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Dominic_grieveNick_herbertYesterday saw the second day of debate on the Gracious Speech. The Home Secretary was in action again straight after fielding questions about Damian Green.

Unfortunately, very few MPs were present for much of what went on.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve, who is on fire at the moment, spoke very persuasively.

"On the substance of what the Home Secretary had to say, although I can welcome some aspects of her speech, there are many others that I cannot, because the Government’s record on home affairs and justice is not a happy one and is at variance with the aspirations set out in the Queen’s Speech.

The Government have presided over the virtual doubling of violent crime since they were elected, while their incessant red tape and regulation have tied the hands of the police. Indeed, some announcements that are now being made on the subject are merely rolling back red tape and bureaucracy that the Government previously introduced.

The thirst for headlines and the inflation of ineffective bureaucracy and legislative hyperactivity distract the Government and successive Home Secretaries from the real job at hand: getting more police on the street with the single imperative of cutting crime, and a dedicated border police force to reverse our current vulnerability, which has seen the street value of cocaine and heroin slashed by almost half, while estimates show that the numbers of young women and girls trafficked into prostitution have quadrupled."

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Nick Herbert wound up for the Tories, and also spoke with great verve.

"Yesterday we saw the Lord Chancellor, in all his finery, skilfully walking backwards, which he did most expertly. That was entirely appropriate, because retreat has been the story of the Prime Minister’s programme on constitutional renewal.

Back in July last year, when the new Prime Minister made his first statement to the House, he promised a

    “national debate…founded on the conviction that the best answer to disengagement from our democracy is to strengthen our democracy.”—[ Official Report, 3 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 819.]

Constitutional change was not peripheral to the Government’s agenda; it was central to their programme—“founded on…conviction”. That conviction cannot have been very profound, because just 18 months later, the constitutional agenda has all but disappeared. It has become clear that the Prime Minister had no great vision of a new settlement, just the immediate political challenge of dissociating himself from his predecessor."

Good stuff from the Conservatives – but why were so few MPs present?

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