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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Labour must deliver, says Hague
William Hague
Hague: People now want results from Labour
It is time for Labour to deliver and the public will not accept more excuses, said William Hague as he responded to the Queen's Speech.

"The argument that they needed more time worked - but it will not work again," Mr Hague told the House of Commons on Wednesday.


Steady, I do judo you know

William Hague to John Prescott

In what was, at times, a light-hearted start to the new session, the prime minister paid tribute to Mr Hague, who is to step down as Conservative leader.

Mr Blair praised Mr Hague for an "extraordinarily witty and eloquent speech" and said he had been a formidable adversary in parliament.

Delivery

Mr Hague warned the government that legislation on public services was not the same thing as delivering improvement.

"That delivery is in the hands of countless thousands of men and women who go into public services to serve the public," he said.

The Tory leader pressed the government to allow public servants to get on with their jobs and cut the burden of red tape.

Pathological meddling

The "pathological meddling" also had to stop in economic affairs, where "stealth taxes" had made Britain less competitive.

Mr Hague welcomed the proposals to reform adoption laws and to give legal backing to the Cullen Report on rail safety.

Tony Blair speaks in the Queen's Speech debate on Wednesday
Blair: Intends to deliver on public demands
Although he praised the government's continuing commitment to upholding the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, he worried about the lack of progress on arms decommissioning.

Mr Hague said the province's First Minister, David Trimble - who says he will resign in a fortnight if no arms are given up - had been "stretched as far as he can go".

Reform of British licensing laws was one measure whose absence from the Queen's speech was lamented by Mr Hague.

Countryside crisis

And he attacked the government for including no reference to foot-and-mouth disease and the wider "countryside crisis".

Charles Kennedy responds in the Commons on Wednesday
Kennedy: The euro is a priority for this parliament
Mr Hague said all MPs should be "chastened" by the low election turnout and he called for reform of parliament to make the government more accountable.

His speech was peppered with a string of jokes, with the biggest laugh raised by a mention of John Prescott's election punch.

Calling the Deputy Prime Minister the "cabinet bouncer", he told Mr Prescott: "Steady, I do judo you know!"

Leadership contenders

Mr Blair said he looked forward to a Tory leadership race between four candidates - referring to Michael Portillo, David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith and Kenneth Clarke.

"One is in repentance, one is in hope, one is in expectation and one is in Vietnam," he joked.

The prime minister told MPs the UK had voted for economic stability, enterprise, investment and reform in public services.

"The British people have given us our mandate, we know exactly what they demand from us and we fully intend to deliver," he concluded.

Poverty of ambition

In his response, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said: "I think there is still a poverty of ambition in the centre of this government, which for many of us in the reformist tradition of politics remains deeply disappointing."

Mr Kennedy warned the government not to preside over "an unplanned dismantling of the state education system".

And he signalled his concern about some of the government's planned criminal justice reforms, including restricting the right to trial by jury.

Mr Kennedy criticised what he said was Labour's "good cop, bad cop" attitude towards the single currency - which was a priority for this parliament.

The Scottish National Party's Westminster Group leader Alex Salmond said the speech confirmed the Labour Party "not as the champs, but as the chumps of Scotland".

"They are now the party of creeping privatisation of school and hospital services and the squeezing of Scotland's share of public spending," he added.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Leader of the Opposition William Hague
"People will demand delivery"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"The biggest thing that will repay people's faith in politics is if we carry out the programme on which we were elected"
Liberal Democrat spokesman Mark Oaten MP
"We're going to be holding ministers to account"

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