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The Prime Minister: I will do my very best to ensure that, since I am sure that the issue is every bit as important in Northern Ireland as elsewhere. Of course, if the hopes that he and I both have are realised, perhaps a devolved set of institutions can ensure that that happens quickly.
The measures that the Conservative party opposed are now accepted. The Queen's Speech announces the establishment of a serious organised crime agency and widens law enforcement agencies' powers to force co-operation with investigations. It takes up measures proposed by front-line law officers to tackle the menace of drugs and to compel criminals who are addicts into treatment. It gives parish councils and local Government the powers that they have asked for to tackle things such as fly-tipping, night-time noise and problem alleyways, and through the establishment of prison and probation service, allows us to target the prolific offenders, grip their behaviour after release and on bail and make it harder for them to commit crime. Through the identity cards Bill, we will pave the way for a British identity cardat first voluntary, and then in time, compulsory. That is a big change, but frankly, with terrorism, illegal immigration and organised crime operating with much greater sophistication, identity cards, in my judgment, are long overdue.
It is said that those measures are scaremongering. It is true that there are record numbers of police and it is true that overall crime is falling, but the fact is that the threats faced by this country and every other major country around the world are real. There are still far too many victims of crime and I am determined, building on the success of the antisocial behaviour legislation, to ensure that we have respect and responsibility back on the streets and in the communities of Britain.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):
The Scottish Executive said this morning that identity cards would not be compulsory in Scotland for gaining access to devolved services, leading to the possibility that
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people will not need them to go to hospital but will need them to collect a pension. Will identity cards be compulsory in Scotland or not?
The Prime Minister: The devolved services are a matter for the Scottish Executive under devolution legislation, as the hon. Gentleman knows. However, it would be our intention here to ensure that when they are compulsoryobviously, that has to go through a legislative process in the Housethey are essential in order to access services.
As well as a strong domestic policy agenda, the Queen's Speech also commits us to completing the task of bringing democracy to Iraq. I pay a special tribute to the heroism, courage and commitment of British soldiers serving in Iraq. They are a huge source of pride for the country. The Queen's Speech also places at the centre of our foreign policy the reinvigoration of the middle east peace process. This is no longer just about security for the middle east. It affects Britain's security and that of the wider world.
Our G8 prioritiesAfrica and climate changewill form the other principal part of the Government's foreign policy and I hope, as priorities for the G8, will gain support across the House and the country. The Queen's Speech, therefore, builds on a strong economic and foreign policy record, investment in public services and the success of the antisocial behaviour legislation. Its policies are radical, but realistic and costed.
I turn now to the alternative Queen's Speech issued by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe. It is just over a year since he became leader of the official Oppositionnot a long time in most jobs, except perhaps that of the Tory leader. I thought it might help the House if we looked back at what he promised when he stood for the post.
Let us examine that in relation to the tax and spending policies that the Conservative party issued in the past few weeks. Last week, the Conservatives published their tax plans. They tantalised us with billions of pounds of options on tax cuts on everything from inheritance taxas ever, appealing to the top 5 per cent. of the populationto the top rate of tax. That is up to £6 billion of tax cuts or more. But then we read the small print of the document and, tucked away at the end is this sentence:
Are the Conservatives any more credible on spending? One year ago, the shadow Chancellor said that if elected, he would freeze departmental budgets in cash terms except for the national health service and schools. That is £20 billion of cuts in vital spending. However, while he says that he will stop spending, the other shadows have started fantasy spending. They have promised more spending on defence, prison, rehab places, the elderly, schools, school nurses, pensions, transport, higher education and the national health service. But they have run into a bit of a problem. They have sort of promised tax cuts; they have sort of promised spending; and they have sort of realised that it does not add up. So now they promise fantasy savings.
The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe said that no one had challenged his figures on savings. Let me start the challengea challenge that he is going to hear from now until election day. The Tories say that they will spend £2.9 billion more on defence than Labour, and that they will get £1.6 billion of that from defence savings. When one looks at the detail, one finds that it is £900 million from what they call logistics and procurement, but unfortunately we are already going to save £1 billion from logistics and procurement; in other words, there are no savings of £900 million for the Tories to make. The other saving that the shadow Chancellor says he will get is from the new deal. He says that if he scraps the new deal he will save money, but the new deal is cutting unemployment and saving money for us.
