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House of Commons

Wednesday 18 November 2009

The House met at twenty-six minutes past Eleven o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Message to attend Her Majesty

Message to attend Her Majesty delivered by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.

The Speaker, with the House, went up to attend Her Majesty; on their return, the Speaker suspended the sitting.

The sitting was resumed at half-past Two o'clock.

New Member

The following Member took the Oath required by law:

William Thomas Bain Esq., for Glasgow, North-East.

Outlawries Bill

A Bill for the more effectual preventing Clandestine Outlawries was read the First time, and ordered to be read a Second time.

Queen's Speech

2.32 pm

Mr. Speaker: I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended Her Majesty in the House of Peers, and that Her Majesty was pleased to make a Most Gracious Speech from the Throne to both Houses of Parliament, of which I have, for greater accuracy, obtained a copy.

I shall direct that the terms of the Gracious Speech be printed in the Votes and Proceedings. Copies are available in the Vote Office.

The Gracious Speech was as follows:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My Government's overriding priority is to ensure sustained growth to deliver a fair and prosperous economy for families and businesses, as the British economy recovers from the global economic downturn. Through active employment and training programmes, restructuring the financial sector, strengthening the national infrastructure and providing responsible investment, my Government will foster growth and employment.

My Government will also strengthen key public services, ensuring that individual entitlements guarantee good services, and will work to build trust in democratic institutions.

My Government will seek effective global and European collaboration through the G20 and the European Union to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change, including at the Copenhagen summit next month.

The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to our visit to Bermuda and our State Visit to Trinidad and Tobago and to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in this, the Commonwealth's 60th anniversary year. We also look forward to receiving the President of South Africa next year.

My Government will continue to reform and strengthen regulation of the financial services industry to ensure greater protection for savers and taxpayers. Legislation will be brought forward to enhance the governance of the financial sector and to control the system of rewards.

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As the economic recovery is established, my Government will reduce the budget deficit and ensure that national debt is on a sustainable path. Legislation will be brought forward to halve the deficit.

My Government will introduce a Bill to enable the wider provision of free personal care to those in highest care need.

Legislation will be brought forward to introduce guarantees for pupils and parents to raise educational standards.

My Government will legislate to protect communities by ensuring that parents take responsibility for their children's antisocial behaviour and by tackling youth gang crime.

My Government will introduce a Bill to ensure the communications infrastructure is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting.

Legislation will be introduced to support carbon capture and storage and to help more of the most vulnerable households with their energy bills.

My Government will respond to proposals for high-speed rail services between London and Scotland.

Legislation will be introduced to protect communities from flooding and to improve the management of water supplies.

My Government is committed to ensuring everyone has a fair chance in life and will continue to take forward legislation to promote equality, narrow the gap between rich and poor and tackle discrimination. The Bill would also introduce transparency in the workplace to help address the differences in pay between men and women.

My Government will continue to enshrine in law its commitment to abolish child poverty by 2020.

My Government will legislate to provide agency workers with the right to be treated equally with permanent staff on pay, holidays and other basic conditions.

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Legislation will continue to be taken forward on constitutional reform. My Government will also publish draft legislation on proposals for a reformed second chamber of Parliament with a democratic mandate.

A Bill will be introduced to strengthen the law against bribery.

My Government will continue to work closely with the devolved administrations in the interests of all the people of the United Kingdom. My Government is committed to the Northern Ireland political process and will continue to work with Northern Ireland ' s leaders to complete the devolution of policing and justice and to ensure its success.

In Scotland, my Government will take forward proposals in the Final Report of the Commission on Scottish Devolution. My Government will continue to devolve more powers to Wales.

Members of the House of Commons

Estimates for the public services will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My Government will work for security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and Pakistan and for peace in the Middle East.

Legislation will be brought forward to ban cluster munitions.

My Government will work towards creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, including addressing the challenges from Iran and North Korea.

Draft legislation will be published to make binding my Government's commitment to spend nought point seven per cent of national income on international development from 2013.

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

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Debate on the Address

[1st Day]

Mr. Speaker: Before I call the mover and seconder, I shall announce the proposed pattern of debate during the remaining days on the Loyal Address: Thursday 19 November-education and health; Monday 23 November- Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence; Tuesday 24 November-Energy and Climate Change and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Wednesday 25 November-Home Office and Department for Work and Pensions; Thursday 26 November-Her Majesty's Treasury and Business, Innovation and Skills.

2.33 pm

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) (Lab): I beg to move,

I confess that I was puzzled as to what had prompted the Chief Whip to choose me to move the Humble Address, but glancing through the current cinema listings I came across a film title that might have brought me to mind. Obviously, it was not "Bright Star"; nor, I hope, was it "The Men Who Stare at Goats"-they are in the House of Lords-but it might well have been a film at the Science museum entitled "Dinosaurs Alive!" Mock ye not-dinosaurs were around for 65 million years and remain very popular with young people. A couple of years ago, the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), the Leader of the Opposition, was reported in the newspapers as saying that he would not be voting with that "dinosaur Frank Dobson". Imagine my glee a day or two later when I found myself in the same Lobby as him. I took the opportunity to welcome him to Jurassic Park.

I am honoured to be invited to open this debate and I am not the first from my constituency to do so. In 1906, this task fell to Sir Willoughby Hyett Dickinson. Conservative Members will be pleased, but not surprised, to be told that he was an old Etonian. Liberal Democrat Members will be pleased to know that he was a Liberal MP. Labour Members will be even more pleased to learn that he later saw the light and joined the Labour party.

