9 May 2012 : Column 1

House of Commons

Wednesday 9 May 2012

The House met at twenty-five 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.

Speaker’s Statement

2.30 pm

Mr Speaker: The House has agreed that the Speaker should make a statement at the beginning of each Session about the duties and responsibilities of hon. Members. May I begin by reminding Members of the House’s code of conduct, which we recently agreed to in a revised form? All Members are under a duty to observe it in letter and in spirit. Members are answerable for their conduct in this place, not just to the House but to the public.

Our ancient privileges allow us to conduct our debate without fear of outside interference. Parliamentary privilege underpins proper democratic debate and scrutiny. It will be under renewed scrutiny over the next few months, with the Government’s consultation on the subject. In particular, we enjoy freedom of speech in Committee proceedings and in debate. Freedom of speech in debate is at the very heart of what we do here for our constituents, and it allows us to conduct our business without fear of outside interference. But it is a freedom that we need to exercise responsibly in the public interest and taking into account the interests of others outside this House.

It is also important that our constituents feel free to come to us no matter what the circumstances, and that they suffer no disadvantage as a result. Each hon. Member is here to represent the views of his or her constituents and to participate in the process of parliamentary democracy. We should ensure that every Member is heard courteously, regardless of the views that he or she is expressing. I and my Deputies seek to ensure that as many Members as possible can participate in our proceedings. That ambition will be greatly aided by brevity in questions, speeches and interventions by all hon. Members.

Every member of the public has a right to expect that his or her Member of Parliament will behave with civility, in the best traditions of fairness, with the highest level of probity and with integrity. We are also under an obligation to try to explain to our constituents how Parliament works. In this mission we are ably assisted by the staff of the House. House staff, who are vital in supporting the work of this House and who do so with dedication and courtesy, are likewise entitled to be treated with dignity, courtesy and respect.

Finally, I should like also to remind all hon. Members that the security of this building and those who work and visit here depends upon all of us. Please be vigilant and tell the Serjeant at Arms about any concerns you have on the subject. Wear your photo identity pass while you are on the parliamentary estate—this is particularly important over the next 24 hours, as there will be a number of police officers on duty, covering for absent security officers, who cannot be expected to recognise Members. Remember that you are responsible for the behaviour of your visitors and for ensuring that they are escorted in non-public areas of the estate.

Before moving to the first business of the new Session, I would like to express my very best wishes to all hon. Members and staff for the 2012-13 Session of Parliament.

Outlawries Bill

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

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Queen’s Speech

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 Government’ s legislative programme will focus on economic growth, justice and constitutional reform.

My Ministers’ first priority will be to reduce the deficit and restore economic stability.

Legislation will be introduced to reduce burdens on business by repealing unnecessary legislation and to limit state inspection of businesses.

My Government will introduce legislation to reform competition law to promote enterprise and fair markets.

My Government will introduce legislation to establish a Green Investment Bank.

Measures will be brought forward to further strengthen regulation of the financial services sector and implement the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Banking.

My Government will introduce legislation to establish an independent adjudicator to ensure supermarkets deal fairly and lawfully with suppliers.

A Bill will be introduced to reduce burdens on charities, enabling them to claim additional payments on small donations.

My Government will propose reform of the electricity market to deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity and ensure prices are fair.

A draft Bill will be published to reform the water industry in England and Wales.

My Government will bring forward measures to modernise the pension system and reform the state pension, creating a fair, simple and sustainable foundation for private saving.

Legislation will be introduced to reform public service pensions in line with the recommendations of the independent commission on public service pensions.

A draft Bill will be published setting out measures to close the Audit Commission and establish new arrangements for the audit of local public bodies.

My Government will strive to improve the lives of children and families.

My Government will propose measures to improve provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs. New arrangements will be proposed to support children involved in family law cases, reform court processes for children in care and strengthen the role of the Children's Commissioner.

Measures will be proposed to make parental leave more flexible so both parents may share parenting responsibilities and balance work and family commitments.

A draft Bill will be published to modernise adult care and support in England.

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My Government will continue to work with the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms to take forward reform of the rules governing succession to the Crown.

Legislation will be brought forward which will introduce individual registration of electors and improve the administration of elections.

A Bill will be brought forward to reform the composition of the House of Lords.

My Government will continue to work constructively and cooperatively with the devolved institutions.

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 is committed to reducing and preventing crime. A Bill will be introduced to establish the National Crime Agency to tackle the most serious and organised crime and strengthen border security. The courts and tribunals service will be reformed to increase efficiency, transparency and judicial diversity.

Legislation will be introduced to protect freedom of speech and reform the law of defamation.

My Government will introduce legislation to strengthen oversight of the security and intelligence agencies. This will also allow courts, through the limited use of closed proceedings, to hear a greater range of evidence in national security cases.

My Government intends to bring forward measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public, subject to scrutiny of draft clauses.

My Government will seek the approval of Parliament relating to the agreed financial stability mechanism within the euro area.

My Government will seek the approval of Parliament on the anticipated accession of Croatia to the European Union.

My Government will work to support a secure and stable Afghanistan, to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, including in Iran, and to bring greater stability to the Horn of Africa.

In the Middle East and North Africa, my Government will support the extension of political and economic freedom in countries in transition.

My Government has set out firm plans to spend nought point seven per cent of gross national income as official development assistance from 2013. This will be the first time the United Kingdom has met this agreed international commitment.

My Government will build strategic partnerships with the emerging powers.

The United Kingdom will assume the Presidency of the G8 in 2013: my Government will use this opportunity to promote international security and prosperity.

In the year of the Diamond Jubilee, Prince Philip and I will continue to take part in celebrations across the United Kingdom. The Prince of Wales and other members of my family are travelling widely to take part in festivities throughout the Commonwealth. Prince Philip and I look

9 May 2012 : Column 5 forward to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games and to welcoming visitors from around the world to London and venues throughout the country.

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 want to announce the proposed pattern of debate during the remaining days on the Loyal Address: Thursday 10 May—home affairs and justice; Monday 14 May—business and the economy; Tuesday 15 May—foreign affairs and international development; Wednesday 16 May —cost of living; Thursday 17 May—jobs and growth.

2.35 pm

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): I beg to move,

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.

In this year of the Queen’s diamond jubilee, I am deeply honoured to move the Loyal Address. For six decades, Her Majesty has provided us with a peerless example of duty, dignity and service to the nation. And it was the subject of “peerlessness” that was immediately on my mind when I was called into the Chief Whip’s office last week. I really thought that he wanted to have a full and frank discussion with me on the reform of the other place. I ran to No. 9 Downing street, in the pouring rain, clutching my folder of briefing notes, while continuously repeating, “More effective, but not elected. More effective, but not elected.” I can announce to this House that having a small glass of water, without the biscuits, with the Chief Whip has allowed us to reach agreement; as our manifesto demanded, a consensus on this thorny issue has been reached.

It was only later that I remembered something important: the accepted convention is that this Address is usually delivered by an hon. Member of this House just as their illustrious career is starting to approach its expiry date—perhaps my right. hon. Friend the Prime Minister was gently hinting that I had a great future behind me. Equally, the Loyal Address is usually seconded by a young, ambitious, thrusting Back Bencher who is hungry for promotion, and it is in that spirit that I warmly congratulate the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), who has that happy role today.

Although I have rarely seen the Chamber this full, this will probably not be my most watched speech. Not many Back-Bench MPs can boast more than 130,000 downloads on YouTube, for a few lines uttered during an Opposition day debate. To any colleagues in the House seeking a wider audience for their speeches, my advice is: spend less time thinking about what you are going to say and more time thinking about what you are going to wear. I recommend a loud tie—preferably one with a soundtrack.

The last person to move this motion was my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), and I seem to recall that he informed this House that he was able to trace his lineage back to the village of Lilley, which has existed in his constituency since Anglo-Saxon times. With a name like mine, I was never going to convince the voters of Stratford-on-Avon

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that my ancestors fought the Normans at the battle of Hastings. In fact, Stratford-on-Avon is a constituency in the heart of England, in the county of Warwickshire, that is 90% white. If I may say so, Mr Speaker, this is not a kaleidoscope county. But it is testament to the values of that constituency, and of this country, that it chose me as its representative, and it is on its behalf that I deliver this address.

During the election, I canvassed every one of Stratford-on-Avon’s 79 villages and hamlets, as well as its four principal towns. It became clear to me that people were not interested in my ethnicity, or in where I had gone to school. What they wanted to know was: was I on their side, and was I up to the job? For us politicians, and for this Government, those are the questions that really matter. Our different backgrounds were certainly a point of curiosity, but what made the difference was our shared values, and in that the people of Stratford represent the very best of modern Britain.

Mr Speaker, my family arrived on these shores with only £50 in their pockets—immigrants from a land in the grip of a cruel and murderous regime. This great country offered us the priceless gifts of freedom and opportunity, and the ultimate proof of that opportunity is that I can stand before you today as a Member of this, the oldest and greatest of all Parliaments.

Today, the task before us all is to spread that opportunity further. To do so, we must strengthen enterprise and deliver a more affordable state. It will not be easy. As my hon. Friend, and co-author, the Member for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock) well knows, over the past decade or more our banks have been managed not by the masters of the universe, but by the masters of nothing. I am therefore pleased that the Gracious Speech has announced measures to implement the Vickers recommendations on banking reform. We should not make the mistake of thinking that this is merely a technical issue, of no interest to the public. It matters to people, because they want a fairer and stronger financial system, not one of cosy cartels and taxpayer bail-outs.

What is happening right now in the eurozone will matter, too. In Greece, hardliners and extremists are threatening to take over the political mainstream, but it is comforting that there are early signs of a reverse trend here in the UK. In Britain, extremists and hardliners are rejoining the mainstream. Only yesterday my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary issued a clarion call for the repatriation of powers from Brussels. After such a far-sighted and decisive intervention, by such a senior member of the Government, no one can say that this coalition is not working. But there is a serious point here. People at home watching the political mayhem in Europe would be utterly dismayed if we failed to maintain a strong and focused Government to deal with this crisis.

There is a real opportunity beyond the crisis, and I therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to build strategic partnerships with the emerging powers. Over the next 10 years the global economy is forecast to grow by $9 trillion—and $6 trillion of that growth will come from one country: China. In fact, China is growing so quickly that it creates an economy the size of Greece every three months. On current trends, we might have to revise that upwards.

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In my own constituency, I see even small businesses grabbing hold of the opportunities that those huge numbers represent. Reforms that unleash the creative power of our small and medium-sized businesses are the best growth strategy that this country could possibly have.

In business, we soon learn that the world owes us nothing; historic ties, patient diplomacy, shared values and even shared language will not get us that contract unless we can also beat our rivals on quality, service and price. That is a lesson that we ignore at our peril. Yet there is one area in which the world does owe Britain—one field in which we remain both a net creditor and a leading exporter. It is more stable than finance and more enduring than oil. I am describing our extraordinary cultural industries. Indeed, as the Member for Stratford-on-Avon, I cannot proceed any further without a mention of William Shakespeare, my most famous former constituent.

