Debate on the Address — [Ist Day]

Part of Outlawries Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:27 pm on 8th May 2013.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee 5:27 pm, 8th May 2013

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and I noted his intervention on the Prime Minister and what the Prime Minister said. In the end, however, although it would be convenient to blame advisers, it is the Prime Minister and Ministers who make the decisions, so the buck must stop with them. I think we need a more detailed explanation of why we are not proceeding with that proposal. Similarly, many of my constituents have made representations against plain packaging for cigarettes, and there are small shopkeepers in my constituency who think such a measure is wrong. We need a proper argument and debate on the issue, and when we come to a conclusion we must legislate.

My worry is that while looking at the new landscape of policing we seem to have forgotten that of the criminal justice system. When I was Justice Minister we set up the community legal service, which seems to have disappeared. Many law centres are closing. Sadly, the one I used to work for in Leicester, now called the community legal advice centre, had to close due to cuts of £700,000. It was used by 10,000 people every year. Right hon. and hon. Members across the House expect constituents to come to their surgeries and complain about different aspects of policy, but I am sure that now even more people are arriving with benefit and housing problems because of cuts to those services. Michael Turner, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, anticipates that of 1,600 legal aid firms currently in existence, only 400 will remain once the cuts have gone through. There is nothing in the speech about that although there should have been because it is an issue of profound importance.

In conclusion, I am sorry that the Queen’s Speech contained nothing more about the health service. As the House knows, I have type 2 diabetes. Practically every day the newspapers carry information about the fact that diabetes is becoming an epidemic in this country, and I know that a number of Members of this House also suffer from it. We need legislation to deal with soft drinks companies that have not adhered to the principles of the responsibility deal. It is still the case that every can of Coke contains eight teaspoons of sugar, and we should be beginning—and pursuing—a war on salt. Unless we do that, diabetes will get much worse in this country. There is no legislation on that issue, but I take heart from the final words of the Queen’s Speech, which state that “other measures” will be placed before the House. That is the get-out clause for the Government, and I hope those other measures will include some of the issues discussed today that were not able to be included in the Gracious Speech.