Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Queen’s Speech - Debate (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:32 pm on 22nd June 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 3:32 pm, 22nd June 2017

My Lords, we have discussed this afternoon Grenfell Tower. I am one of those greatly reassured that we are to have a full public inquiry to find out exactly how it all happened and what the implications are. However, I have one big anxiety that in our desire to learn the lessons of Grenfell Tower we do not overlook our own responsibility—starting with us, the Members of this House. What are the values on which our country operates at the moment? Do responsibility, civic duty and the concept and value of service have real prominence in our preoccupations or are we too preoccupied with cost and managerial systems that themselves solve nothing? The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was absolutely right today in saying that it is the values within the systems that ensure that we have a society worth living in.

When I think of Westminster, Borough Market, Finsbury Park and Manchester, I join those who express deep feeling for the victims and their dependants, and untrammelled admiration for the firefighters, police, ambulance crews and medical personnel. Equally impressive in all this has been the spontaneous public response from so many people. I cannot be alone in how heartened I was by the leadership and example of that courageous imam at Finsbury Park.

Terrorism and extremism are out to break our system but also those things that we believe to be important underlying our society. That is why it is so important to stand firm and resist the counterproductivity that can easily begin to creep in to our response. I worry about the erosion of the values and qualities that make our society worth protecting. That is a real victory for the extremists. It is at the very time of the most pressures that we must be most resolute and demonstrably firm in our commitments.

Of course, in responding to the immediate situation we must emphasise the vital importance of properly resourced security services. Intelligence and security cannot be overestimated in our ability to prepare for awful events and to avoid danger when it can be avoided. I am glad that there has been emphasis on the armed services this afternoon. We must constantly measure what are the real threats, as they are changing all the time. Are we really meeting effectively the real threats that exist? Of course, we can be certain that the situation is volatile and full of unpredictability. Flexibility and adaptability and more than adequate but generous provision of equipment are necessary, as well as all the issues of recruitment and human resources that we have been discussing.

I have one anxiety, which is not always very acceptable in debates about defence, about Polaris and Trident. It is quite a big anxiety. I not only accept but endorse the importance of our nuclear deterrent but the expenditure on Polaris and Trident has been so vast and so disproportionate that I worry that we could begin to slip into a defensive attitude towards the systems themselves and become hidebound, and by not providing adequately for all the other points I have mentioned, we would not be able to meet the real situations and the real developments as we should. Therefore, I do not think there is any harm in keeping this whole issue of the disproportionate cost—some might argue whether or not it is disproportionate but it seems to me to be out of all proportion—of Polaris and Trident against the real needs in the real world in which we are living.

Whatever we are doing in defence, we must always be ready and prepared to operate within an international context. It is inconceivable that in any situations which will confront us in the foreseeable future we would be acting alone. Therefore, how far are we all the time prepared and ready to act in an international setting? Whatever happens on Brexit, our interdependence—and, indeed, dependence on the world—will not go away. It is true in issues of security and terrorism, about which I have been speaking. It is true of crime, trafficking and drugs. If we see that the ultimate battle with extremism is the battle for hearts and minds, I would be interested to hear how far the Government have considered a role for UNESCO and other similar international organisations in joining us in that battle for hearts and minds.

On refugees, the issues we are facing are small compared with the issues that are going to build up in many parts of the world. This is intimately related to global insecurity and extremism. Therefore, are we standing firm in our support for the UNHCR? Do we think enough about the critical role in international stability that the UNHCR is playing?

On Paris and climate change, there are few of us in this House—there are still some—who would deny that this is an inescapable issue for us all. How are we addressing this in a practical way? Again, how far do we look at the issues of climate change in relation to our anxieties about international stability, extremism and terrorism? There are relationships. Energy speaks for itself, as do trade and finance.

However, there is another issue: law and justice. I have been deeply depressed by the tendency to talk about the European Court of Justice as being somehow a threat to our independence. What is clear is that in many spheres of law and justice there is a cross-frontier, cross-border dimension. In civil law, this stretches from the importance of the care of children to issues of copyright. All the distinguished lawyers whom I have been privileged to hear in the EU Justice sub-committee of this House have argued—