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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes): I would do anything to liven up this debate. I was merely smiling because the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) was nodding sagely. It is unusual to see him do anything sage, so I was enjoying it.
There is a serious issue of civil liberties here. We must look carefully at the circumstances in which such an order is made and the wider effects that it might have. I am simply counselling a word of caution. It troubles me to say this, but I agreed with some of the points made by the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West. I also agreed with some of his comments on another part of the Queen's Speech, the proposals to restrict the right to trial by jury. I drew some comfort from what he said and from his concern for civil liberties. That is a proper concern for Liberal Democrats, and it is shared by Conservative Members.
With respect, my problem with the Liberal Democrats is that what they say in criticising Government measures and what they say in defence of civil liberties would be far more convincing if they stopped acting like a pressure group within the Government and started opposing them. Instead, the Liberal Democrats criticise the Government, make fine noises--as they did about the Freedom of Information Bill, which is not an entirely dissimilar piece of legislation--and then, when push comes to shove, they cave in and let the Government have their way.
Mr. Bercow: A few moments ago, my hon. Friend talked about the causes of crime. Does he agree that one of the causes of crime in this country is the Government, specifically in the form of the Home Secretary telling the House on 24 July that the level of crime is for the criminals to determine? The early release scheme--the so-called home detention curfew scheme--has, in its first 22 months, released 27,000 prisoners, typically after they have served only half their sentence.
Mr. Clappison: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. It is interesting to juxtapose the reference that he made to the Home Secretary and the level of crime being for the criminals to determine with what is in the Queen's Speech. The second paragraph says that the Government will focus on cutting crime. Given what my hon. Friend has just said, perhaps the Government know more about the intentions of criminals than we have been given leave to suppose.
Mr. Heath: I could not let the hon. Gentleman's reference to the performance of the official Opposition during the deliberations on the Freedom of Information Act 2000 pass without reminding him that the only amendment voted on when the House considered the Lords amendments was opposed by the Liberal Democrats, by certain Conservative Members and even by some Labour Members. However, official Opposition Front Benchers chose to summon all their courage to abstain on the crucial issue of freedom of information.
Mr. Clappison: The hon. Gentleman has the advantage over me in that matter. He was, perhaps, more closely involved with that legislation. However, there seems to be an enormous gap between what the Liberal Democrats have said and what they have achieved. They will be judged on their complete failure to obtain any of the constitutional changes that they wanted, including changes to the electoral system. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have been had, and the sooner they stop allowing themselves to be had and start behaving like a proper Opposition party, the sooner it will be possible to take their fine words more seriously.
I spoke about civil liberties a moment ago. There was a tradition in the Labour party of being concerned about civil liberties, and there still is in many quarters. However, it is a hallmark of new Labour that it sees a trade-off between civil liberties and law and order. New Labour thinks that talking tough about civil liberties is as good as fighting crime. Diminishing civil liberties does nothing to assist the fight against crime. It merely diminishes the historical liberties and rights that we have inherited from former generations and former Parliaments, and which we should do our best to defend. A good example of that is the right to trial by jury.
A few weeks ago, the Home Secretary was pictured at Runnymede reading the Magna Carta. I hope that his eyes strayed sufficiently far down that document to see that trial by jury goes back as far as that. It is one of the important principles of our legal system. We have that on the word of the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was right to quote the Prime Minister's saying that it was unsatisfactory to leave the right to trial to be determined by magistrates more often than by the individual. I speak from memory, but I believe that the Prime Minister has in the past described this as a matter of principle.
I can say with greater certainty that the same proposals that the Government now wish to force through--having ignominiously and rightly been defeated in the House of Lords--came before the House at the end of the previous Parliament in the debate on the Narey report, whose provisions formed the basis for the first Bill on this matter. At that time, the then shadow Home Secretary--now the Home Secretary--described them as wrong, short-sighted and likely to prove ineffective. We look forward to hearing the Government's defence of the Home Secretary's position. They will have to do better than the response of Government Front and Back Benchers to the opening speeches, which was, "What about Scotland? They do not have the right to trial by jury in Scotland, so we do not need it in England."
I am always careful not to say too much about the Scottish legal system, as it is completely different. However, when the Home Secretary denounced the proposals as wrong, short-sighted and likely to prove ineffective, he knew full well what the position was in Scotland and chose, with that knowledge, to denounce the measures that he now brings before the House.
Nothing has changed since February 1997. The Home Secretary has acquired no additional knowledge about the right to trial by jury. He has, however, made a complete volte face on what many of us--including the Prime Minister, in the past--regard as an important matter of principle. It is a great shame that this provision has crept back into the Queen's Speech. It ought to have died a death of shame, in view of what the Government and their spokesmen have said about it in the past. I hope that everyone who cares about civil liberties, including many Labour Members who have taken a principled view on the matter, will oppose this wretched provision as much as they have done in the past.
We are told that there are to be measures to improve education in our inner cities, particularly in secondary education, with the creation of more specialist schools, urban school reform and improved teaching in the early years of secondary education. We shall want to see the details, but I am sure that everyone shares the objective of wanting to improve education in the inner cities.
I am concerned, however, by the rather casual attitude shown by the Government, today and in the past, to the recruitment of teachers. We shall not be able to meet any of these high-flying objectives if we do not have the teachers to teach the children. A vast amount of public money is to be spent on recruiting learning mentors, but they will not be teaching children. They will be talking to them about their problems, possibly about many things that parents would normally regard as their own prerogative. Learning mentors may or may not help children with their problems, but they will not be teaching them. They will not be able to assist the children to acquire the skills and expertise that will be needed to produce the highly skilled, highly equipped work force necessary for the technological society of the future.
The Government have failed most conspicuously to recruit teachers of technological subjects, especially maths and science. The Home Secretary said recently that there had been meltdown in the teaching recruitment system, in that insufficient numbers of qualified graduates were coming forward to teach children, especially in technological subjects. However, the Government said at the time that everything was going according to plan. The Home Secretary said there had been a problem earlier, so the Government introduced teacher bursaries, golden hellos and a graduate teacher programme to get people into teaching who would otherwise not enter the profession.
What has happened since those measures were introduced? If one considers all the measures that the Government have described as the answer to the teacher recruitment problem, one can see that the Government have fallen well short of their targets for recruiting teachers, especially in maths and science. In those subjects, the number recruited is way below the number in 1996-97, at the end of the Conservative Government's term in office. In that year, 1,740 graduates were recruited
Given the elderly structure of the teaching profession, the figures are also bad news for the future of our schools. Schools in some parts of the country are putting children on to a four-day week. Even while the Home Secretary was saying that the problems were behind us because the Government's policies were successful and they were increasing the number of teachers, the Evening Standard reported that the
The Government have tried their best, but their policies have failed--by their own standards and by those of the previous Conservative Government. Despite all the talk of education, education, education, there will not be enough teachers to provide it. It will not do for the Government to spin and spin; what matters is delivery. It does not seem that the Government will deliver on education--their policies have been tried and have failed. If they fail on that, the country will fail in many ways.
There has been much advance spinning about the provisions in the Queen's Speech on law and order, education and many other matters, but, by introducing them, the Government admit that they have failed to deliver in the past. It is highly unlikely that those provisions, even if we wished them well, would deliver in future. The Queen's Speech is a triumph of spin over delivery--the country is having the wool pulled over its eyes just before a general election.