in the second session of the fifty-second parliament of the united kingdom of great britain and northern ireland commencing on the seventh day of may in the forty-sixth year of the reign of





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House of Lords

Tuesday, 24th November 1998.


The QUEEN, being seated on the Throne, and attended by Her Officers of State (the Lords being in their robes), commanded the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, through the Lord Great Chamberlain, to let the Commons know, "It is Her Majesty's pleasure they attend Her immediately in this House".

Who being come, with their Speaker:

Her Majesty was pleased to speak as follows:

    "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    "This is my Government's second legislative programme. Like the first, it will focus upon the modernisation of the country, its institutions, its public services, and its economy.

    "They will continue in their drive to raise standards in our education services, to improve care in our health services and to modernise our welfare state upon the principle of work for those who can and security for those who cannot.

    "My Government will continue with economic policies designed to build stability for the long term, making the United Kingdom well placed not just to weather the international financial storms but to emerge stronger from them. My Government will continue to work with our G7 partners and others to reform the international financial institutions.

    "At home, the central economic objectives of my Government are high and stable levels of economic growth and employment, enabling everyone to share in higher living standards and greater job opportunities.

    "My Government believe the historic decision to give the Bank of England the power to set interest rates has been crucial to the meeting of its inflation

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    target and credibility in the system. Having reduced government borrowing by £20 billion in its first year, my Government will continue to pursue sound public finances and abide by its fiscal rules. Productivity will be improved by measures addressing competition, investment, entrepreneurship and improving the skills of the British people.

    "Legislation will be introduced to improve the regulation of financial services and markets, with a new statutory regulator, the financial services authority. Legislation will be introduced to promote electronic commerce and start modernising the law, improving competitiveness by enabling the United Kingdom to compete in the new digital marketplace.

    "Education remains my Government's top priority. To raise standards in our schools, we must raise standards in teaching. As part of my Government's drive to raise achievement in schools, a consultation paper will be brought forward on the most far-reaching reforms of the teaching profession for 50 years. These will enhance the status of teachers and reward high performance to secure the delivery of high standards. They will be taking other measures to continue the drive to enhance educational opportunity.

    "My Government will continue to build a modern National Health Service to meet the needs of the whole nation. A Bill will be introduced to replace the NHS internal market which put hospitals, doctors and nurses in competition with each other. In its place will be decentralised arrangements based on partnership, quality and efficiency to put doctors and nurses in the lead in shaping local services.

    "Following the White Paper, my Government will be taking forward proposals for the food standards agency.

    "My Government will continue to tackle crime and its causes, and to modernise the justice system. A Bill will be introduced to modernise the youth courts and to give greater protection for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses in criminal cases.

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    "My Government will introduce legislation to modernise legal aid to make the system fairer and more cost effective; to provide for a community legal service; and to make other changes to overhaul the justice system.

    "Members of the House of Commons,

    "Estimates for the public service will be laid before you. These will include substantial increases for education and health, laying the foundations for investment of £40 billion extra over the next three years. This investment will be tied to meeting the challenges of modernisation.

    "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    "My Government have made clear their determination to modernise the welfare state upon clear principles of work, security, fairness and value for money.

    "A Bill will be introduced giving greater help to those in need by reforming benefits for people with long-term illness or disabilities, and modernising benefits for widows, including, for the first time, provision for widowers. It will include the introduction of a single gateway to the benefit system for those of working age. It will also make provision for pension sharing on divorce and introduce stakeholder pension schemes, offering a new, flexible and good value alternative form of pension.

    "A Bill will be introduced for the working families tax credit and disabled persons tax credit as part of my Government's determination to make work pay.

    "My Government will introduce legislation to establish a disability rights commission which will assist disabled people in securing comprehensive civil rights and help employers to meet their obligations.

    "My Government will continue to work in partnership with business and welcome the improved relations between business and trade unions, who worked together in informing the Government's proposals for fairness at work. They will bring forward measures to establish a forward-looking balance of rights and responsibilities for employers and employees and will promote partnership at work.

    "A Bill will be introduced to transfer the Contributions Agency to the Inland Revenue, paving the way for better and simpler collection of national insurance contributions and tax.

    "My Government have fulfilled their commitment to establish a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly in accordance with the wishes of the people. People will be able to vote in elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly next year, and my Government will work to ensure that both are established successfully.

    "In Northern Ireland, my Government will continue to work towards the full implementation of all aspects of the Belfast agreement and maintain close co-operation with the Republic of Ireland.

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    "My Government will introduce legislation to modernise local government in England and Wales and secure delivery of high quality local services on a sound financial footing.

    "Legislation will be introduced to create a new Greater London authority made up of a directly elected mayor and a separately elected assembly. There will be a range of powers to help make London a world class city, including new powers to tackle road congestion and improve public transport.

    "Regional development agencies will be established in England, decentralising decision-taking to the English regions. They will have a remit to serve both rural and urban areas.

    "A Bill will be introduced to remove the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords. It will be the first stage in a process of reform to make the House of Lords more democratic and representative. My Government will publish a White Paper setting out arrangements for a new system of appointments of life Peers and establish a Royal Commission to review further changes and speedily to bring forward proposals for reform.

    "My Government believe in open government. Consultation on draft legislation is a contribution to this. They propose that a draft freedom of information Bill be given pre-legislative scrutiny in both Houses. My Government will also publish in draft several Bills, including those to reform party funding, to improve councils' conduct of business and to establish a strategic rail authority.

    "Legislation will be brought forward to provide a fair basis for water charging in England and Wales.

    "Parliament will be given an opportunity to vote on the age of consent. The Bill will strengthen the protection of young people from abuse of trust.

    "A Bill will be introduced to modernise the law on immigration and asylum, including reform of the appeals system and new support arrangements for asylum seekers.

    "My Government are committed to tackling global poverty and promoting sustainable development. They will introduce a Bill to convert the Commonwealth Development Corporation to a public private partnership to increase investment in developing countries.

    "Other measures will be laid before you.

    "The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to receiving state visits by His Excellency the President of the Federal Republic of Germany next month and His Excellency the President of the People's Republic of China next year. We also look forward to our state visit to Korea next year and to visiting South Africa for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

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    "My Government will play a leading role in preparing the European Union for the historic challenge of enlargement. In particular, they will work to secure reform of the common agricultural policy and structural and cohesion funds and to ensure that the EU policies and institutions meet the concerns of our citizens.

    "They will pursue their initiative to make the European Union's foreign and security policy more effective.

    "My Government will continue to promote with their European partners the economic reforms which will help to create growth and higher employment. They will encourage preparations in the United Kingdom for the introduction in other member states of the euro and will maintain the United Kingdom's abatement.

    "My Government will ensure strong arrangements for defence based on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and promote international peace and security, especially in the Middle East and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They will also actively pursue a resolution to the problems in Kosovo.

    "My Government will pursue reform of the United Nations and an early resolution of its funding crisis. They will work to maintain the authority of the resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations, including in relation to Iraq.

    "As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, my Government remain committed to the effective promotion of human rights world-wide.

    "My Government will continue the fight against terrorism and serious crime at home and abroad. They will continue their leading role in protecting the environment, including the global climate.

    "My Government see this as a substantial set of measures, addressing their priorities and seeking to meet the important and difficult challenges before us.

    "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    "I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels."

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed at half-past three of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Bristol.

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