Members of the House will doubtless be familiar with Shakespeare’s warning in Act I of “Hamlet”:

“Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportion’d thought his act”—

valuable advice indeed for those of us who use Twitter, Mr Speaker.

The House will be aware of not only Shakespeare the playwright and poet, but Shakespeare the industry—another area in which our fame resounds across the world. When the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, visited Britain for two days last summer, one day was reserved for high-level strategic talks in Whitehall, but the other—at his own request—was spent with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford. The thought of one of the world’s most powerful men wearing special white gloves, so that he could handle a Shakespeare first edition with reverence, is a striking reminder of just how far our cultural reach extends. And the traffic is not just one-way; for the many Chinese visitors to Stratford, a park bench where Premier Wen took a short rest has become a major tourist attraction.

In summing up, I should say that it is Shakespeare the man who resonates with me the most. As well as creating great art, Shakespeare built a great business. Uniquely among Elizabethan playwrights, he owned a share in the theatre company for which he wrote. Like all good business owners, he invested in his company. In 1608, he helped to finance a second theatre in Blackfriars, just across the river from the more famous Globe. Lacking family connections, but possessed of a great grammar school education, his achievement is all the more remarkable.

As well as being the greatest writer in our language—in any language, I would say—there is no better embodiment of British values than this self-taught, self-made, and indeed self-created, man. He was a man who worked his utmost to put on earth and in our hearts a source of wealth that endures to this day. In fact, more than that, I would go as far as to say that the great bard was in his soul and actions a natural Tory. I commend the motion to the House.

2.47 pm

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): I am very privileged to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi); the House will be glad that he left his

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loud tie and accompanying soundtrack behind. But he did manage to make a powerful and entertaining speech. I remind him, however, that he and I would be considerably disadvantaged in our task today had we not been elected to this House. Law-makers should be held accountable to law-obeyers.

It is an honour to be asked to second the Loyal Address and a great surprise to be doing so. I realise I am the old guard following the young blood, but I hope that the kinder Members of the House might see a little wisdom tempering youthful exuberance. A great deal has changed in the 29 years since I entered the House, but some things do not change. I made my maiden speech in a Queen’s Speech debate on the health service. The Health Minister who replied was the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who has proved himself a survivor in Government, even if he is now more rounded and more mellow—even if we are talking only about his shoes and his figure.

I represent part of the north-east of Scotland, which is characterised by a dry, understated sense of humour. For the past 30 years, we have been entertained by a talented trio known as Scotland the What? and they invented a number of kooky characters, one of whom was the Member of Parliament for Aucherturra wi’ Clatt, which is a name that resonates across Gordon, if nowhere else; indeed, I think that you are looking at that hon. Member. Less salubrious was Councillor Swick, which means “swindle” in the local dialect. In one sketch, he plays a justice of the peace, and he instructs the procurator fiscal to bring in the first criminal. When he is told that the accused is innocent until proved guilty, he demands of the procurator fiscal, “Whose side are you on?” At the end of his presiding over the court, he concluded, “In my court, justice has not only to be done but has to be seen to be believed.”

The constituency of Gordon has changed a great deal. For a start, it has experienced four boundary changes. Nevertheless, the voters of Gordon have done me the honour of electing me seven times. Currently, one third of the population lives in the northern part of the city of Aberdeen, which includes the airport— the fastest-growing airport in the UK. That airport is crucial to our dynamic economy. We have two renowned universities and food and agricultural research centres of world repute, while Rowett research institute has produced no fewer than three Nobel laureates, and of course there is the global energy industry. Like most people in Gordon, I did not support the oil tax changes in last year’s Budget, but I appreciate the engagement with the industry by all relevant Ministers and Departments, which led to further tax measures in this year’s Budget that have gone a long way towards restoring confidence.

The other two thirds of the population of Gordon live in central Aberdeenshire—a productive farming and food producing region notable for prime beef promoted by ANM Group, Scotch Premier Meat, and innovative mail order pioneer Donald Russell. We also have quality ice cream makers Mackie, who also produce a range of crisps, and Rizza’s of Huntly, which is also the home of Dean’s, makers of melt-in-the-mouth shortbread and biscuits. [ Interruption. ] They did not pay me to say that, I promise. Many of those food producers, and our mixed livestock and arable farmers, will welcome the Bill to establish a groceries code adjudicator.

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People often ask me where Gordon is. The trouble is that the constituency derives its name not from a place but from the Gordon family. Lady Aberdeen, June Gordon, who died in 2009 at the age of 95, was well beloved as a great patron of the arts at Haddo house. At an event shortly after my re-election in 1997, she told me that she was delighted that I had been re-elected given my small majority in 1983. “I was so concerned that you might not get back”, she said, “that I nearly voted for you.” The Gordon family have also produced one Prime Minister, the fourth Earl of Aberdeen, who led a Liberal-Conservative Government and included Palmerston and Gladstone in his Cabinet.

Of course, we are also famous for fine malt whisky. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] That is going down well at the back. One commentator described me as the Member for Gordon, the home of malt gin; and in fact it is the same Gordon family who were responsible for that most English of drinks—gin. We have some fine distilleries, including Glendronach, Ardmore and Glen Garioch, which won an award for the best Highland single malt this March—so go out and get it!

Scotland’s First Minister has stated that he will not wear a kilt in Scotland until independence has been achieved. Of all the economic, historical, legal, cultural and social arguments for rejecting independence, surely the most overwhelming must be to protect the people of Scotland from the sight of Alex Salmond in a kilt.

No Member on the Government Benches needs telling that this is a difficult time to be in government. We inherited an unsustainable level of public debt and a recession across developed economies. The coalition agreement took as its mantra “freedom, fairness and responsibility” and we must work harder on that.

In the two years since the first Queen’s Speech of this Parliament, a great deal of heavy lifting has been carried out. When there is no money left, it is impossible not to make painful decisions to turn around a huge debt and lay the foundations of a more sustainable future. However, I believe that we have strived hard to be fair. Raising the tax threshold to £9,205 a year by the end of this Session and increasing pensions and most benefits with inflation at a time of no growth is, I believe, an extraordinary achievement.

On the core agenda, the coalition has still much to do. This is not a time to be distracted by unproductive arguments between left and right or to deepen our divisions with the rest of Europe, whose problems profoundly affect us. There is more than enough that unites us.

Our reform agenda, far from being some right-wing conspiracy to destroy our welfare system and public services, is aimed at ensuring that we can maintain in the long term the viable, fair and inclusive welfare system on which our civilised society depends. For that to happen, we need to secure growth in the private sector. I therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to banking and financial services reform. Apart from restoring confidence in retail banking and preventing casino banking from bringing down our financial system again, we must find more ways to stimulate investment and bank lending to get the economy moving. I also welcome the commitment to electricity market reform and to getting the green investment bank and the green deal fully invested.

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I have long argued that Governments tend to produce too much legislation, often to placate the “something must be done” school or cultivate the tabloids, and we know where that has led us. I therefore strongly welcome the repeal of statute law that will get rid of more than 200 unnecessary laws. However, I do not accept the argument that the economic crisis means we should set aside our commitment to political reform in the shape of the recall of MPs or the democratisation of our second Chamber, which has been deferred for nearly 100 years.

Twenty years ago, the Loyal Address was seconded by the current Secretary of State for International Development. I suppose that encouragingly demonstrates that seconding it can lead to greatness, but as the current Chair of the Select Committee on International Development, an honour I very much cherish, I am disappointed at the omission of legislation to enact the UK’s commitment to 0.7% of gross domestic product being provided for overseas development assistance. However, I recognise that legislation is not required for us to meet that commitment next year, and I very much welcome the fact that it was reinforced in the Queen’s Speech.

As chair of the all-party group on deafness, may I pay tribute to Jack Ashley following his passing? He was a great support and encouragement to me, and he was always courteous, charming and humorous. He will be missed by many, but especially by the deaf community.

It is 50 years ago this year that I joined the Liberal party and almost 29 years since I entered the House, so for all but the last two years I have been in opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is about to make his first reply to the debate on the Loyal Address. I know from experience that it is often easier to oppose, but the left in Europe is about to be tested on whether it has coherent and credible alternative policies. We need deficit reduction and growth. We are living through perhaps the most challenging times in living memory, but I came into politics to make a positive difference, to promote reform and to achieve a fairer, more liberal society. That remains my objective, and I commend the Loyal Address to the House.

2.58 pm

Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab): I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to those who have died in Afghanistan since we last met: Guardsman Michael Roland of 1st Battalion the Grenadier Guards, and Corporal Andrew Roberts and Private Ratu Silibaravi of 23 Pioneer Regiment, the Royal Logistics Corps. They all showed the utmost bravery, and our thoughts are with their family and friends. Let me also say from this House that we support our mission in Afghanistan and will also support the Prime Minister in the important efforts that he is making to secure a political settlement there for when our troops have left.

As is customary, I would also like to pay tribute to those Members who have died since the last Queen’s Speech. First, Alan Keen was hugely popular with Members of all parties. A football scout turned MP, he had faith in the power of sport and politics to change lives. He is missed sorely by his wife, Ann, and his family and friends.

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I also pay tribute to David Cairns, who was able to enter the House only because the law was changed to allow a former Catholic priest to sit in Parliament. He was funny, warm and principled, and his death one year ago today was a tragedy particularly for his partner, Dermot, and his many, many friends.

In her diamond jubilee year, I would also like to pay tribute to Her Majesty the Queen. We are reminded yet again today of her tireless service to the people of this country, and we are all looking forward to the national celebrations later this year.

My understanding is that, by tradition, the Loyal Address is proposed by a rising star of the governing party, who is thrusting his way forward on to the rungs of the ministerial ladder. Hon. Members of all parties can therefore agree that there could be no better choice than the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi). He spoke eloquently, movingly and with confidence, and I congratulate him on his remarks.

I believe that the hon. Gentleman is the first Member of the House to have been born in Iraqi Kurdistan. He spoke about the people of Stratford-on-Avon and said that his background was not the issue. However, he said in an interview that I read:

“What Britain gave my family was freedom and opportunity…to my family they weren’t just words, they changed our whole life.”

He brings to the House a perspective that enriches us all.

The hon. Gentleman also has the distinction of being the founder of the polling company YouGov. Let me say that I have spent much of the past 18 months thinking that he has a lot to answer for. No doubt, after recent weeks, the Prime Minister feels the same.

I am used to seeing the hon. Gentleman as an enthusiastic Back Bencher—if I can put it like that—braying at me with particular vigour from a sedentary position during Prime Minister’s questions, so I am very happy to give him the endorsement he no doubt craves and recommend unequivocally that the Prime Minister give him ministerial preferment whenever the reshuffle comes. It would be his gain and mine.

