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My right honourable friend 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 give the victims of crime more legal rights, including protection for vulnerable victims and witnesses of gun- and gang-related crime during investigations
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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 retaining the proceeds of their crimes. 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 new Australian-style points system to ensure that only those who contribute can come into Britain, and integrated the vital work of the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas into a single border agency.
After a consultation which finished this week, my right honourable friend 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 get access to benefits or social housing. Newcomers will be required to pay into a migration impact fund to help local communities deal with changes in population.
We will take further steps in the next Session of Parliament to safeguard and enhance our heritage and 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.
Having already legislated this Session as the first country in the world to put a legal limit on its carbon emissions, we will bring forward a Bill in the next Session to protect our seas and our shores, with 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; these will be taken forward in a constitutional renewal
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My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Justice will also 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 bring forward proposals for consultation on a Bill of rights and responsibilities.
We are committed to both flexibility and to fairness in the workplace and will do nothing that jeopardises jobs and businesses taking on workers. But most people agree that it is not fair that, even after months in the 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. My right honourable friend 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 here in Britain.
Discrimination anywhere is unacceptable and a new equality Bill will compel public bodies to take seriously the needs and requirements of both their workforce and the communities they serve, sending a clear message that in 21st-century Britain prejudice is no longer acceptable anywhere.
There will be 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 entrench patients rights; an immigration Bill, so that people can earn their citizenship; a welfare reform Bill to help people into work; and reforms on agency workers, skills and flexible working. These are the priorities, and I commend the Statement to the House.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement to the House. Perhaps I should congratulate her as well on ploughing her way through it. It was well briefed to the media last night, of course. It is called Building a more prosperous Britain. You just have to tell that to the housewife who has just come home from shopping, the small businessman who has just filled up his car or the home owners terrified yesterday by the Housing Ministers forecasts on house prices. You do wonder whether government spin doctors ever meet anyone who lives in the real world. When I think of the truly terrible events in Burma and China or the shocking remarks of the President of Iran that the 60th anniversary celebrations of Israel will not save that country from what he calls annihilation, I feel that this desperate PR battle by the Prime Minister to win a by-election in a
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I said last yearand I feel even more so this yearthat this exercise is just a simple gimmick. I happen to believe that anything that detracts from the gracious Speech or the prerogative of Her Majesty to set out Her Governments programme, when your Lordships' House is at the centre of the nations affairs, is a very great pity. That may be an old-fashioned view, but it is one that I know, from speaking to noble Lords in all parts of the House, is widely shared. As I listened to this verbose utterance today and watched eyes glazing over all around the House, how I longed for the brevity of the gracious Speech. Of course, consultation on future policy programmes is sensible, but that is why we have Green Papers, White Papers and draft Bills. This exercise is a party-political media ploy that adds nothing.
To say that we need it to improve consultation is, at best, a red herring and, at worst, misleading. Announcing future legislation in this way makes it harder, not easier, to listen to representations that mistaken ideas should be dropped. We all know why it happened last year. The Prime Minister planned an election and wanted to pre-empt a gracious Speech that would have had to await his campaign, but he has no reason to do so this year. Last year, we had the pre-Queens Speech in July; this year it is in May. At this rate, next year it will be in Marchand, no doubt, in election year of 2010, in January. It has nothing to do with good, orderly legislation. If only a fraction of this attention were given to post-legislative scrutiny, we would be far better off. Last year, we were told that citizens juries would judge this Statement. Can the noble Baroness tell the House the verdict of those juries last year? I wonder if it coincided with the verdict of the millions of people who voted on 1 May.
There was mention in this Statement of a subject dear to all of us: reform of your Lordships House. The White Paper was mentioned, implying that publication has now been agreed by the Cabinet. Can the noble Baroness say if that is in fact so, and how long your Lordships House will be kept waiting to see that White Paper? If the Government have ruled out legislation in this Parliament, that will be welcome news to very many of your Lordships.
