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Queens Speech 2007


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  1. 1. That this House moves an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows: "We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."


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My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

 

My government will move forward with plans to ensure that the National Health Service is at the best standard to which it can be, including opening a 24/7 urgent care service.

 

By giving people more power over their own healthcare, putting patients in charge of their own health records and their own care. By ending top-heavy management of the health service by directing money to frontline care services and providers, with funding going directly to areas with the worst health outcomes. 

 

My government will bring forward legislation to end waiting list targets which have put care standards at risk, returning the ability of doctors to be doctors and nurses to be nurses.

 

Patients will be able to avail of any care service outside of the NHS so long as they meet NHS standards and NHS costs.

 

The government will bring forward legislation to establish a dedicated cancer drug fund, aimed at exploring new development and unleashing new avenues to deal with the disease.

 

My government will reduce the tax burden, enabling people to keep more of what they earn and helping businesses to thrive, including halting the planned national insurance increases for anyone earning under £35,000 a year.

 

My government will encourage enterprise, improving Britain’s international rankings for tax competitiveness and business regulation. 

 

Including making small business relief automatic and increasing rewards for businesses which hire school leavers and apprentices.

 

My government will reduce government borrowing, so that we can avoid tax rises and can stop passing our debts onto our children.

 

My government will re-link the basic state pension to earnings, protect the winter fuel payment, free bus passes, tv licence and pension credit. 

 

Protect futures by encouraging employers to enrol their employees into pensions, and fix the gap between public and private sector pensions.  

 

My Government will ensure that tax credits and child trust funds are providing the best value for the taxpayer, by targeting them to only the families most in need.

 

My Government will ensure the United Kingdom continues to play a leading role in the war on terror by leveraging our military might, substantial economic influence, and world-class intelligence services.

 

My Government will strengthen the United Kingdom's position within the European Union by fighting for our country's best interests during the ongoing Lisbon Treaty negotiations, and will give the British people the right to accept or reject the treaty through a binding referendum.

 

My Government will strengthen the British people's control over the future of our country by introducing legislation that will establish a referendum-lock, guaranteeing that all future EU treaties are subject to a democratic referendum.

 

My Government will strengthen the United Kingdom's role in the international organisations in which we play a leading part, expand upon the Special Relationship with our American friends, and meet our respective spending commitments on military spending and Britain's international aid budget.

 

My Government will position the United Kingdom to be a world leader in combating climate change, working with our allies in Europe and around the globe to meet the commitments agreed upon in the Kyoto Protocol. 

 

My government will conduct a strategic review of defence policy, addressing the goals and needs of the armed forces over the next decade.

 

My government will aim to reduce administrative costs at the Ministry of Defence by 25%, reinvesting money saved into frontline equipment and troop needs.

 

My government will see out our international obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan, seeking to ensure the security and stability of viable democratic states in those countries, whilst committing to a drawdown of British troop numbers in line with assessments of operational need to bring our armed forces back home.

 

My government will guarantee a Parliamentary vote on any proposed military intervention to be undertaken by Her Majesty’s armed forces.

 

My government will continue to support the work of NATO, United Nations Peacekeeping forces, and strategic cooperation at the European level.

 

My government will commit to the maintenance and renewal of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent, assuring our national security in the face of an increasingly unstable world.

 

My government will guarantee the best possible treatment for service personnel bearing physical and psychological scars from their time in the armed forces, and work to improve the living conditions of service personnel deployed at home and overseas.

 

My government will support the political institutions and stable devolved government in Northern Ireland.

 

My government will repeal the Identity Cards Act 2006. Ministers will further comprehensively review legislation and identify laws that must be modified to ensure the protection of civil liberties. 

 

My government will ensure appropriate local accountability for police forces and prosecutors. Instruments will be put forward to improve community-based policing and establish greater neighbourhood-led crime strategies. 

 

My government will review and reform custodial and community sentencing guidelines, ensuring appropriate punishment for serious crimes, while increasing opportunities for effective restorative justice for minor crimes. 

 

My government will prioritise the victims of crime, ensuring that they receive the necessary support to recover from the impacts of crime. 

 

My government will place special emphasis on the protection of children, women, and girls. 

 

Regulations to allow for controlled access to the sex offender registry by parents with young children will be brought forward. Legislation will be brought forward to protect vulnerable persons from domestic abuse and stalking. 

 

My government will implement a comprehensive strategy to combat knife crime and anti-social behaviour that incorporates public health principles, early intervention, and stricter punishment. 

 

My government will strengthen the powers of police, security, and investigatory services to combat serious crime and terrorism. 

 

My government will reform the immigration system. Ministers will empower a new Border Force with police powers to provide immigration and customs law enforcement across the United Kingdom.

 

My government will bring forward reforms to raise standards in teaching, including raising minimum entry requirements, expanding routes into teacher training, and giving teachers and headteachers more powers to deal with poor behaviour.

 

My government will bring forward proposals to improve the national curriculum by expanding access to vocational education and tackling grade inflation - along with creating 20,000 new apprenticeships and schools to offer workplace training. 

 

My government will bring forward legislation to ensure parents have access to good schools by expanding and reforming the academies program, giving all schools more freedom and parents and teachers more control, and ensuring the inspection regime is rigorous and robust.

 

My government will make tackling inequalities in our school system a priority, including by establishing a Pupil Premium, increasing the funding that schools receive to support and educate children from the most deprived backgrounds.

 

My government will review the funding and regulation of childcare to ensure that more families have access to affordable services, and continue to invest in and expand Sure Start while ensuring it remains focused on and delivering its core purpose to support families most in need.

 

My government will review family law to increase the use of mediation in cases of separation, and look at how best to provide greater access rights to non-resident parents and grandparents. 

 

My government will protect childhood from excessive commercialisation and predatory advertising practices. Ministers will seek voluntary agreement to measures to protect children, but will legislate if necessary to take action against irresponsible commercial activities targeted at children.

 

My government will bring the local government closer to the people it serves and increase efficiency in service delivery. Ministers will bring forward plans to convert more councils to unitary authorities. 

 

My government will promote locally-led economic development in place to top-down regional structures that lack the support of local communities. 

 

My government will consult on devolution to England's regions, including both city regions and the countryside. Ministers will put forward plans to enhance localism and community leadership.

 

My government will bring forward legislation to make the government more accountable to the people in which it serves. 

 

My government will introduce legislation to increase accountability from all areas of government, including a ban on former ministers lobbying the government, forcing them to give up their government pension if they do so. 

 

Ministers' pay will be cut by 5%, along with being frozen for a further five years in order to tackle what has become a top-heavy system.

 

My government will propose Parliamentary and political reform to restore trust in democratic institutions and rebalance the relationship between the citizen and the state.

