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Mr. Hague: I see that the Lobby fodder are coming on again. I shall give way in a moment. The real reason the Prime Minister wants to abolish community health councils has been spelled out by the director of the community health councils' national association. Last week, he said:
Mr. Miller: While the right hon. Gentleman is sitting down, will he consult the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo), who is sitting next to him, and define exactly how much "far higher" is?
Mr. Hague: We have already given the figures. Under our proposals, single people under 75 on a weekly pension would get £9.60 extra, and married couples over 75 would get an extra £16.10. [Interruption.] We shall have to have a word with the Labour Whips, as the Lobby fodder should be better informed.
With regard to the new Bills dealing with crime and deregulation, the Queen's Speech should have read, "My Government, having interfered in people's lives with excessive regulation and having been excessively weak on crime despite promising to be tough, will now introduce Bills on crime and deregulation as cosmetic measures to cover their complete failure in the run-up to the election."
It is all spin and no delivery. The Government have spent four years increasing regulation and strangling the country with red tape. Now they say that they are going to cut the burdens on business. The Bill may not get through every stage of Parliament, but it has already passed through every stage of new Labour.
The first stage is empty rhetoric. Labour's manifesto pledged not to impose "burdensome regulations on businesses". The next stage is the broken promise. There has been an extra £5 billion a year of costs for business,
Once again, we read the headlines about crackdowns and curfews and protection against yobs, while the measures to back up these headlines have been a complete failure. The Queen's Speech said that the Government would combat crime and anti-social behaviour, and promised curfew orders, but those were the words of the first Queen's Speech of this Parliament in 1997.
Mr. Hague: Those were the words of the first Queen's Speech, following which crime increased, anti- social behaviour worsened and not a single child curfew order was imposed. Of what value are the same words, parroted again by a Government who have been weak on crime since the day that they took office?
On no area of policy has the Prime Minister's failure been more stark than on crime. Tough on crime, he said, and there have been 190,000 more criminal offences in the past year. Violent crime has risen by 16 per cent., and the Home Secretary has released 27,000 criminals from prison early so that they can commit more crime. Tough on crime, he said, and he has cut police numbers by 3,000 and tied their hands with red tape and political correctness.
The vice-chairman of the Police Federation said on television this lunch time, when asked about the Queen's Speech, that the federation was extremely sceptical as to whether these measures could make a real difference on the ground. That is because we have heard it all before. The Home Secretary says, "Crisis--what crisis?" and presses on with loading non-existent officers with yet more gimmicks and spin.
Mr. Hague: The hon. Gentleman does not need me to destroy his career when he can open his mouth at any time. This matter is being dealt with, quite rightly, by the people of Chile, and they should deal with it in their own way.
Mr. Hague: A legislative programme that was serious would end this scandalous early release scheme. A legislative programme that was serious would give rights to victims rather than criminals--rights enshrined in law for greater information, consultation and access. A legislative programme that was serious would impose tougher penalties on those who abuse children or try to sell them drugs. A Government serious about winning the war against crime would stop spinning promises and start delivering tough law and order policies and more police to enforce them.
Mr. Hague: Instead, it is all spin and no delivery in the Queen's Speech. It is all spin and no delivery on the health service. Twenty-four hours to save the NHS, the Prime Minister said before the election. Four years later, he stands in Downing street and admits that the health service is in crisis. Waiting lists are up 62,000 and 79 out of 99 health authorities report longer waiting times for operations than in 1997. Last year the number of students applying to become doctors fell to a record low. A record number of nurses is leaving the country to work overseas.
Let us listen to what people in the health service are saying. Dr. Geoff Scott at University College London hospital had to admit a woman with tuberculosis into a maternity ward because no other beds were free. He said:
A legislative programme that was serious about solving those problems would get rid of distorting waiting list initiatives that distort clinical priorities. A legislative programme that was serious about preparing the NHS for
Helen Jones (Warrington, North): Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how dealing with clinical priorities in the NHS would be improved if my poorest constituents were made to pay for basic operations?
Mr. Hague: The only ones who are making people pay are the incompetent managers in today's health service. I have met people in recent months who are waiting for a heart bypass, who cannot obtain one within a reasonable time on the national health service and who feel that they must pay £10,000 to have the operation privately. They cannot get one from the health service under the Labour Government. That is making people pay for their operations, and it happens more today under this Prime Minister than under any other Prime Minister who has presided over the national health service.
It is all spin and no delivery on education, too. Secondary school class sizes have risen. Government interference and paperwork are driving teachers out of the profession. Instead of setting schools free to raise standards, the Education Secretary has tried to micro- manage every classroom from Whitehall. The result is that there is now a teacher crisis in our schools: 2,000 are leaving the profession every year, and there could be 30,000 teaching vacancies within five years.
"Education, education, education" was the mantra at the previous election. Four years later, our schools are facing a four-day week and the teaching profession is in crisis. A legislative programme that was serious would set schools free from bureaucratic control, put the money directly into the classroom, give choice to parents, end the vindictive campaign against grammar schools and allow new partner schools to be created.