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Mr. James Plaskitt (Warwick and Leamington): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Maria Eagle: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

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:

The Prime Minister who last year wished CHCs every success now abolishes them without consultation.

Let us have a bit more Lobby fodder.

Mr. Plaskitt: Talking about abolition, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that his intention would be to abolish the £200 winter fuel payment that now goes out to every pensioner?

Mr. Hague: It is my intention to pay a far higher weekly pension to the pensioners of this country, and to incorporate such payments in it.

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,

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and an extra 3,700 new regulations. The final stage is the brazen refusal to admit the truth. The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce has said that

and that they are "stifling enterprise".

The Bill on deregulation is late, weak and hypocritical. I suppose that it might fool some people, such as Liberal Democrat Members, but it will not fool anyone out in the real world.

Then we have the usual spin about being tough on crime.

Maria Eagle rose--

Mr. Hague: I will give way to the hon. Lady later.

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.

Maria Eagle rose--

Mr. Hague: The Lobby fodder is not doing very well, is it?

Mr. Speaker: Order. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is giving way at this stage. Hon. Members should not persist in standing.

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. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hague: I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman because he does not fall into the Lobby fodder category.

Mr. MacShane: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for destroying my career. On crime, does he

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share my view that probably the single biggest criminal at large today is General Augusto Pinochet? Does the right hon. Gentleman share my sense of shame that his patron and mentor, the man on whom he bestowed a peerage--Lord Lamont--went to receive a medal at the hands of the supporters of this torturer and murderer? Will the right hon. Gentleman dissociate the Conservative party from that disgraceful scene in Santiago?

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.

Maria Eagle rose--

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. Derek Twigg (Halton) rose--

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:

The Prime Minister is already trying to escape responsibility for a winter crisis. He is already blaming the media. However, if there is a winter crisis in the NHS--which he is now predicting--he will have no one to blame but himself. His Government's regulations have already closed at least 15,000 care home beds. His Government's crazy seven-year restriction on consultants working in the NHS threatens to force many young consultants to leave it. His Government's political interference and ministerial incompetence have brought about a greater crisis in the national health service.

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

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the winter would include measures to work with the independent health sector, to restore care beds and to encourage young consultants.

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.

It is all spin and no delivery on transport, as well. [Interruption.]

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