 

My government will work constructively and co-operatively with the devolved institutions.

 

My Government seek to strengthen the devolved legislatures of Scotland and Wales, and empower local governments across the whole of the United Kingdom, so that democratic power rests closer to the people and to ensure that economic growth is shared equally across our country.

 

My government will bring forward plans to create a big society. 

 

My Government will combat discrimination in all its forms, rooting out hatred and ensuring that every citizen has an equal opportunity at success no matter their race, religion, sex, or place of birth.

 

From a voluntary national citizen service to give young people the skills needed to help themselves and others around them.

 

To a society bank, funded from unclaimed assets, providing new finance opportunities for charities, social enterprises and much more. 

 

Members of the House of Commons, estimates for the public services will be laid before you.

 

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

 

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

 

 

The Rt Honourable Nicholas Colton MP

Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service

Member of Parliament for South West Surrey

 

 

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Mr Speaker,

I'd like to begin my statement today by acknowledging the millions of people across Britain who live in communities devastated by the political choice of deindustrialization, deunionization, and divestment. That project - the neoliberal restructuring of our society - one consisting of outsourcing power to multinational corporations, to the already fortunate few, and to Brussels was undertaken by the Tories the last time they sat on the right side of the House. We have seen the toll that project caused - towns and cities torn apart, families struggling to just scrape by, widespread alienation that has allowed far-right extremism to take root in this country. Now is the moment to move on from that brutal Thatcherite experiment. Now is the moment to transform our society, to shift wealth and power into the hands of working people, into the hands of families left behind for far too long, into the hands of people who have checked out of our political process, who believe that politics isn't for them, that it can only benefit the wealthy few, that their interests and needs don't matter. Now is the moment to inspire hope, to offer a vision of a better world, one where working communities throughout Britain receive real investment. One where our public services are adequately funded and organized to meet human needs, where all are taken care of, and all can enjoy a full and happy life.

Unfortunately, instead of acknowledging the scale of this moment, instead of having the confidence to admit that it is time for real change for Britain beyond mere sloganeering about it, this Government has offered more devastating cuts to public services under the cover of vague language of "reducing borrowing". 

While claiming to be a Government of responsibility and stability, this Government has proposed a chaotic course for Britain's economy. This Tory Government has proposed unprecedented tax cuts for massive businesses already making record profits. They have proposed throwing vulnerable families off of a child tax credit program that is already extensively means-tested. All to pay for vaguely defined cuts and reorganizations that will spook investors and create uncertainty. The Opposition rejects wealthy tax giveaways for spending cuts. We reject the magical thinking that giveaways to fat cats now at the expense of the public services we all rely on will do anything other than exacerbate inequality and inflict needless misery.  

After the last Labour Government spent the past decade rebuilding our NHS with unprecedented investment after the last Tory Government left it on life-support, this Government has proposed a policy regime that will undermine all of the gains made. They have proposed a false-binary, arguing that we can either have efficient logistical planning and management of our NHS or outstanding frontline care. The British people can have both. The British people deserve both. We are one of the wealthiest societies in the history of the world. The funds are there, the only issue is that funding is sitting in the offshore bank accounts of the Tory Party's Eton mates. The Opposition completely rejects this manufactured binary and will fight for both well-funded and staffed management and the best frontline care in the world. Unlike the Government, we can promise this by asking the wealthy few to pay their fair share to keep our NHS up to the standard the British people deserve. 

Perhaps more disappointing than this Government's cut and burn spending and "re-organization" plans are its omissions. Not once did we hear the words "social care" at a time in which so many lack the resources and support necessary to be provided the adequate care and dignity they deserve. The Opposition believes we need a National Care Service, free at the point of use for all to have dignity in aging. The Government believes we should ignore the issue altogether.

Deindustrialization and public divestment have left so many communities in shambles. If some members of Government spent less time wining and dining at exclusive galas on grand estates, maybe they would have cared to offer a plan to transform infrastructure, particularly in the North, Scotland, and Wales - or at least mention the term once. The Opposition will fight tooth and claw for an infrastructure plan that provides real investment in working communities, one that improves quality of life and creates good-paying, stable jobs. 

We must take the concern millions of people, especially young people, about rents and the cost of housing seriously. This Government does not. Housing was not mentioned in the Throne Speech. Not once. If you have any concern about Britain's lack of housing stock and the obscene cost of living the Tory Party may be completely out of touch, but Labour will fight for you. We will propose a radical investment in social and affordable home building to match the scale of the issue. 
Today, when the Government did not bury its head in the sand on a pressing matter entirely, it condemned itself with vagueness. The existential threat that is climate change deserves concrete proposals to protect jobs, promote investment, and steward our planet for future generations, in line with science. Instead, this Tory Government offered platitudes and failed to commit to any concrete domestic action. 

The Government has offered vague commitments to bolster policing and keep our communities safe but failed to offer any form of funding for that task. The maths of tax giveaways to the few plus undefined spending cuts plus significant investment in policing, immigration, defence, and local communities do not add up. The public deserves certainty when it comes to safety. The public deserves certainty when it comes to security. The public deserves certainty when it comes to the public services we all benefit from. In attempting to vaguely please everyone and obscure the extent of their spending cuts, the Government has ensured chaos. 

For a Government so focused on performing horoscopes on how the Opposition's foreign policy may look ‐ I will say right now, we will never slash the support staff which make our military function effectively like the Government has. Labour continues our commitment to a strong defence which means not making reckless, substantial cuts because we think it might sound good as a tag line. We will undertake a policy review to ensure British national security policy is aligned with the interests of the public, our allies, and world.

While this Government - like all Governments - can expect a vigorous and spirited opposition during this Parliament, Labour does so not to obstruct or oppose for the sake of it. We understand that millions are struggling, that the current Thatcher-defined paradigm cannot hold - artificially, low wages, a high cost of living, and inequality are not tenable. Labour knows that Britain needs bold, confident action to build a caring, economically and socially just society that we can all be proud to live in. We look forward to seeing the Government's proposals when it comes to education investment, civil liberties protections, making sure veterans receive the care they deserve, and preserving the peace in Northern Ireland, for instance. We will seek to improve legislation and fight for the voiceless in and outside of Parliament. Too often MPs - especially those on the frontbench - become ensnared in the Westminster Bubble. Not this Labour Party. Labour is proud of our ties to social movements and will proudly stand in solidarity with them in this chamber, at the picket line, or in communities throughout Britain, marching for social justice.

Mr. Speaker, the public took the Tory Party at their word when they claimed that they had changed. That their Thatcherite impulse to divest, to cut, to outsource was gone. Unfortunately, this Throne Speech does more than leave open the possibility that all of the posturing, all of the promises, all of the PR stunts were farce. Masquerading behind vaguery, omission, and a pretense of "seriousness" is a programme not only not fit for purpose for the current moment, but one that will unleash chaos and uncertainty in our markets and threaten our public services. 

