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Speech by Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP in response to the Queen's Speech

It gives me great pleasure to congratulate the proposer and seconder of the Loyal Address.

But before I do so let me first pay tribute to Jamie Cann and Sir Ray Powell.

Jamie Cann was an independent-minded and much respected member of this House.

He was an effective member of the Defence Select Committee.

But he will be remembered above all for his commitment to his constituency of Ipswich, whose interests he always fought for.

When the Ministry of Defence planned to sell a local airbase to the Natural Law Party, he warned that they were handing it over "to a bunch of nutters who will use it to bounce up and down on their backsides". He was clearly drawing on his long experience in this House.

I know that the whole House will join me today in honouring Jamie Cann's memory.

Sir Ray Powell served Ogmore for more than 20 years and was a fearless champion of the Welsh Valleys.

He could not exactly be described as a pioneer of New Labour. Indeed, he delighted in being a Labour member of the Old School.

I am told that as a Whip after the 1987 Election, he kept Ken Livingstone without an office or a phone for an entire year. There isn't a commuter in London who doesn't wish someone could do that today.

Ray Powell and Jamie Cann will both be greatly missed.

Let me now turn to the proposer and seconder of the Loyal Address.

I congratulate the Hon Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley on a most spirited speech.

I think I can safely say that no one in this House has given more publicity to the cause of the Scotch Whisky Association than the Hon Member.

Asked once whether he saw himself as Old or New Labour, he endearingly described himself as "slightly shop-soiled Labour".

He has campaigned to ban many things in his life - smoking, proportional representation, he once even introduced a bill to ban "space invaders".

He must have been thinking of the Rt Hon Member for Hartlepool who said recently that he was "put on earth to be a Minister."

Some unkindly souls saw the honourable member for Carrick's recent departure from the Scottish Office as a demotion.

But I know, as he knows, that he has been promoted to a far more powerful position in New Labour. He's now one of the Prime Minister's special envoys. I warn him: the next step is to become one of the Prime Minister's tennis partners.

The honourable member has a long career, in office and in opposition, of fighting for the cause of the developing world and battling injustice. Today's powerful speech shows that he has lost none of that fight, and I congratulate him on it.

I also warmly congratulate a fellow East London Member, the honourable member for Bethnal Green & Bow.

Like many here, I knew her predecessor Lord Shore, a man I admired and was personally fond of, who passed away during the last session. As an assiduous constituency member as well as a man of great principle, I know that he would be smiling with pride today at her performance.

I gather that when she was a teenager she said she wanted to be both Prime Minister and an air hostess.

Of course, there is consistency in her ambition. Air hostesses and the Prime Minister both spend their days repeating the same pre-prepared and utterly predictable announcements before jetting off around the world.

She more than most knows that being a close friend of this Prime Minister can be more hazardous than it sounds. She once caught the flu after being kissed by him. Ah! That infectious charm.

To avoid any doubts, let me quickly tell the House that she says of her Italian husband: "He is Andy Garcia gorgeous, speaks five languages including Japanese, has a black belt in karate, does all the cleaning and shopping and cooks the most fantastic Italian food". Now we know why she has campaigned so long and so hard to change the hours in this place. She wants to get home early.

I'm not sure this will help her career, but let me reveal to the House that even my predecessor in Chingford, Lord Tebbit, has had very warm words to say about her. It would be very helpful if she could tell me later just how she managed that.

The honourable member for Bethnal Green has worked tirelessly to combat the evil of drugs at home and the evil of genocide abroad. Her work in the countries around the Central African Great Lakes has brought that region's suffering to the attention of the whole House, and her speech today reminds us all why she is such a powerful champion of every issue she takes up. I congratulate her too on her performance.

As the honourable lady well knows, this new session of Parliament will bring not only a new legislative programme but also new procedures in this House to govern the scrutiny of it.

We will do all that we can to make these reforms work, but we are determined to ensure they do not result in less effective scrutiny of legislation or an easier ride for the executive.

Many honourable members on all sides of the House will agree that in recent years, and under Governments of both parties, the Executive has grown stronger and Parliament weaker.