The fantasy does not end there. [Interruption.] No, there is more. The Tories say that they will spend £1.3 billion extra on police because they will cut investment in immigration and asylum by processing all asylum claims abroad. I have been dying to ask them this all the way through: where is this place that is going to process all the asylum claims? Where is the country that is going to say, "Yes, I'd like your failed asylum seekers"?
We start with fantasy tax cuts; we then have fantasy spending; we then have fantasy savings and now we have a fantasy country. Then, of course, we have the Tory policy on Europe. We remember the words about leading from the centre; back comes the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) into the shadow Cabinet. The Tories have now ditched 30 years of policy on engagement with Europe in favour of renegotiation, a policy that even Margaret Thatcher would not entertain. We know that the right hon. Gentleman has boasted that the unilateral renegotiation of our membership of the European Union is "easy".
The Prime Minister:
She did not get it through renegotiation. [Interruption.] Of course she did not.
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The financing terms of the EU had to be agreed, and she agreed the rebate as part of that. Indeed, the very reason we were able to get the rebate is that the EU had not agreed its financing terms. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has to explain how he will renegotiate things that the Government have already entered into. That is the difference. In order to renegotiate terms that the Government have already committed themselves toon fisheries, on social policy, on the social chapter, on the common agricultural policyand which other countries have already agreed, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have to get the agreement of every one of the other 24 countries. Where are the other countries that are going to agree? They do not exist, so now we even have a fantasy European Union to go alongside the fantasy country.
Fantasy policies are amusing for a fantasy Government, but supposing that Government became a reality, then the fantasy becomes a fraud on the British people and is no longer amusing but dangerous. It would be back to the failed policies of the past. Think of the damage to mortgages, to jobs and to prosperity; think, and then think again before voting the Tories back in. Under the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Tories are right back to where they were. No wonderhe served as a Minister in that Government for 10 years, seven of them in the Cabinet. He introduced the poll tax. He opposed the minimum wage. He was a key economic Minister when interest rates rose, unemployment topped 3 million and negative equity took its toll. He is not the hope of a successful Tory future because he is the reincarnation of a failed Tory past. [Hon. Members: "What about the Lib Dems?"] I was going to say a word or two about the Liberal Democrats, if that is all right.
As for the Lib Dems, I suppose at least they do not pretend that they can finance their spending commitments out of thin air, but they do pretend that taking £30 billion over one Parliament from top-rate taxpayers and giving local authorities the right to tax the income of hard-working families will finance their pledges. I simply say that that will increase hugely the income taxtop and basic rateof millions of families. The wealthiest will find a way of avoiding it; it is ordinary families that will be hardest hit. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats will oppose the measures on crime that the same families will surely welcome.
The truth is that the policies of the Opposition parties[Hon. Members: "Is that it?"] It is about all they deserve, but I have more if they want[Interruption.] Since they want a bit more, I will give them a bit more. On one of my occasional forays into Lib-Dem spending commitments, I have come across the best one yet. It is about bee keeping. The Lib Dem shadow Chancellor, the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable), says:
"Benefits from bees' natural pollination activities are enormous, worth billions of pounds. There is however negligible research into damaging diseases and I have pressed the Ministry of Agriculture for a bigger research commitment."
I hope that the Chancellor is taking note. I had not realised that there were votes in bee keeping, but if the Liberal Democrats think there are, there probably are. If any bee keepers are listening, we are right on your side.
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The truth is that this Government have a strong economic record; there is investment in public services and investment in extra numbers of police. Legislation on crime and security will go alongside the pre-Budget report and the five-year programmes to provide opportunity and security for all in a changing world. By contrast, the policies of the Opposition parties are either incredible or, where credible, damaging. So there is a choice: economic stability or economic danger; investment in public services or cuts; action on poverty and social justice or indifference; the future or the past. This Queen's Speech is strong on economic opportunity, strong on the nation's security and fair in helping all people whatever their background to fulfil their potential to the full. I commend it to the House.
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