I also congratulate the seconder of the Loyal Address, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce). He brought his years of distinguished service and wisdom to the job. He brings great skill and experience to the House, including, as he said, as an assiduous and enthusiastic Chairman of the International Development Committee. In doing research on his background, I got extremely excited when someone in my office turned up a biography from the internet, which stated:

“Malcolm Bruce also worked early in his career with Ozzy Osbourne and recently performed a Jimi Hendrix Birthday tribute.”

Sadly for me and for him, it turned out to be a different Malcolm Bruce.

However, the right hon. Gentleman continues to serve the Liberal Democrats in important ways, not least as their president in Scotland—I am sure he is very proud of that just now. No doubt he will play a crucial role in the inquest into that local election result in Edinburgh, where the Liberal Democrat candidate was beaten by a penguin. [Laughter.] Tory Members should not laugh too much because there are more pandas than Tory MPs in Scotland. I gently say to the right hon. Gentleman that he will have to do better than the explanation offered locally in Edinburgh that

“it wasn’t a target ward”.

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The right hon. Gentleman has had a long and distinguished parliamentary career, which, under normal circumstances, would end up with service in the House of Lords, if it was not for his leader’s determination to abolish it. However, I pay tribute to him for his excellent speech.

On the Gracious Speech, first, let me say that we will work with the Government on the green investment bank, the defamation Bill and flexible parental leave, all of which sound remarkably like Labour ideas—because they are Labour ideas.

This is the speech that was supposed to be the Government’s answer to the clear message from the electorate last week, but on today’s evidence, they still do not get it. For a young person looking for work, this speech offers nothing; for a family whose living standards are being squeezed, this speech offers nothing; for the millions of people who think the Government are not on their side, this speech offers nothing. “No change, no hope” is the real message of this Queen’s Speech.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor appear to believe that people are turning against them because they have not understood the Government’s economic policy, but the truth is that people have turned against them because they have understood it only too well. What did the Government promise two years ago? The Chancellor could not have been clearer in his emergency Budget, when he said there would be

“a steady and sustained economic recovery, with low inflation and falling unemployment…a new model of economic growth”.—[Official Report, 22 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 168.]

What has he delivered? He has delivered the worst unemployment in 16 years, 1 million young people out of work and the first double-dip recession for 37 years. They promised recovery, but they delivered recession—a recession made in Downing street. They have failed.

As if a failing plan was not bad enough, the Government added insult to injury in the Budget, by making millions pay more so that millionaires could pay less. There is no change on that in the Queen’s Speech either. I say to the Prime Minister that he should listen to people such as Linda Pailing, the deputy chair of Harlow Conservative party, who said of her constituents:

“They don’t like the fact that he didn’t keep the 50p tax…people feel here that he is not working for them, he is working for his friends”.

She said these elections are

“to do with what Cameron and his cronies are doing”.

It comes to something when even lifelong Tories do not believe that this Prime Minister is on their side. Last Thursday, the British people delivered a damning verdict on the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and their economic strategy. The Prime Minister says he gets it, but if he really does, the first thing—[Interruption.] Government Members say, “What about London?”, which is interesting. What did the Mayor of London say? He said he had “survived” the wind,

“the rain, the BBC, the Budget and the endorsement of David Cameron”—[Laughter.]

I think they walked into that one.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman talks about the 50p tax, but I am slightly confused as to why he did not vote against the change when he had the opportunity to do so.

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Edward Miliband: We had a whole amendment on that. I wish the hon. Gentleman, having listened to his constituents, had joined us in the Division Lobby to vote against the 50p tax change.

The Prime Minister says he gets it. If he really did get it, the first thing he would have done in this Queen’s Speech would have been to drop his tax cut for millionaires, but he has not done so. They are carrying on with a Finance Bill to put the 45p tax rate into law. Why are they doing that? Because they really believe that their problems are not those of policy, but those of public relations.

What did the part-time Chancellor say at the weekend? He said:

“I know the way the Budget was presented meant this message wasn’t heard.”

The Deputy Prime Minister said:

“An impression has formed that this was a budget for the rich”.

It is insights like that which got him where he is today.

The Government just do not get it. The problem is not the presentation of a tax cut for millionaires; it is the reality: £40,000 for every millionaire in Britain. It is not the presentation of cuts in tax credits; it is the reality. On the granny tax, the churches tax, the charities tax and the whole Budget omnishambles, it is not the presentation; it is the reality.

Several hon. Members rose

Edward Miliband: I will give way later.

Yes, the Government have a communication problem, as the Prime Minister said this morning: the problem is that the electorate have spoken, and they are not listening. But to solve his communication problem, the Prime Minister has a new way of explaining his policy. To the policeman or woman being fired, to the young people looking for work, to the small business going under, what was his message yesterday? He said:

“You call it austerity, I call it efficiency.”

Here it is from the Prime Minister, Cameron Direct, to hundreds of thousands of people being made redundant: “The bad news is you’ve lost your job. The good news is you’re a key part of our efficiency drive.” In two years, he has gone from David Cameron to David Brent. That is the reality.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): If the right hon. Gentleman is on the side of hard-working people, why does he oppose the benefit cap equivalent to a salary of £35,000 a year?

Edward Miliband: This is very interesting. I will tell the hon. Gentleman why we wanted it done a different way—[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] I will tell him. It is because the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said, in a letter to his colleagues, that the way in which the benefit cap was done would cost more money, put more people into temporary accommodation and fail to solve the problem. The Government did not listen to advice because they wanted to grab a political headline—typical of this Prime Minister.

If the Government did not have the courage to reverse their Budget, they should have put an economy that works for working people at the centre of this Queen’s

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Speech, but they have not. Utility bills, water bills and the cost of getting to work are worrying families up and down the country—

Several hon. Members rose

Edward Miliband: Opposition Members should calm down: I will give way later.

What have the Government got to say about those issues? Absolutely nothing. The energy Bill has nothing to help people struggling to make ends meet. No legislation this year on water or on train fares—nothing to relieve the squeeze on ordinary families.

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): I, too, am concerned about utility bills—we are all concerned about utility bills—but let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that when he was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change he proposed the renewable heating initiative that would have put £193 on people’s bills. Why was that not in his alternative Queen’s Speech?

Edward Miliband: I will tell the hon. Gentleman what we did in government: we introduced the winter fuel allowance and took action on prepayment meters—far more than this Government have ever done.

Let us talk about those at the top of society, executive pay and multi-million pound bonuses—[ Interruption. ] It is very interesting that Conservative Members are groaning about that, because a few months ago, the Prime Minister said that he was outraged about crony capitalism. He told us that he was grossly offended by it and that it was not what he believed in. Such was his strength of feeling that in the entire Queen’s Speech, the issue did not merit a single mention.

I have a suggestion for the Prime Minister. He should accept the recommendation of the High Pay Commission to put an ordinary worker on the remuneration committee of every company in Britain. I say, “If you can’t look one of your employees in the eye to justify that you’re worth it, then you shouldn’t be getting the salary.” Come to think of it, why not start with the Government? I have the ideal candidate to be the employee on the board judging the Cabinet. She stands ready to serve—the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries). Let us remind ourselves why she is so well qualified. She said:

“They are two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to understand the lives of others.”

She is only saying what so many people are thinking: it is high time the shareholder spring came to the Conservative party.

On the economy, on living standards, and on executive pay—

Louise Mensch (Corby) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman is coming on to the economy, so, since the shadow Chancellor cannot enlighten us, will he tell the House how he is coming along with costing his economic programme?

Edward Miliband: I am glad that the hon. Lady intervened, because this is what she said about the election results:

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“As Conservatives, we have to learn lessons…In the spirit of non-spin, my benchmark for Labour was 700 seats”.

I think we slightly outperformed her expectations.

Several hon. Members rose

Edward Miliband: I have been generous in giving way.

On all the major issues, the Government have shown that they are out of touch. If we need any further proof, let us consider what they have done on crime—taking police off the streets with 20% cuts and stripping back powers on antisocial behaviour.

Let me turn to one of the biggest omissions in the Queen’s Speech. There is no bigger challenge facing families up and down the country than care for elderly relatives, and there was no clearer promise from the Government than that they would legislate on it. [Interruption.] I know Government Members do not want to talk about what is happening in the Government, but in their foreword to the health White Paper, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister said that there would be

“legislation in the second session of this parliament to establish a sustainable legal and financial framework for adult social care”.

Instead, we have nothing. [Interruption.] The Prime Minister says there is a draft Bill, but he said he would legislate in this Session, and he has failed to do so. They have totally failed to do so. There was a clear promise. [Interruption.] The Prime Minister should calm down. They promised a Bill on social care, but they chose not to include one.

There is room in the Queen’s Speech for House of Lords reform, however. I am a supporter of House of Lords reform and a referendum, but I thought that a Queen’s Speech was supposed to define a Government’s priorities. So there is a mystery that the Prime Minister needs to explain in his reply. Over the weekend, the Chancellor said that House of Lords reform

“is certainly not my priority, it is not the priority of the Government.”

So it is not the Conservative party’s priority. But the mystery deepens, because the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday that there were many, many other things he cared far more about. So apparently it is not his priority either. [Interruption.] Government Members ask if it is our priority. No, it is not. I am bound to ask, though: if it is not a priority, how on earth did it end up in the Queen’s Speech? I thought the Queen’s Speech was supposed to define the priorities for the Government’s legislative programme. Why is it in there? How did it get into the speech?

What about the things that did not make it into the Queen’s Speech? How about the manifesto promise—the Prime Minister’s detoxification promise—to enshrine in law spending 0.7% of national income on aid. [Interruption.] They are not putting it in law. [Interruption.] The Prime Minister keeps saying he is doing it, when all he is doing is publishing draft Bills. And what has happened to something that used to be a big priority for the Prime Minister? He said in 2010 that lobbying was

“the next big scandal waiting to happen.”

He was right. It did happen—to him: Adam Werritty, whose lobbying caused the downfall of the Defence Secretary; Peter Cruddas, Tory party treasurer, offering

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Downing street dinners to donors; and Fred Michel and the 163 pages of e-mails. Three lobbying scandals, but no Bill.

Last week, the Prime Minister applied to have prior access to the evidence of Leveson as a core participant. I have to say that he is one of the few people left who did not already think he was a core participant in the whole News Corporation scandal: he hired the editor, he sent the texts, he even rode the horse, and his Culture Secretary backed the bid. It does not get much more core than that. This is not just a Westminster story because it shows whose side the Prime Minister is on. What did he say to Rebekah Brooks after she was forced to resign following revelations that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked? We learn from the newspapers that he said:

“Sorry I couldn’t have been as loyal to you as you have been to me.”

