|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
We also know now that other things that would have had cross-party support and are badly needed are not in the Queen's Speech. The Prime Minister said some time ago that overhauling adoption law was a high priority. Thousands of children could be adopted more quickly. Every week makes an enormous difference to the rest of their lives and their welfare goes beyond party disagreements and calculations. In February 2000, No. 10 Downing street told us that
Legislation is likely before the next election.
Vaccine damage payments were increased by this Government and by the previous one. There is cross-party agreement that we need legislation to improve the scheme further. In June, the Secretary of State for Social Security told the House:
If the Prime Minister wishes to reconsider or to announce that, after all, measures on vaccine damage, adoption or the OECD bribery convention are in the legislative programme, he will have the Opposition's full support. Those are things that people in all parties wanted to see in the Queen's Speech.
One reason for this thin legislative programme is the Government's complete mismanagement of the parliamentary timetable, which meant that they were unable to end the last Session until a few days ago. Huge amounts of legislation were passed without ever being debated in the House of Commons. That abuse of democracy happens when the Government reduce the hours that Parliament sits while increasing the amount of legislation that they force through it. They are producing the least considered legislation in the history of the country and many Labour Members think so--
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) wrote to his constituency executive last week. For greater accuracy, as you would say, Mr. Speaker, I have obtained a copy of his letter. He wrote:
I have to say that today I feel ashamed of being associated with a Labour Government . . . Ashamed because . . . during the election campaign we promised that "our air was not for sale" . . . In last night's debate they refused to even discuss the amendment which I tabled as a compromise . . .
I will never forgive those that forced this lunatic policy upon us, Ministers and backbench lobby fodder alike.
Mr. Hague: I shall gladly give way. As the hon. Gentleman thinks that the Labour party consists of lunatics and Lobby fodder, we shall now be able to see which one each of them is. I give way first to the hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard).
Mr. Blizzard: This time last year, I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question. Now that he has had a year to think about it, I wonder whether he can explain to the House why crime doubled under the Government of which he was a member?
Mr. Hague: I notice that the hon. Gentleman made no retraction of his description of his own party as lunatics and Lobby fodder. If he wants a botched privatisation, why does he not look even more closely at air traffic services and London Underground? His is the party of botched privatisation--the party that he is rebelling against. The hon. Gentleman thought that our air was not for sale. He was another one who believed the Prime Minister. When will people realise that, under this Government, it is all for sale? The policies are for sale, the people are for sale and the principles are for sale.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington has been dealing with an arrogant Government. Looking at the Queen's Speech, one sees that their arrogance is alive and well. They are bringing back the mode of trial Bill for a third time, in the face of opposition from the Criminal Bar Association, the Law Society, the Legal Action Group, the Institute of Race Relations and the Society of Labour Lawyers.
We have done a little research and the reason why the Bill saves money is that it makes sentencing weaker. We have looked at the Government's figures and it is clear that the reason why they think the Bill would save £80 million is that magistrates can sentence people to only six months, so there would be fewer criminals in jail and more criminals on the streets.
Arrogance is also behind the Bill to abolish community health councils. Three weeks ago, the Prime Minister told the House that the future of community health councils was "open to consultation". When the chairman of the Association of London Health Councils telephoned No. 10 to see whether that was true, she was told by the press office that the Prime Minister had made a "slip of the tongue", and that community health councils were going to be abolished. It is astonishing, then, that when I asked him about the matter last week, the Prime Minister made exactly the same slip of the tongue. The poor thing, his tongue must be very slippery these days. He said that the Government would "consult" on the proposals and