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As well as taking decisive action to help families and business weather the current economic storms, the Government have a duty to equip this country to meet the challenges of the future, with welfare and education reform to help people rise as far as their talents can take them, and in the education, health, policing and community empowerment Bills that we are announcing
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today, a commitment to new standards of excellence in services and to the transfer of more power and resources to parents, patients and citizens—measures which, alongside our constitutional renewal Bill, reshape for a new age the respective roles and responsibilities of citizen, community and Government.

In the next two decades the size of the world economy will double and 1 billion new skilled or professional jobs will be created. The new legislation that we propose today is founded on the new economic truth that the countries that have the best skills and the best education systems will reap the greatest rewards. So attaining the highest standards of education as we expand opportunity is the theme of the new education Bill for schools and lifelong learning.

It is unfair to consign any child to a poor school or even one that is coasting along without the ambition to do better. So after legislation this year for education to 18, there will be a second education Bill to support our plan to ensure that, by 2011, no school is underperforming: the first independent qualifications system to guarantee to parents the highest standards; more power for parents to receive regular information on their children’s progress; and, as we expand academies, reform to strengthen the accountability of schools to parents, giving them a bigger say on how to raise standards and whether new schools are needed in an area.

It is unfair, and a threat to our country’s future prosperity, that many qualified young people are still denied access to an apprenticeship. By deciding to legislate for the first time in the Queen’s Speech for the statutory right of every suitably qualified young person to obtain an apprenticeship, we expect the numbers of people starting an apprenticeship to rise by 2011 to more than 200,000—three times as many as in 1997.

Every adult should have the right to a second chance in education—to have the chance to make the most of their potential. It is not only a threat to prosperity but unfair that adults—in work or looking for work—are denied the opportunity to get the training they need to advance their careers, or even the time needed to do a course. So my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills is proposing today for the first time a major change in workplace rights that will benefit both employees and employers—giving every worker the right to request time off to train. And we will offer every adult a personal skills account so that they can access the training they need, with resources tailored to the individual— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. It is bad manners— [ Interruption. ] Order. These are things that I cannot do right away. I know about the statement’s availability. The Prime Minister is delivering a statement to the House— [ Interruption. ] Order. I am looking into the matter and I ask hon. Members to let me deal with it. While the Prime Minister is addressing the House, hon. Members should allow him to be heard. Some hon. Members are complaining that the statement is not available, and I am dealing with that matter. The Opposition often tell me that Ministers should come before the House: the Prime Minister is here and I do not want any interruptions. It is unfair.

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The Prime Minister: Leaving the unemployed without the skills they need to obtain work is costly for our prosperity and unfair to both benefit claimants and those who pay taxes. So as part of the next stage of welfare reform, emphasising obligations as well as rights, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will legislate to impose a duty on the unemployed to have their skills needs assessed and to acquire skills. We will also consult on further radical reforms to ensure that no-one with the ability to work is trapped on benefits for life. Those who can work should work, so new and existing incapacity benefit claimants will be required to go through a medical assessment and will be given a personalised programme to help them back into work.

Fair treatment also means respecting people’s need for flexible arrangements to care for their children, especially as evidence now shows that flexible work is no obstacle to business success—fairness and efficiency advancing together. So my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform will announce tomorrow that we will take forward the recommendations of the Walsh report to extend the right to flexible working to parents of older children. We will consult on the details of implementation, with the aim of introducing new rights from next April.

Since last year we have secured in the NHS cleaner hospitals, better access to GPs, and progress on waiting times. It is right, as we celebrate 60 years of the NHS, to introduce a new NHS reform Bill to continue the change and renewal of the health service so as to equip it to offer a higher standard of care; to focus it on prevention as well as treatment; and to make it more accountable to local people, giving patients real power and control over the service they receive.

We will establish a constitution for the NHS that sets out what patients can expect to get from the health service, including entitlements to minimum standards of access, quality and safety. For the first time, payments to NHS hospitals will be adjusted according to patient satisfaction and health outcomes—deepening our commitment to a patient-focused NHS.

In the same way as we are tackling underperforming schools, we will take new powers, as part of a comprehensive NHS performance regime, to ensure that no health care provider falls below the minimum standards that we require. Just as we will consult in education on giving more rights to parents, we will bring forward radical proposals in health to put more power in the hands of patients, including new rights to information about their care, to control their own personal budgets and to have more say over the decisions of their local primary care trust.

Just as we will give both parents and patients more control, so we will give social housing tenants more say—greater choice over where they live and new rights to independent information on landlords' performance. We will look at ways of rewarding good tenants and hold to account those who do not meet their responsibilities, as we crack down further on antisocial behaviour in our estates.