Of course, this Statement has some worthwhile ideas. After all, I recognise some of them. We have highlighted the shocking failure of this Government to tackle deep, underlying issues of poverty and deprivation, so talk of welfare reform is, yet again, good. Yet where are the policies to fight family breakdown, or to break open the monopoly of poor state education and allow new schools to open? Where are the policies to release the vitality of the voluntary sector? Where are the policies that unlock opportunity? Where are the benefit and tax changes that reward talent and hard work, and advance social mobility, instead of yet more top-down, bureaucratic tax credits that half of the population cannot understand?
Where are the policies to allow GPs to make the right choices for their patients, instead of closing their surgeries and frogmarching them into super-centres
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I heard none of those things, although I heard feeble attempts to copy Conservative policies on immigration, flexible working and exam regulation. It is hardly surprising that noble Lords opposite keep on asking us for more policy detail; next year, why does the noble Baroness not come over on this side, and let the real Conservative Party announce the ideas that are setting the agenda in modern politics?
Incidentally, I did not hear any announcement of the idea that came from the leader of the Liberal Democrats in another place in response to the Queens Speech last year. He asked for a Bill to provide for a referendum on our membership of the EUthe same issue that sent Mr Clegg storming out of the House of Commons. I look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord McNally, press the noble Baroness for that. Perhaps he has changed his mind, or perhaps she will confirm that the Liberal Democrats could lay an amendment to the Bill before the House for exactly what they wanted then.
That brings me to the glaring inadequacy of this Statement: the one thing that will be recognised in your Lordships Housewith its unique role in revising legislationmore than anywhere else. It is that the Prime Minister is announcing next years legislation before he has sorted out this years. Would we not all be far better off if, instead of promising more Bills, we get Bills right in the first place? We are promisedthis is no joke although it is, surely, unbelievableanother criminal justice Bill. Yet this years Bill was written and rewritten as it went along, with whole chunks devoted to repealing legislation passed in 2003 that had never even been put into effect. This country desperately needs not more government and more legislation, but better government and less legislation.
If I heard the noble Baroness correctly, the draft Queens Speech promised a major Bill on education, but we have not even seen this years Education and Skills Bill yet; after all, it arrived in this House just a few minutes ago. The Prime Minister promised a major Bill on housing; if that is so urgent, why do we not halt the existing Housing Bill, which has only just started its Committee stage, and look at recommitting it to include some of these bold new ideas? Or, are they just sound-bites rather than worked-out ideas? We are also promised some minor changes on planning law. Why are they not included in this Sessions Planning Bill, which is still to reach your Lordships' House? Heaven knows, we could save parliamentary time by abandoning the absurd battle over 42 days detention without trial.
The picture is of a Government in chaos not only making it up as they go along, but unmaking it, too, as they go along. Ministers, like Homers Penelope, increasingly weave a great tapestry one day then pull it all to pieces as soon as the day turns to dusk. No
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Lord McNally: My Lords, as is well known, I am more of a starry-eyed idealist than the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, yet I, too, wonder what is the point of this Statement. I understand that this year we are to be spared an expensive government glossy, but perhaps the Lord President can tell us whether we will have the same as last year at public expense. It really is quite odd. I am glad to see that one question has someone scurrying to the Boxperhaps I should not give them ideas.
I took the time to watch the Prime Minister delivering this Statement. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is quite right: you do not have to look at the name on it to know that this is a Gordon Brown Statement. It is overlong and overdetailed. Like one of those Heath Robinson machines with wheels, pistons and hammers going, you wonder what it represents. We know that the timing of the Statement is highly politicalit has been rushed out 24 hours after yesterdays mini-Budget and is within days of a crucial by-election. But beyond all that, listening to the Prime Minister and looking at the Labour Party, one has to recall one of the two memorable phrases used by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont: A Government in office, but not in power. It is worrying to see this. We had the Statement yesterday, and these two things have to be taken together. I wonder where the golden rule is now as the Government embark on an emergency economic policy that the Guardian today described as a crude and costly brand of economic populism which will build up more and more debt. The Chief Whip has just said, You should read the Mail. So we know the paper of choice on that side of the House these days.