So we will watch the new procedures carefully.

The coming session will also, I suspect, be overshadowed again by global events.

If anyone ever doubted that September 11th would be more than a horrendous but isolated event, the devastating bombing in Bali showed that international terror can strike anytime, anywhere. As the now daily alerts remind us, Britain is a prime target.

This is the most critical issue facing the life of our nation, and the Government knows that from the outset, from this Party at least, they have received our fullest support.

International terror takes on many forms, which is why we strongly backed the American and British drive to get a toughly-worded Resolution from the Security Council dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. We are immensely pleased that that Resolution has now been passed.

Saddam has now run out of places to hide. He faces a simple choice: either accept the will of the international community or have that will imposed upon him.

Terror at home and abroad is never easy to fight in a democratic society. We want our security, but we want our freedom too. And it is the job of the Opposition to make sure that the Government strikes the right balance between them.

In that spirit, we welcome the Emergency Planning Bill. It is clearly both timely and sensible to look at our ability to cope with a major terrorist attack. We will examine the detail of the Bill when it is published.

We will support measures to help the security services - but we will oppose vigorously any new powers to arrest and deport British citizens for activities that are not crimes here in the UK.

There are other parts of this Queen's Speech that we can welcome too. We will support legislation to introduce a single media regulator provided it has a very light touch, although we ask the question: why is the BBC excluded from its remit?

We back licensing reform provided the interests of local residents are properly protected.

We support moves to strengthen protection of children. The Home Secretary should take on board the suggestions of my right honourable friend, the Member for West Dorset for strengthening the law on paedophiles when it brings forward the Sex Offences Bill.

We are also delighted with one omission from the Queen's Speech, the absence of the controversial Mental Health Bill. Many expert organisations in this field and many Members on all sides of the House have grave reservations about the Government's proposals. I hope this signals a change of heart.

We also note that the Civil Service Bill has not made it into the Queen's Speech.

The HM for Cannock Chase, the Chairman of the Public Administration Committee said that after the Jo Moore affair: 'never has a Civil Service Bill been more necessary in Britain'.

He is right. We need that Bill to restore trust and honesty to our public life.

Which brings me to the Liberal Democrats.

The honourable member for Montgomeryshire said recently that his party -

"[should not]…put leaflets out which say untruths, or distort things in a dubious fashion…our literature and party promotion should focus on our strengths."

But his colleagues advise in his party's own campaigning document -

"You can secure support from voters who normally vote Tory by being effectively anti-Labour and similarly in a Tory area secure Labour votes by being anti-Tory" -

and -

"Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly." Mr Speaker, that's more like the Liberal Democrats that the rest of us know and love.

Now the Prime Minister has said that the Government is -

"at our best when at our boldest".

We waited for evidence of this in the Queen's Speech.

But the truth is that each year they promise bold measures, and each year it's the same old story.

They promise real reform, and they fail to deliver.

The one thing they are delivering is higher taxes.

Taxes have risen by over £100 billion since 1997.

By £38 per person per week.

Taxes on pensions and petrol, mortgages and marriage, cars and congestion, houses - and now higher education.

In the words this week of Digby Jones, Director-General of the CBI, -

"For five years the engine of wealth creation has been over-taxed and almost run into the ground."

And from next April, national insurance contributions will rise by £8 billion a year.

All this from a Prime Minister who said before 1997: "We have no plans to increase tax at all".

Now, five years on, Britain has overtaken Germany in the high tax league.

We're paying the taxes.

But so much is getting worse.

This Queen's Speech is taking place on the day of the first Firefighters strike for 25 years - since the last Labour Government.

Let me be absolutely clear. The decision to strike and to put people's lives at risk is wrong.

When I asked the Prime Minister last month to let our soldiers have access to the most modern fire fighting equipment, he said that it might inflame the situation.

Well, the situation is inflamed.

Will he now give the army access to that modern equipment so that they can provide the protection people need?

The Firefighters should call off their strike now.

But it is not just union militancy that has got worse over the last five years.