Protecting the safety of the British people is paramount for every Government. Since 1997, we have increased the numbers of policemen and women; introduced new community support officers and new powers for police and the courts to target antisocial behaviour, burglary, car crime and street crime; and
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taken action against terrorism. Our aim is not just a reduction in crime, but that people feel safe in their homes and in their neighbourhoods. One way forward, as with education and health, is to empower citizens, giving them more direct say on how crime is tackled in their areas, so the Home Secretary will bring forward proposals for directly elected representatives to give local people more control over policing priorities and responsiveness.

We will legislate so that neighbourhood police teams have to meet tougher national standards to ensure the high visibility and responsiveness of local police and community support officers. Legislation will also give the victims of crime more legal rights, including protection for vulnerable victims and witnesses of gun and gang-related crime during investigations and trials. The Home Secretary will set out shortly further detailed plans to allow police time that is now spent on paperwork to be spent on the beat, liberating the police from needless red tape, and she will announce new measures to improve police performance.

Organised crime, particularly in the areas where there are serious problems with drugs and illegal immigration, must be dealt with severely. It is right to close every loophole to prevent criminals from retaining the proceeds of their crimes, so the policing and crime reduction Bill will legislate to speed up the recovery and seizure of assets obtained through criminal acts.

If our crime policy is to punish and prevent, our migration policy is to ensure for Britain the benefits that migration brings while managing it securely and ensuring that expectations for newcomers are clear. We have already introduced the Australian points system to ensure that only those who contribute can come to Britain, and we have integrated the vital work of the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas into a single border agency. After a consultation that finished this week, the Home Secretary will legislate to put in place our new and tougher test for permanent residence or British citizenship. The requirements in law will be that newcomers learn English, play by the rules and show they are making an economic contribution to the UK. Only full citizens will have full access to benefits or social housing, and newcomers will be required to pay into a migration impact fund to help local communities deal with changes in population.

We will also take new powers in legislation to enhance airport security and protect against terrorist acts at sea.

We will take further steps in the next Session of Parliament to safeguard and enhance our heritage and our environment. For the first time in 30 years there will be legislation to increase protection of our historic sites and buildings. This will include reforms to the planning system to improve the protection of old buildings, and new rules to make it an offence to deal in cultural property illegally exported from occupied territory.

We will consult in draft on the legislation necessary to implement the recommendations of the Pitt review into the 2007 floods, and so better protect vulnerable communities in the future.

We have already legislated this Session to put a legal limit on Britain's carbon emissions—the first country in the world to do so—and we will bring forward a Bill
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in the next Session to protect our seas and shores. There will be new powers to designate marine conservation zones and to create a path around the whole of the English coastline, with public access for walking and other recreational activities.

Last year, we announced new measures, including restricting the royal prerogative, to make the Government more accountable to Parliament, and those will be taken forward in a constitutional renewal Bill. But we will go further and consult on a major shift of power directly to citizens themselves. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will set out proposals, to be taken forward through a new community empowerment Bill, to give people greater power to influence local decisions—local spending decisions, local council agendas, the use of local assets—that affect them as citizens.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice will publish a White Paper on reform of the House of Lords and details of our proposals to reform the system of party finance and expenditure. He will also bring forward proposals for consultation on a Bill of rights and responsibilities.

We are committed to both flexibility and fairness in the workplace and we will do nothing that jeopardises jobs and businesses taking on new workers, but most people agree that it is not fair that, even after months in a job, agency workers can currently be paid less than the staff they work alongside, and as a result permanent staff can feel they are being unfairly undercut. Therefore, the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform plans to bring forward legislation—subject to an agreement between employers and employees, and in Europe—that will for the first time ensure new rules for fair treatment of agency workers in Britain.

Discrimination anywhere is unacceptable and a new equality Bill will compel public bodies to take seriously the requirements of both their work force and the communities they serve, sending a clear message that in the 21st century prejudice in Britain is no longer acceptable.

Therefore, we will have a banking Bill to support financial stability; an education Bill to ensure that every school is a good school; an NHS Bill to improve the health service and to entrench patients’ rights; an immigration Bill so that people earn their citizenship; a welfare reform Bill to help people into work; and reforms on agency workers, on skills and on flexible working. Those are the priorities, and I commend the statement to the House.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): We had a discussion during Prime Minister’s questions about whether the Prime Minister could be straight with people. It turns out that the Government cannot even make a statement in a straight way, distributing it to the press before they give it to Members of Parliament.

There are lots and lots of things in the statement that we welcome, not least because we proposed them. We welcome the constitution for the NHS. That is an idea that we set out last June. We welcome the extension of the right to flexible working. We announced that in September 2006. We welcome the independent exam regulator. I raised that and proposed it in 2005. The list
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is enormous. A simple saving scheme was in the 2005 Tory manifesto. We proposed regulatory budgets in 2006—I think. The list is almost as long as the draft Queen's Speech, so I hope that, when the Prime Minister gets up, we will get a bit of gratitude for all that. He cannot say that we have not got any substance when he has taken it all and put it in his Queen's Speech.

