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Let me conclude. If we are serious about rebuilding Parliament, we need to learn from this disgraceful Queen's Speech; we need to learn that we have insulted our guests and that we have done ourselves damage by not treating the Queen's Speech seriously, by having it briefed out to the press in advance, and by then not creating a great debate to give it proper scrutiny. If we are serious
about mending our economy, we need, first, to mend the banks. It is more important to deal with the problem of bank lending than it is to deal immediately with the inadequate amounts of cash and capital-assuming the Government stand behind those banks, as they clearly do. That is my recommendation for trying to deal with that part of the problem.
Above all, I wish to point out that British politics has changed dramatically today thanks to the idea of a Bill to control the deficit. We face years of work-out ahead in order to try to tackle this deficit. As yet, the Government are simply play-acting on this, and they owe us a reply to the very simple question: where is the £100 billion coming from?
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), even though after I hear him speak I tend to feel extraordinarily depressed about the state of the country. He is always a doom-and-gloom speaker about the Government, as he is an Opposition MP, but I hope in my speech to take up a couple of his points, especially concerning the financial services Bill, because, as I shall explain, he was wrong to say that the only solution is to hand regulation back to the Bank of England.
May I join other right hon. and hon. Members in commending the speeches of those who moved the Gracious Speech in this House-my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson), whom I served under in opposition when he was the shadow spokesperson on the environment, and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry)? It is a grand tradition of this House to have an elder statesman and a newly elected Member propose and second the motion on the Gracious Speech, although I am sure my hon. Friend will recognise that she can hardly be described as a newly elected Member four years after her election.
I was on breakfast TV this morning-I do not know whether you saw me, Mr. Deputy Speaker-with the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), the former Leader of the Opposition. He continued the theme developed by Members on the Opposition Benches, including, surprisingly, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr. Kennedy) that this was the end of the Parliament and there was no need to put legislation before the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that what we needed was a general election, so I pointed out that every time I have encountered him he has been calling for one; the nature of opposition is to feel that a general election is the best way of sorting everything out.
May I remind the House that the Government have not completed their full term and a mandate has to be fulfilled? They still have a majority of 63-that is probably 63 more than the Conservative Government had at the end of their time in 1997, when the right hon. Member for Wokingham was a distinguished member of the Cabinet. What a Government who have a mandate and a majority do in the Queen's Speech is propose legislation that they seek to ensure will get through not only this House but the other place, and will thus get on to the
statute book. It just so happened that the previous Prime Minister decided to call general elections before the full term was up-there was a year to go in both 2001 and 2005-as did Baroness Thatcher every time she called one. The approach was not repeated by Sir John Major when he was Prime Minister.
The Opposition should let the Government get on with what they are supposed to be doing-governing the country-and let them put before the House the legislation proposed in the Queen's Speech, and let us ensure that we do our best to scrutinise it. If the House wishes to support it, it should become law. The right hon. Member for Wokingham talked about statements being made to the press, but I was concerned with statements made by the Conservative party's leader in the other place. He said that he is going to use -[Interruption.] I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) was aware of these statements, but I am sure that he followed them in the other place. The Conservative leader there said that he would use every opportunity to frustrate the legislation that this Government are placing before the House, and that is absolutely wrong. We have a fully functioning Government who have a working majority of 63-most Prime Ministers would be delighted to have such a majority, as would the Conservatives should they win the next election-so let us get on with scrutinising the legislation.
Mr. MacShane: I read the remarkably arrogant statement that the Conservatives in the other place would block measures put forward in this Queen's Speech. How much more contempt for democracy and the House of Commons do we need from the Conservative party?
Keith Vaz: I agree with what my right hon. Friend says; it is very bad when those in positions of responsibility in another place try to frustrate the will of this House. Now that the Conservative leader in the other place has heard the Queen's Speech, I hope that he will reflect on the proposals put forward.
Some good speeches have been made in this debate. The points that the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe made about judicial control were important, because the House needs to examine that area. It is right to say that we have ceded a lot of powers to the judiciary. I am delighted to see the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills) on the Front Bench. I know that he is very busy, but he ought to read the speech made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because it contained important points about the power that this House has as a sovereign House and the power that has been ceded to judges. I disagreed with him on one point, because I think that judges ought to come before hearings of the Select Committee on Justice to answer questions about their record-that would be a jolly good thing and I am not with him on that point. The scrutiny of the judiciary is important when appointments are just about to be made.
The second speech that I thought was good was made by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean). He made such a passionate speech about rain forests that I think he ought to accompany the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to Copenhagen. The right hon.
