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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 11/98: Queen Speech  
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Queen Speech Tuesday, 24 November, 1998, 19:20 GMT
Tories: No measures to improve lives
Queen
The Queen tells Lords of their demise
Conservatives have condemned the Queen's speech, saying it contained nothing to improve people's lives and accusing the government of "gerrymandering".

The Queen's Speech
Tory Party chairman Michael Ancram said: "It is everything to do with the Labour Party's priorities and nothing to do with the priorities of the British people.

"Labour's proposals in the Queen's speech are entirely about serving the self-interests of the prime minister and his party cronies.

Michael Ancram
All about Labour self-interest, says Michael Ancram
"The speech contained nothing to make it easier for a single person to get a single job."

But Cabinet "enforcer" Jack Cunningham insisted the legislative programme contained radical measures and was not only about the Lords.

He said freedom of information measures and the food standards agency would be going ahead.

Jack Cunningham
A radical programme of reform, says Jack Cunningham
"These are radical, modernising measures, part of the agenda we put to people in the election last year."

And Dr Cunningham issued a warning to peers tempted to block the legislation on reform.

He told the BBC: "I would be concerned if the Tories flouted their own conventions and flouted their own convention the Salisbury doctrine in the face of a clear manifesto commitment endorsed overwhelmingly in the election."

Political tone of speech

Dr Cunningham also defended the lack of a clear stage two of reform, saying a joint party committee would consider the Royal Commission's views.

He conceded that the battle with peers would play a key role next year.

David Willetts
We won't defend hereditary peers, says David Willetts
Conservative education spokesman David Willetts said Tories would not try to support the principle of hereditary peers as the proposals went through parliament.

He told the BBC's World At One programme that instead his party would object that the new second chamber would be less independent than at present.

Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling said: "If the Conservatives are now saying they actually support us in removing hereditary peers they have no excuse for clogging up the Lords with all sorts of amendments and delaying tactics."

Liberal Democrat Menzies Campbell also rejected Tory claims that the second chamber would be a government quango.

The Seventh Earl of Onslow, a Conservative hereditary peer, told the BBC he had no objections to abolition of his voting right.

But he added: "What I am very concerned about is that there is no plan as to what should come in its place, no reasoning as to how it should be done and nobody knows what is actually required."

Scottish Nationalists said the speech showed the decreasing relevance of Westminster to Scotland, but Plaid Cymru gave it a cautious welcome.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said: "This is the first Queen's speech in a quarter of a century with no specific Scottish legislation.

Baroness Williams
Let's have elections for Lords, says Baroness Williams
"That's a good thing because power and responsibility is transferring north."

Veteran Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Williams called for an election by the regions for a second chamber.

"We've got to have a revising chamber and it ought to be a properly democratic one," she said.

As an interim measure after abolition, about 40 or 50 members of the Lords should be elected by their peers, she suggested.

Links to more Queen Speech stories are at the foot of the page.


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