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Year 2001 No. 106, June 20-21, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Queen’s Speech: A Programme to Intensify the Anti-Social Offensive

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Queen’s Speech: A Programme to Intensify the Anti-Social Offensive

Full Text of the Queen's Speech

John Monks’ Response to Queen's Speech

UNISON Conference Opposes Stephen Byers on Privatisation

News In Brief
Demonstration against Nuclear Weapons
Protest against Government’s WTO Backing
Call to Defend Manufacturing Jobs
Tony Blair Strengthens Control of Foreign Policy

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Queen’s Speech: A Programme to Intensify the Anti-Social Offensive

The Queen’s Speech has demonstrated that the government’s programme to be "radical" in its second term means that it is losing no time in intensifying the "Third Way" programme of a broad attack on society, making monopolies successful in the global market, and criminalising protest and the whole of society.

This is the meaning of the government’s intention to "improve standards in the health service, to raise standards in schools, tackle crime and promote enterprise". The present session of parliament in which this programme is to be implemented runs for 16 months until the next Queen’s Speech scheduled for October 2002.

In this parliament, Labour’s legislative agenda features 20 bills and four draft bills. Its programme of "constitutional reform" is also featured, as the remaining hereditary peers are to be abolished, and the House of Lords strengthened as a chamber of political patronage by the government, a place where Tony Blair intends the "great and the good" of the meritocracy of the New Britain will assist the programme to make Britain "great" again.

The programme of privatisation, which is arousing such resentment and opposition from public sector workers and the people as a whole, is to go full steam ahead.

Having built on the "foundation" of primary school reform, secondary education now becomes the focus for the government, with a drive towards creating specialist schools, further engaging the services of the private sector and more "vocational" training. "Higher standards" becomes the watchword. But "higher standards" does not mean an improved all-round standard of education. It is to serve the needs of the economic system, and will increase the already overwhelming pressure on teachers. Secondary schools will have to develop a "distinctive mission". The emphasis is also on church and specialist schools, with the community being expected to take on the responsibility of the state, and local education authorities by-passed to give funding directly to selected schools.

A "devolution" is to take place within the NHS. Under the guise of giving doctors, nurses and health professionals more control, these NHS staff will be expected to implement the government’s direction for the NHS. They will be expected to decide on the priorities for the use of the scarce resources and funding.

The Home Office legislation, in the context of the all-round criminalisation of society, contains direct threats to civil rights. Using the justification of the Stephen Lawrence case, the government plans to eliminate the "double jeopardy" rule, that states that once found not guilty of a crime, an accused cannot be tried a second time for that offence. The courts system will also be overhauled.

It is certain that opposition to the government’s offensive against society as outlined in the Queen’s Speech will continue to intensify in the coming period. Not only will this require workers and other sections of the people to get further organised, but the alternative will need to be at the centre of discussion, an alternative where the working class sets the stamp of its programme of a society centred around the affirmation of the rights of the people.

Article Index



Full Text of the Queen's Speech

Wednesday 20 June 2001

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My government's central objectives are economic stability, and investment and reform in public services, leading to a more prosperous and inclusive society.

To this end, my government will continue to secure low inflation and sound public finances.

My government's main priorities for the forthcoming Session will be in reform in education, health, crime and welfare.

[Education]

My government will introduce legislation to reform education. An Education Bill will be introduced to promote diversity and higher standards, particularly in secondary schools. It will provide new opportunities for school sponsorship, more options for tackling failing schools, and greater freedom for successful headteachers and governors.

[Health]

My government will introduce legislation to reform health services. A Bill will decentralise power and direct resources to National Health Service staff, give patients greater influence on the running of the NHS, and strengthen regulation of the health professions.

Legislation will be drafted to reform the provision of health services in Wales.

[Law and Order]

Legislation will be brought forward to reform sentencing and rules of evidence, with measures to tackle corruption and sex offenders.

A Bill will be introduced to increase powers against money laundering, establish a Criminal Assets Recovery Agency, and make it easier to recover the proceeds of crime and drugs.

Legislation will be brought forward to help the police fight crime, ensure that they can co-operate effectively across police force boundaries and establish a new complaints system.

Legislation to reform the criminal courts system will be drafted in the light of the forthcoming recommendations from the review by Lord Justice Auld.

Legislation will be introduced to extend the life of the Football (Disorder) Act.

[Welfare Reform]

My government will introduce legislation to reform the welfare system. A Bill will include measures to help more people back into work. Legislation will also be brought forward to introduce the new tax credits system, and to establish the new pension credit for pensioners.

[The Economy and Competition]

My government will introduce legislation to encourage enterprise, strengthen competition laws, and promote safeguards for consumers.

A draft Bill to create a single regulator for the media and communications industries and reform the broadcasting and telecommunications regulations will be published.

Members of the House of Commons.

Estimates for the Public Service will be laid before you.

[Constitution]

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons.

In Northern Ireland, my government will continue to work closely with the political parties and the Irish Government to secure the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement.

My government maintains its commitment to devolution in Scotland and Wales.

Following consultation, my government will introduce legislation to implement the second phase of the House of Lords reform.

[Other Reforms]

My government will prepare legislation to allow political parties to make positive moves to increase the representation of women in public life.

My government will publish draft legislation to take forward the recommendations of Lord Cullen's inquiry into rail safety.

Legislation will be introduced to reform the system of land registration to promote greater electronic conveyancing. The Bill to reform the purchase of freeholds by leaseholders and to create commonhold, a new form of tenure for flat owners, will be reintroduced.

My government will introduce legislation to make the age entitlement for concessionary travel fares the same for men and women at the age of 60.

