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"Hitler had a really good programme".
Simon Hughes: I congratulate the Prime Minister on his new office, and he was right to criticise some of the legacy of the Labour party. Can he therefore give the House and the country an assurance that we will do better in his Government at building council housing and providing affordable housing in rural constituencies such as his, as well as in urban constituencies such as mine?
The Prime Minister: I am very grateful for the hon. Gentleman's question, although I hope that before long he will be referring to it as "our Government" rather than "his Government". You are absolutely right-[Hon. Members: "Wooh!] Sorry, he is absolutely right-I will get the hang of it eventually-and we will be prioritising social housing, not least because the last Government left a huge black hole that they refused to fund-
Nothing will better sum up the clean break that this Government will make with the past than our freedom Bill. We will repeal ridiculous laws that allow a never-ending list of public bodies, from local councils to quangos, to enter people's homes without permission. We will scrap Labour's plans for ID cards and, after the Labour
Government failed to act for so many years, we will end the incarceration of children for immigration purposes once and for all.
We are going to bring the same spirit of radical change to the biggest challenge of all: sorting out the mess that Labour has made of our economy. Everything that the previous Government told us was wrong. They told us that they had abolished boom and bust, but they gave us the longest and deepest recession on record. They reassured us that we were better prepared for this recession than other countries, yet we were one of the first countries into recession and one of the last countries out of recession, and we have one of the weakest recoveries. They promised us prudence, but they left us with the largest UK budget deficit in peacetime history. They lectured us about their golden rules, but in the end the only golden rule was: "Never trust Labour with the economy of this country".
It stops now-no more spending beyond our means; no more reckless borrowing; no more taxing of the poorest to pay for the mistakes of the few. In just two weeks, this Government have done more for our economy than Labour managed in the last two years. We have changed the way Budgets are written, by establishing a new Office for Budget Responsibility, which will stop any Chancellor fiddling the figures ever again in our history. We have launched and completed an in-year spending review to save £6 billion of waste-waste that Labour still says is vital to our recovery. What a ridiculous argument. Do Labour Members really think that the £125 million a year that we discovered the previous Government were spending on taxis, the £320 million that they spent on hotel bills or the £7 million spent by one Department on stationery are necessary? Are all these luxuries somehow essential to firing the engines of our economy? Of course they are not, and it is right that they are being reduced.
It is because we have found these savings that we can stop one of the most stupid, reckless and irresponsible tax rises ever dreamt up in the middle of a recession, which was the idea of putting up national insurance on every job in our country. With this coalition Government, that jobs tax is going. That is what we have done in the last two weeks.
The Prime Minister: The whole point is that we are getting to grips with spending so that we do not have to put up taxes. The only people I remember with a plan to raise VAT were the last Government, who actually published it, although to be fair to the hon. Gentleman, he had lost his first seat then-and we are all looking forward to him losing his second one.
That is what we have done in two weeks; the Queen's Speech shows what we will do in the next two years. We are going to bring some law and order to the banking system, which Labour allowed to wreck our economy. There will be more powers to the Bank of England, in our financial services regulation Bill. We will get to grips with the unacceptable bonus culture and open up credit lines for small businesses. We want to ensure that our banks serve our economy, rather than the other way round. We are going to change our whole economy, so that it is not built on debt and waste, but instead on savings and investment.
Our energy security and green economy Bill will mean more energy efficiency in our homes and our businesses. From the savings that we have already identified, we will make £50 million available for the building and refurbishment of further education colleges. One of the last acts of the previous Government was to completely bungle that building programme. One of the first acts of the new Government will be to start putting that wrong right. If we add to that high-speed rail, an interactive energy grid, corporation tax cuts and super-fast broadband, we will get a completely new economy and a Britain that is back open for business.
And one last thing: we will finally bring justice to the Equitable Life policyholders-people who were shamelessly betrayed, year after year, by the bunch of people sitting there on the Opposition Front Bench.
The Government we have just had were not just disastrous for our economy; they were bad for our society, too. This Queen's Speech marks a decisive shift from the past, treating not just the symptoms of what is broken in our society, but its root causes. In Britain today there are families better off on benefits than in work and couples with children being paid more to live apart. We have taxpayers who go out to work, earning just £15,000 or £16,000, and are expected to carry on supporting people who refuse to work. All these things need to change. Our welfare reform Bill will begin the process of benefit reform.