That goes to the very heart of the problem with this Government and this Prime Minister: they stand up for the wrong people. Two years ago in the rose garden they promised change. Yesterday in the tractor factory all they could offer was more of the same. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister: two leaders out of touch with the country, out of touch even with their own parties, locked together not on principle or policy but in determination to hang on to office for another three years. So halfway through this Government and particularly after last Thursday, is it not time that the Government stopped governing for the few and started listening to the many?

3.19 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): Let me begin, as the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) did, by paying tribute to those servicemen who have tragically lost their lives in Afghanistan: Guardsman Michael Roland of 1st Battalion the Grenadier Guards, and Corporal Andrew Roberts and Private Ratu Silibaravi of 23 Pioneer Regiment, the Royal Logistic Corps. They acted heroically and died serving their country, and we must always honour their memory.

We have just finished the longest Session of Parliament for more than 100 years, and I am proud to say that in that Session we brought down the deficit, capped welfare, scrapped ID cards, introduced free schools, accelerated academies, brought in the pupil premium, binned the jobs tax, raised the personal allowance and froze the council tax. That was just the start of clearing up the mess left by the Labour party and demonstrating that this will be a Government on the side of people who work hard and do the right thing.

Let me say something that I hope will unite hon. Members on both sides of the House. The last Session of Parliament also made an impact not just at home but around the world. We fed more than 2.5 million people facing famine and starvation, we supported over 5.5 million children to go to school in the poorest countries of our world and we immunised a child against diseases every 2.5 seconds of the last parliamentary Session. And, yes, it was in the last Session that Parliament stood up to Colonel Gaddafi, backed the action that stopped him slaughtering his own people and showed once again that when it comes to the cause of democracy, all sides of this Parliament can unite in defence of freedom.

As the Leader of the Opposition said, during the last parliamentary Session we also lost two much-respected and hard-working Members of the House. David Cairns

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gave up his first vocation as a Catholic priest for his second, which was to serve his constituents and sit on these Benches. He was an exceptionally kind man whose quick wit enlivened our debates, and I know that he is widely missed. Alan Keen served in this House for almost two decades and made many firm friendships on all sides of the House. He was passionate about the way in which sport can change young people’s lives, and his leadership of the all-party parliamentary football group is remembered with much affection. I am sure that he will be looking down at the incredible months of sport that lie ahead over the next few months. Both Members represented the very best of this House.

I also think that the Leader of the Opposition was right to pay tribute in his remarks to Her Majesty the Queen. It is one of the greatest privileges of this job to see Her Majesty every week to discuss what has happened here and across the world. In terms of service and dedication to our nation, she quite simply has no equal.

Let me turn now to the proposer of the Gracious Speech. When the Chief Whip phoned me and told me his suggestion for the role, it came as a bit of a shock. It was a slightly bad line, and I thought that he had said, “I’ve asked Nadine to do it.” Although I am always ready to take it on the chin, there was a slight sense of relief when he explained that he was talking about my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) rather than my hon. and close Friend the Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries).

In the past, there has been a tradition that the proposer should be a shy and retiring type—the type who keeps their head down, gets on with the job and loathes the limelight. I am pleased to say that, on this occasion, that tradition has been well and truly broken. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon told us, he has a remarkable story. In the 1970s, his family fled Iraq and the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, arriving at Heathrow with literally only the bags they carried and the clothes on their backs. But they picked themselves up and made an incredible future in this country. My hon. Friend put himself through university, built a business from scratch and in just one generation has made it here to Parliament. There is such a thing as the British dream, and he embodies it.

My hon. Friend’s name has, at times, caused confusion. As a new Member of Parliament, he was invited to a dinner in honour of a delegation from Iraq, and was seated next to my predecessor but one in Witney, the former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd. During the main course, Lord Hurd turned to him and asked, “So, Mr Zahawi, what do you do?” My hon. Friend replied, “I’m a Member of Parliament,” to which Lord Hurd inquired, “And which constituency in Iraq do you represent?” Not surprisingly, my hon. Friend replied, “Stratford-on-Avon.” His speech was in the finest traditions of the House—witty, wise, entertaining and erudite. I praise him for what he said.

Let me turn to the seconder of the Gracious Speech. Again, when I was told the name, I was not too sure. The first things I heard were “Scottish MP” and “Gordon”—I see some nervous looks on the Opposition Front Bench, too. I refer to one of the House’s most distinguished Members, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) who, as a Liberal Democrat, takes very seriously the motto inspired by his namesake Robert the Bruce: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”—although as he told us in his case he

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has tried and succeeded in no fewer than seven general elections. He lives in a charming constituency dotted with the finest whisky distilleries. I want to be absolutely clear that when he was shadow Treasury spokesman and frequently advocated extraordinary cuts in whisky duty at each and every Budget, he was speaking wholly in the national interest.

From my researches, I can tell the Whips something else, which I hope they realise: my right hon. Friend does not always respond well when people do him a favour. He asked—and the request was granted—the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr Kennedy) to be best man at his wedding in 1998, and a year later he stood against him for leadership of the Liberal Democrat party. As the Leader of the Opposition can testify, things can get worse—you could, of course, be brothers. My right hon. Friend has been forthright in his views: he has been a powerful voice for the disabled and a passionate advocate of foreign aid. I hear absolutely what he says about a Bill for 0.7% of GDP on aid, but what I would say is that what matters most of all is that we reach the target in terms of the money spent.

Both speeches were in the very best traditions of this House, and I pay tribute to the people who gave them.

The Gracious Speech sets out our foreign policy priorities, and the first of these is, of course, Afghanistan. Let me be clear: our troops will no longer be in a combat role beyond the end of 2014. That is our deadline and I will not waver from it.

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): The Prime Minister generously rolled out the red carpet for Mr Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the candidate of his sister party in Poland who was badly defeated. In February, the Prime Minister endorsed Mr Sarkozy, who was defeated on Sunday. Will the Prime Minister, from this Dispatch Box, endorse Governor Mitt Romney—and thus ensure that the curse of Cameron gets President Obama re-elected?

The Prime Minister: If the right hon. Gentleman is not careful, I might endorse him. When the Conservatives take Rotherham, modernisation will be complete.

Let me tell the House that by the middle of next year British forces will have shifted their focus from combat to support in all three of the districts of Helmand for which we are responsible: Lashkar Gah, Nad Ali and Nahri Sarraj. So the Afghans will have lead responsibility for security a full year before our troops leave their combat role. When we came to that country, there was no one to hand over to—no proper army, no proper police force. Today we have built up the Afghan national security forces and we are on track and on target for them to take over full security responsibility.

From the outset, our approach has been hard-headed and strategic, overseen in detail by the new National Security Council I established on my first day in office. The role of that council is to ask which areas of the world pose the greatest threat to Britain. Just last week, we were advised that the most immediate international terrorist threat to our country now comes not from Afghanistan, but from Yemen—and that is clearly confirmed by the news from the US yesterday.

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Andrew Selous: Does the Prime Minister agree that, given the details of the Yemen plane bomb plot, we need to expand the range of measures available to us to combat terrorism, while also protecting our historic freedoms?

The Prime Minister: I do agree with my hon. Friend about that. Perhaps we will come on to discuss what is difficult and contentious legislation on data communications; I know this will be debated and there will be draft clauses. The point I make to the House is that what we are trying to do here is not to look at the content of people’s telephone calls, but to update the necessary measures for finding out who called whom and when, because it is that information that has solved almost every serious crime and certainly almost every serious terrorist offence.

I say to people, let us of course look at the detail, let us of course consult, but I do not want to be the Prime Minister standing at this Dispatch Box saying “I could have done more to prevent terrorist acts, but we did not have the courage to take difficult steps”. Imagine, for a minute, what would have happened if, when mobile phones came along, the House had simply said “No, we will stick to data communications on fixed-line phones; we will not touch mobile phones”. If we had done that, there would be many, many unsolved cases in comparison with what we have experienced.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: I am happy to give way to my right hon. Friend. [Interruption.]

Keith Vaz: I am most grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way, and I am glad that he has kept the focus on Yemen. In the context of what has happened this week, will he confirm that both London and Washington will be supporting the new Government of Yemen? The front line against terrorism is not our country, but Sana’a and Aden, and without that practical support we cannot defeat al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula.

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right, and we are supporting the new Government in Yemen. We are helping them with their transition, we are helping to build up the Yemeni security forces, and we are supporting the development of more effective state institutions. That is absolutely vital work. We will also remain focused on the challenges in Iran and Syria. These are the critical months during which the world must deal with the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. While we take nothing off the table, we have specifically said to Israel, both publicly and privately, that the option of further pressure and further sanctions on the regime is the right way forward. We have led the imposition of an EU oil embargo, which many believed would not be possible, and we are ready to negotiate in good faith.

I know that everyone in the House is appalled by the violence that is taking place in Syria and frustrated that we cannot do more to stop it, but I believe that the Annan plan of getting more observers in to stop the killing is the right answer. Today there are just 60 observers in a country more than 70,000 square miles in size. We are

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working with our allies, including the Turks and the Arab League, to get hundreds more into that country to stop the bloodshed.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): The Prime Minister talks of threats to our national security. In that context, can he explain why, given the urgency of the climate crisis that faces us, the Queen’s Speech contains nothing to deal with it except provision for a green investment bank that will still not be able to borrow, and a Bill that is likely to lock us into high-cost, high-carbon gas production? Is it because he does not want to show climate leadership, or because he has been overruled by his Chancellor?

The Prime Minister: I am a bit disappointed by what the hon. Lady has said, because the green investment bank has £3 billion to spend on green investments. This is the sort of proposal that has been included in Labour manifestos, Conservative manifestos and Liberal Democrat manifestos for years. Now we are delivering it on the ground, and that will make a difference.

We should always, in this country, stand on the side of freedom, and we should remember that it is 30 years since our taskforce landed on the Falkland Islands to defend the islanders’ right to remain British. I am sure that the House will join me in paying tribute to the 255 British servicemen who gave their lives in the defence of freedom. Three decades have not dimmed our memories of their bravery, nor have they dimmed this country’s resolve. Make no mistake: for as long as the people of the Falkland Islands wish to remain British, that is exactly how it will be.

Let me say exactly what this Queen’s Speech is about. It is about a Government making the tough, long-term decisions to restore our country to strength—dealing with the deficit, rebalancing the economy, and building a society that rewards people who work hard and do the right thing.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): The Prime Minister will be aware that the Minister for Immigration said last week, in the wake of the election results, that the Government must start to demonstrate more competence. Was the Prime Minister disappointed to discover yesterday that the Deputy Prime Minister does not understand the difference between the debt and the deficit?

The Prime Minister: What the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday, and what I said yesterday, is that we inherited a deficit that was bigger than the deficits of Greece, Spain or Portugal. What we have had to do is deal with that deficit, deal with the debt, and get our country moving again. We are recovering from the mess that the hon. Gentleman’s party left.

