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It is all spin and no delivery on transport, as well. The Prime Minister said that he wanted to get Britain moving again. Four years later, the country is at a standstill and our transport system is in crisis. Taxes on the motorist have soared, and transport investment has slumped. The Deputy Prime Minister boasts of a 10-year plan, but public investment in our transport over the 10 years from 1997 is now to be £30 billion less than it was for the last 10 years of the previous Government.
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston): Will the right hon. Gentleman apply his mind to the aspects of the Queen's Speech that seek to improve the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which he piloted through Parliament? Does he recall that, as he did so, he steadfastly opposed the introduction of a disability rights commission? We now have such a commission, and it is working. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that he would not use any specious arguments about cost-cutting, either to abolish the commission or to amalgamate it with, say, the Equal
Mr. Hague: The right hon. Gentleman knows that, over the past two years, the Conservative party supported in the House the creation of the Disability Rights Commission. He knows that the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995--on whose Committee I served as a Minister and he was the Opposition spokesman--is one of the matters in politics of which I am proudest; it made a lasting advance for disabled people in this country. I will never do anything to turn back advances made by any party for disabled people in Britain. He certainly has that assurance.
There is all spin and no delivery on transport, on education, on health and on crime. The Prime Minister said that there would be no tax increases at all--that his plans required no more tax--but for all those with a pension who save, who drive a car and who own a home, it has been tax and waste. At the previous general election, he had all those "Trust Me" posters. At the next election, he plans another picture of himself with the slogan, "Thanks to me, £25 billion of taxpayers' money has been poured down the drain". To all those who voted for change, loose change is all they will be left with.
Yet, of all the Bills whose contents will be finalised in the coming Session, the most important may be one that was not mentioned in the Speech: at Nice, the Government intend to surrender even more of our national independence. However, as always with this Labour Government, it will be surrender by stealth. All their talk will be of vetoes and standing firm; all their actions will be giving way and giving up.
We now know that none of the Prime Minister's tough words about Europe can be believed. In the House, only two weeks ago, he said that he had the full support of the US Defence Secretary for the European rapid reaction force. The Prime Minister said:
In the Prime Minister, we have a man who has forfeited the right to be believed or to be trusted. In more than 20 years in politics, he has betrayed every cause he believed in, contradicted every statement he has made, broken every promise he has given and breached every agreement that he has entered into.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I cannot tolerate shouting across the Chamber; it will not be allowed. The right hon. Gentleman has indicated that he will not give way, so I do not expect Bank Benchers to rise again.
There is a lifetime of U-turns, errors and sell-outs. All those hon. Members who sit behind the Prime Minister and wonder whether they stand for anything any longer, or whether they defend any point of principle, know who has led them to that sorry state. In one of his frequent meetings with the former leader of the Liberal party, whom he so much preferred to meeting his own Cabinet, the Prime Minister told us as it is. He said that he had taken from his party everything they thought they believed in and had stripped them of their core beliefs and that what kept them together was power.
That is the Government we see before us. Everything they thought they believed in has been stripped from them. They have had their core beliefs taken away. That is what this Queen's Speech is all about: all spin and no delivery. It is designed to produce better headlines, not better public services. Today's measures will not speed up one train or one hospital operation. The Speech will not improve discipline or standards in a single school; it will not cut crime on the streets; it will not reduce tax for one single family.
The Queen's Speech is 1,000 words long and it can be summed up in one sentence: "All spin and no delivery." Britain needs a Bill to cut tax, not to increase it. It needs a Bill to let doctors treat patients according to their needs, not to force consultants out of the health service. It needs a Bill to impose tougher sentences, not one designed to save money by letting prisoners out of jail earlier. Once this Government were clapped in so enthusiastically; today they are utterly clapped out.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): The first half of the speech of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), in which he made his jokes, was excellent, but in the second half he had to deal with policy, and it is fairly extraordinary for someone to speak in the debate on the Queen's Speech and not to mention the economy. I will come to the other parts of his speech later.
I join in the warm congratulations to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Sir J. Morris) on his excellent speech. He was a member of the Front- Bench team for 33 years. I was particularly pleased that
Generous tribute has already been paid to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg). I also pay tribute to her enormous courage in the past year. Although she made light of it, it was a serious accident, but despite that she worked ceaselessly for her constituents. She is known as an outstanding constituency Member of Parliament. She was a teacher and she used to say that, having taught 15 to 16-year-olds, being in the House of Commons was no problem for her. Her speech was excellent. It showed the full range of her commitment and I congratulate her on it.
If the procedures that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks wants were put in place, my right hon. and learned Friend and my hon. Friend, as Welsh and Scottish Members of Parliament, would not have full voting rights. I assure them that, under this Government, they will keep those full voting rights.
The right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend also paid tribute to Donald Dewar and to other Members who died during the year. So much has already been said about Donald Dewar--in particular, so brilliantly at the memorial service by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. It is worth saying that he was not only an outstanding Member of the Scottish Parliament--indeed, the First Minister and one of its founding Members--but an outstanding Member of this House. He was a brilliant debater and we all have our stories of his extraordinary humour and character. It was a strange blend of melancholy at one level and of extraordinary strength and determination. In July, when he came down to see me, I thought that, as a delighted father, I should take him to see our baby. We went into the flat, where my mother- in-law was holding the baby. He poked him in the stomach, took a step back and gave that Donald laugh--half a snort, half a laugh. He turned to my mother-in-law and said, "Aren't all new-born babies remarkably ugly?" For anyone who knew him, that was a very Donaldish comment. He will be deeply missed, but he will also be long remembered.