Bob Russell: Will the Prime Minister confirm that, after 13 years of a Labour Government, the gap between rich and poor had widened, and that the number of children living in poverty was among the worst in Europe-worse than that of Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is entirely right, and worse than that- [ Interruption. ] The former Health Secretary says that he is wrong. That shows how out of touch they are: they do not even know the damage that their Government did. We can add to that the fact that there are more children here in households where nobody works than in any other country in Europe. That is the record that they have left, and that is the record that we want to put right. So before the summer, we want to pass an education Bill that allows our best schools to reopen as academies straight away. We will not stop there. There is going to be greater freedom for all schools, radical reform so that new schools can be established, more trust for teachers and, through our pupil premium, we will make sure that extra funding goes to the poorest pupils.
We will radically reform all our public services so that they serve the public, not bureaucrats in Whitehall. We are going to do things in a completely different way from what has gone before, dismantling the top-down apparatus of state control and bringing in real choice and accountability. So with policing, out go centralisation, unnecessary paperwork and central targets, and in come beat-based police meetings and elected individuals as police commissioners. With the NHS, out go centrally directed hospital closures and politically motivated targets, and in come full patient choice and elections for your primary care trust. And that is not all. Because we are getting rid of Labour's jobs tax, we can now afford to
fund the cancer drugs that people have desperately needed for so long, to extend life and give hope to thousands of people in our country.
This Queen's Speech addresses problems not only in our economy and our society but in our politics, too. It includes a comprehensive programme for pushing power downwards and outwards from this place. That is what the decentralisation and localism Bill is all about. Already we have shown our intent: the imposition of new unitary councils-going; regional spatial strategies-going; home information packs-gone; comprehensive area assessments-going; Standards Board bureaucracy-going; the excessive ring-fencing of local council budgets, and treating local government like infants-gone. We will be the Government who give politics and power back to the people. Not only will we push power outwards; we will also sort out the other issues that brought this House into disrepute, with a clampdown on lobbying and the right for constituents to recall any MP found guilty of serious wrongdoing.
The Prime Minister: What we are going to do is allow the referendum to go ahead that was actually rather held up by the last Government. So yes, a date will be named for that referendum and I believe that it should be held next year. There should be a free and open debate in Wales for that to happen.
The right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham mentioned the Wright reforms. We will ensure that Select Committee Chairmen and members are voted for by Members of Parliament and not appointed by the Whips. I have mentioned fixed-term Parliaments; we will be legislating for that, and also for a referendum on the voting system. So our political reform is all about cleaning up Parliament, and passing powers from the Executive to the legislature and from the legislature to the people.
Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how setting an artificially high level to defeat the Government in this House in a no-confidence motion can look like anything other than gerrymandering, when he is cutting the number of MPs in this House and appointing more peers in the other place, allegedly to save money? How is that new politics?
The Prime Minister:
I am the first Prime Minister in British history to give up the right to go to the Palace to choose an election at a time that suits them. Everyone in the Opposition stood on a promise in their manifesto to introduce a fixed-term Parliament. If there is to be a fixed-term Parliament, there has to be some way of
trying to make sure that it is a fixed-term Parliament. That is why the hon. Lady voted to support a 66% threshold for the Scottish Parliament.
The Prime Minister: I will happily give way again, but let me make one more point first. Do Opposition Members really want to go through the whole experience of 2007 again, when we had a Prime Minister wondering whether the time was right for wandering off to the Palace and whether or not they would win? I quite enjoyed 2007, I really did. It was great for Conservative Members. Does the hon. Lady want to go through that again?
Maria Eagle: I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman can convince the country that he is not really trying to stitch up a majority in the Commons for a lot longer than he might truly own one. If he is appointing new peers to ensure that the coalition has a majority in the House of Lords, while at the same time requiring a Commons vote of more than 55%, which is more than all the Opposition parties can muster, before the Government can fall, is it not stitching up the House and -[Interruption.]
