the British people. Last year, we were told that reforms would be in place by this summer. It now looks as if it will be 2004 at the earliest.

I also hope that the Government will ensure that measures to tackle paedophiles who entice children over the internet through chatrooms will be included in the criminal justice Bill.

Next Section

IndexHome Page