Queen’s Speech debate

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): I am most grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important Queen’s Speech debate. It is also a great pleasure to follow the eloquent and thoughtful contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle).
I begin by welcoming some things in the Queen’s Speech. First, I welcome the inclusion of Bills for High Speed 2. I fully support the project which cannot come a day too soon, because faster and better infrastructural links to Birmingham, to the north-west and, ultimately, to Crewe, with proper connections to various regions, will bring great benefits for businesses, tourists and other travellers to and from my north-east Wales constituency. I welcome those Bills and I only hope that the project moves on as speedily as possible, because it is absolutely vital.
Secondly, I welcome the carry-over of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. It will be a very proud moment indeed for this House and for this country when it is on the statute book.
Thirdly, I welcome the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, but I would welcome it even more if budgets such as that for North Wales police were not facing cuts of 20% and antisocial behaviour orders were not being scrapped. I welcome the inclusion in the Bill of gun-related laws, but I hope that the Home Secretary and her team will consider carefully the points about gun ownership and those with a history of domestic violence that were made earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper). We only have to see what has happened in America and the power of the National Rifle Association there to know what the power of the gun lobby can be like, and we in this country also need to be vigilant about it.
I welcome the chance to discuss immigration in this House. Indeed, as some Members have said, it has happened at fairly regular intervals and I do not believe it is an issue we should be frightened of. We should discuss it in a sensible and constructive way. If there is a debate more widely in the country, it would be foolish for us not to follow and listen and respond thoughtfully to the points that are made and to deal with them in legislation.
There are some serious issues and omissions that the Government need to address. Why is more not being done to tackle the use of foreign labour to undercut local workers? As residents of Black Park and Chirk in my constituency told me at the last election, how can it be right that some jobs are advertised only in eastern European languages for agency workers and offer only the worst possible terms of employment? The constituents who ask those questions, and others like them, are absolutely right to do so.
Also, what are we to make of the fact that there have been no prosecutions for breaches of the national minimum wage in the past two years when a recent King’s college study found that between 150,000 and 250,000 workers in the care sector alone are being paid below the national minimum wage? Is it any wonder that many people in this country are angry when such abuses go unpunished? Why can we not extend the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to other sectors?
On immigration, it is beyond belief that the Government are considering the measures that they have announced. I remember that two or three years ago we were told that a national register for landlords would be impossible. It would be too bureaucratic and difficult for the landlords, and would add red tape to the work that they already did, yet now we are told that landlords are expected to be almost the main body policing the system of immigration by identifying illegal tenants. It is nonsense that on the one hand the Govt can say it is too bureaucratic to do that, and on the other they can pass the buck straight on to landlords.
There are some issues that never made it into the Queen’s Speech. Plain packaging for cigarettes is one; a lobbying Bill is another. Dare I say that I suspect the two are rather intimately connected? My party would have brought in a new jobs guarantee Bill. It is a pity that none of these will make it on to the statute book, as all would have been a credit to this House and would have brought long-term social and economic benefits.
Finally, I turn to another matter that I would like to have seen in this Queen’s Speech, one that I know has great support across the political spectrum and has been raised in various guises in this House by various Members, including me on numerous occasions. I refer to death or serious injury on the roads caused by uninsured, unlicensed or careless drivers. In last year’s debate on the Queen Speech, I welcomed the aspects of the Crime and Courts Bill that brought into effect new provisions on drugs and driving. It is in the spirit of welcoming this change that I call on the Government to be bolder on the issue.
I have raised in the House before the case of Robert James Gaunt. Robert was a nine-year-old boy who was tragically killed in March 2009 while crossing the road in the village of Overton in my constituency by a driver with no licence or insurance, who failed to stop. He was a driver who did not report the accident and, even worse, who attempted to cover up his crime by re-spraying his car. For ending the life of this innocent young boy, the driver incurred a pitiful sentence of 22 months. That was at the very limit of what was possible under the law for that offence. When 1,300 people signed the Justice for Robert petition to back longer sentences for this crime, I promised to stand up for Robert’s memory on their behalf and I will continue to raise the issue here in the House.
I hope the Government will therefore support my ten-minute rule Bill that comes to the House this summer. It will call for the Government to undertake a review of the maximum penalties for driving offences that lead to death or serious injury, for I believe that this measure and any like it that speak up for road safety cannot come a day too soon, and I trust that Ministers will listen sympathetically to my request on this vital issue.
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