The other thing that comes to mind is the old remark that Disraeli caught the Whigs bathing and stole their clothes. I think that the Conservatives should have one of those Metropolitan Police notices on all their offices to be on guard about their policies. Watching Mr Cameron presenting his case, I thought he had the Government banged to rights as he listed the items in this draft Queen's Speech and cross-referenced them with previous statements by the Conservative Party. It really is that much of a shambles.
Does the Lord President agree that in spite of the increase in public spending on health and education, which we on these Benches supported when it was brought forward over the last few years, people feel no closer to being able to influence the decisions that affect their lives and families?
The Prime Minister himself said that he had no intention of going back to the record housing repossessions that took place under the Tories, but
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Working people believe that Labour has failed to stand up to corporate greed. It does not see any evidence that there will be any proper burden-sharing in the face of global economic difficulties. The people who took multi-million pound bonuses are the same people who come running to the taxpayer for bail-out when their chickens come home to roost. There is no confidence among Labour voters that Labour will hold corporate greed to proper account. Unless Labour recaptures some sense of social justice in what it does, and not simply in what it says, it is doomed, and deservedly so. Are we going to have a debate on this Statement?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, that was a happy little contribution from the noble Lord, Lord McNally. I am thrilled that my colleagues on both Benches enjoyed the Statement so much. I will try to answer some of the questions and issues that were raised. I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that I was a bit worried about the housewife bit. Traditionalism is one thing, but in my house I am very rarely the person who goes out to do the shopping. The most fascinating part was the idea that, somehow, the Statement had been rushed out with the programme to allow for the fact that we have a by-election next week. My noble friend the Chief Whip and I smiled at each other wryly. Noble Lords who have been in government know very well how long it takes to develop and design a programme in draft form in the way that we have done. It takes many weeks and months. Our worry was that we would not be able to get it out in the time that we had promised your Lordships House and the other place.
It is a valuable exercise, and it is important to set out as early as possible what we are thinking of. Noble Lords will recallas I certainly canhow many times over the summer months, when we have been building up to a Queens Speech, people in your Lordships House and outside say that they want to know what we are doing. What are the proposals? What kinds of things might we do? How do they know that we have taken on board the kind of consultations that we have
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The noble Lord, Lord McNally, said that we may have stolen these ideas from the Conservatives. I do not recognise them. I recognise echoes, from the occasions when we have had any policy from the Conservative Party, of issues that concern us both. Of course, if we have lifted the proposals, we can all look forward to early nights with no Whips because the Conservative Party, I presume, will vote with the Government on all the proposals. After all, according to Mr Cameronless so, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclydeand the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who I presume has read them all in great detail, we will have some form of consensus, which is often a very good thing. I wait with great interest to see whether I am right in my prediction.
I have already indicated that we want to take these issues forward and debate them. We want to do that through the right consultation. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked whether there would be a debate. That is a subject for the usual channels. He can make his views known and I know that other noble Lords will. I will await the outcome. In a sense, I am the servant of the House and will do whatever noble Lords wish.
On the specifics, we have to be clear. For example, what the accusation about GPs and surgeries stems from is the subject of the review of my noble friend Lord Darzi. We are looking at a process that has to be transparent, clinically evidenced, locally led and for the benefit of patients. As we celebrate 60 years of the National Health Service, we are seeking to go back to the principles of making sure that, through its new constitution, the NHS provides for our citizens and ensures that their expectations are met and they are clear about what is going to happen.
I shall end by remembering. A lot is being said about doom and gloom. I thought that it was time to think about why I stand on this side of your Lordships' House. Many years ago, a cartoon in, I think, the Independent, was of the then Prime Minister, Mrs Thatchernow the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcherstanding on a derelict landscape. Underneath, it said, If you seek a monument, look around. In the time of the Conservative Government we had long waiting lists and waiting times for operations. People who were in pain were going into MPs surgeries and asking why they had to wait two to three years for their operation. I remember something called youth unemployment, and it was raging. The streets of London, where I live, were dirty. People were begging at every tube station. I remember high inflation and interest rates, and sitting with my baby on my knee watching the inflation rate go through the roof to 15 per cent. I said then, Never again.
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