A Bill will be introduced to reform adoption law to make children's interests paramount, and tackle inter-country adoption.

My government will enable a free vote to take place on the future of hunting with dogs.

Other measures will be laid before you.

[Foreign Affairs]

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

The Duke of Edinburgh and I were delighted to pay a State Visit to Norway at the end of May. Similarly, we were pleased to receive the State Visit of His Excellency the President of South Africa and Mrs Mbeki last week.

The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Australia and subsequently visiting New Zealand in October. We also look forward to receiving a State Visit by the King and Queen of Jordan this autumn.

My government will work with our partners to make sure that Europe has the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world. It will work for rapid progress on the enlargement of the European Union and will introduce legislation to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Treaty of Nice and implement the Berlin Own Resources decision on the Union's future funding.''

Nato will remain the cornerstone of Britain's national security, and my government will work for a still more effective Alliance defence. In this context, and to enable the European Union to act where Nato chooses not to do so, my government will work to improve the European Union's capacity, and Member States' capabilities, for humanitarian, peace-keeping and crisis management tasks.

Legislation will be introduced to improve the transparency of export controls and to establish their purpose.

Tackling climate change and making a reality of sustainable development will be a priority for my government. It will fulfil the United Kingdom's international obligations arising from the Kyoto Protocol.

My government will work for an early and comprehensive World Trade Round, which will benefit industrialised and developing countries alike.

In the United Nations, my government will support a more modern and representative Security Council, and work to make conflict prevention and peacekeeping more effective.

My government will work to encourage universal, observance of human rights, including throughout the Commonwealth.

My government will continue to work for a more effective global effort to reduce poverty, and will reintroduce its Bill to entrench and strengthen the poverty focus to development work.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

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

Article Index



John Monks’ Response to Queen's Speech

Reacting to yesterday’s Queen’s speech, TUC General Secretary John Monks said:

"This is an ambitious programme of legislation with the reform of the public sector at its heart. Unions look forward to playing their part, working in partnership with the government to achieve public services of which we can all be proud. But during this reforming process, the government must resist the temptation to always see private as good, and public as bad.

"We welcome the Bills promising the much-needed improvements in rail safety, and equalities measures which will see all pensioners able to receive cheap travel as soon as they turn 60. Over the next few days we will be keenly studying the detail of all the Bills announced today."

Article Index



UNISON Conference Opposes Stephen Byers on Privatisation

Stephen Byers, the new Transport Secretary, received a hostile reception when he addressed UNISON’s annual conference on Tuesday.

He used the predicted argument that Labour’s hollow victory in the June 7 election has given the government a mandate from the electorate to extend private sector involvement in public services. The truth is that it has done no such thing. A vote from less than a quarter of the electorate cannot be considered mandate.

Stephen Byers told UNISON delegates: "In the real world virtually every public service engages private partners. What matters is the quality and value of the services on offer. We are not about to embark on the wholesale privatisation of our essential public services. But we do believe that it is right to consider the part that the private sector can provide in delivering high quality public services. To rule out such consideration would allow political dogma to triumph over the interests of the public – and this government will always put the public interest first."

Countering this argument, UNISON’s general secretary Dave Prentis said that the government "may say they want modernisation but the truth is, it is the very people in government who cannot let go of their Thatcherite obsession with privatisation who are the relics. They are the wreckers, the true forces of conservatism." Dave Prentis went on to call on the government to increase investment in the NHS, "but stop the creeping privatisation and scrap the private finance initiative".

He told conference that he had warned Chancellor Gordon Brown that there would be disputes in all 29 PFI hospitals if privatisation continued to be pushed through. Dave Prentis argued that if the government had a mandate, it was one to improve and modernise public services.

The UNISON conference has also backed support for its branches who take "legal industrial action" to fight privatisation, as well as calling for working more closely with other public sector unions that are opposing the government’s privatisation programme.

Article Index



News In Brief

Demonstration against Nuclear Weapons

A demonstration was held at the Ministry of Defence establishment at Filton Abbey Wood in Bristol on Monday. Over 200 activists took part from Direct Action against Militarism and Depleted Uranium. The protesters drew attention to Britain’s purchase of radioactive weapons that break international law and they condemned the so-called low intensity nuclear warfare.

Protest against Government’s WTO Backing

ActionAid, which is one of Britain’s leading development agencies, protested on Monday against the government’s plans to back a World Trade Organisation policy which allows companies to control food crops vital for the survival of farmers in developing countries.

The protest took place as Britain attended WTO talks in Geneva to back moves to implement such an agreement. This will force developing countries to accept a global patent regime, patenting food and genetic resources. ActionAid is calling for food crops and medicines to be left out of this agreement.

Call to Defend Manufacturing Jobs

At the biennial conference of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering unions in Southport on Monday, a call was given for a large fighting fund to be used to defend British manufacturing jobs. The fund has already been used over the past decade by the CSEU to support a campaign for a shorter working week.

Tony Blair Strengthens Control of Foreign Policy

Following Robin Cook’s removal as Foreign Secretary and his replacement by Jack Straw, Tony Blair has further moved to strengthen Downing Street’s control over British foreign policy. He has brought in two senior diplomats, Sir Stephen Wall and David Manning, to his foreign policy team, which is seen as strengthening Tony Blair’s control of international affairs.

Tony Blair is determined to see his plan for Britain’s role in the world go through, particularly as regards Europe and the possibility of taking Britain into the single European currency, an interventionist role which serves the interests of the monopolies.

An announcement of the changes will come on Friday when a wider review of Downing Street’s internal structure will be unveiled, it is reported.

Article Index



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