  • Like 1

Jim Connelly

MP for Bradford South (1994-Present)

Leader of the Opposition, Labour Leader (2007-Present)

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Mr Speaker,

 

For a party that was in government for ten years, steered much of the national conversation, enacted policy and promulgated laws I have never heard such a bleak outlook for our nation be espoused than I just have from the Right Honourable Member. Perhaps it would be the policy of his party if they were back in government to bring us back to the dark old days but this Government is not going to focus on that, we will focus on building a country that works for everyone of us and one for all. 

 

The plan of the opposition is very clear: they wish to sow division in our society. The leader of the opposition has a lot of fancy words but really they boil down to a very narrow minded, “us against them,” attitude at a time when we, as a nation, must come together, cooperate with one another and be part of building the society which we all want to live in. While the opposite party chose to put more icing at the top of the cake, in their obsession to create inefficiency, bureaucracy and increase the claws of Whitehall. The government has set out its plans to give the people of this nation tools to build, not to be chained down by the government. 

 

In the recent election, our nation voted for change. The right honourable member is quite happy to talk about this wish list of policies that he would implement, he is not responsible, his party are even less responsible now than ever before and the British people - rightly so - soundly rejected it at the polls. When the realities of government are brought to bear on a reckless Labour Party, the right honourable member will turn to Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley to give him the answers, but the only thing they will give us is another Winter of Discontent. 

 

It is quite clear from his responses that he wants the government to be the answer to all of the questions that face us as a nation. We reject that. The country rejects that. This government was elected on the idea that we need to build the society to help another, not all of the answers lie in Whitehall - the people have spoken. We have now got to a point where the government is holding back success and opportunity. That is why I am proud of the fact of the policy of this government to move forward with plans to instil responsibility in the nation. To move forward with plans for localised support in many communities that need it most. 

 

Time and time again we have heard the leader of the opposition talk about savage cuts which this government will introduce. Again, this is only what I could label as scaremongering tactics which up to now is all that he can offer. I am happy to report to this House that the Government will not be cutting any budgets, with detailed plans to be set out in the Chancellor’s budget. He talks about spooking investors and creating uncertainty, and of course it would suit his party’s agenda which has seemingly rejected the modernisation it so desperately needed just a decade ago. 

 

We are glad he mentioned taxes. I am proud to announce that this government will halt Labour’s proposed national insurance contributions increase which targeted the lowest wage earners in society. And yes, he can go on and on about this big bad bogeyman of the destruction this government will cause but of course he is mistaken. This is a government that will work to reduce our overall tax burden where the situation allows. His entire political philosophy relies on the idea that we must saddle our children and future generations which I find to be inherently wrong. 

 

The conservative party was elected on the promise to enhance, grow and develop our economy on seven core tenets. Ensuring stability, a balanced economy, getting Britain to work, encouraging enterprise, ensuring the whole country shares in rising prosperity, reforming our public services and building a green economy. This will of course demand a national effort by everyone in the country but I am sure that they will come along in this great journey. While the party opposite wants to lead us down the dark path, this Conservative government will bring us to prosperity and ensure everyone reaps the benefits. 

 

I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the NHS can have both efficient logistical planning and management and outstanding frontline care. Where I disagree is that more spending equals more efficient management. The Leader of the Opposition seems to believe in the mythology of the middle manager. That spending more on middle management and more layers of bureaucracy produce greater efficiency. That is wrong. Returning service delivery and oversight as close to the people as possible and eliminating the middle managers produces greater efficiency.

While the Leader of the Opposition devoted plenty of time to the NHS in his speech, I am disappointed that he barely touched upon education at all. Education, Mr Speaker, is vital to this Government’s commitment to deliver a stronger and fairer economy and to give everyone more opportunities in life. We’re going to raise standards in schools by giving headteachers and teachers more autonomy. We’re going to establish a pupil premium so that schools teaching disadvantaged kids have the resources to give them a hand up. And we’re going to finally put good quality vocational education on parity with academic education, including by establishing 20,000 new apprenticeships. I’m disappointed Mr Speaker that the Leader of the Opposition didn’t notice, or didn’t care to notice any of that. The former Prime Minister, the Member for Sedgefield, once said his three priorities were education, education, education. From the sounds of it it doesn't even make it into the new leader's top ten. 

I welcome his openness to reviewing each proposal by this government with an open mind, in spite of what he has said in this house today. I hope he will support the government on matters of national interest, such as the war in Iraq and other important matters. There can be no secret however that we are elected with two very clear and very different visions for the country, I must tell him though, the country will reject you now as they did the politics of old back then. New Labour is over, New Old Labour has begun. 

 

Thank you Mr Speaker.

 

The Rt Honourable Nicholas Colton MP

Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service

Member of Parliament for South West Surrey

 

 

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Mr. Speaker,

I begin by expressing my profound thanks to Her Most Gracious Majesty for delivering her Speech to Parliament. Her service to this Nation is an inspiration to us all. Unfortunately, I must say that the content of the speech written for Our Most Gracious Sovereign was dull, uninspiring, and vague. It is puzzling that the first Government of a new party in power would deliver such a bland, uninspiring speech. Unfortunately, for all its lack of innovative ideas and inspiration generally, it still manages to have several issues.

If I could provide a slogan for this Government’s direction after hearing this speech, it would be simply three words “Cut, Cut, and more Cuts.” The Government, to its credit, has been honest about this. Indiscriminate cuts have been proposed in this speech up to a whopping 25% to the support staff of the MoD–while other cuts, such as to NHS support staff, have been less quantified and clear. The Government seems content in the media to try and spin these cuts as somehow a “good thing” for British people, attempting to sell the story that “Public Services will be better if we make massive indiscriminate cuts to support staff.” I’m afraid the Government will find that the British people are not so easily duped–for we all see where this is going–a new Age of Austerity where cuts are made to the services most relied upon by the general public to pay for tax breaks and programs that only benefit the wealthiest in our society.

I turn now to some of the specific ideas put forward in the Queens’ Speech. I welcome the Government’s commitment to open 24/7 urgent care services in the NHS. This is something that should have been done long ago, and I am grateful to see this moving forward. It is difficult to imagine, however, how these urgent care services will function given the Government’s anticipated cuts to the support budget of the NHS. I hope the Government will reconsider these cuts–and pursue the few nuggets of good policy that it has referred to in the Queen’s Speech rather than the indiscriminate and vague cuts that continue to be mentioned by the Government.