I pay tribute to Michael Colvin, who was a distinguished Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence and a real gentleman who will be missed on both sides of the House. I also pay tribute to Bernie Grant, to whom we have paid tribute in the House. It is worth emphasising how he worked himself up from very little and became a Member of this House but never forgot his passionate commitment to social justice and ending all forms of discrimination, which carried him through his political career.
Clifford Forsythe had a background in local government. His contributions to the House, some of which I heard, were always full of strong common sense. He was, like all Northern Ireland Members of Parliament, a very brave and decent man.
Audrey Wise, as has been said, was a Labour party figure and character. I do not suppose that anyone will forget either her time on the national executive or her commitment to social justice. Throughout her parliamentary career, she never let up on social justice. As party leader, I can honestly say that there were times when her views were not entirely convenient to the
That might be a convenient place to start with the speech of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks. He was very determined that he would be successful at the next general election, but I have to tell him that that belief in success is not shared by all his Members. A senior member of the Conservative party recently sent a letter to the Chief Whip. The envelope said, "Chief Whip" and, indeed, it reached the Chief Whip--our Chief Whip. The note was attached to a press cutting from The Times headlined:
All of this is a self inflicted wound at the back of which is Central Office whose knowledge of the electorate's likely voting intentions seems tenuous. It was obvious to me. . . it would have been much better to have taken the opposite line ie. that we were unlikely to win but we were going to fight every seat in our determination to win the next election and then claim great progress although we lost.
The right hon. Gentleman criticised our record over three and a half years, so let us analyse the Conservatives' record. Before they criticise us, let them take responsibility for their record: the mess that they made over inherited SERPS, which cost the taxpayer £12 billion; the cuts that they made in nurse training, the long-term effects of which are with us today; the cockeyed privatisation of the railways, which is the reason for the shambles today; the failure to maintain school buildings, which left teachers and children trying to work in schools where the roofs leaked; the record levels of Government borrowing, so that under the Conservatives 42 per cent. of Government spending went on interest payments on the debt and social security, with taxpayers picking up the tab and mortgages at 15 per cent.; the record levels of repossessions and negative equity; the one in five households with no one at work; the 22 tax rises; and the 4 million children in poverty. They attack us on health service waiting lists--the concept barely existed before they took office.
I will take criticism from people, but I will not take criticism from the Tories. They want everyone to forget just how bad they were; we will not forget and, more important, neither will the country.
In so far as there were any, I shall pick up on the one or two factual points in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He made a point about regulations under this Government. There have been 3,500 regulations, but the number of statutory instruments is the same under this Government as it was during the last three years of the previous Government--so that point is nonsense. He said that none of the crime figures was down. It is true that violent crime is up, and I shall come to that in a moment, but burglary is down considerably, by 20 per cent.
The right hon. Gentleman said that national health service waiting lists were up. In-patient waiting lists are down. It is correct that out-patient waiting lists are up. They were rising for years before we took office, but they too are now falling, and this is the first time that in-patient and out-patient lists have fallen together.
The right hon. Gentleman made virtually no mention of any of his policies, but, in respect of the NHS, perhaps he can explain how he would manage to fund private medical insurance, the deadweight costs of £750 million and his refusal to accept the increases in tobacco tax in the Budget. That amounts to £1 billion, which will come straight out of national health service spending. He also said that the number of nurses had fallen. In fact, it has risen by 16,000 since we took office.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the number of places in residential care homes had fallen because of the regulations that the Government had introduced. First, those regulations do not come into force until 2002; and, secondly, they will improve quality in the homes. It is completely wrong to say that they are putting residential homes out of business.
The right hon. Gentleman said that secondary class sizes had risen. It is correct that they have risen by 0.4 of a pupil--they were rising for a long time before we took office. However, we promised to cut primary school class sizes and infant class sizes. There are 450,000 fewer infants in classes with more than 30 pupils, yet he is committed to scrapping the money that allowed that to happen. He also said that teachers were being driven out of the teaching profession and that no one was being recruited. Teacher recruitment is up as a result of the bursaries that we have given--there are more teachers. Yes, it is true that we need to recruit more, especially in areas such as London and the south-east, but that is why we are introducing provision to help them with their housing costs. The right hon. Gentleman is opposed to that extra investment; the very thing that he wants to happen will not happen.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he would never do anything to hurt disabled people. However, £100 million of the money that he says he will save--I shall come to the rest of his spending programme in a moment--comes from disabled people on incapacity benefit, so that argument is wrong as well.
As for the so-called surrender at Nice, the right hon. Gentleman described Nice in that way because he said that it was wrong for there ever to be any additional qualified majority voting. Let me quote from Hansard and comments made in June 1990 by the shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), when he was a Minister of State with responsibility for Europe. He said that
The American Secretary of Defence said yesterday that the European security and defence initiative must not duplicate NATO's procedures. We are in total agreement with that. He also repeated his full-hearted support for European defence co-operation.