Yvette Cooper MP

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Speech by Yvette Cooper, Thursday 9th May 2013 - Queen's Speech Debate

Yvette Cooper's speech to the House of Commons on the 9th May 2013, the Queen's Speech debate on Home Affairs.

Mr Speaker, once again in this Queens Speech we’ve heard grand claims from the Home Secretary and Prime Minister on what their plans will do

  • On immigration
  • On law and order

Grand claims – just not backed by reality

Because the trouble Mr Speaker we have been here before.

Remember how in the first Queens Speech the Home Secretary brought us the Police Reform Bill.

She said it would give the police “a strong democratic mandate from the ballot box.”

Instead she spent £100m on shambolic elections and only 1 in 8 people chose to vote. So much for a democratic mandate.

Remember what she said about her counter terror legislation – that “public safety is enhanced, not diminished, by appropriate and proportionate powers”.

Instead she brought terror suspects back to London – and on Boxing Day one of them ran away in a black cab and no one’s seen him since.

Remember she how promised Abu Qatada would soon be on a plane – we’re all still waiting

Remember how she promised no cuts to frontline police – and 5,500 officers have already gone from 999 response and neighbourhood teams.

Time and again the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.

Remember what she said about Data Communications Bill less than six months ago.

“This law is needed and it is needed now. And I am determined to see it through. But Sun readers should know that I will not allow these vitally important laws to be delayed any longer in this Parliament.…”

Now all they say is they are working with companies and “it may involve legislation.”

"It may". That’s clearly the problem. "May". 

And as for the so called flagship Bill of the Queen’s Speech – on immigration

An area where we agree that action is needed.

We now learn the Bill won’t be published until the Autumn

Because they obviously still haven’t worked out what on earth they are doing.

Yesterday they told us the Bill would have five central elements.

Now it turns out that three already exist and won’t need primary legislation, and two are just proposals for consultation.

On Job Seekers Allowance they are replicating the exact words in existing regulations.

On the NHS, the Health Secretary could only tell us he planned to “examine the extent of the problem and do an audit.”

On private landlords, they can’t tell us how it would be enforced because they don’t know who the landlords are and they won’t have a statutory register.

This is an important area where clear policies are needed. Yet as in so many areas across this Queen's speech instead of having a flagship bill they are still at the stage of sketching out ideas on the back of a fag packet.

No wonder they have ditched the plain packaging legislation.

Mr Speaker, there are serious issues that should be addressed in this Queens Speech. On immigration, on crime, on justice.

And we support action in all of these areas. And I want to cover each of these. We want to support many of the Government’s measures although we will scrutinise the detail.

We support action to stop the terrible crime of forced marriage – and she will agree it is important to get the legislation right.

We support action on dangerous dogs though we wait to see if it is going far enough.

We welcome action on fire arms

But what is she doing to stop people with a history of domestic violence owning a gun?

We need an answer for Bobby Turnbull whose mother, aunt and sister were killed by Michael Atherton who was granted a gun licence despite his history of abuse.

We agree with more support and rehabilitation for offenders. But where’s the evidence these untested massive private contracts will work.

When Justice Secretary tried it for the Work Programme it proved worse than doing nothing at all.

When the Home Secretary tried it for the Olympics, she ended up calling in the troops.

Time and again the promises don’t match the practice

The rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.

She promises action on anti-social behaviour.

Yet the truth is she is weakening powers not strengthening them. There will be no criminal sanction if anti-social behaviour measures are repeatedly breached.

She promises the Community Trigger will make a difference in persistent cases.

Yet in the pilots they were hardly ever used.

Out of 23,000 incidents of antisocial behaviour in Manchester, the trigger was implemented three times.

And in Richmond it wasn’t used at all.

And still nothing to deal with the serious consequences for justice of the police cuts and the policies this Government has pursued.

For nearly ten years the proportion of crimes brought to justice went up. 18% of crimes were solved in 2002. That rose to over 30% by the 2010 election.

Crime fell, but more crimes were solved.

Not anymore.

We all want crime to keep falling. But we need support and justice for victims too.

The proportion of crimes brought to justice has fallen since the election.

15,000 fewer police officers

200,000 fewer arrests, including 3,000 fewer arrests for sex offences.

30,000 fewer crimes solved

And some of the most serious crimes of all not followed up, or offenders let off.

Mr Speaker, the Queens Speech proposes to expand community resolutions for things like anti-social behaviour.

We support more action in the community to resolve low level crimes or anti-social behaviour. People apologising to victims and making reparations.

But it mustn’t become a short cut for dealing with serious and violent crime because there aren’t enough police to do the job.

And that’s what is happening on her watch.

The number of serious and violent offenders let off after they said sorry has gone up massively since the cuts started.

Up from 13,000 to 33,000 in just three years.

It goes against all the ACPO guidance, which says it is “for the resolution of a less serious offence or anti-social behaviour incident”.