The Prime Minister: I am not quite sure where to start, Mr. Speaker. As for appointing peers, let me remind the hon. Lady that previous Governments, particularly that of Tony Blair, appointed more peers than any Prime Minister in British history. What is more, the Labour party had 13 years to reform the House of Lords and completely failed in something this Government are going to achieve. Let me explain that we are not taking away Parliament's right to throw out the Government; we are taking away the Government's right to throw out the Parliament. That is why it is about giving power from the Prime Minister to the legislature. If it is such a bad idea, why did every Labour Member put it in their manifesto and stand for it at the last election?
As this Government start the job of building our country's future, the Labour party is clearly thinking about its own future. As experts in leadership elections, we shall be watching with interest. I have to say, however, that if Labour thinks that having a leadership election is the answer to its problems, it is wrong. The truth is that it is not the leader that is the problem; it is Labour. The whole approach has been wrong-the idea that for every problem there is a bottomless pit of public money, that for every situation there is a Government solution and for every issue there is a Whitehall initiative. It ended up giving us an economy that is nearly bankrupt, a society that is broken and a political system that is bust. That is why this coalition has come together-because this country needs strong, stable government to sort out the mess that the Labour Government made. They gave us big spending; we will bring good housekeeping. They trusted in bureaucracy, we will trust in community. They governed in the party interest; we will govern in the national interest.
This Queen's Speech marks an end to the years of recklessness and big government and the beginning of the years of responsibility and good government. It takes the deficit head-on; it shows the world that Britain is reopening for business; it tackles the causes of our social problems; it means better schools for our children, real hope for those out of work and a stronger NHS for everyone; and its means having a Parliament that belongs to the people, not the politicians. It means a new start for Britain, and I commend it to the House.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You said earlier that for the sake of accuracy you had managed to obtain a copy of the Queen's Speech. You need not have done any such thing, as you might just as well have bought a copy of The Sunday Telegraph . Will you confirm that this is the first time that a draft of the Queen's Speech has ever been leaked to a national newspaper? Will you personally conduct an investigation to find out whether it was leaked from No. 10 Downing street and whether any money changed hands in connection with it? You rightly used to excoriate Labour Ministers if ever we made announcements before making them to this House, so will you make sure that that lot over there do not announce things to the press-as they have done, day in, day out over the past 10 days-without first bringing them before this House?
Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, which warrants an immediate response. The House will share the hon. Gentleman's disappointment that it and he did not hear for the first time the details of the Government's legislative programme while listening to the Queen's Speech this morning. This gives me the opportunity to say at the start of this new Parliament that I shall continue to expect, as I said two days after first being elected Speaker last June, that
"Ministers ought to make key statements to the House before they are made elsewhere."-[ Official Report, 24 June 2010; Vol. 494, c. 798.]
Let me take this opportunity to thank my constituents for re-electing me, and for re-electing me with an increased majority. Let me also thank them for the excellent local election results that we had on the same day, including two gains from the Liberal Democrats and a board swept almost clear of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
My constituents voted Labour on 6 May because they wanted the continuation of a Labour Government. That Government had brought them more jobs and more job opportunities after they had experienced some of the worst unemployment in the country under the Conservatives; a new deal against which both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats voted; a national minimum wage; winter fuel payments and bus passes for pensioners; increased money for the national health service and new hospitals; Sure Start and newly built, brand new schools; antisocial behaviour orders and more police; and housing modernisation. Those were all achievements of the Labour Government, frequently opposed by the Conservatives and/or the Liberal Democrats in the House.
As I have said, the Conservatives opposed those measures, but I expected no more of them, and I expect no more of this Conservative-dominated Government now. We know what the Conservatives are: they are our legitimate opponents, who stand for values different from those for which we stand in our party, and there is a clear dividing line between us. Now, though, we have a new phenomenon: Liberal Democrats sharing in government.
As my right hon. and hon. Friends will know, for many years-in our constituencies and nationally-the Liberal Democrats have grubbed up votes by making promises that they knew they would never have to fulfil; but now they share the responsibility of government, and will be judged not on what they say, not on what they promise, but on what they do. Hon. Members on the Opposition Benches will be watching them, and judging their performance against what they promised.
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