We are reforming welfare so that it pays to have a job, but we want to do more to reward responsibility. We are lifting 2 million people out of tax, but we want to go further to help Britain’s strivers. We have introduced free schools and created more than 1,000 academies, but we want to do more to spread opportunity. That is what this Queen’s Speech is about.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): I am sure that the Prime Minister listened as carefully as I

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did to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. Did he detect anything resembling a solution to the problems that the country faces?

The Prime Minister: I listened very carefully. There was almost nothing in terms of a costed, credible alternative. The Opposition have now had two years to work out what their alternative is, and we heard absolutely nothing apart from a string of press releases put together, which we have all read over the last few weeks.

Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab): Can the Prime Minister explain to the nation why he is pursuing economic policies that have led to a double-dip recession and have frozen every inch of growth out of the economy?

The Prime Minister: As I have said, we have been dealing with an economy that had the biggest boom and bust in our banks, the biggest deficit in Europe and the longest and deepest recession in anyone’s memory. What we have to do is get our economy to rebalance, and I will explain exactly how the Queen’s Speech is going to help, because it is a Queen’s Speech for the doers, the strivers and those who work hard and play by the rules.

On cutting the Budget deficit, all across Europe the countries being hit are the ones that do not have proper plans in place. In the last Session, we cut the nation’s overdraft—the gap between what we receive in tax and what we spend—by £30 billion. With this Queen’s Speech we continue that work with, for instance, the vital public service pensions Bill. Not only does that offer guaranteed pensions that are still more generous than those in the private sector, but it saves tens of billions of pounds over the coming decades. Through this Queen’s Speech we are also making sure the UK is taken out of the eurozone bail-out fund. We are not in the euro, we are not joining the euro, so we should not be bailing out the euro.

The reason why we are doing these things on the deficit is simple: we want to keep interest rates down for hard-working families up and down the country. Let us be clear: higher interest rates would mean higher mortgages, lower employment and more of people’s money, which they have worked so hard to get, wasted by being spent on interest on our national debt. Two years ago, Britain had exactly the same interest rates as Spain; today, its interest rates were touching 6% and ours were below 2%. That is because we have a credible plan to get the country out of the mess it was left in by the last Government.

Jesse Norman (Hereford and South Herefordshire) (Con): I am very appreciative of the Prime Minister’s words today. On the issue of Lords reform, the Government have made long and strenuous efforts, including through a draft Bill, a White Paper and a Joint Committee. Does the Prime Minister share my view that since a consensus has not proved to be available, Lords reform cannot be a priority now, and does he also share my view that any measures presented to this House should be put to the people in a referendum?

The Prime Minister: First, let me make this point, answering also the Leader of the Opposition: reforming the House of Lords is not the most important priority

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for the Government—that is dealing with the deficit, getting our economy moving, increasing the level of responsibility in our society and getting on the side of hard-working people. Those are the things that matter the most, but I think it is perfectly possible for Parliament to do more than two things at the same time. At the last election, all political parties put forward in their manifestos proposals for a partly, or mainly, elected House of Lords, but let me say this: this is only going to proceed if the political parties will agree to work together and take a responsible attitude towards this reform. I think it is possible, and it would be a good reform if we could achieve it; it would be better if we had a smaller House of Lords and if it had an elected element. So I ask people to work together across party lines to try to make that happen.

Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab): The Prime Minister referred to the deficit in Europe, and he will recall that he declined to sign the fiscal compact entered into by 25 of the 27 EU member states. I presume he will go to the conference on 23 May with his fellow leaders in Europe, who will begin working on a growth compact. Will he be prepared to sign that?

The Prime Minister: I want to work with everyone in Europe to try to deliver better policies for growth. That is why we have been saying, “Let’s complete the single market in energy; let’s finish the single market in services; let’s complete the single market in digital.” Those are the things we are putting on the table. Britain is not in the euro, so we are not bound by the terms of the fiscal pact; I have made that very clear.

Several hon. Members rose

The Prime Minister: I will give way in a moment, but I want to make one point about the Leader of the Opposition’s response. They have had two years to work out what their answer is. What is their answer to too much borrowing, too much spending and too much debt? Their answer is more borrowing, more spending and more debt. Because the right hon. Gentleman did not mention his alternative Queen’s Speech, let me go straight to its centrepiece. The centrepiece of the alternative Queen’s Speech is, I believe, a bonus tax to pay for a jobs fund. Never mind that the last Chancellor in the Labour Government said that a bonus tax would not work; let us look at the detail. The deputy leader of the Labour party was asked in a big set-piece interview how much money that would raise, and this was her response:

“I haven’t got quite the, er, er, I know that we have worked out that figure. I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

She went on to say:

“I haven’t got that actual figure to hand but I can absolutely assure you that Ed Balls has”.

Ah—[ Interruption. ] The plot thickens. The shadow Chancellor was interviewed this weekend—I know, I need to get out more—and he said that he was sorry, but

“I have not costed the whole programme”.

So there we have it. We have a deputy leader who does not have a clue and a shadow Chancellor who does not have the figures, and I can tell the House why: they have spent their bonus tax 10 times over. They have

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used it to reverse the VAT increase, to reverse the child benefit change, to reverse the tax credits change, to boost the regional growth fund, to boost capital spending and even to turn empty shops into community centres. They have no idea whatsoever about how to deal with this deficit. They give in to every single interest group—it is the bank tax that likes to say yes from the Front Benchers who cannot say no.

Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): May I take the Prime Minister back to what he said about reform of the House of Lords? As someone who spent four years working very co-operatively with his colleagues and the Liberal Democrats to find a solution, I say to him that it is palpable that each party is divided on the issue and work between the Front Benchers will not resolve it. It is right in principle that the British people should decide, and that would also avoid a train wreck in the business of this House. Will the Prime Minister look carefully and positively at the idea of having a pre-legislative referendum on reform of the Lords?

The Prime Minister: I very much respect the work—often painstaking, careful and difficult—that the right hon. Gentleman did in a range of different roles to try to move House of Lords reform on. He is absolutely right that all parties are divided on this matter—we should be frank about that—so we will only achieve reform if people work together. I do not believe that a pre-legislative referendum is a good move. On the whole, that is a weapon that has been used by slightly unsavoury regimes over the years. On the question of a referendum more generally, I will merely say that every political party went into the election with a pledge to reform the House of Lords so I do not personally see a referendum as having much to recommend it. The House of Commons can discuss this matter and the House of Commons must decide. If we are going to achieve reform, we will have to work together across the parties to try to deliver what I think will be progress for our constitution—a reformed and smaller House of Lords.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): The Prime Minister might be aware that I was one of those who, since last July, served on the Joint Committee that considered the future of the House of Lords. We were not given any indication of the Government’s thinking on funding or costing. Can he tell us today what costing has taken place on the proposal in the Queen’s Speech and will he share that with the House?

The Prime Minister: Certainly, the cost of a stand-alone referendum would be significant and it is worth taking that into account.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Prime Minister take it from me, after a lot of canvassing last week, that many people in this country are astounded that in the Queen’s Speech there is nothing about youth unemployment or providing jobs, no higher education Bill and nothing to address the large number of unemployed graduates we now have in this country?

The Prime Minister: The youth contract, which is going to do enormous amounts on youth unemployment, started last month. We achieved 450,000 apprenticeships

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last year. The Work programme is well under way now, helping half a million people, and it is the biggest back-to-work programme in this country since the 1930s.

Let me explain that there are a number of important measures in this Queen’s Speech to promote growth and jobs. As well as the Work programme and the youth contract, we have the national loan guarantee scheme, with £20 billion to get cheaper loans flowing to small businesses. The most important work of the Government is implementing all those schemes and programmes, but we must do more to rebalance our economy. It is clear what went wrong. The public sector grew too large, our economy became unbalanced between north and south and we ended up too dependent on financial services. So we know what we need to do as a country. We must revive the private sector, spread growth and jobs across the country and make sure that financial services truly serve the economy—not the other way around.

To expand the private sector we need to cut the burdens on business and make it easier for employers to take people on. That is in our enterprise Bill. To make the most of growth in the energy sector, including gas, nuclear and renewables, we need to reform the energy market, and that is what the energy Bill will do. To make the most of green investment, we need to legislate properly for the green investment bank, with £3 billion of money in its coffers. That will be done through the measures announced in the Queen’s Speech as well.

Another key issue is the need to clean up the financial system, and I have to say to the shadow Chancellor, who sat and did nothing while the financial sector melted down, that he ought to focus on this part of the Queen’s Speech. As the Governor of the Bank of England said last week, there are three vital steps to take, and we will be taking all of them: proper regulation at last by the Bank of England, the banks being made to hold enough capital to keep them safe, and a regime that means that if they do fail they can fail without the taxpayer picking up the bill. Those are all things that the shadow Chancellor never did when he was the City Minister.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): The right hon. Gentleman talks about supporting small and medium-sized businesses, but the loan guarantee scheme is a very small drop in the ocean, because the banks simply will not lend to small businesses in my constituency. If they will not lend at the current percentages, they will not lend at lower percentages. That is the problem. When will he wake up to the fact that Operation Merlin did not wave a magic wand and did not work?

The Prime Minister: I make two points to the hon. Lady. First, she may not believe that the national loan guarantee scheme is big enough, but it is £20 billion of lending. That is far bigger than anything contemplated by the previous Government. Secondly, the Merlin agreement did secure additional lending to big and small businesses; lending went up. As ever, the shadow Chancellor is wrong.

As well as introducing vital measures such as banking reform and the Financial Services Bill, the Government’s mission is to help families who work hard and do the right thing. We have cut fuel duty and frozen council tax and we are lifting 2 million people out of tax. In the coming months people will see more. There will be a

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benefit cap so that people cannot get more on benefits than the average family earns; there will be higher tax thresholds so that hard-working families keep more of their money; and our pensions Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, is set to deliver a £140 basic state pension that will massively reduce means-testing and reward those who work hard and save hard all their lives.

Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): Was the Prime Minister as disappointed as I was that the Leader of the Opposition again refused to support the benefits cap, which is already at a level above the average wage of people in Great Yarmouth who work hard? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government will continue to make sure that it will always pay to work?

The Prime Minister: I have to say that this was about the only interesting point in the Leader of the Opposition’s speech. When he is asked very clearly whether he supports a benefit cap and whether he thinks it is right that people can get more than £26,000 a year on benefits, his answer is that it is just fine—carry on claiming. That is Labour’s message to the hard-working people of this country.

As the Leader of the Opposition covered so little of the detail, for the benefit of the House I want to run through some of the Bills in the Queen’s Speech and the steps we are taking. One thing we are doing is helping the most vulnerable of all in our society—children who do not have a family, who are stuck in the care system and who, in too many cases, have been left there for too long. That is why we are legislating on adoption, as set out in this Gracious Speech. We are going to publish detailed information on how councils perform, setting clear time limits for cases to get through the courts and making it illegal to turn down an adoptive family on the basis of race. We say it is time to end the patronising, politically correct prejudice that says that black parents cannot bring up white children and that white parents cannot bring up black children. It is time to make the system colour blind.