Gentleman made some important and useful points about the way in which the climate change debate was developing, and I commend him for what he said.
I wish to discuss two or three of the Bills that were foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech. I am delighted that the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill has been carried over, because I hope that the House will thus have a better opportunity to debate its provisions. I am particularly interested in the very good suggestion made by the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) for the appointment of temporary peers. Where Prime Ministers want those from outside to join Parliament to become part of the Government, they need not necessarily be life peers; they could be peers appointed for a temporary period. Such an approach would mean that more people would have the opportunity to serve in Parliament and we would get a more diverse House of Lords than we have at the moment. I hope that we will be able to debate that further when the Bill returns to the Floor of this House.
I am very pleased with the digital economy Bill. Obviously we took the point made by Scottish Members that they cannot have access to the broadband network to the same extent as England and Wales has-
Keith Vaz: Perhaps they have gone to fix their broadband internet as a result of the digital economy Bill. I welcome that Bill because it will implement, in full, the recommendations of Tanya Byron's review, which was set up by the Prime Minister. She produced a very good report last year about video games. It is important that we do our best to ensure that the House has a say in how the video games industry operates. I am treading on people's toes in saying that, and when I go back to my office, I will have received many e-mails from video games players who believe that I am in favour of banning such games or preventing those under the age of 18 from purchasing and playing them-I am not, and that was also not Tanya Byron's recommendation.
What we were concerned with, and what the House should be concerned with, is video games that are intended for adults falling into the hands of children and young people. There are four elements to this partnership, and I hope that all the recommendations will be included in the Bill. The first element is the responsibility of parents to ask their children-or indeed their grandchildren-what video games they are playing and whether they are intended for their age group.
The second element is the responsibility on the Government to ensure that the video games industry packages the games properly, so that it states clearly on the label where a game is "18-plus". I got someone in my office to buy the new video game "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2", and the 18 sign on it remains only the size of a £1 coin. The label is easily erased if somebody puts their thumb on it. In my view, retailers do not take much notice when someone buys a game, and ample evidence suggests that retailers are not being prosecuted if they sell 18-plus games to young people. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" is a classic example. It is a very dangerous and violent game if seen by under-18s. In fact, Russia has banned it today, although
I am not suggesting for one moment that it should be banned in this country. Russia did so because it shows Russians as terrorists and recreates a scene at an airport in which civilians are gunned down by characters in the game.
I welcome the digital economy Bill and hope that the Opposition will also support it when it is debated in the House, including on Second Reading. I am pleased that the Equality Bill will come back, because it is important that we continue to ensure that it is as strong as possible. We have made enormous progress-it has some very good clauses-and it would have been sad if the Bill had died at the end of the last Session. I am therefore pleased that it was re-contained in this year's Gracious Speech.
I come now to the financial services Bill. I note that the right hon. Member for Wokingham has left the Chamber. I remind Members who have been here as long as I have that in 1995 the sixth-largest private bank in the world closed. It had assets of £6 billion, and almost every member of the Asian community in this country either had money in BCCI, knew someone who did or worked for the bank. The bank was allowed by the Bank of England to continue as it had been going, because the supervision of banks then rested with the Bank of England.
As a direct result of BCCI's closure, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont, set up the Bingham inquiry. Lord Justice Bingham, as he then was-he went on to become the Lord Chief Justice-produced an historic report that talked about the need to separate the supervision of banks from the Bank of England. The Government acted on that and created the Financial Services Authority. I am not suggesting that everything that the FSA has done has been correct. It needs to be tweaked-changes are needed and it needs to be reviewed and toughened up-and we welcome everything in the financial services Bill. However, I make a plea-the Government are with me on this-to the Opposition, including the Liberal Democrats, not to give the supervision of banks back to the Bank of England, which simply cannot carry out all its tasks. A separate organisation needs to supervise how licences are given out and banks are policed. That is why it is important that we support the financial services Bill. We should not attempt to hand back supervision to the Bank of England.
Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend recall that, when the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 passed through the House and Committee, the constant refrain from Opposition Members was that there should be a lighter regulatory touch and that we were doing too much?
Keith Vaz: My hon. Friend is right, and I do remember that. It is important to revisit what people said then. Of course I do not blame the Opposition for the global economic crisis or the failure of the banks-it would be wrong to do so-and I am not saying that everything went wrong as a result of the suggestion of light-touch regulation. I am not that partisan. However, we need tough regulation, so please let us not give those responsibilities back to the Bank of England. If right hon. and hon. Members have any problem with that, they should read the Bingham report and the deliberations on BCCI.