I am very proud of the track record that the last Labour Government had in improving our NHS after decades of mismanagement and underfunding by successive Tory Governments. I urge the Government to look at our successes and build upon them–making them even better, so that our NHS will improve in quality, not regress into dysfunction as it did the last time they were in Government.

I have concerns at the Government’s vague mention of lowering business regulations and corporate taxes. We all know in this House what that stands for–significant tax breaks for the wealthiest in our society, help for the Tories’ friends, and bringing back the worst excesses of the Thatcherite crusade of deregulation which greatly harmed consumers throughout the United Kingdom. I hope the Government will reconsider this doubling down on the failed policies of Tory yesteryear, and abandon the reckless course it appears to be on to “cut services, cut budgets, cut taxes for the wealthiest, cut regulations.” These cuts are careless, and will only hurt the majority of British citizens to benefit the very few.

In regards to cuts, I have a particular concern about the Government’s commitment to cut the number of families it targets for tax credits and child trust funds. It appears the Tories are tripping over themselves to provide all sorts of tax breaks for the wealthiest among us and their friends, but quite keen that we should limit targeting of tax credits and child trust funds for all families except “the ones most in need.” 

Mr. Speaker, this is a cynical endeavour that will only hurt British families and make it that much harder to raise children in our United Kingdom. It is extremely irresponsible for this Government to target reduction of tax credits for families, while seeking to cut corporate taxes. I am also extremely concerned about its attempts to limit the targeting of child trust funds. These funds are an invaluable tool for our next generation to learn more about financial management and savings–valuable life skills that will help them for decades to come.

Moving on, Mr. Speaker, I have grave concerns about the future effectiveness of the Defense of the Realm with the Government’s arbitrary and alarming proposal for a 25% cut to support staff in the MoD. It takes a team to keep the Defense of the Realm strong, well trained, and ready for deployment on a moment’s notice. While “cutting support staff to fund more troops” may make for a great political talking point, it’s very clear to anyone with sense that cutting 1/4th of your support staff will only harm the team that is being supported–even if you redirect funds to hiring more of them. Basic logic provides that more members on the team need more support–not less–and certainly not 25% less. This is a dangerous idea that will adversely impact Britain's ability to defend itself and project its power abroad. I urge the Government to abandon this short-sighted and disastrous policy.

Mr. Speaker, I welcome much of what is contained in this speech concerning following Labour’s lead in empowering local Governments. The last Labour Government did an excellent job undoing the extensive damage that the 11 year war on Local Governments waged by the Thatcherite Governments, giving more power to local communities to make their own decisions. I welcome this u-turn from the Conservative party, and hope that it is the first of many. I look forward to seeing their proposals in more detail, but I am happy to see that this Government now recognizes the successes of devolving power down to local communities instead of keeping power at the top. 

I do wish to caution the Government, however, against using the empowerment of local authorities as an excuse to cut vital funding to localities. I am concerned by this Government’s rhetoric in other areas that indiscriminate cuts may be coming to many vital funding sources that local governments rely upon to provide essential day to day services that every British citizen relies on. The Government must realize that empowering local communities does not mean cutting them off from the national coffers. I hope the Government will instead see things as I do–that our national resources are best guided by the knowledge local authorities have about how best to use them, rather than leaving localities to their own devices concerning the funding of critical projects.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my profound regret at this Government’s complete omission of any reference to transport and infrastructure in the Queen’s Speech. While I am grateful that the Prime Minister clarified that this was a reckless oversight on the Government’s part rather than a deliberate omission, I’m afraid this revelation gives me little comfort. While the last Labour Government invested significant amounts in improving transportation and infrastructure throughout the United Kingdom, this area needs continual care and attention by this Government in order to see the successes of Labour’s investment realized. We have seen through the disastrous cuts of the Thatcher Years how long it can take to repair national transportation and infrastructure that has been long neglected. I encourage the Government to not make this same mistake again. Countless Britons rely on our roads, our trains, our bridges, our airports, our ports, our buses, etc. for our day to day lives–we must ensure that we maintain a world class transport system and top of the line infrastructure to continue to make their lives better. The lack of any new ideas from the Government for this critical area is alarming, and I hope the Government will remedy this forthwith.

Mindful of everyone’s time, I will conclude by stating that I will be voting against the Humble Address. Much of the reasons are for the ones I have enumerated just now–but even more than this, I am profoundly disappointed and, indeed I must say, surprised, that this new Government seems to have so few new ideas. Instead of laying out a bold new plan for Britain, what we have before us is, on the whole, a dull, bland, uninspiring list of rehashed Thatcherite priorities that are out of touch with the needs and desires of the British people. I have no confidence that this Government will, on the whole, deliver on the issues the British people care about and which are needed to maintain the successes of the last Labour Government. 

Where there are opportunities to support the Government in sensible legislation, I look forward to supporting them–but as it stands, there is little in the speech to inspire or leave me with any confidence that this Government is up to the task, and therefore, I will respectfully vote against the Humble Address.

  • Like 1

Sir Tristian Brown

Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth

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Mr. Speaker,

May I rise to thank Her Majesty for delivering the speech today wonderfully, as she usually does? It’s easy, amongst the political jousting, to forget the contribution Her Majesty makes. We are incredibly lucky to have her tireless and continual service, and by coming here today Her Majesty has reminded us of that service – though the words she’s read makes me even sure that the agenda the Conservatives are delivering is one of disservice. After a Labour administration that has reduced crime, poverty and NHS waiting lists the Conservatives have had the opportunity to present a Britain that came strong into the millennium with an ambitious route forward. We can see today there is no ambition or any serious appraisal of the challenges we face as a country going forwards. 

Firstly, there is an absolute refusal to reckon with the challenges that face the government come budget time. After a pledge of vague cuts to middle management – no specificity ever given as to how much would be raised, where this would be reinvested or how this will be done without impacting services Mr. Speaker – the government has now rolled back on its pledges. Now there won’t be any cuts to public services, Mr. Speaker. None. 

That is something I’m generally supportive of Mr. Speaker, though any pledge to cut public services is one I’m going to respond with scepticism when it comes to the Tory Party. 

This is particularly the case when we’re further met with pledges to cut taxes and reduce the national debt. 

Something is going to give, Mr. Speaker. What is it? 

Let me be clear the first casualty will be the NHS: the pledge to throw waiting time targets into the bonfire is a clear commitment from this government that under a Conservative government the Labour Party’s hard work to reduce waiting lists will be squandered. 

If the government is so confident in their plans to cut and paste funding around the NHS, a fiscal Frankenstein’s monster so to speak Mr. Speaker, then why would they be scared of targets to reduce waiting lists? 

I know the answer Mr. Speaker and I suspect the public do too. Because the Tories know their plans would usher in the return of over a million on waiting lists. Of people waiting up to six months for crucial operations. This Queen’s Speech represents a white flag for our NHS after Labour put painstaking time, energy and resources into it. 