My constituency, Holborn and St. Pancras, is an extraordinary place. It includes three mainline railway stations: Euston, the first in London, King's Cross, and St. Pancras. The new St. Pancras International station is a great success. That pleases me, partly because its high-speed link demonstrates a sensible, sustainable alternative to short-haul flights and partly because I was the first person to suggest it. I am pleased for the staff at King's Cross, with the return of the east coast trains to public ownership following the failure of successive private operators.

My area contains the British Museum and the British Library, Sir John Soane's museum, the Foundling hospital museum and the Jewish museum. It is the home of
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world-famous academic institutions, including University college, the School of Oriental and African Studies, the Institute of Education, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Royal Veterinary college, of which I am privileged to be the Privy Council governor.

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which is also in my constituency, has trained generations of actors, few more brilliant and famous than my hon. Friend-and my good friend-the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson). Birkbeck college was and remains unique, a top-flight college that serves part-time students. The Working Men's college in Camden Town gives a chance to people who previously missed out, and our local schools do a remarkable job for local children and young people. We also have the headquarters of the TUC and many trade unions, great and small. For political balance, we also have the headquarters of the CBI.

My constituency contains hospitals of world renown: Great Ormond Street hospital, the national hospital for neurology and neurosurgery, and the new University college hospital, in which I had a bit of a hand when I was Secretary of State for Health. It includes the institutes of neurology and child health, the Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and the British Medical Association.

Time does not permit me to mention many of the famous people who have lived in Holborn and St. Pancras, but I am proud to represent my fellow Yorkshireman Alan Bennett and to have represented the late great Kenneth Williams. A few weeks ago, I helped unveil a plaque to Kenneth Williams. Following the first burst of applause at the ceremony, the curtains of a window further up the house were parted by a man woken from his Sunday lie-in and clearly puzzled by all the noise. As befits an event to commemorate a star of the "Carry On" films, the puzzled neighbour was stark naked.

MPs have embarrassing moments, but for me one stands out from all others. I went one day to the Bengali Workers Association Surma centre, where I was met by a young woman I had met several times before. She was wearing a shalwar kameez and to my surprise she was on crutches. So, in the way one does with young people on crutches, I jovially inquired, "What have you been doing?" "Don't you know?" she asked. "No," I said. "You really don't know?" "No, honest I don't." "I've had my leg amputated," she said. My jaw dropped so far that she laughed at my discomfiture.

The character of Holborn and St. Pancras is coloured by the radical, often revolutionary nature of people who were born, or who lived, died or are buried, in my constituency. They include Captain Coram, who established the Foundling hospital and who is described on his statue as "Pioneer of Child Welfare". What better obituary could anybody want?

Mary Wollstonecraft, author of "A Vindication of the Rights of Women", lived in Somers Town. She died there giving birth to her daughter, later known to the world as Mary Shelley, whose character Frankenstein is better known than all the images created by all the famous male authors and poets who patronised both her and her mother.

Marx and Engels both lived in Holborn and St. Pancras. Marx is joined in Highgate cemetery by one of the greatest scientists and inventors the planet has ever known, Michael Faraday. The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
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hospital for women, named after the first English woman doctor, was in my area, and the Marie Stopes clinic is still giving advice on family planning and sexual health.

Regrettably, I have to report that one Holborn resident in 1812 took what we must all agree was unacceptable action. He was called John Bellingham and he shot the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, here in the Lobby of the House of Commons. I know that the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) is a descendant. However, in shooting him in the House of Commons, he rendered Spencer Perceval the only man in history who has been assassinated on Lobby terms.

A much more recent victim of assassination was Ruth First, the anti-apartheid campaigner murdered by the South African secret police. She lived in Camden Town with her husband, Joe Slovo, who went on to become a member of President Mandela's Cabinet. I had the honour to preside over the unveiling of a plaque to both of them by Nelson Mandela himself.

On an earlier occasion, I had had an appointment with President Mandela at the South African high commissioner's residence. I had met him before that, but only as part of a group, so I did not expect that he would know me from Adam. He greeted me with the words, "Hello, Frank. It's good to see you again." The "again" was clearly a product of the briefing supplied by the high commissioner, but then he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "You do remember me, don't you?"

I take particular pride in my constituency's association with the anti-apartheid movement. It was founded 50 years ago this year, at a meeting in Holborn hall. Its first leafleting took place outside Camden Town underground station, and its headquarters were always located in my constituency.

There are great privileges in being a Member of Parliament, but the greatest for me was to be able to sit with my wife and see Speaker Betty Boothroyd help Nelson Mandela down the steps in Westminster Hall for him to address both Houses of our Parliament as the democratically elected President of multiracial South Africa.

Another source of pride is the house in Guilford street where Nye Bevan lived with Jenny Lee, and where there should be a blue plaque describing him as the founder of the NHS and her as the founder of the Open university-a family double unlikely to be rivalled ever again. When it was the 50th anniversary of the NHS and I was the Health Secretary, I wanted to have Nye Bevan on the commemorative stamp, but the establishment would have none of it.

That takes me on to another MP who should be an example to us all-my predecessor, Lena Jeger. She never got ministerial office but she achieved more than most Ministers do in a lifetime. The causes that she espoused are now part of a general consensus, but they did not start that way. She was derided and made the subject of vicious personal attacks when she took up campaigning for causes that, over the years, included equal rights for women, equal pay, abortion rights, Cyprus independence and anti-apartheid, and she also campaigned against the death penalty and the dangers of smoking.

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