Mr Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Given the recent scandals that have engulfed the Government, why is a lobbying Bill not included in the Queen’s Speech?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman’s party had 13 years to produce a register of lobbyists. We have now published our proposals for a register of lobbyists and we will legislate for a register of lobbyists. [ Interruption. ] I hate to add to hon. Members’ misery, but we have a Queen’s Speech for the 2012-13 Session that is packed with great Bills and we will have one for the 2013-14 Session that is packed with great Bills. We will also have one for the 2014-15 Session that is packed with great Bills, and when we have beaten the rabble in opposition at the next election, we will have another one all over again.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Another group of vulnerable people are the 800,000 who struggle without care and the millions of over-burdened carers. They will be disappointed if not angry that there is no Bill in this Session, as promised, to legislate for a

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new financial framework, so they will have to struggle on. What does the Prime Minister say to those vulnerable people?

The Prime Minister: It is vital that we take action on social care. That is why there are proposals for a draft Bill in the Queen’s Speech. It is something that has been getting worse for decade. The previous Government had 13 years to deal with the issue and they did absolutely nothing. Within two years, we are producing proposals and a draft Bill, and taking action.

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that we have all-party support for this critically important issue? It is essential to have a draft Bill so that we do the hard work in this Parliament to make sure that we can legislate for carers in our country.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Genuinely to crack the issue, which has dogged Governments for decades, we will need cross-party working to deliver the social care changes we need.

Let me turn to some of the crime measures, as they are extremely important. The police do a fantastic job, and we should pay tribute to their work, but we need to accept that there are some crimes that our existing police forces cannot deal with on their own: the cyber-attacks that threaten our national security, the organised gangs supplying drugs to children on the streets and the massive industry of human trafficking. Today, we have seen the horrific case in Rochdale of children being groomed for sex—modern-day slavery in our own country. That is why we need a national crime agency—a British FBI, if you like—and with this Queen’s Speech we will deliver it.

I want to see tough community sentences that are a real punishment, and we shall be legislating for them as well. Without such measures, we will never convince the police, the courts or the public that these sentences are proper alternatives to prison.

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The Prime Minister has mentioned a couple of doubles today. He quite rightly referred to the mover and the seconder of the speech; there was also the double-dip recession.

In 1970, Lynn Anderson sang about promises in a rose garden:

“Smile for a while and let’s be jolly

Love shouldn’t be so melancholy

Come along and share the good times while we can.”

Given that the Prime Minister and his Deputy made promises of transparency in the rose garden, does he now regret not releasing the risk register for the NHS?

The Prime Minister: In terms of the money we spend and the decisions we make, this Government have been the most transparent in our country for the last 50 years. That is what matters.

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): On behalf of my constituents Gary and Natasha Groves, whose daughter Lillian was killed outside her home by a driver

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who was under the influence of drugs, I thank the Prime Minister for meeting them at No. 10, listening to what they had to say and including in the Queen’s Speech measures to tackle the menace of drug driving. Will he join me in paying tribute to Gary and Natasha for responding to a personal tragedy by trying to make it less likely that other people endure the terrible loss they suffered?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is entirely right to raise the case again. I pay tribute to his work. We will be legislating properly for drug-related driving. It is right that it is put on to the statute book in the same way as drink driving, and it would not be happening were it not for the very strong campaign he has fought.

The context for the Queen’s Speech is a world that is becoming ever more competitive. The countries that succeed will be those that know they have to deal with debts and deficit, and that in a competitive world they have to have competitive tax rates and the best climate for business investment. They have to back entrepreneurs. They need light regulation and lean government. They need to reform every part of government, from schools to the planning system, so that they get on the side of wealth creation, job creation and a growing economy. That is what we are doing.

This is a Government who confront the long-term challenges we face, and that is what our country needs—a Government who roll up their sleeves to deal with the deficit, not an Opposition who think they can borrow their way out of debt. We are a coalition Government determined to unleash the private sector, spread growth around our country and sort out our financial services, not a Labour one who bloated the public sector and sat back while an unregulated banking sector brought our country to its knees. This is a Government who are backing hard-working people, not an Opposition who say they are on their side but refuse to make work pay, refuse to cap welfare and want to heap debts on to our children. This is a Government taking the tough decisions to help families who work hard and do the right thing. We are acting for the long term and governing in the national interest. This is a Queen’s Speech to rebuild Britain, and I commend it to the House.

3.55 pm

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): All hon. Members will have spent the past few weeks and months knocking on doors and will recognise that this Queen’s Speech is hugely important for many families across our country. Also, many in this House who are baby boomers—that does not include our current political leaders—and have benefited from free education, affordable housing and pretty good pensions will recognise that for those of younger generations, many of whom are currently unemployed, this is a critical Queen’s Speech. It is against that backdrop that I wish to make my comments.

I will start by welcoming the aspects of the Queen’s Speech that deal with family policy. It is absolutely right that we do something to support the many families in this country struggling with children with disabilities. Frankly, it is poor that successive Governments have not done enough, so I am pleased to welcome changes in that area of policy. Love is a key ingredient for any parent raising a child, and the hearts of all Members of the House must go out to young people who find

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themselves in circumstances in which they do not have parents. For that reason, it must be wrong that children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds languish in local authority queues waiting for adoptive parents. As the parent of two children from a mixed-race background, I know that such children fare particularly badly on those adoption lists. I welcome the changes that will make it easier for parents of any background to adopt young people in need of a loving home.

Mr Edward Timpson (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con): I join the right hon. Gentleman in welcoming wholeheartedly the measures to try to improve adoption in this country for children from all backgrounds. Does he agree that it is also important not to forget that there are children who are brought into the care systems who might have other permanency solutions to their upbringing that might involve long-term fostering or residential care and that we must also do more for those children to ensure that they do not miss out on the best possible childhood we can give them?

Mr Lammy: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about foster care and the need to support the many people across this country who give up their homes and time and offer love to the many children who pass through their homes.

May I also say, as chair of the all-party group on fatherhood, that it is important that in this House, on a cross-party basis, we make a renewed commitment to the importance of fatherhood? I also welcome the changes to care proceedings. If it is right and in the interests of a child, we must make it easier for fathers to have contact with their children. It is now well understood that the outcomes for young people without fathers are not good enough. In parts of this country and in parts of constituencies such as mine there is the phenomenon of the “baby-father”, whereby it is acceptable to have children but not be a father to them, and I welcome any moves in legislation to deal with that issue.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman’s courageous stance on many of those issues over the years. Does he echo my view that we should also pay tribute to the love, care and courage of grandparents and extended kin, and that we should remove the impediments that they have to caring for their flesh and blood, owing to various difficult circumstances involving their own children, including drug and alcohol abuse?

Mr Lammy: The hon. Gentleman has taken up those issues in his constituency, and I too underline my support for grandparents, particularly given the complexities within families of drug and alcohol addiction.

But in the end the critical issues for most people, in relation to this Queen’s Speech and over the coming years, will be the reality that we are in a double-dip recession, will be what we are doing to get to grips with growth in this country, to provide jobs and to support small businesses, and will be how we are supporting young people. I am afraid that there has just not been enough in this Queen’s Speech to address those issues.

I do not have to tell the Prime Minister what happened in my constituency, as we have spoken on many occasions, but I say to him that currently in Tottenham 6,500 people

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are unemployed and 28,000 are on out-of-work benefits. The figures have actually got worse since the riots, and, although I have heard him at the Dispatch Box speaking about the Work programme, the youth contract and apprenticeships, I find that in all three policies there are weaknesses and flaws.

The Work programme is straining at the edges, particularly with the third sector attempting without funds to provide placements, and in Tottenham 90% of those who are unemployed are not eligible for it. How can it be the biggest programme since the 1930s, when most people who are unemployed in Britain are not eligible to participate in it? While the right hon. Gentleman lauds the youth contract, I warn him of a previous era, when we saw the failed youth training scheme and, as a consequence, many young people who graduated with certificates but no jobs. People in my constituency have a long memory, and what they want are genuine jobs.

As a former skills Minister, I am pleased to see the growth in apprenticeships, but the right hon. Gentleman will know that the scheme, to reach the figure of 450,000, includes many that people would not recognise as an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship should surely be a programme that lasts for at least one year. Currently, apprenticeships last for a maximum of 16 weeks, and many young people do not want something that is, in fact, a very short opportunity in customer services dressed up as a genuine apprenticeship, so I ask the Prime Minister to look at what is behind such apprenticeships if we are genuinely to retain the trust of young people.

I and other Opposition Members will of course scrutinise the enterprise Bill in its entirety, but, when I think of those shopkeepers on Tottenham high road who saw their businesses destroyed, I recall, as will the Prime Minister, that they faced hardships even before the riots. There were hardships with business rates and with footfall on the high road, and they were concerned about issues such as regulation—2,900 of them in the Tottenham constituency, paying their VAT and employing 30,000 people.

The number of self-employed people in my constituency has fallen from 14% to 7% in the past year. It is going in the wrong direction. I warn him that his absolute dedication to slashing public services is having a major effect in adding to the dole queues in constituencies such as mine.

We are not seeing more businesses flourishing or coming in and taking up the slack from the public sector; we are seeing something much worse. Look underneath the figures. The whole House should have serious concerns about anyone—young people, particularly—who faces unemployment. However, when the unemployment rate is three times higher among young black men, we should be gravely concerned.

We should also be particularly concerned that many women—older women, often black—are now joining their sons on the unemployment queues, having been employed in the health service, local government or other areas. I say to the Prime Minister that some communities depend on those mothers being employed and I am worried about the emergence of a picture worse than some of the scenes that hon. Members will recognise from the United States of America.

That is why we needed a Queen’s Speech that would seriously address those issues—stimulate the economy in the way required; wrestle with the issue of growth;

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and move our economy from over-dependence on financial services and retail. When I heard the Business Secretary arguing the case for the Sunday trading Bill, it was again apparent that the Government would rely once more on retail, consumerism, shopping and spending to get us out of this mess. We will need far more than that in this economy if we are to respond to the problems in constituencies such as mine.

What about the gaps in the Queen’s Speech? Given the importance of higher education to the UK economy and all we have invested to support young people making their way to university, why have the Government decided that a higher education Bill is not appropriate? The issue has been kicked into the long grass. Vice-chancellors and young people face uncertainty because we have not seen any Bill in that area of policy at all. Why are we going to spend hours, in this House and the other place, debating House of Lords reform when every Member knows that no one raised that issue with any political party on the doorstep during the campaign of the past few weeks? Is House of Lords reform really where our priorities should be?

Mrs Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the whole matter of House of Lords reform could be dealt with quickly in this House if, as the Prime Minister said a short while ago, the Government brought forward a Bill that simply brought the House of Lords into the 21st century without trying to create another House of Commons at the other end of the corridor?

