Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fisking the Queen's Speech

The full text of the Queen's speech can be found on the BBC's website here.

"My lords and members of the House of Commons, my government will pursue policies aimed at meeting the challenges which the United Kingdom faces at home and abroad."
Fair enough.

"A stable economy is the foundation of a fair and prosperous society. My government will continue to maintain low inflation, sound public finances and high employment."
You jest surely? Inflation is on the up or rather the RPI is, the governments fiddle figures are a little down but higher than target, Gordon Brown is borrowing hand over fist and ahead of projections, whilst we have had continuous growth since 1992, and whilst employment may be high, unemployment continues to rise which begs the question, who is getting all the jobs? On top of this interest rates are up, which is not going to reduce unemployment.

"At the heart of my government's programme will be further action to provide strong, secure and stable communities, and to address the threat of terrorism.

My government will put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system, support the police and all those responsible for the public's safety, and proceed with the development of ID cards."
Victims at the heart of the Criminal Justice system? We heard similar in the 2002 Queen's Speech, so you would hope that was job done, no? But what have ID cards got to do with public safety? Are they going to be bullet proof?

"A bill will be brought forward for the next stage of reform of the criminal justice system, giving the police and probation services new powers to protect the public from violent offenders and anti-social behaviour."
How nice. 63 Acts on the subject in 9 years and we need more? You just cannot be serious? What have you done with the rest of them? We get more legislation on this subject in 1 year with this lot than in the previous 50. Quite a lot goes unenforced, gets repealed or is unworkable. How about "My government will tidy up the laws it has already passed and enforce some of them?

"Legislation will be introduced to improve the way that offenders are managed and supervised."
You need legislation to tell your civil servants what to do? Priceless.

"Measures will be brought forward to give law enforcement agencies new powers to combat serious and organised crime."
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 no good then? I have to agree that the lot that passed that bill were useless so you may be right. Oh no! Hang on a minute, that was from the 2004 Queen's speech. You can't accuse this Government for not doing it's bit for recycling.

"A bill will be introduced to provide the immigration service with further powers to police the country's borders, tackle immigration crime, and to make it easier to deport those who break the law."
They don't need any more powers, they need the resource to enforce the ones they have. As for deporting criminals, the Home Secretary has the power under the 1971 Immigration Act can exclude any foreign national on the grounds of the public good. In short there are powers a plenty. It is a resource issue.

"A bill will be introduced to provide for trials without a jury in serious fraud cases."
The Americans can try the Enron case, one of the most costly and complex frauds with a jury in a timely fashion, but you want to rid us of basic constitutional protection because you can't organise a court case? Brilliant!

"Legislation will be brought forward to improve the administration of justice by reforming the tribunal system, the qualifications for judicial appointment and the enforcement of judgments."
Hmm.. We have seen this sort of thing before, for example in the Access to Justice Act 1999. I will have to wait to see what exactly it is that they propose.

"My government will publish a bill on climate change as part of its policy to protect the environment, consistent with the need to secure long-term energy supplies."
Jolly good. Shame about the record. It is after all worse than the previous Conservative Government. Let us see how it pans out.

"My government will continue its investment in, and reforms of, the public services in order to improve further their effectiveness and to help the most vulnerable members of society."
Don't mention the hospital closures, I did, but I think I got away with it. Or indeed the lay offs, IT fiasco's, golly gosh there is so much to say on how money has just been tipped down the drain it is not true.

"My government will take forward legislation to reform the welfare system, and to reduce poverty."
Any chance of getting tax credits working properly so I don't get letters like this? Or indeed two contradictory letters in the same day?

"A bill will be introduced to improve the system of child support."
Yet another attempt to fix the CSA?

"A bill will be introduced providing for long-term reform of pensions."
Can't argue with that level of detail.

"Legislation will provide for free off-peak local bus travel for pensioners and disabled people."
Don't they already get this?

"My government's programme of educational reform will continue to raise standards in schools to help all children achieve their full potential."
Will it now? University lecturers and employers remain to be convinced that school leavers can read or write properly, which is understandable, especially when you hear stories like this or this.

"A bill will be introduced to reform the further education system so that it can better equip people with the skills that they and the economy need."
Is that an end to media studies then? See above. Lets start with being able to read and write like everyone else.

"My government will carry through the modernisation of healthcare based on the founding principles of the National Health Service."
Principles? Tony Blair? Now that would be new. Any chance West Sussex can keep its last remaining major hospital?
"A bill will be introduced to provide a better framework for treating people with mental disorders."
I see. So what happened to similar proposals in the 2004 and 2005 Queen's Speeches then?

"Draft proposals will be published to reform the regulation of human embryology.

A draft bill will be published to tackle road congestion and to improve public transport.

My government will publish proposals to reform the planning system."
Difficult to argue with this level of detail. Of course John "two jags" Prescot did have a ten year plan on transport and congestion reduction has featured in the 1999 and 1998 Queen's speech.

I wonder what they think is wrong with the HFEA or the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, but no doubt we will find out.

I suspect the planning system reform will be controversial in some quarters as it is already the case that a Councilor who has a published view or indeed was elected upon some position on a planning issue can't vote on it. I suspect the reform means make it easier to concrete over land and objectors.

"Legislation will provide for improved arrangements for consumer advocacy and for the regulation of estate agents."
Fair enough. We will see what they come up with. After all Home Information Packs have gone down a storm. Right Move were particularly impressed.

"My government will also continue its programme of reform to provide institutions that better serve a modern democracy. It will work to build a consensus on reform of the House of Lords and will bring forward proposals."
Cash for Peerages anyone?

"Bills will provide for reform of local government and enhanced powers for the Mayor and Assembly for London.

Legislation will be introduced to create an independent board to enhance confidence in government statistics."
We will have to see on that.

"Members of the House of Commons. Estimates for the public services will be laid before you."
If they are as good as Gordon Brown's long term borrowing predictions don't bother. I'll get a mates telephone number, multiply it by my own double it then add a random number.

"My lords and members of the House of Commons. My government will work closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales."
That's going to be fun after next May's elections!

"My government will work towards the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland, including by bringing forward legislation."

Good luck. Give my regards to Dr. No!

"The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to our State Visit to the United States of America in May 2007 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement.

We also look forward to receiving the President of Ghana and Mrs Kufuor."

Can't argue with that.

"My government remains committed to peace in the Middle East. It will continue
to work to find a lasting settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, to support the new Iraqi government in its efforts to build an enduring constitutional settlement, and to assist the government of Afghanistan."
Would have been nice to have a plan for peace in Iraq. Would have stopped Iraq becoming such a mess.

"My government will work with the United Nations and European Union partners to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including addressing international concerns over North Korea and Iran, and to promote good governance.

My government will continue to work to build an effective and globally competitive European Union and will also work to strengthen the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

My government will contribute to a modern and inclusive United Nations and will work to take forward the World Trade Organisation Doha talks.

My government will continue its focus on Africa, including by seeking a resolution to the crisis in Darfur. I look forward to visiting Kampala next year for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

My government will work to foster a strong partnership between Europe and the United States of America in order to meet these objectives."

Sounds 'nice'.

"Other measures will be laid before you."
I have no doubt.

"My Lords and Members of the House of Commons: I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels."

With this lot in charge I pray as well.

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