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Davis: From immigration to street crime, Labour have lost control

Speech in response to the Queen's Speech in the House of Commons

"The Opposition welcome at least three proposals in this massive Queen's Speech.

Firstly, there are some of the powers proposed to deal with terrorism.

We have been calling for an offence of Acts Preparatory to Terrorism for some time.

It fills a loophole in the country's security, and may also prevent the government creating any more of the unnecessary, ineffective and illiberal legislation that it has been proposing in recent months.

Secondly, we welcome the introduction of measures to strengthen the charitable sector.

This is an area that needs serious reform.

Thirdly, violent crime is out of control.

Its growth is clearly related to drugs and alcohol.

There are a number of sensible suggestions set out here which we welcome.

But they won't tackle the roots of the problem.

This Queen's Speech is heavily focused on Home Affairs.

It's no secret why.

It's because the Government knows that the British people are deeply worried about law and order.

Because Ministers have failed and because they have been found out. Because—from immigration to street crime, from guns to drug crime, from violence to basic disorder —this Government have lost control.

In the past, this Government has adopted a Newton's law approach to law making - for every hostile headline there's been an equal and opposite piece of gimmicky legislation.

But not every social ill demands an equal and opposite law.

Some just need a fundamentally different approach.

What matters is passing good and effective laws and taking proper and concerted action to tackle some of the deep-seated problems we face going forward.

Where the Government sets out on a course to do that and sticks to it they will receive our support.

And it is with that principle in mind that I turn to look at the specific proposals and issues raised by this Queen's Speech.

Crime

On crime, I welcome the fact that the Government have said they will take action on the issues raised during the election campaign.

Violence. Social disorder. Drug abuse. Drunkenness.

The Government have committed themselves, again, to 'creating safe and secure communities' as well as 'fostering a culture of respect'.

But it is surely reasonable to ask, what happened to those communities, what happened to that culture of respect, in the last 8 years?

Which government has presided over the corrosion of discipline in our schools, the growth of drunken disorder on our streets, and the disarray of our police forces with a burden of bureaucracy, targets and red tape?

But let us look at the government's performance on its own measure.

In October 2002, the then Home Secretary, the then Lord Chancellor, and the Attorney General, published a document called 'Narrowing the Justice Gap.'

The Justice Gap is recorded crime less solved crime.

It is a measure of unsolved crime, a measure of uncaught and unpunished criminals.

They said that, 'The justice gap…is the key measure of the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, and a crucial indicator of success in reducing crime'.

I agree with them.

And to listen to the Home Secretary, you'd think that they had cut the Justice Gap I wouldn't you?

But no, not a bit of it.

The justice gap has grown by almost a million since this Government came to power.

There are now 900,000 more crimes not being solved each year than there were in 1998.

That means that each year the perpetrators of five and a half million crimes are not brought to justice.

Five and a half million victims see the perpetrators of crimes against them walking free.

And what is the Minister of State's answer to this?

Dress criminals up in orange suits. An idea so irrelevant that even Downing Street dropped it in 24 hours.

Although she managed to get the Home Secretary into trouble.

Here is yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, describing the Home Secretary's attempt to defend her line.

Actually I have a higher opinion of the Home Secretary than that.

I don't believe that he deliberately misled the public.

I just think that it demonstrates only too clearly the careless way that this government has designed its gimmicky and ineffective strategy on crime.

The government, of course, loves playing with statistics.

It loves to claim crime is coming down.

Which nobody believes-least of all those communities that suffer the most.

There has been some reduction in some of the recorded crime statistics, but the Government can claim exactly zero credit for this change.

Look at burglary. It has come down. Why?

Because more burglars are being caught?

No - detection rates for burglary have dropped by a third under this government.

Perhaps its because they fear prison?

No. Only half of burglars go to jail.

The real reason burglary has come down is that burglary has got more difficult and less lucrative.

Burglar alarms, better locks, more secure doors and windows make it more difficult.

And ten years ago the burglar could sell a stolen video for £100.

Now he'd be lucky to get a tenner for last year's model.

The risks have gone up, and the rewards have gone down.

But the criminal has not gone away -he has just gone elsewhere.

Sometimes into more violent crimes, like robbery, but more often into less risky, more lucrative ventures - smuggling liquor or dealing in drugs.

Today nobody seriously disputes that the two principal causes of violent crime are drink and drugs.

And yet this government has presided over an explosion in drink and drug related crime.

What have they done about it? Worse than nothing.

And the Government's response to the problem of binge drinking?

More drinking.

Longer drinking.

Easier drinking.

24 hour drinking.

Today we hear the drinks industry is facing up to its responsibilities.

If only the government would do the same.

At the same time drug addicts are faced with the lowest drug prices ever, with some urban areas seeing the price of cocaine falling below that of a cappuccino.

Drugs are flooding our streets because we have lost control of our borders, and until the Government gets a grip on our borders, this will continue.

No wonder more people are taking hard drugs.

No wonder 70 per cent of theft is linked to drug addiction.

At the same time as trying to sound tough on drugs, the Government took the foolish decision to re-classify cannabis, against the advice of the police, doctors and their own Drug Czar.

