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Queen’s Speech debate 2017 – Day 3

Kennedynew4x3_head.jpgRoy Kennedy on the dual importance of holding Ministers to account and treating frontline public servants with respect

In the continuing debates we’re having on the Queens Speech, it is important not to lose sight of matters other than Brexit on which we as a Lords Opposition must robustly hold Ministers to account.

The first duty of government is to keep people safe. We will support all sensible and proportionate measures to tackle extremism. But we are also clear that the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has an important role in providing advice to the government, which must be carefully considered. Crucially, when considering the need for new powers – and the use of existing ones – we also have to be confident that they will be adequately resourced. Otherwise we find ourselves in the worst possible position, with measures unable to deliver what they are supposed to.

For the proposed Commission for Countering Extremism to be successful in its objective, it will have to quickly win the confidence of communities and work with them to find solutions to challenging hate and extremist ideology across our society and on the internet.

All tech companies that operate in this area providing platforms for people should cooperate fully with the authorities to ensure extremism is denied the ability to spread. There can be no excuses for not delivering on this, only firm action will do.

The proposals for an independent public advocate to act for bereaved families after a public disaster are ones we support in principle. And follows on from a Private Members Bill in the last Parliament from our Labour Lords colleague Michael Wills. When the proposals are published we will be looking to see if they provide for the independence needed to support the victims and their families and ensure that no one feels voiceless at time of unimaginable distress and vulnerability.

With the confidence and supply arrangement put in place yesterday between the Conservative Party and the DUP, the fragility of the peace process and the urgency of getting the Northern Ireland Executive up and working again is brought even closer into focus.

The peace process has transformed Northern Ireland in the last 25 years. No return to the hard border, peace and security and the honouring of agreements in full by all sides are issues that we will be seeking to make sure are delivered.        

One of the biggest failures of the Conservatives since returning to office in 2010 is the creation of a perfect storm in housing. Home ownership has fallen and continues to fall, councils have not been supported in building more homes for social rents, and the housing shortage has led people to the private rented sector – paying rents so expensive that they are unable to save for the deposit to buy their own home.

This is a vicious circle that hurts single people, couples and families alike, denying them the opportunity to improve their lot and be better off than their parents – something everyone aspires to for themselves and their children. The only way to make significant progress on the stated desire for more homes to be built is to let local authorities build council housing again, to be let to people on social rents, and to be on a scale not seen for 40 years.

The events at Grenfell Tower have horrified the whole country. The emergency services and in particular firefighters have been praised for their bravery and courage, but these same heroes are having their pensions cut and terms and conditions worsened. While the debt owed to them can never be repaid, they should at least be treated with more respect in the course of their employment.

Lord Roy Kennedy of Southwark is Shadow Housing Minister in the House of Lords and a member of Labour’s Home Office team. He tweets @LordRoyKennedy

Published 27th June 2017

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