Of course, we know Tory mismanagement and defunding of our public services doesn’t just end with our NHS. So lets move from the most blatant admittance of defeat in this Queen’s speech and note some of the glaring omissions shall we, Mr. Speaker? 

Social care should be a pressing issue for any government. While, due to sensible and continuous investment and the injection of oversight into the system, our social care sector has showed resilience despite increasing strains the government has shown no acknowledgement towards the social care sector, let alone a plan. As we go forwards and we see more pressure placed on the social care sector, the government’s lack of vision will let down millions who depend on our care sector and paid and non paid carers across the country.

And lets be clear that as long as there is no clear plan for social care our NHS will continue to be let down, Mr. Speaker. The government have talked about reducing bureaucracy and have made unfounded claims of an NHS that can be saved if only a few managers are sacked. But anyone truly interested in reducing NHS bureaucracy would pursue removing the arbitrary barriers between the NHS and social care. 

This lack of joined up policy is expressed in the lack of mention for infrastructure, Mr. Speaker. I’m aware that when quizzed on the issue the Prime Minister has said his government do have some vague plan for infrastructure. But that it doesn’t warrant a mention shows a shocking lack of ambition for the country especially in light of a government that pledged to support businesses. 

Businesses require infrastructure to thrive. A government that does not present serious proposals to expand and connect the country is not a government that is pro business. 

But most importantly a government that has no proposals for buses or trains is letting down communities up and down the country, particularly rural communities, towns and communities across the North and Midlands. 

In the name of fairness I’ll concede the government did mention climate change – once. I’ll let the voters decide if that is enough times when faced with Britain and the world’s biggest long term challenge, as the science is making increasingly clear. 

While commitments to meeting our obligation under the Kyoto Protocol are welcome, we should see the necessary shift in our economy as an opportunity. We can reduce emissions by investing in clean energy, in jobs or in infrastructure. The government has not mentioned any of this. It again betrays a shocking lack of ambition for this country. 

Most shockingly of all their lack of ambition is shown in the government’s promise to hand billions in tax cuts to the most well off and to big businesses while their government’s flagship welfare proposals are to take away tax credits from even more families, despite promising to reduce poverty in their manifesto. 

Child tax credit is already means tested to the families most in need. The government has not provided millions of families struggling to meet the breadlines any rationale as to why it would cut money from them. It has not outlined how this proposal would make welfare more effective or more fair. It is a cruel note in the Queen’s Speech after we’ve been lectured about a new compassionate Conservative Party and a big society. 

In short, Mr. Speaker, this Queen’s Speech has snippets of policy. Some of it can even gain my support, including the proposed pupil premium, protecting benefits for the elderly, working with our allies and within international structures and combating discrimination. But this Queen’s Speech has betrayed any idea there is a vision or greater ambition that the Tories have for Britain. 

Promises to improve the NHS despite pledging higher waiting times. 

Pledges to support business without even offering them an infrastructure strategy. 

Pledges to cut taxes, maintain spending and reduce debt without any clear fiscal strategy as to how this can be achieved.

The Prime Minister has reportedly said he believes in a measured response. This Queen’s Speech has outlined that he has no response. 

For that reason, this Queen’s Speech will not be receiving support from myself or my colleagues. 

It is time we have a government that has an ambition this country can be something better. That an offer can be provided to businesses, hard working families and communities across the country where they can be supported to reach their full potential. This government is clearly not that government. 

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Mr. Speaker,

I want to thank my friend the Leader of the Opposition for his remarks in response to this disastrous legislative program being introduced by the government. I also wish to thank my friends the Shadow Foreign Secretary and the member for Oldham East and Saddleworth for helping to expose the absurdity of the government’s agenda and the deeply displayed objectives. While the government might try to keep its cards close to its vest, its clear not only from what it has said but what it hasn’t that it intends a legislative program of disaster for Britons and one that is out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.

Mr. Speaker,

The government has continued to insist the NHS is safe in their hands, yet their first objective, indeed their first promise is to SLASH staffing. This is the typical Conservative bait and switch where they claim to cut “red tape” and through some sort of osmosis positive results will be seen. Yet we know all too well that under the former Conservative government the NHS was on life support. It was deprived of the administrative staff needed to organize, oversee resources and meet critical objectives. The NHS was starved of capital funds with hospitals crumbling in communities all over Britain and resembling the decay Thatcher decay they had brought to most other parts of the public sector. Frontline nurses and hospital staff did not receive the support, pay increases, technology or staffing needed to meet waitlist objectives or maintain the quality of care standards Britons expected. Under this new Conservative government we’re seeing a return to this sustained attack on the NHS that was a hallmark of the previous one.

As if waging war on the NHS was not enough, the government turns now to benefits. Through veiled language of savings and targeting, they’ve signaled their intent to cut benefits and support for children, pensioners, the poor and the most vulnerable in our society. Mr. Speaker, was it not a few months ago that the Conservatives lambasted the Labour government for failing to meet its child poverty objectives? Goodness knows there is more to do to lift children out of poverty, but the prior government lifted more than 600,000 children out of poverty and this government has said NOTHING about lifting more out. Indeed, their slash and burn benefit policies will push more children into poverty and undo any progress that has been made. There are no plans to expand the wages of pensioners, many of whom are on the edge of poverty themselves even though some progress has been made on that front. No plans to expand tax credits for the lowest earners and the middle class to allow real wage growth or to allow for an expansion in the security of those who risk falling behind. This is more of the same targeting of the vulnerable people we saw under the prior Conservative government, and it is a recipe for disaster.

The Conservatives have yet again unveiled their voodoo economic policies of lowering taxes, giving credits to major corporations and the wealthy and lowering the debt all at the same time. Think about that for just a moment. The Chancellor himself was recently asked whether he would pledge not to raise a pound more of tax on some of the wealthiest people in Britain and we’ve not received an answer. Why is that? Because this entire economic philosophy is a fraud. You cannot raise less in tax, give away credits to the wealthy and reduce the deficit without cutting support for public services and targeting benefits. That is exactly what the government intends to do. It intends to shift the tax burden away from wealthy earners, cut benefits either directly or through attrition over the course of the government and leave ordinary people worse off as a result.

I think this issue of spending and investments has really hit the nail on the head when it comes to what the government isn’t going to do. This government does not intend to make housing a priority. Housing prices are expected to increase, their availability decrease, and the public will be less able to secure housing without additional government intervention. This government does not care about affordable housing. This is remarkably similar to the prior Conservative government which spent the better part of two decades intentionally destroying public housing, reducing council stock and now they intend to continue that campaign of carnage.