And as the ex-Cabinet Minister, Chris Smith, hardly an old fuddy-duddy has pointed out, 'Within the last two years cannabis has rocketed among young people because it's widely available and cheap, so youngsters will try it.

Kids don't even perceive it to be illegal any more'.

So New Labour is failing to tackle two causes of crime, drink and drugs.

It is also failing to deal with criminals.

A proper criminal justice system punishes the criminals, and reduces crime.

It does this by taking criminals out of circulation, typically in prison, by deterring them from committing crime, generally by the threat of prison, and by rehabilitation, again usually in prison.

But the government does not intend to build enough prison places to cope with the expected 100,000 prisoners by the end of a decade.

Instead it will use community service and fines to punish criminals.

Clearly such punishments do not take criminals out of circulation.

Equally clearly - they will not deter, even with the prospect of the Minister of state's orange suits.

And neither do they rehabilitate.

The hardest group of offenders to deal with are drug addicts, yet the flagship Drug Treatment and Testing Orders have had a dreadful outcome, often two thirds failing to complete the course, and 90% of those being reconvicted.

We need to offer kids ladders out of drug dependency.

We set out in the General Election a proposal to increase the number of residential rehab places ten fold.

A Conservative Government would have done so.

Our approach would have offered an escape from the cycle of misery that afflicts too many youngsters today.

Conservative proposals would have offered a positive and constructive solution to this most terrible of problems.

At least the government is recognising the need for action on violent crime, by promoting a Bill on the matter.

But it is failing miserably to deal with the root causes of that crime.

As a result of this failed strategy, recorded crime is up by over 750,000 in the last 8 years, and violent crime is up by over 80%.

And even where crime rates are falling it is often the result of factors beyond the Government's control.

What the Government can control is the number of police out on the beat, yet as we saw last week from the Police Federation more and more officers are now spending more and more time in the station at their desks rather than walking the beat catching criminals.

The government is tying our police forces up in red tape and targets, and as a direct result cutting their effectiveness.

The Government can control how effective sentences are, yet this Government is failing to enforce effective sentences and is instead wasting money on expensive and ineffective gimmicks that do nothing to lead criminals away from the tendency to re-offend.

These are the practical things this Queen's Speech could have addressed and we could have been debating today, but that will clearly have to wait for another time and another administration.

Asylum & Immigration

Over a year ago we exposed the chaos and shambles that the Government had inflicted on our immigration system.

From the government first we had denial; then cover-up.

Then the lid came off the whole show and a Minister had to resign.

At long last the Government are beginning to respond to the crisis in our immigration system.

We welcome some of the measures planned. But the government proposals for E-borders will take around five years to have fully set up - that's a full twelve years after this Government abolished the non-EU embarkation controls.

At a time of heightened security that constitutes a gross dereliction of duty.

We welcome the 600 extra immigration officers announced by the Prime Minister in his speech in Dover.

But these officers must be given the powers to deal effectively with illegal immigration _ and all the other problems of our porous borders.

Too often staff are undermined by the system - most recently at Bristol Airport people have been let into the country for 48 hours without the proper paperwork.

When told to report back 48 hours later only 2 of 31 did so.

This system of DIY deportation is a disgrace, should stop immediately, and should never have occurred in this first place.

The Conservative Party has forced this Government to deal with immigration and asylum issues.

Let me remind the House that the number of failed asylum seekers in the country had to exceed 200,000 before action was taken.

The Government is in a perpetual state of crisis management. And it is still prone to more crisis than management.

This week the Government was trumpeting its "success" on asylum applications which they have managed to get down to the level they inherited from us.

But that's the definition of New Labour achievement - something that's almost as good as the Conservatives might have done.

Of course we welcome the reduction, but at the same time the number of removals has fallen for the past several quarters.

At it's peak they were at around 5,000 in late 2003, down to just 3,400 in early 2005.

What chance of the Government achieving its target of more failed asylum seekers being removed than arrive when this is the case?

Astonishingly this Government is still complacent.

In the Home Secretary's introduction to his five year plan, he stated that 'the system we have at present works well'.

Works well?

The system which has seen cavalier disregard of immigration rules become the norm in the Home office.

The system which has seen net immigration triple.

The system in which the IND budget has risen from £200 million to almost £2 billion.

I hope we never experience a system that the Home Secretary thinks is working badly.

Terror Powers

We come to the contentious issue of anti-terrorism powers.

This February, on Woman's Hour - a more august, perceptive and questioning body than the cabinet - the Prime Minister said that, 'There are several hundred of them in this country who, we believe, are engaged in plotting or trying to commit terrorist acts'.

Only weeks later, he was rushing through a poorly drafted bill to deal with this issue.

A Bill that assaulted the ancient rights of the British people, that challenged the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus, and the entire concept of a fair trial under British law.

So what happened to the hundreds of terrorists that the Prime Minister told us were roaming our streets?

How many were put under control orders in the ensuing, weeks after the Bill became law?

Well, outside of those released from Belmarsh and other high security units none.

