David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab)
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). I was in the Chamber 27 years ago when he seconded the Loyal Address—it was my first ever Gracious Speech. It is a tribute to him that, 27 years later, he is still quoted by those who ably proposed and seconded the Loyal Address today. I congratulate him on the longevity of that speech in 1992.
This Queen’s Speech is dominated by Brexit, but it also contains policy announcements on justice and policing. It also has some measures that even I, as a Labour Member, will welcome in due course, such as those on trophy hunting and on the restoration, potentially, of the devolved Government in Northern Ireland. It also, in my view, requires some additions, which I shall touch on briefly in a moment. It reminds me that the Prime Minister appears to be running against what his own Government did over the previous 10 years, with his emphasis on increasing policing, increasing investment in education and increasing investment in health. The proof of that pudding will be very much in the eating, because what is on offer is really a counter-balance to the austerity that the Conservative Government have forced through—dare I say it with the help, in their first five years, of members of parties who now sit on the Opposition Benches.
None the less, the Queen’s Speech is dominated by Brexit, which is the Government’s first priority. The opening line of the Gracious Speech is that the Government’s priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on 31 October. You will know, Mr Speaker, that the terms of that departure will potentially be set this week on 17 and 18 October at the European Council. Government Members have said that we on the Opposition Benches should vote for a deal. I confess that, as of today, which is five days before we are expected to vote on a deal in a Saturday sitting, we have no clear idea of what that deal will be. We have no clear idea of what the terms of that deal could be, what the boundaries of that deal could be, and what impact that deal could have on my constituents who make cars, who make planes, who make paper, who export sheep products, who provide tourism and who require safety and security through policing and through the support of international agreements on security.
I say to those sitting on the Government Front Bench that, first and foremost, I voted to trigger article 50. I stood on a manifesto that said that we would respect the referendum, but in the 2017 general election, which was called not by me, but by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who wanted a mandate to force through her form of Brexit, I made commitments to things which I still do not know will be in the agreement that comes before us on Saturday. I stood on a manifesto that was against no deal, and I have voted against that. I stood on a manifesto, which, in my terms as a representative in Wales, was for a customs union and for a single market. I do not yet know what the outcome of those discussions is.
I cannot say whether I will vote for the deal on Saturday, because we do not know what it is. I have to ask whether it is going to be better, because the Ministers in the Gracious Speech today have said that they will implement new regimes for fisheries, for agriculture, for trade and for opportunities arising from the European Union once we have left. Again, I do not know what those opportunities will be, but I have seen some adverts on the television this week that tell me that, on 1 November, if we go ahead with any form of deal—or no deal—that the Government are proposing, I will have to check whether my healthcare is still valid in Europe; check whether and how I can send goods to Europe from businesses in my constituency; check my insurance on travel, because it will not be valid in the great new world that we face; and check whether I can still drive in the European Union after 1 November.
I still do not know about any of those things or whether we will have something positive or negative at the end of this week. None of that was on the bus when it came driving through the United Kingdom on 23 June 2016. We still have no details in the document that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster produced last week on what will happen to the European arrest warrant, what will happen to European policing co-operation, and what will happen to the second generation Schengen Information System, under which we exchange information about paedophiles, criminal gangs, and drug abusers. As a former Policing Minister and a former Justice Minister, I cannot vote for anything when I do not yet know whether we have police co-operation and international co-operation on preventing drug trafficking, child pornography and child abuse. I do not know whether we have that yet, and I hope that during the course of this debate we can get some clarity on that so that we know what we might be asked to vote for on Saturday.
It also strikes me that the farmers in my constituency who currently export sheep to Europe do not yet know whether they will face a 40% tariff. Vehicle manufacturers at Toyota and Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port—employing thousands of people in my constituency—do not yet know what the tariff regime will be or what form it will take, and neither do the aircraft manufacturers at Airbus. There should therefore be a real sense of urgency on the Government’s part to pull together what we might be voting on. I have already voted for some forms of the deal that the Government have brought forward; I have also voted against some forms of the deal. But right now we have no clarity on what the deal presented to us on Saturday might be.
It strikes me that the only way in which we are ultimately going to be able to bring this together is to settle on a deal—whatever it might be—and then to put that deal back to the people so that they can decide through a confirmatory vote whether to support whatever deal comes before Parliament. As I have done in the past, I will support a confirmatory vote in due course. I hope we can find a way to bring a deal back so that people can see what Brexit means, because even now—four days from a vote—we do not yet know what it means in practice.
The Queen’s Speech is not all about Brexit. There are some measures regarding violent offenders. The question for me is: what has happened to the excellent work that was being done by the former Justice Secretary, the right hon. Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Gauke), who was talking about trying to abolish sentences of six months or less because they can cause people to struggle? Many people need clarity about how the Government are approaching the question of sentencing, because the Queen’s Speech seems to include sentence inflation for serious offences, which we can debate and discuss in due course, but we have no statement about what is going to happen to people who are being imprisoned for less than six months on a regular basis. In such situations, there is no opportunity to intervene in offenders’ behaviour or to turn their lives around, and we do not have the potential to make an impact on them through the prison system.