This government does not care about infrastructure spending or transportation. Now this is either the government walking back their criticisms of the past 10 years and offering a resounding endorsement of Labour’s prior progress, or they’ve signaled their true intent here. This Conservative government would allow traffic congestion to increase, the state of roads to deteriorate, the railways to be less secure, Britain would see no additional expansion of track and communities which need to be connected would lose that potential. We again remember what the last Conservative government did on transportation and infrastructure – throw up their hands, ignore it and privatize the rest. This – is – a --disaster waiting to happen.

What we have in Britain is a reactionary government with very clear objectives. They intend to freeze or cut financial support for the needy. They intend to allow vital public services to wither on the vine. They intend to roll back the progress on lifting children out of poverty and securing the economic conditions of pensioners. They intend to give tax benefits to major corporations and the wealthy as the expense of middle class and low income families. They intend to wage a sustained campaign of defunding and privatization of the National Health Service. A Conservative MP recently dusted off “compassionate conservatism” in defense of this plan but we know what this ideology really is…Thatcherism with a smile. We must defeat it, we must hold this government accountable and we must offer an alternative and so we shall.

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Mr Speaker

I am pleased to rise and contribute to my first debate on the humble address. I am especially pleased to do so having been honoured with the role I have in influencing and setting this Government's agenda on education. Sadly, Mr Speaker, I do not have questions or comments from the opposition to answer. That is hardly surprising, as the last government seemed to almost have given up on education reform and improvement by the time it left Office. The far left takeover of the Labour party has kept one thing from New Labour it seems.

Education, Mr Speaker, is the great leveler in our country. It creates and equalises opportunities for good jobs. It gives routes out of poverty. Our comprehensive school system mixes kids from all different walks of life in a grand melting pot where class, race, and background shouldn't matter.

Sadly Mr Speaker that ideal is being let down. Our teachers are doing a stellar job but they can only be as good as the tool she give them. And the tools they have right now are big government bureaucracy, central targets, prescriptive curricula. It's no wonder that a third of our young people don't have upper secondary qualifications - lower than almost every country in Western Europe - and attainment gaps between rich kids and poor kids are growing.

That's why education reform is absolutely at the heart of this compassionate conservative government's agenda. We won't settle for mediocrity, persistent inequality, and stagnation like the opposition did in their last few years.

The agenda we have set out on education is clear. Where there has been bureaucracy we will cut through it, so that teachers and headteachers can focus on pupils.

We will expand and reform the academies programme to make real autonomy and local control of schools a reality, and give all local schools more opportunities for independent action. Innovation and devolution will raise standards, supported by a continued rigorous and fair inspection regime.

We will set out reforms to tackle grade inflation and put vocational education on parity with academic education  - including 20,000 new youth apprenticeships.

We will tackle entrenched disadvantage at school by establishing a pupil premium - putting resources in the hands of educators who can help those most at need of additional support.

We will support teachers and headteachers, giving them updated powers in the classroom and consolidating unwieldy guidance that makes doing their job so much harder.

And beyond education we will take action to protect children in the most vulnerable of situations - reviewing family law and making sure that kids are at the centre of that regime and not caught in the crossfire of parental conflict.

This, Mr Speaker, is what a transformational agenda looks like. It is, I dare say, the kind of education agenda that delivers on the words and promises of the former Labour Prime Minister and member for Sedgefield. And it will be this Conservative Government that will implement it and put kids and pupils at the forefront of our education agenda.

Katherine West

Conservative MP for Watford (2007 - )

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Thank you Mr Speaker,

Firstly I wish to begin by thanking my right honourable friends the Leader of the Opposition, the Shadow Chancellor, the member for Bootle and the member of Oldham & Saddleworth for their contributions to this debate, holding this government and its austere agenda to account. After a decade of attempting to rebuild the country from the mess it was left in by the Conservative Party back in 1997, the Tories have not learnt the lessons which hurt Britain so much the last time they were in power.

This legislative program is detrimental to Britain in so many ways, as has been mentioned by many of my colleagues on this side of the house during this debate. However, in this speech, I will be focussing on the foreign and defence policy proposals put forward by the incoming government.

Firstly, the speech states that the government will cut administrative spending in the Ministry of Defence by 25%. My honourable friend the member for Oldham & Saddleworth is absolutely right to raise the concerns he does in his contribution to this debate. Whilst shifting this funding to the frontline sounds like a good idea in theory, it does not in any way stand up to scrutiny. As said by my honourable friend, “it’s very clear to anyone with sense that cutting 1/4th of your support staff will only harm the team that is being supported”. Furthermore, where does the 25% figure come from? Is it from consultation with military leaders or has it been plucked out of the air by the Secretary of State or some civil servant for the purposes of a good sound byte?

Mr Speaker, I welcome the announcement of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. It was a great betrayal of our democracy when the previous government broke its promise to the electorate. I also welcome the promise of a referendum-lock, to ensure European treaties do face a referendum to be approved by the British people. It was a huge failure when Maastricht did not face a referendum under John Major’s government, it is only right that Lisbon does face a referendum.

Mr Speaker, tackling climate change is absolutely vital. The climate crisis is the greatest threat to the world since the Nazis, and we must be ready to be world leaders once again, like we were during the Second World War, to fight against this existential threat. And, like after the Second World War, we must be ready to massively change and reform our society for the better, much like how Clement Attlee’s Labour government rebuilt Britain from the rubble of the Blitz by establishing the National Health Service, delivering the welfare state and building new council housing. On the climate crisis, we absolutely must be world leaders, but we cannot do that if we are not making advancements at home. From 1997 to 2005, UK Carbon emissions rose by 5.5%, that is not right. We need a green revolution at home, and we need to export this revolution across the globe, aiding developing nations to have sustainable growth and working with our allies in Europe to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent in the world.

Moving on, the 2003 invasion of Iraq is widely considered, by the weight of international legal opinion, to be in breach of international law and in defiance of the United Nations which has been an invaluable part of preserving relative peace across the globe since the Second World War. Launched on the basis of doctored intelligence and lies over weapons of mass destruction, the occupation has unleashed a bloody civil war and resulted in the deaths of over half a million Iraqi civilians as well as the deaths of countless brave British military personnel sent to fight in a war they never should have been involved in. The opposition will welcome measures to bring our troops home and believes it is vital that we begin withdrawal as soon as safely possible. We also believe that it is vital that there is an independent inquiry as soon as possible to ensure we can learn the lessons of the war and the truths around the run-up to the conflict, the subsequent military action and its aftermath, as well as questioning the legality of the decision to go to war, which is widely considered to be in breach of international law, and, if deemed in breach of the law, those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.

Mr Speaker, I welcome the government's commitment to ensuring that parliament will get a vote on any proposed military intervention, I believe that this is absolutely the right thing to do, however, the government does not go far enough on this issue. The government must propose a War Powers Act to ensure proper parliamentary scrutiny for all military interventions pursued by future governments.

