Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Debating the Empty Speech

As I blogged earlier the Queen's speech lacked ways to improve Government accountability, or any concrete ways to meet their aim to cut the deficit by 50%.

Well David Cameron in his response has just pointed out that there are 11 Kelly Commission recommendations still to pass into law. He asked where were these issues in the speech. He also offered to give way to the Prime Minister if he said he was going to implement these before the election. He did this not once but twice, the Prime Minister's only movement was to turn and whisper the the Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, sat on his right had. Cameron then also went on to point out where was the action to cut the deficit as promised. He was ready to give way again for these details to be given. Again the Prime Minister refused to oblige. He also asked where were the three important letter's NHS.

Coming on the PM's response however, hoping to hear some response to these matters. He approached the issue of the Copenhagen Summit and the issue that Cameron has agreed with him upon. He also touched upon the Afghanistan issue and the elements that again they agreed on. In the end though the Prime Minister reiterated the Bills that he was bringing before the house, he failed to mention the Kelly proposals or how he was going to cut the deficit saying Labour are "the only party with policies" to lead us out of recession, strangely none of them in his previous list, or outlined in the speech. So where are these policies?

Only when questioned did he say this would happen by raising the top rate of tax, reviewing pensions and raising National Insurance contributions. So all raising more money, but surely some tightening of the belt is also required to reach such a target so quickly unless these tax increases are going to be majorly prohibitive.

The Prime Minister is still mixing up clean(er) coal and carbon capture and storage as a ways to attack climate change. Both are merely cleaner not clean, CC&S for example still has a 60% carbon footprint of a conventional coal fired power station, clean coal is even higher.

After a reprise of the list of bills however, the Prime Minister sat down still without addressing the remaining Kelly recommendations and still without any firm government savings to help reduce the deficit.

Nick Clegg then rose to respond to the 'fantasy Queen's speech'. The called the employment plans what they were, reannouncements. Getting the banks lending again, setting out a clear Afghanistan strategy. He mentioned that of the policies in last years Queen's speech only two made it unto the statute book by May of this year. He also said that the making of laws is doing nothing, but what is needed is action. He called for real radical action in splitting up the banks on the recommendation of the Bank of England*, instead of the displacement policies they have come up with.

He said the improving schools bill, the twelve in 12 years, which so far have not yet improved skills. There are some bills that offer more than they will deliver, the bill on doing away with (some) cluster bombs, the provision of free personal care (to some). He did however point out that reductions are needed for credibility.

He asks what it should be doing? It should be looking at political reform, this should have been giving a clean bill of health to the next Parliament. The issues he outlined in his article on Monday. These reforms could transform our threadbare political institutions. But that opportunity to do the right thing has yet again be squandered.

Charles Clarke went on the back Clegg and Vince Cable's approach on banking, and the Lib Dem and Conservative claims to bring in more political reform, including bringing in fixed term Parliaments. he went on to say that while there some good points in it, there were things in it or omitted from it that made it hard to support.

*The splitting of retail and casino (investment) banking was backed by Charles Clarke immediately following Nick, and John McFall then agreed with Chris Huhne that the example of Canada wasn't appropriate as their investment portion was so small.

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