We particularly welcome what the Prime Minister had to say about shared equity. Those proposals are being pioneered in record numbers by the record amount of Conservative councils up and down the country. Most of all, we welcome the welfare reforms. The Prime Minister has stuffed No. 10 full of spin doctors and pollsters. Why not just get a shorthand typist and send them to the Tory conference to take it down? It would save a lot of money.

Now we hear that the Prime Minister is going to accept our proposals for elected officials to make the police accountable. That is the proposal that his Government called “completely daft”. I think that they meant “completely draft”. It is a great idea that officials who hold office and wield power should be elected. Who knows—it might catch on and one day we might have an elected Prime Minister. The grin is back.

Look at the Bills that are to clear up the mess of the last decade. Do we not have a banking Bill because the regulatory system that the Prime Minister created 10 years ago failed on its first test with Northern Rock? Do we not have an NHS Bill because a decade after the Government promised to end mixed-sex wards they are still there, the promise has been broken and people are not getting the care they need? Are we not getting an immigration Bill because the Government completely failed to prepare for or even anticipate the scale of immigration that is taking place? Are we not having a welfare Bill because, after 15 years of global growth, Britain has 5 million people on out-of-work benefits?

Let us be frank about what today's statement adds up to. It is another re-launch, and the Prime Minister has had to bring it forward. The Government are still struggling to implement— [Interruption.] Hang on a second; Members will have their turn. The Prime Minister is still struggling to implement last year's Queen Speech. There is no solution to 42 days; last year’s Budget is still being rewritten; badly drafted Bills are stuck in the House of Lords—no wonder he wants to talk about next year’s Queen’s Speech. However, the draft Queen’s Speech has nothing to do with the country’s long-term needs and everything to do with the Prime Minister’s short-term political survival.

The draft Queen’s Speech reveals the Prime Minister’s deeper problem. On the progressive goals that we need to achieve in this country—unblocking social mobility, beating poverty, taking people out of persistent deprivation—his ideas have run out of steam. He no longer has the solutions. Instead of more redistribution, more tax credits, more top-down state control, we need a Government who tackle the underlying causes of poverty, fight family breakdown, break the monopoly of state education and can work with the voluntary sector. Is not it the case that he cannot do that and we can?

One positive aspect of the Prime Minister’s statement is the claim that he wants personalised public services. If that is true, why does he not accept our plan
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to bust open the state monopoly in education and allow new schools to open? Why does he not scrap the restrictions on the right to buy and accept our plans to extend it to all council and housing association tenants? He does not believe in giving people genuine choice and control over their lives. If he did, he would give the country a referendum on the EU constitution. Watching the Prime Minister talk about personal choice, giving people more freedom and letting them have more control over their lives is completely unconvincing. The supreme leader just does not do freedom. Will not people rightly conclude that, if they want a Government who give people more freedom, choice and competition, why not vote for the real thing?

Is not there a negative side to the Prime Minister’s comments? It is his usual trick of political positioning and setting the false dividing lines, with which he is obsessed. When will he learn that the political positioning and fake dividing lines have landed him in the mess that he is in today? He faces defeat on banging people up for 42 days without charge. He proposed that not because it is the right thing to do, but because he wanted to try to look tough. The shambles of yesterday occurred because the Budget was not about helping the poorest people but about posing as a tax cutter. That is why he had to execute such a big U-turn.

We will fight tooth and nail against one part of the Queen’s Speech: the Prime Minister’s plan to enforce polyclinics and close GP surgeries up and down the country, although it will be noted that there will be none in his constituency. We will continue to fight the Government’s real agenda of closing post offices, thus tearing the heart out of communities; releasing prisoners, thus making our streets more dangerous; and taxing businesses into moving abroad.

After yesterday’s U-turn, today’s draft Queen’s Speech is simply another attempt to save the Prime Minister’s skin. It will not wash. People can see a Government—not only the Prime Minister—who have run out of road, run out of money and run out of ideas. Seven months ago, the Prime Minister cancelled the election because, he said, he needed more time to set out his vision. Now we can see that there is no vision, so when can we get on and have the election?

This morning, we read about a new plan from this great man of substance—to appear on a new version of “The Apprentice”. I am glad to see the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in her place, blushing slightly. I am not making it up, but she said that it would be “The Apprentice” meets “Maria”, meets “Strictly Come Dancing”. I expect that there is probably a role for the Liberal shadow Chancellor.

I have a better idea for the Prime Minister. Why not take part in a reality show that involves the whole country? It is called the general election. Would not that give everyone the chance to square up to him and say, “You’re fired”? Is not that the only way to get a Government who genuinely give people control over their lives, strengthen our families and our society, and make our country safer and greener?

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