Mr Speaker, when it comes to the matter of nuclear weapons, I doubt I and the government agree on much. However, this Queen’s Speech does not include any commitment to pursuing multilateral nuclear disarmament as Britain is committed to doing by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. No matter our positions on the issue of nuclear weapons, surely it is vital that we pursue a world free of nuclear weapons, and this government is already failing in any attempt to pursue that aim and failing to live up to our international obligations as a result. This omission from the Queen's Speech is a worrying sign of what can be expected to come from this government.

Mr Speaker, this speech also commits Britain to “play a leading role in the war on terror”. However, this spurious concept just, I fear, continues to push the idea of Anglo-American international vigilantism. The prospect of endless, shadowy conflict is unacceptable to the British people because it refuses to acknowledge the causes of the evils of the terrorist threat we see today. The US’ own National Intelligence Estimate last October said “the Iraq conflict has greatly increased the spread of al-Qaida ideological virus”. This government is signing up Britain to a perpetual “war on terror” that is based on the simplistic notions of “good and evil”  from the simple mind of ‘Dubya’ and the imperial concept of a “clash of civilisations”. The current approach is a counter-productive substitute for effective policy.

Mr Speaker, whilst on the topic of the “war on terror” and Anglo-American relations, only recently the European Parliament approved a damning report on secret CIA flights. Britain was one of 14 states condemned for allowing the US to forcibly remove terror suspects through the illegal practice of “extraordinary rendition”. The EU report said that the CIA had operated over 1,000 flights, some taking suspects to states where they could face torture, with some ending up in Guantanamo. Many prisoners, past and present, have given testimony of serious abuses and ill-treatment. Amnesty International has declared Guantanamo “the gulag of our time”. If this is part of the “war on terror” then I, nor the British people, want any part in that. The United States is our closest ally, but we must be willing to stand up to them and hold them accountable when we know they have done wrong, rather than being with them, whatever.

Of course the opposition believes we must combat the threat of terrorism, but we believe we must do so intelligently and effectively, not continuing along the same failed, destabilising, reckless path that we have previously walked.

Mr Speaker, simply, what has been put forward here is not good enough as we strive to move forward. The proposals for foreign and defence policy put forward by this government do not stand up to scrutiny, it continues to push the same failed worldview as previous governments. We have just moved past the turn of the century, this should be a time for building a new foreign policy fit for a modern Britain and the 21st century. This Queen’s Speech, simply, does not come anywhere close to delivering peace and security or economic justice in any part of the world, as should be the aim of our foreign policy. Under this new leadership, the Labour Party now stands for a foreign policy based on cooperation, mutual respect, fair trade and adherence to international law. Labour will offer real change with a foreign policy where Britain once again stands proud on our own two feet on the international stage. The foreign policy proposals put forward by this government completely fail to do so. This government cannot be trusted with our foreign policy.

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James Byrne MP

Member of Parliament for Hackney South and Shoreditch (1983-)

Shadow First Secretary of State (2007-)

Shadow Foreign Secretary (2007-)

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Mr Speaker,

I should like to begin my remarks by expressing my condolences to the Rt Hon Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, the Rt Hon Member for Blackburn, the Rt Hon Member for Kingston-upon-Hull West and Hessle, and the other former members of the Labour frontbench. I trust that when they entered the House today they anticipated a Conservative government that would chart a new course for Britain. What they likely did not expect was that their colleagues on the Labour benches are spending as much time criticising their record in government as they are this administration’s plans for a better Britain.

And that is what this administration is offering, Mr Speaker: a plan for a better Britain. The past ten years, I will admit, were not uniformly bad, perhaps just squandered to a degree. Yes, there was record investment in the NHS. Yes, there was record investment in the education system. Yes, there was positive reform of the welfare system. However, these investments reflected a broader, less convincing strategy: that more money is the solution to all problems. Money does help, Mr Speaker. However, money, particularly public money, must be efficiently spent. It must be spent wisely, with purpose, and with the goal of delivering services, not simple statistics.

That is where the government of the past ten years failed. Record investment led to record bloat. Middle management swelled. Bureaucracy ballooned. Though the capacity of our public services rose, tax burdens rose faster. As the Labour government championed targets, quality of delivery became less important. That is a disappointment for the people whom we serve. That is the reason that a Conservative government sits in office today.

And this is a Conservative government that will deliver for the people of the United Kingdom. In the Gracious Address, we laid out a comprehensive agenda for the society we seek to see: a prosperous society, a healthy society, an opportunity society, an ownership society, a secure society. In short, Mr Speaker, we laid out an agenda to bring forward the Big Society. A society in which people are empowered to bring forward the change they wish to see in their communities, in their nation, and in their world.

This is a positive agenda. It is an agenda focused on eliminating the waste and bloat from our public services, ensuring they are more fit to serve the people that use them. It is an agenda of empowering local control and oversight of public services, ensuring that they are tailored to the communities whom they serve. It is an agenda of ensuring we maintain Britain’s security, while protecting the fundamental liberties that have defined this country for generations. That is what this Conservative government stands for. That is the agenda that we will enact.

I do not find myself surprised that this agenda is anathema to the members opposite. Given the choice, they would spend and spend on bloated bureaucracy, lest the affiliated unions become concerned. Given the choice, they would centralise power in Whitehall, as far away from communities as possible. Given the choice, they would have an officer on every streetcorner asking for your papers while surrendering in our fight against terrorism, leaving Britain both less free and less secure. Pro-waste, pro-Whitehall, and pro-extremes: it is an interesting agenda from the Opposition to be sure. But it is not a surprising one. This is an Opposition more concerned with refighting the battles of the past three decades than preparing Britain for the next three decade.

All that said, it is of little wonder then that the Opposition spends their time fearmongering in this debate.

They decry cuts. We have been clear: there will be no cuts to public services. We will work diligently, as any government should, to reduce wasteful spending in our public services and channel those savings into delivering better frontline services. That is a plan that the British people support. The results we seek will be clear. There will be more doctors and nurses in A&Es and less administrators measuring wait times in A&Es. There will be more bobbies on the beat and fewer “procurement specialists” figuring out the best 42 ways, representing our 42 valiant territorial police services, to buy a uniform. These are meaningful ways to reduce waste that will improve peoples’ lives. These cuts to unnecessary administration are what the Opposition so greatly fears.