I have two final points about two things that were not in the Queen's Speech, but that we were told would be. First, I am delighted that there was no immigration Bill in the Queen's Speech, because we have had eight immigration Acts under this Government. Frankly, the administration of the UK Border Agency-or the immigration and nationality directorate, as it was-has not improved to the standards expected. We need not more legislation but better administration of the UK Border Agency, so that when Members write letters to the head of the agency, she replies promptly with information other than, "People's cases will be dealt with in 2011", and so that when we have an urgent case, the Immigration Minister takes the trouble to agree to meet right hon. and hon. Members and sit down with officials, as all previous immigration Ministers have done, to try to resolve the issues.
The Mayor of London has suggested that the 500,000 illegal immigrants in London should be given leave to remain. He wants to regularise them. Neither the Government nor the Opposition, including the Liberal Democrats, agree with him. In the meantime, however, hon. Members who write to Miss Lin Homer get frustrated because they expect things to be done-I am sure that that applies to my hon. Friends the Members for Wolverhampton, North-East, for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) and for Brent, North (Barry Gardiner), the hon. Members for Peterborough (Mr. Jackson) and for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming), and any other Member who is dealing with an immigration problem- [Interruption] -including my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown).
I am pleased to say that the Home Affairs Committee will publish a report next week based on the work of the UK Border Agency and will question why so many agency officials-39, I think-managed to get bonuses last year when we do not see the backlog being reduced. We need a change in immigration administration; we do not need more legislation. I am delighted that there is no immigration Bill, but please let us get the administration right and put in place some rules on the issues of citizenship.
My final point concerns the UK-US extradition treaty, which was the subject of debate in the House in July. The debate referred in particular to the case of Gary McKinnon. Last Monday, the Home Secretary came before the Committee. We wrote to him on Tuesday and told him that the treaty gave far too much to the Americans compared with what they gave to us. It did not create a level playing field, as a result of which we can hand over citizens with a very low burden of proof, but the Americans require a very high burden of proof, because of their constitution. I commend the work done by Gary McKinnon's Member of the Parliament, the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes). He has done a terrific job on behalf of his constituent.
It is a pity that we are not going to review the treaty. I hope that in the weeks and months ahead, we will be able to do so, because it went through far too quickly. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock, who serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, has looked into the extradition treaty, but it might be a good idea if his Committee did. Let us revisit it. The Home Secretary is still considering Gary McKinnon's case. I hope that he will consider it again, as he has promised to do, and allow him to stay. Anyone who can
hack into the Pentagon computer system should not be sent for trial, but be offered a job. If he was able to do that, he clearly has intelligence far beyond what anyone could imagine.
Today's was a good Gracious Speech. It contained 15 Bills, but a huge amount of work needs to be done. We have six months until the Prime Minister has to call a general election. It is enough for us all to feel that we can make a great contribution to changing society for the better.
Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): The right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) wants speeches that will cheer him up, but I am afraid that I will disappoint him, because my speech will be along similar lines to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). However, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the quality of the mover and seconder of the Loyal Address.
Keith Vaz: The hon. Gentleman is to be forgiven even before he speaks, because, as chairman of the all-party group on the Holy See, he arranged for me, my wife and other members of the group to meet the Holy Father. Whatever he says, I shall forgive.
Any remarks that I make are not personal remarks about Government Members, whom I regard as splendid people by and large, but will be directed towards the Government, because this Government are absolutely awful. They have somehow managed to redefine the dictionary definition of "incompetent". They have single-handedly destroyed absolutely everything. The editorial comment in The Times yesterday said:
"The Prime Minister would be well advised to bear in mind that the Queen's Speech is there for the maintenance of good government of the nation, not the maintenance of his premiership."
Every Member of the House knows that today's proceedings have been farcical. We are not talking about having six months of parliamentary time on the Floor of the House; we are talking about a very short period indeed. It is absolutely impossible for all the Bills in the Gracious Speech to become law, and I think that the right hon. Member for Leicester, East knows that.
I want briefly to pick out five issues in the Gracious Speech that I feel strongly about. The first is the proposal for a constitutional reform Bill. We have a Government who are purporting to rebuild trust in our democracy, but they are precisely the same Government who have brought trust in our system to an historic low. It is as if they have not been in power for the past 12 years. Our country has undoubtedly become too centralised and, under this Government, Parliament's power has been severely weakened. I absolutely agree with everything that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham said about that.
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