Take the crisis in pensions.

The Chancellor has slapped a £5 billion tax on pension funds each year.

We have the lowest savings ratio in 40 years.

Fewer than 4 in 10 final salary schemes are open to new members.

Britain is in the grip of a Minister-made pensions crisis.

There are no bold measures on pensions in this Queen's Speech. None.

So no real reform on pensions - just plans to scrap tax breaks on pensions for hard-working savers.

Take the crisis in transport.

One in five trains don't reach their destination on time.

Delays on the tube have doubled since the Government took office.

Their ten-year plan has been rubbished by the Transport Select Committee - which is dominated by members of the Prime Minister's own party.

And the transport system is in gridlock.

So no real reform for transport, either - just next year's congestion charge for commuters in London.

And then there's the crisis in education.

In the last three years, the number of serious assaults on teachers has nearly quadrupled.

Teacher vacancies have doubled since the Government took office.

The A-level fiasco was a disaster for thousands of hard-working students.

The latest Education Secretary has said that Ministers have introduced -

"Too many initiatives in too many directions."

He must have been thinking of the four and a half thousand pieces of regulation which the Government heaped on teachers last year.

And here's the Government's answer to the problem: "Good Practice in Cutting Bureaucracy Volume One" and "Good Practice in Cutting Bureaucracy Volume Two" - to be read in conjunction with the "Bureaucracy Cutting Toolkit".

From the Prime Minister who promised education, education, education we get paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.

There are no bold measures in this Queen's Speech to slash red tape and set teachers free to teach. None.

So no bold reform on education, either - just plans to hit hard-working families with top-up fees for university students.

Then there's the crisis in health.

Five years after the Prime Minister said that there were 24 hours to save the NHS, the health service has more administrators than beds.

In Britain, the average wait for an operation is over four months. In France, the maximum is four weeks.

In Britain, patients have to wait hours in accident and emergency. In Germany, the maximum wait is minutes.

Most importantly, the Government's handling of health professionals has left morale at an all-time low.

Bold action is needed on health. But out of the 250 hospital trusts in Britain, we are only getting 12 foundation hospitals. Bold reform on health would make every hospital a foundation hospital.

And there's the crisis on our streets.

Five years after the Prime Minister said he'd be tough on crime, a crime is committed every five seconds.

The number of crimes solved has fallen by 18 per cent in the past five years.

Street crime has risen by almost a third over the past year.

After five wasted years and twelve Criminal Justice Acts, the Queen's Speech yet again promises bold action on crime.

They promise real reform, and they fail to deliver.

They said that there'd be 5000 anti-social behaviour orders a year. But last year, under 300 were issued.

They said that child safety orders would tackle anti-social behaviour. But four years after they were introduced, only 12 have been issued.

They said that child curfew zones would tackle anti-social behaviour. But four years later, not a single local authority has issued even one.

You do not fight crime by undermining the civil liberties of law-abiding citizens while allowing thugs and criminals to walk free.

The Deputy Prime Minister usually misses out in the Queen's Speech.

What a pity he hasn't this year.

He has a bill to tear up the map of Britain -

to destroy our historic counties and create a new layer of government.

to employ fresh armies of bureaucrats and create a new mass of red tape.

to impose a new tier of politicians on local people and place new burdens on business.

This isn't devolving power down. It is grabbing power up.

This Queen's Speech offers more of the same failed policies as before.

More edicts. More targets. More indicators.

More centralization. More spin and more control.

But there was so much that this Queen's Speech could have delivered.

It could have given head teachers the final power to exclude unruly pupils.

It could have offered treatment to all young heroin and cocaine addicts.

It could have extended the right to buy to housing association


It could have cut regulation for care homes and restored care beds.

It could have made all hospitals foundation hospitals.

It could have handed power back to doctors, nurses and teachers.

It could have given choice to patients, parents and pupils.

It could have offered genuine hope to the millions of people who work in, and rely on, our public services.

It did none of these things.

Instead this Queen's Speech is just more of the same.

Each year they promise real reform and each year they fail to deliver.

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