And I understand that in the last couple of weeks, one man who was released from prison.

So what has happened to the hundreds of terrorists that the Prime Minister identified?

And was it just convenience that they appeared and then disappeared in the run-up to an election?

Mr Blair has cried wolf a number of times in the past few years.

Terrorism is a very, very, dangerous area to cry wolf.

The House should be aware we will hold the Government to its promise to review and replace this hasty terrorist legislation in the coming year.

Of course it goes without saying that we welcome powers that will combat terrorism.

Introducing laws to deal with acts preparatory to terrorism will help us to deal with people planning terrorist attacks.

I am however concerned about the offence of condoning acts of terrorism.

I would like to read two quotes to the House, from persons commenting on terrorism in Palestine.

The first person said, 'young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up'.

And the second, said 'If I had to live in that situation - and I say that advisedly - I might just consider becoming one myself'.

Do these condone the acts of suicide bombers?

Would these people have been charged under the new powers?

Are we about to lock these people up?

The first is the wife of the Prime Minister and the second was Jenny Tonge when a Member of this House.

As much as I have my differences with the individuals in question I don't believe that we should be locking them up.

So we must be very, very clear on what these powers want to do.

New Labour has a habit of making bad law at a rush, in pursuit of a headline, so we will ensure that all of the new powers are exposed to full and proper scrutiny.

Incitement to Religious Hatred

As the Home Secretary knows, we fundamentally disagree on the provisions dealing with incitement to religious hatred.

I understand the Government's aims in trying to prevent religious hatred.

But I sometimes wonder whether the Government understand the implications of their own proposals.

This is their third attempt to introduce these powers, so I will repeat my objections.

For centuries the United Kingdom has had a tradition of religious tolerance, and at the same time a tradition of extremely robust religious disputation.

We live in a healthy society in which religious freedom and free speech have coexisted to the advantage of all.

These joint freedoms have contributed in no small measure to the intellectual vigour of our society.

They spawned the creativity that fostered a wealth of talent in many areas, from science to satire.

Freedom of speech is one of the great virtues and simultaneously one of the great strengths of our society.

The powers will curb freedom of speech where free speech is entirely appropriate. Unlike race, religion is a matter of choice—choice of beliefs, values, practices and behaviour.

This Bill would sacrifice freedom of speech and freedom of religious belief for little or no gain. We will oppose it.

ID cards

And the subject of important sacrifices for little or no gain brings me to the proposals on ID cards.

We have been here before.

When the Government last brought this proposal before the House we set a number of tests that they had to meet.

They have still not done so.

Those points remain the key tests against which we will judge the legislation.

The point of those five tests is to establish, as I said, the balance or imbalance between those serious principles, which matter, as the Home Secretary rightly said, and the competence or incompetence of the proposal.

It seems, however, that the Government is asking Parliament to make a decision on a scheme that they have not yet properly investigated.

The scheme is so ill-thought out that it is by no means clear that the technology will be foolproof.

It is by no means clear that the costs will be controllable to less than £10 billion.

It is not clear that the Home office could manage it - after their spectacular failures on the Passport Office, and in the last year, on the fingerprint computer. system.

And the point to remember is that if we depend on this systems for our security, and it fails, or is subverted, we are far worse off than we were without it.

I recently met with a group of senior policemen to discuss ID cards.

They all supported the idea, but when I asked them a simple question - what could be done to stop anyone using one of the many thousand access points to tamper with the database backing the new cards - they did not have an answer.

I could enter a programme, a virus, that would allow my biometric data to relate to any number of people, thus allowing me to switch identities at will.

These questions must be answered before we can begin to consider letting this bill go through.

On an issue of this importance - one that represents such a fundamental change in the relationship between the citizen and the state - the Government must make the case and conclusively prove the need for such a change.

At present, they have not done so. And until they do so, I cannot recommend that my Party supports these proposals.

Peroration

Mr Speaker,

I have touched upon some of the issues raised by this Queen's Speech.

There will be many hours of important debate and discussion to come when the specific proposals will be analysed in full.

But today we can only focus on the broad thrust of the proposals.

So while our intentions are positive, I am afraid our hopes are not high.

For 8 years, this government has been characterised by complacency, incompetence and failure followed by gimmicks, posturing and soundbites.

We have seen cash point fines, proposed and then abandoned.

We have seen night courts proposed and then abandoned.

We have seen child curfews proposed, introduced and abandoned.

We have seen a government supposedly determined to crackdown on anti-social behaviour but then encouraging 24 hour drinking.

Drug use is rampant on our streets.

The Government's response?

To slacken cannabis laws.

When Labour fail to deliver, they are drawn to one response above all others: the gimmick.

Headline-grabbing initiatives, poorly developed policy, designed to achieve media coverage and create a spurious impression that the Government is in touch with, and tackling, people's concerns.

We have seen them come, we have seen them go.

Now they have been given one last chance.

People have made it clear what their priorities are and they have entrusted this Government to get on with the job.

Our job is to support where support is due and to hold them to account when they are going wrong.

In the coming months we shall do our job to the full.

After 8 years, it is about time this Government did theirs."

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