I would like to look in more detail at—but will probably welcome—the police covenant proposal that is included in the Gracious Speech. I met representatives of the Police Federation at the Labour party conference in Brighton this year, and they were very keen on the police covenant. We want that to happen and I can give Ministers cross-party support on that measure. We can also give Ministers cross-party support on replacing lost police officer numbers. The key test of that pledge is whether and how those police officers are going to be recruited, and over what period. There are questions to be answered such as how many police officers we are losing and how many we need to recruit to replace the 21,000 officers removed by this Government since I was the Policing Minister exactly 10 years ago, when there were lower levels of crime, including violent crime, more police officers, more security and more resolution of community issues than now. Over this 10-year period, violent crime has risen and crime has been more damaging. The sudden realisation that those police officers are needed is welcome, but we need to see how the plan will be delivered.
I welcome Helen’s law, which will mean that murderers who have been concealing the location of their victim’s body will not be allowed to leave prison until they reveal that location. That is fair and proper, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) for driving that measure forward.
I welcome the measures on trophy hunting. Again, we want to look at the details, but it is appalling that people can go on holiday to shoot tigers, leopards, lions, giraffes and a whole range of other animals, with impunity. Stopping the import of materials resulting from trophy hunting is a very welcome proposal. I want to look at the details to see how UK citizens who are taking part in trophy hunting will be restricted in bringing back trophy-hunted animal parts to the United Kingdom.
I welcome the potential restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland, which is also key to the whole settlement of the Brexit issue. The helpful explanatory notes to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which we need to return to in due course, state that we are going to:
“Clarify the immigration status of Irish citizens once the free movement migration framework is repealed. This means Irish citizens will generally not require leave to enter or remain in the UK.”
I question what the word “generally” means, because the Good Friday agreement, and the work I did as a Northern Ireland Minister, meant that people can identify as British or Irish, feel comfortable in that, and move around the United Kingdom and Ireland based on their identification. I worry about what “generally” actually means in practice.
I welcome the potential of some of the issues in the national infrastructure plan. We have a north Wales growth deal, as the Minister will know from when he briefly but successfully navigated his role in the Wales Office until he moved to his new position. I am sure he misses the Wales Office tremendously. I hope that he will be able to secure the north Wales growth deal as part of the national infrastructure plan as a matter of some urgency.
I want to finish on two issues that I had wanted to be included in the Gracious Speech. With regard to the forthcoming violent crime reduction Bill, the Minister and the House will know that there is severe concern about attacks on shop workers in their place of work. About 115 shop workers per day are attacked in the course of preventing shoplifting and upholding legislation on alcohol, tobacco and solvent sales—and now on knife and acid sales. Those shop workers are upholding the laws that we have passed in this House, and yet they have limited protection from this House accordingly. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas) is here because, as a member of the Co-operative party, I know that it has pushed very hard for action on support for shop staff, as has my own trade union, USDAW. We secured from the Government a consultation that has been ongoing and is now closed. When the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), had responsibility for the issue of attacks on shop staff, she undertook to report back on the consultation by the end of November. I hope that the current Policing Minister will do so and that there will be outcomes from it that give protection to shop staff in their daily lives.
I hope that when the violent crime Bill is brought before the House, there will be an opportunity for action to be taken on protecting shop staff by giving greater support to measures that will discourage violence against them and ensuring that they live free from fear about their daily workplace. It is very important that we do that. There is certainly cross-party support in this House, but also from the British Retail Consortium, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, USDAW, the Co-operative Group, and small supermarkets and stores right across the board. Nobody apart from the current Government has resisted the potential for action on this. I hope that the consultation that the Government have undertaken will prove fruitful, but I want to see it come back before Christmas, as promised.
My final point is about air weapons safety, on which I know there is a range of views in the House. In December 2017, the Government launched a review on the use and control of air weapons. I have an interest in that, because constituents of mine have been killed accidentally by the use of an air weapon when a lockable cabinet or a safety lock would have made a real difference to the safety of that weapon. That is one of the facets of the consultation. The consultation commenced on 12 December 2017. It closed on 6 February 2018. It is now 14 October 2019, and the Home Office has still not responded to the consultation on air weapons safety. My plea to Ministers is to conclude that consultation. I do not mind what Ministers say on that, but there is an opportunity to conclude the consultation. Constituents of mine have invested time and energy in putting points to the consultation, which is about the loss of their loved ones, to find that no response has been given to date. I want the Government to produce the consultation response. If they want to introduce measures on producing better airgun safety, such as requiring that airguns are kept in lockable cabinets, that could be done in the serious violence Bill. It could be done as part of the Home Office Christmas tree Bill, which we know will be in any Session, subject to any general election that occurs. My plea is for clarity on the outcome of the consultation, so that it can form part of legislation.
In conclusion, can the Minister give us some idea of what is happening on Saturday, and can he give us some idea of what is happening with the consultations on shop staff attacks and on airguns? Let us work together on areas where we have co-operation, including trophy hunting and infrastructure plans. Let us fight at some point the battle about the wider political discussion that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield touched on, about capitalism versus Government intervention in an active, positive society. I believe that Government intervention and government is a force for good. It has given me the health service and health in life. It has given me education in life. It has given my family security of housing in life. It has given opportunities to millions of people across this country. An active Government who take a role in the future is what I seek in a future Labour Government, whenever the election comes.