They decry our efforts to improve growth in the United Kingdom. If there is one thing that is clear, robust growth is necessary to have excellent public services. Robust growth enables investment in public services while reducing borrowing. Robust growth is critical to ensuring the continued prosperity of the United Kingdom. However, the Opposition would have us borrow more and grow less in hopes of what? In hopes of less investment in public services? In hopes of enabling a government takeover of the economy and the demise of private enterprise? The Leader of the Opposition may long for the five year plans he was elected on in 1983 – the five year plan for this government is to reduce regulation, improve opportunity for entrepreneurship, and increase investment in the economy. These are plans that will promote growth and increase investment in frontline public services that people truly need.

They decry our efforts to fight crime and improve security. This, of course, is particularly important to me. As knife crime rises, as communities feel less secure, Britain needs a new strategy to tackle crime. And that is what I am proud to offer. The Labour policy of headline grabbing initiatives has not worked. Instead, we will bring forward proven approaches to tackling crime: piloting public health approaches to knife crime that integrate the roles of our police, our schools, and our health service. We will bring forward new powers to assist the police in confronting organised, serious, and financial crimes – ensuring that justice is served throughout society. We will bring forward modern approaches to rehabilitation and prison governance, helping to prevent recidivism and ensuring those who have committed crimes can return to society as productive citizens. We will reform the system, not just throw money at it. We will make the system work better with the money it has, not hope that more money will solve every problem.

Of course, we will also make sure that we are spending money wisely. This government committed to scrapping Labour’s poorly planned National Identity Register and mandatory ID cards scheme. This is a boondoggle that was set to cost the Home Office billions in the coming years. In this year alone, we will save at least £40 million. That is £40 million that will be redistributed to support frontline policing and our security services. So yes, Mr Speaker, while we are cutting the ID cards scheme – the cuts that the Opposition so vehemently fears – we will reinvest every pound saved into our police and security services. That is how this Conservative administration will make Britain more secure. This is but one of the savings that we will see reinvested into frontline policing and security during this Parliament.

Investments in our security may not go down well with the Opposition – after all, they just declared their wholesale opposition to the War on Terror. Just two years after the vicious 7/7 attacks, just two months after the Glasgow airport attack and the attempted bombings in London, the Opposition would have us retreat from our commitments to combatting terrorism at home and abroad. It may shock the Shadow Foreign Secretary that confronting those who seek to destroy our way of life, our values, and our nation is not “international vigilantism”. It is self-defence. This administration will defend the United Kingdom. And we will do so by engaging in a strategy that mobilises all elements of national power – from our military and intelligence to our law enforcement and development groups – to combat terrorism at home and abroad. There is a war on terrorism. The brave men and women of our police, our security and intelligence services, and our military fight it every day. We will ensure that they have the support that they need.

Of course, terrorism is not just Islamic in nature – though many of our policies are focused on Islamic terrorism. There is a broader threat of violent extremism, including far right extremism, in our country: even in this House. The Government will, over the coming days, announce new strategies and structures for combatting this extremism. We will stand tall and make clear that is has no place in Britain, no place in the big society that this Government will build.

I am proud to support the programme that this government put forward. It is a critical program that will see our public services transformed for the better. It is a critical programme that will see our economy unleashed to support growth. It is a critical programme that will see our security ensured and our society defended. With each step and action, it is a programme that will move Britain forward, ensuring that our nation is prepared to confront the challenges of the future. That is the agenda that Britain requires. That is the agenda we will deliver.
 

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Mr Speaker, 

I believe the thanks of this House are due for Her Majesty The Queen. For someone who has provided so much of her time, her attention, and her focus on the service of this country and its people, we have perhaps the best role model possible for delivering a speech of this nature. Her delivery was as extraordinary and as excellent as every other task she takes up for all of us in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I look forward to hearing similar speeches in years to come, and to very soon hear a speech that goes in a very different direction. 

Mr Speaker, 

As it comes to the important issues of ensuring that communities throughout the United Kingdom feel safe that that law enforcement has the tools they need to actually do that rather than act as agents of a cruel ideology, I can only say of this Speech that the devil is in the details. And I imagine we will see the devil rearing its ugly head, and this Opposition fully intends to ensure that the aims which are presented in this Address are actually lived up to. 

But to me, and to my colleagues in Opposition, and to a significant portion of the country that voted against this Government, we know what those devils will be. We see them peppered throughout this speech and throughout the actions that Conservatives take time and again, through their press statements, and through the stances taken here in this House. Those devils are the ones that sacrifice workers, families, and communities at an altar of “aggregate economic growth.” 

The Government has clearly defined the figures by which they will, on aggregate, cut the waste and abuse that they think exists in our system. Of course any system can be made better- but when they say that it will come at the expense of monitoring wait times in the NHS, is that really making anyone better off?

When they say they will further means-test benefits- the language “oh we’ll get help to those that truly need it”- in order to reduce spending and create this aggregate economic growth, we know that the definition of need will become quite tight indeed. 

When Sure Start- a Labour success- is going to “remain focused on core purpose and serving those that are most in need,” again we know it is that definition of need that is going to become tight. 

The examples go on and on and on, Mr Speaker. So much of the promises here sound good because they’ve all sounded good coming from the Conservatives before. And so many of them are frightening because we’ve also all lived through what happens next. 

The fact is, and the Government won’t say it while they simultaneously defend and attack the record of Labour, that our leadership until this point made these promises possible- and indeed some of these promises could have been and have been lifted from previous Labour manifestos. Labour tackled crime and brought it down, making communities safer and making people feel safer. Labour established programmes that brought services- particularly education- to those that needed it most and safeguarded the promises to future generations. Labour created jobs and economic opportunities of all shapes and sizes. Labour empowered communities and the devolved administrations. 

This Government will promise the best of everything to everyone, but we know that as long as they can point to some measure of “aggregate economic growth,” that everything is on the table to be pared back or cut.

And for all the wailing from the Government when challenged on this to say “well we said we’ll be different” without providing any examples of how they actually intend to be, from all the defenses which seem to have at their root the argument that “we’re not Labour” even though this Government has to actually govern, even in the debate from Right Honourable Ministers opposite… we know that things like talking about helping only those who “really need it” is going to leave people behind, just like they always have been. 

I will vote against this Address because I know that under the veneer of civility, under a coating of what we could call “New Toryism,” there are going to be more costs pushed onto people, onto organisations, and onto a society that can’t handle all those costs alone. There are going to be people whose needs are forgotten or minimised in the pursuit of aggregate economic growth. There are going to be nuances sacrificed in the name of efficiency. To say nothing of important metrics and goals- NHS wait times among them. 

Mr Speaker, Britain voted for a change from Labour Government and we are doing our job to understand why and respond to that. But that also means that Britain wants better government, they want a responsive and dynamic one. 

It is clear from this Address and from the debate in support of it, they will not get it. 



 

Ashton Edwards MP

Shadow Home Secretary

MP for Brighton Kemptown (2017 - ) | Labour

 

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