Mr Lammy: I get where the hon. Lady is coming from, but I want to bring the Government into the 21st century. For that to happen, we need some real answers for the millennial generation who face decades of unemployment in this country. We have to say something about what we can expect for our graduates; we must not just talk the talk in terms of families, but recognise that the cost of living is going up, and we expect a Queen’s Speech that will address those issues.

Against that backdrop, this Queen’s Speech fails. I suspect that there are areas that the Opposition will be able to accept, but there are many holes in this Queen’s Speech. As the Prime Minister reflects and gets into the detail, I hope that the House can expect a bigger, more ambitious and more visionary legislative framework in the next Queen’s Speech.

4.9 pm

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy). While I may differ with his analysis, there is never any doubt that he holds his views passionately. He certainly supports his constituency and community passionately, and has done so in the past several years in which I have watched him in this House.

Let me say to the Prime Minister that it is also a pleasure to talk about the real Queen’s Speech as against the one that I and others proposed last week. This Queen’s Speech has enormous merits to it, particularly in the context of growth. I am particularly supportive, as he will be unsurprised to hear, of his proposals on bank reforms, competition law, and joint enterprise law

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reform, including labour law reform. He will be happy to hear me mention those, but I am afraid that it goes downhill from here on in. [Hon. Members: “That was less than a minute!”] Well, I will make up the whole minute by saying that the Government can be proud of most of their record in the past couple of years on the issues of liberty and justice, which the Prime Minister knows I hold very dear. Their actions on identity cards, on cutting down on the amount of detention without charge, and on the misuse of counter-terrorism stop-and-search powers are all matters of pride for them.

Beyond that, however, I have three concerns: one about a constitutional issue, one about state power, and one about justice. Let me start with the constitutional issue on which the right hon. Member for Tottenham finished—the House of Lords. One of my concerns about our whole approach to the House of Lords is that we are arguing about its composition without worrying enough about its purpose, which we have not done enough to consider. There is a great deal of talk about the House of Lords as a revising and reforming Chamber, but it has a much greater function than that. Historically, the House of Lords has been a serious check on excessive Executive power. It was a check on the Government of Margaret Thatcher when she had a very large majority, on the Government of Tony Blair, and on the Government of the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), and no doubt it will be a check on this Government as time goes on.

It is very important in Britain that we have this check, because we are different in one respect from most other democracies. Without any separation of Executive and legislature, the power of the Executive in this House means that this House is less good than it could be at defending the rights of individuals when the Executive impinge too much on them. We saw that very often with the previous Government. There were a great number of occasions when I am sure that many Labour Members did not want to support some of their Government’s more illiberal actions. That is why the House of Lords is incredibly important.

Mr Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood) (Con): My right hon. Friend is making a case from a Conservative point of view against reforming the make-up of the House of Lords. If the House of Lords has the distinguished record of preventing excessive use of Executive power that he is suggesting, why does he think that Margaret Thatcher’s first Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, delivered a speech roughly 50 years ago in which he said that we did not have sufficient checks and balances in our constitution, which he characterised as an elective dictatorship?

Mr Davis: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, because he goes right to the central point. The House of Lords is not perfect, and there are many things that it has wrongly allowed to happen. I am in favour of reform of the House of Lords, but we must be very careful to get it right. If, in our reform, we do away with, or weaken or mitigate to any great extent, the check that it provides, that check will never be returned, because no Government will ever bring back a restraint on their own powers.

I think it was the Deputy Prime Minister who characterised his preferred state of the House of Lords as being one that more reflected the political composition

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of the House of Commons. That is precisely what I would not want it to do. A House of Lords that exactly reflected the political composition of the House of Commons would not be very much of a check on the Executive, and that would be a really serious problem. We must be very careful about what we do.

I do not believe that a referendum, of itself, will solve the problem, because it is a subtle and difficult matter and will be very hard to argue in public. However, it is very important.

Mrs Laing: I agree with my right hon. Friend that providing a check on the Government is Parliament’s most important role. Does he agree that having an elected House of Lords would undermine the position of the elected Members of the House of Commons and make them less likely to be able to hold the Government to account in this House, where the Prime Minister sits?

Mr Davis: I take my hon. Friend’s point, although I believe the greater problem would be legislative gridlock if too much legitimacy were given to the House of Lords. The simple fact is that over the course of the past century, these Houses have managed a pretty effective balance without crippling government. The position that we have arrived at still needs reform, but very careful reform.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we have to consider two things hand in hand, the composition of the House of Lords and its function. Although I am passionately in favour of an elected second Chamber, one of my criticisms of the draft Bill is that clause 2 will not reinforce the primacy of this Chamber. Some kind of concordat would have to be agreed by both Houses and written into their Standing Orders. Does he accept, though, that the current situation is unsustainable? We already have far too many Members down the other end of the building, and if there is no reform, there will be another 200. There will be more than 1,000 Members, the vast majority of them appointed by party leaders on a party Whip. Surely that is unsustainable.

Mr Davis: I agree with the last point, but the hon. Gentleman should not let the best be the enemy of the good.

I will finish my points about the Lords, because I want to talk about two other significant issues of justice and freedom. For me, the test is to look back and see what would have happened in the past decade if we had introduced whatever new reform we will come up with. As the Deputy Prime Minister will be only too conscious, in the past decade the Lords have stopped the curbing of jury trials and a number of other measures, including the extension of detention without charge. That would not have happened if we had had too politically similar a House of Lords. When the House considers the matter in some detail, my test will be whether a reform will achieve the same check on the Government.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Davis: I want to move on, but I will give way later if the hon. Gentleman still wishes to intervene.

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The second issue that I want to mention is state power and what has become known colloquially as the snooper’s charter. The Queen’s Speech stated that the Government intended

“to bring forward measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public, subject to scrutiny of draft clauses.”

I take the last part to mean that how it will happen is up for argument. That is a good thing, because I am afraid the proposal is very similar to what the Labour Government came up with. I will give way to the Deputy Prime Minister if he really wants to argue the point, but I do not recommend it, because the Government have already consulted heavily with internet service providers and producers and talked to them about what they want to do. They want to require companies to maintain large databases of contact information. If I have telephoned somebody, there will be information about who the call was to, when it was made and where from. That will lead to extremely large databases, which the state then wants to be able to access relatively freely.

Frankly, I am surprised that the Government have made the proposal, because both coalition parties opposed it in opposition, and as far as I can see, it goes against the thrust of the coalition agreement. It certainly goes against the thrust of a comment that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made when we were in opposition. He said:

“Faced with any problem, any crisis—given any excuse—Labour grasp for more information, pulling more and more people into the clutches of state data capture…And the Government doesn’t want to stop with the basic information…Scare tactics to herd more disempowered citizens into the clutches of officialdom, as people surrender more and more information about their lives, giving the state more and more power over their lives. If we want to stop the state controlling us, we must confront this surveillance state.”

We opposed those measures in opposition, not just because they were illiberal or risked turning our country into a nation of suspects, but because we believed that they were ineffective. Nearly every measure that we opposed when I was my right hon. Friend’s shadow Home Secretary we opposed because we thought that it would not work against terrorism. That is also true of the measure that we are considering.

I took advice from experts. I asked them a simple question: “If you were a terrorist, how would you avoid this scrutiny?” I stopped them when they got to the fifth method. It is pretty straightforward: for terrorists, everything from proxy servers to one-off mobile phones means that such scrutiny is easy to avoid. For criminals, it is also easy and quite cheap to avoid. However, for ordinary citizens, that scrutiny is not easy and cheap to avoid. We will therefore create something, which some Ministers said will cost £2 billion—the London School of Economics suggests that it will cost £12 billion—that will not be effective against terrorism, but constitutes general-purpose surveillance of the entire nation.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Sometimes terrorists make a mistake. If we save lives through having the information, that balances my right hon. Friend’s argument.

Mr Davis: The simple truth is that when the House reacted understandably to the horrific events of 9/11 and the preceding terrorist events, such as the USS Cole

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and the east African embassy bombings, and introduced a couple of measures—the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001—it took away many previous protections. Before RIPA, the agencies would approach British Telecom or Cable & Wireless and ask for the data, which were sometimes—not always—handed over voluntarily. The companies exercised some responsibility. In about two thirds of cases, the agencies got warrants, and the information had to be handed over. The central, though not the only issue is whether the databases are available to the agencies of the state without a warrant. They are currently available without a warrant. If we want to make such practices acceptable in a civilised, liberal state, we should have warrants first.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): As a Liberal Democrat, but also as the MP for Cheltenham, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he agrees that it should be possible to strike a perfectly good balance between the absolute need to protect civil liberties and traditional British freedoms and apply the principles behind the existing legislation that he mentioned to new and fast-developing technologies to prevent our security services from falling behind.

Mr Davis: Of course, but frankly, talk about falling behind is a bit of a red herring. The security services today can collect more data by several orders of magnitude than they could when I first became a Member of Parliament, simply because technology allows that. In 1987, one pretty much had to get a BT engineer to plug in a bug in the local exchange. People do not do that now—they could almost do it from my office through software. I could listen to all hon. Members at once—[Interruption.] Hon. Members’ conversations are too boring to bother with.

Of course, the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) is right and there is a balance to strike. No one has ever been foolish enough to suggest that I favour helping terrorists, making it easier for them or harder for our agencies. However, we must act under judicial control and return to the prior warrant process that applied before RIPA for the systems to work.

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Davis: No, I am about to finish that part of my speech. The prior warrant process would ensure that we stop the great overuse of the new powers, which has happened dozens of times in the past decade. If we do not, the public reaction will be one of outrage, because the measure will affect not just a few people, but tens of millions of people, and they will not take it quietly.

My last point is on a justice measure, but it is not a measure like the snooper’s charter, which will create a tsunami of reaction as it goes through the House—I am confident of that, because we already have 137,000 signatures on the online petition. Secret courts affect only tens and perhaps hundreds of people, but they bring against those people a serious injustice. I take the view—a very unfashionable one in modern politics,

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with too many polls and focus groups—that an injustice against one is an injustice against all, and the secret court proposals undoubtedly propose an injustice.

I say that with complete confidence, but for a rather obscure reason. A secret court procedure is proposed, but we already have such procedures. They are called special immigration appeal courts—SIAC—and they have existed since 1997, when the Labour Government introduced them to deal with people they thought they could not deal with in open court. Of course, no hon. Member has ever been in one or seen one in operation. No hon. Member knows how they work, including all Ministers of this Government and the previous one.

One group alone understands how those courts work: special advocates. There are 69 special advocates, of whom 32 have had detailed exposure to the proposed closed material procedure. The procedure involves the Executive—a Minister—saying to a court: “This information can be heard only in very close camera.” It cannot be heard in court as a whole in secret: the judge and the Government advocate of the argument can hear the evidence, but only the special advocate—a lawyer who cannot talk to the defendant or litigant in the case—can challenge it.

