Former Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald (11 Jun 1987 – 12 Apr 2010)
Did you mean and widdecombe?
Tim Loughton: I rise to support this raft of amendments. In particular, I want to speak to amendments 31 and 33 and new clause 7. Before doing so, I ought to preface my comments, in view of the fact that the hon. Member for Rhondda has outed himself as an intolerant Widdecombe-o-phobe. I thought that was particularly insensitive to the Under Secretary, who is the successor to the saintly Ann Widdecombe who...
Evan Harris: ...amendments that seek to make it better. I was surprised to find that there is some compromise in the air regarding consultation. I was also surprised, but delighted, to see you in the Chair, Miss Widdecombe. I remember the times that we spent debating the Health Act 1999, sometimes with the Minister. That is where I learned how to deal with Standing Committees. If I perform badly, it will...
Ann Widdecombe: There is already an increasing number of such matches and an increasing degree of commercialisation, with all that that implies. I believe that my hon. Friend's Bill will give an impetus to that increase.
Ann Widdecombe: The right hon. Gentleman is making an extremely helpful speech. He talks about the power of the commissioner. Perhaps he suggests that a limitation of that power would be somewhat equivalent to an Order in Council. Our suggestion is for a very senior and carefully balanced parliamentary Committee. Will he comment on that before he brings his remarks to an end?
Ann Widdecombe: Indeed, and more than half all pensioners now enjoy the benefits of an occupational pension. As an even larger percentage of recently retired pensioners have occupational pensions, there is every prospect of increasing independence among the elderly.
Ann Widdecombe: All aspects of age relation are being reviewed, including salary-related schemes, personal pensions, COMPs and any other variety that my hon. Friend may be able to describe. Although I cannot give him an assurance as to the outcome, I am happy to give him an assurance that they will all be considered.
Ann Widdecombe: My hon. Friend has not suggested a minimum floor as regards the Bill. All I want to hear from the hon. Gentleman is the figure—whether for an unemployed agricultural worker or an unemployed ex-boss of a public utility—that he wants in that box under the Bill. What is he asking for?
Ann Widdecombe: We have made it very clear that, at an early stage of consideration of the Bill, we shall give an indication of our thinking on which countries should be designated. I am not willing to anticipate that announcement, and the hon. Gentleman must possess himself in patience.
Ann Widdecombe: Is it antisocial to say that someone has told an untruth who is found not to have done; and, if so, should an apology be made to the victim?
Ann Widdecombe: Very loosely. Mr. Speaker, will you confirm that it is not without precedent for Government and Opposition occasionally to change the business at the last moment, that you and I can recall an occasion when an amendment was withdrawn just minutes before a debate under the last Government and that, therefore, such things are not unprecedented?
Ann Widdecombe: What will be the crucial test of an offence? Will it be that the words uttered were intended to stir up racial hatred, or will it be that, as a result of the words being uttered, an act of religious hatred followed on the part of a third party?
Ann Widdecombe: Will the hon. Gentleman tell me whether he has any comprehension of how merely writing a letter to an official body could constitute an offence against public order?
Ann Widdecombe: Yes. We always supported tagging as an alternative to prison—indeed, I supported that when we were in government. We do not support tagging as a means of releasing prisoners early. There is an enormous difference between seeking alternatives to prison and releasing people, who, according to the judge, should remain in jail. Will the Home Secretary deny—
Ann Widdecombe: I was pointing out that occupational pensions pay an increasing amount to their pensioners. The figures are somewhat depressed if one includes in them those who retired when occupational pensions were in their infancy. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly capable of understanding what an average is, however, and that if there is an average pension, some people will receive far more than that and...
Andrew Turner: Thank you for calling me, Miss Widdecombe. I welcome you to the Chair. I want to retrace our steps to some of the Minister's final words this morning when he gave certain pledges--I am grateful to have heard them--on support for the extension which the Bill requires to apply to non-mandatory as well as mandatory schemes, including cross-border schemes with interoperability of travel...
Ann Widdecombe: No. If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he would know that I was not talking about areas or particular religious groups. I said that simply because a country had an established record of torture, an individual whose claim was manifestly unfounded, and who could be shown neither to have been tortured nor reasonably to fear torture, would nevertheless under the amendments be exempt.
Ann Widdecombe: If my understanding of the law is correct, such a person would be a member of this country.—[Interruption.] If Labour Members would be quiet, they may be given an answer to the question. Do hon. Members want an answer?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]— Then listen. Such a person is a member who has immigrant origins but who has become a member of the host community.
Mr David Sumberg: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a serious matter for my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe). She is an assiduous Member of the House and attends regularly, but if she had not seen today's Order Paper she would have been put in an embarrassing position. Will you look at this serious matter to prevent it happening again?
Ann Widdecombe: The Government recently introduced a number of extended and enhanced rights for employees in the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993. It is now automatically unfair for an employer to dismiss an employee for taking certain specified types of action on health and safety grounds, for seeking in good faith to assert a statutory employment right or for reasons connected with...
Ann Widdecombe: When technology goes wrong, the response should be immediate. Yet it is only now—the day of an Opposition debate—that the Government have got round to saying that they will take on some extra staff and run an advertising campaign. Yet again, we see the pattern of operation employed by the Home Secretary when he responds to problems. A year and two months too late, he came to the House to...