And ACPO say it shouldn’t be used at all for domestic violence because it “represents serious risk to the victims of such offences and is often subject to a complex and protracted investigation”.

Too right. Because we know the pattern in many domestic violence cases – the offender apologises, says he’ll never do it again, that he really really loves her... Until the next time, when he hits her all over again.

The criminal justice system must not sanction that.

Yet that is exactly what happened - 2,700 times last year. A five fold increase since before the election and before the police cuts started.

Yet what was the response from Ministers?

The Home Office have refused to do new guidance, refused to set safeguards, refused to raise it with ACPO, refused to rethink police cuts. Instead they said it was quote; “A Matter for Chief Constables. Through crime maps and police and crime commissioners, the public now have the means to hold them to account.”

So that’s reassuring.

The police are overstretched and violent offenders are getting off, but at least we can google it.

And at least people get a vote in three years time.

And on immigration.

The grand claims don’t match the reality either. 

Mr Speaker we support action in many of the areas the Government has talked about and we will scrutinise the legislation when it finally comes forward.

Mr Speaker concerns about immigration are genuine and Parliament should respond.

The pace of immigration has been too fast and we support measures to bring immigration down.

I hope she will agree with me that Britain has benefited from people coming to our shores through the generations and contributing to this country. From our great scientists to the founders of our most successful businesses, from our great artists to our Olympic gold medallists, people who have worked hard for this country have boosted our society, culture and our economy too.

And in global markets, people travel and trade more than ever, and immigration is immensely important to Britain’s future.

It is because immigration is important that it needs to be controlled and managed so it is fair.

We supported the proposals on Article 8 when they were passed through Parliament last year. Article 8 is a qualified right and it is reasonable for Parliament to say how that should be balanced. And we will work with her in this field.

But she should not pretend that the Government’s failure to deport foreign criminals is because of the Human Rights Act.

The number has fallen by 800 a year since the election.

Yet the Home Secretary has admitted only a minority of cases relate to article 8 appeals.

Far more often the problem is lost paperwork and administrative incompetence – problems that have been getting worse and not better on her watch.

Nor has she set out proper plans to deal with exploitation in the labour market and illegal immigration.

But where is the action we need on illegal immigration

  • I hope she will now introduce the powers we put forward for borders enforcement staff in Parliament last year
  • Where’s the action to close the loopholes on student visitor visas
  • But where’s the rest of the action to deal with illegal immigration which is getting worse on her watch there have been fewer illegal migrants deported, more absconding at the border, fewer found and fewer cases of illegal immigrants followed up

And crucially where is the action to deal with exploitation of migrant workers to undercut local staff

  • Where are the measures to enforce the minimum wage?
  • Where are the measures to extend gangmasters licencing
  • Where are the measures to stop agencies recruiting only from abroad
  • Where are the measures to stop employers using overcrowded housing to get round the minimum wage

And let’s be clear. UKIP policies would make this worse.

They want to end statutory paid holidays, redundancy pay and maternity leave – all deeply unfair.

And all of which would make it easier, not harder, for employers to exploit migrant workers to undercut local terms and conditions.

The truth is that neither the Tories nor UKIP are willing to address the real problem of exploitation and the practical issues that trouble people because they are just on a race to the bottom in the labour market and in the economy.

And if they really are concerned about deporting foreign criminals why are they all so determined to opt out of the European Arrest Warrant, just because it has the word Europe in the title, even though it was responsible for the swift deportation of 900 suspected foreign criminals for trial back home?

The reality is these policies aren’t driven by facts, or by justice, or by serious concern to get immigration policy right.

The Home Secretary may think that she is fending off the threat from UKIP

She’s doing the opposite.

The more she ramps up the rhetoric, and widens the gap with reality, the more she increases public concern, and the more skeptical people get.

This is no time for an arms race on immigration rhetoric – instead we need fair and sensible policies that make things better not worse.

And Mr Speaker let me raise one final immigration issue with her.

We agree with the sentiment in the Queens Speech that those who come here should contribute.

But what about those who have already contributed to this country, who have risked their lives for our troops and for our nation, and who are risking their lives and their families lives still?

What about the Afghan interpreters who have supported our troops and face threats from the Taleban as our troops pull out.

When we left Iraq we recognised the debt we owed those interpreters

The Americans, the Australians, the New Zealanders are all recognising their obligations. Surely she should show a similar sense of honour and add to this Queens Speech a settlement scheme for the Afghan interpreters to whom our troops and we owe so much?

Mr Speaker,

This is a Queens Speech that fails to provide the answers on law and order

It fails to provide the answers on immigration

It fails to provide help for family living standards

It fails to provide the boost our flatlining economy so badly needs

Once all the pomp and ceremony is over, the reality of the Queens Speech is looking pretty thin

The home secretary, like her prime minister and chancellor, talks tough but doesn’t deliver.

As the honourable member for Rochester and Strood said, the Home Secretary “talks the talk, but she doesn’t walk the walk.”

On this side we couldn't agree more.

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