Tony Baldry: We had a system of special advocates in courts in Northern Ireland for a very long time—a number of members of my chambers were special advocates in such circumstances—and I do not recall my right hon. Friend when we were in government ever complaining about those procedures, which we had to use in Northern Ireland given the particular circumstances there.

Mr Davis: I am sorry to correct my hon. Friend’s memory, but I did complain. I actually appeared in a Diplock court as a witness, so I know exactly how they work from that point of view.

The simple truth is not my view, but the view of the 32 special advocates who have had such experience. Virtually all of them signed a document that challenged the Government’s Green Paper, in quite robust terms. The special advocates said that closed material procedures

“represent a departure both from the principle of natural justice and from the principle of open justice. They may leave a litigant having little clear idea of the case deployed against him, and ultimately they may prevent some litigants from knowing why they have won or lost. Furthermore, and crucially, because the SA appointed on his behalf is unable to take instructions in relation to that case, they may leave the SA with little realistic opportunity of responding effectively to that case. They also systematically exclude public, press and Parliamentary scrutiny of parts of our justice system…Our experience as SAs involved in statutory and non-statutory closed material procedures leaves us in no doubt that CMPs are inherently unfair; they do not ‘work effectively’, nor do they deliver real procedural fairness. The fact that such procedures may be operated so as to meet the minimum standards required by Article 6 of the ECHR, with such modification as has been required by the courts so as to reduce that inherent unfairness, does not and cannot make them objectively fair.”

That is the view of the only people who understand this system.

The secret courts measure is being held up as a proposal to improve our security. It would undermine and corrode our justice system, and it would not improve our security, because the other point made by special advocates is that the public interest immunity system as it now stands—again this is not properly understood by

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Ministers—works perfectly well, and much better than what is proposed. Indeed, one special advocate has pointed out that this proposal is less good than that available to the terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay. That is how poor this procedure is. In fact, there are many other procedures abroad that would work better than this one. Sadly, this is not a measure that I will support in the coming months.

The Government came in with a grand, important and liberal—both small “l” and big “l”—tradition to uphold. That tradition supported both freedom and justice in this country. These two measures—putting the Lords to one side, as that is a matter for argument—would, if we are not very careful, undermine that tradition and our reputation, and do nothing to improve the protection of Britain against terrorism. Indeed, just the reverse—they would make it worse.

4.31 pm

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis). He has eloquently set out the arguments on the balance between the need to protect national security and the need to protect individual freedoms. He mentioned internet surveillance and my party will look closely at the proposals and support whatever measures are necessary to protect national security, but we will also be conscious of the need to protect individual freedoms and privacies. That means not giving the Government any more powers than are absolutely and strictly necessary in the fight against terrorism, but if powers are thought to be absolutely necessary, we would be remiss if we did not proceed to implement them.

At the outset, I join others in paying tribute to Her Majesty the Queen in her diamond jubilee year. We in Northern Ireland look forward to her coming to the Province later this summer, and I have no doubt that she will be welcomed as warmly as she has been on previous visits.

I also wish to join the Prime Minister and other right hon. and hon. Members in paying tribute to the service in the two years of this Parliament of our brave servicemen and women in theatres of conflict abroad and in the work that they do to protect us all here in this country and in the fight against terrorism.

I welcome several measures in the Queen’s Speech. The briefing that went on before the Gracious Speech referred to a greater focus on family-friendly measures. My party welcomes measures to support and strengthen families and family life, such as speedier adoption and help for parents of children with disabilities to cut through red tape. We will support such measures, because strong families are important and supporting them is key. The Government have been slow so far to implement tax allowance changes for married couples, which were in the Conservative manifesto and the coalition agreement. We look forward to their coming forward with proposals in that area in due course.

We also welcome the banking reform Bill, which will split the retail and investment sides of businesses. That is overdue, it is good news for consumers and will help to protect them, and so will receive our support. There are issues with the speed of implementation—we would like the reforms to happen a little quicker—but we will come to that during the debate on the Bill.

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Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Banking reform is important for the United Kingdom as a whole but especially important for Northern Ireland. We have a dysfunctional banking system, because so many banks have been caught up with bad property loans and so on. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me and people in Northern Ireland that the Government need to focus more on how measures to ease banking will affect banks in Northern Ireland and ensure that we get our fair share of credit easing and so on?

Mr Dodds: As Minister for Finance and Personnel in the Northern Ireland Executive, my hon. Friend deals with such issues on a daily basis, and he and his colleagues, including Arlene Foster, the enterprise Minister, and others are working hard to deal with them. He points, rightly, to the particular issues in Northern Ireland. Two of our banks are based in the Irish Republic. The property collapse in the Irish Republic and its eurozone problems are impacting strongly on the Northern Ireland economy. He is right, therefore, that particular attention needs to be given to how credit easing plays through to Northern Ireland, where we have peculiar circumstances that do not affect other parts of the UK.

One reason we have been pushing strongly—we have received a reasonably warm response—on the need to reduce corporation tax in Northern Ireland is that we share a land frontier with the Irish Republic, which has a much lower rate of corporation tax. I look forward to an announcement on that and other issues in this Session and perhaps to legislation in the next Session.

We welcome the emphasis on cutting business regulation. The Business Secretary’s remarks yesterday about the need to roll back the EU regulatory burden were also most welcome. We also support moves on executive pay. The recent revolts by shareholders in companies such as Aviva and Barclays brought cheer to hard-working families, but more needs to be done to empower shareholders through binding votes on pay at the top level. Such measures matter to people out there in the country, and they want action taken on them. That is where the focus needs to be.

We welcome the fact that driving under the influence of drugs will become a specific offence with appropriate punishment. I have received communication on that issue, as other right hon. and hon. Members will have, and although this measure will be of little comfort to those who have already lost family members in tragic circumstances—we have heard some very brave people speaking in the media about this—it will, I hope, prevent more deaths and injuries on our roads in the future.

Likewise, I welcome the much-needed groceries code adjudicator Bill. It will be warmly welcomed by farmers and other suppliers in my part of the world—not necessarily in my constituency, because at last count only three farmers were living within its boundaries, but in Northern Ireland, which is largely a rural area, it will be warmly welcomed.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I, too, much support the groceries code adjudicator Bill. If there is no problem with how our big buyers and supermarkets use their muscle, they will have nothing to fear from the adjudicator. It will be a check and balance.

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Mr Dodds: Absolutely, but the adjudicator must have teeth. We look forward to hearing the details as they come forward. However, if that and other measures we have talked about are implemented, they will receive broad welcome.

Having said that, I want to come to several areas on which I disagree with the Government. Some relate to issues that were in the Queen’s Speech, but some relate to matters that were not. The verdict on the Gracious Speech must be that, although it contains useful measures that we will support, overall it lacks substance in heavy-weight measures to deal with the big issue confronting us. There is to be a measure on House of Lords reform. Many people call me or come to my constituency office, but few, if any, have ever raised that issue with me. Even in these days of e-mails, Twitter and Facebook, very little of our correspondence relates to the matter.

There are, however, many issues on which I get a large amount of e-mails and other correspondence. People are concerned about our net contribution to the European Union, for example. They are worried about the cost of implementing regulations from Brussels. They are angry about our inability to reject unwanted EU law, and they want Parliament to be able to decide on behalf of the people of the United Kingdom what our laws should be, who we should have in our country and who we should be able to deport. Those are the issues that people raise with Members of Parliament all the time. They might not be the issues that Members want to face up to, but unless we face up to the concerns that people raise on a daily basis, we shall become ever more disconnected from the people we are supposed to represent.

Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) (Lab): A couple of weeks ago, some small business owners from my constituency came down to see me. They talked about the difficulties relating to bank lending and to the high rate of VAT. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that they will take little comfort from what has been said in today’s Queen’s Speech?

Mr Dodds: I agree with the hon. Lady. I shall come to the issue of VAT shortly, as people have raised that with me. VAT and fuel costs are of real concern to them. The hon. Lady also mentioned banking. It is clear that a real problem for economic growth in this country is that many viable businesses that have a future and an order book and that can trade are having to deal with banks that are moving the goalposts on lending conditions and what they require businesses to pay. They often do that at short notice, having agreed on a programme of repayments and interest rates only a few months previously. Suddenly, the goalposts are moved and the businesses are bereft of any means of continuing. They are forced into liquidation and into laying people off. Much more needs to be done about the lack of bank lending to businesses, because that is strangling a great deal of the potential growth in our economy.

Meg Hillier: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the fact that banks have become so far removed from the communities that they serve is causing some of these challenges? There is agreement across the House on the need for reform of the banking system. Would he welcome more mutualisation in the banking sector, and does he share my regret that that does not appear in the Gracious Speech?

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Mr Dodds: The hon. Lady puts forward an important issue for our consideration. Many of the banks are largely owned by the public at the moment. One leading business man in Northern Ireland told me recently that he regretted that we had not gone the whole way and taken complete control of the banks, to ensure that all the necessary lending could take place. Members of the public, taxpayers, ordinary hard-working families, individuals and businesses are pumping billions of pounds into the banking system, yet the banks are not doing what needs to be done to ease credit and lend in the way that they should.

I was talking about House of Lords reform, and other Members have rightly raised issues that are of real concern to the people and the communities that they represent. Before we get on to the reform of the House of Lords, I would like to see this House deal with an issue relating to the House of Commons. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said on record during the last Session that they believe that it is wrong that Members who do not take their seats in the House of Commons are still able to receive full expenses, allowances and representational moneys, which puts them in a much more advantageous position than those of us who do take our seats. Sinn Fein, for instance, gets the equivalent of parliamentary Short money—what is called representative money—and is free to spend it, not on parliamentary activities, of course, because it does not engage in any parliamentary activities, but on party political activities. Whereas we as right hon. and hon. Members would rightly be called to account by the authorities for any spending—even a penny’s worth—for party political purposes, a group of Members who do not take their seats are quite free to spend that money to the disadvantage of their political opponents. Let us be frank: it does not particularly affect our votes, but it affects those of others in the House who are not here today and no doubt can speak for themselves in due course. The fact is that Members who do not take their seats are given an enormous advantage.

We know that back in 2001, Betty Boothroyd, the former great Speaker of the House, resisted all this for a long time. Ultimately, the decision was taken to proceed with the concessions because the then Labour Government said—it was bitterly opposed by Conservative Members—that it was important to bring people into the peace process and the political process. Whatever the arguments at that time, the fact of the matter is that there is no longer any need for this special category of expenditure on the basis of encouraging people to be part of the peace process. It is clear that people are involved in the Executive and in the Assembly at Stormont. I welcome that, and think it enormously to the credit of parties in this House and in Northern Ireland that progress has been made, but it would not make the slightest difference to the political process—nobody believes that it would—if these special arrangements were withdrawn in line with what was promised before the election and in the last parliamentary Session.

Bob Stewart: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I want entirely to endorse every single point he has made on the matter of Short money for people who do not take their seats in this House. Those days are over; let us get this sorted out.