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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 19:11 GMT
Charles Kennedy's response
Charles Kennedy
Mr Kennedy attacked the Tories 'silence' on Iraq
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy spearheaded his party's attack on the Queen's Speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Here is an edited version of what he said.


"This Queen's Speech defines the faultlines of 21st century British politics.

"The key differences are no longer between the left and the right - they are between the liberal and the illiberal.

"My party intends to lead the liberal forces in this House against the illiberalism of many of the proposals we have heard outlined today.


A lot of these anti-social measures do strike one as gimmicky

Charles Kennedy
"That way we shall provide the effective opposition which has been so lacking from the Conservative benches."

Mr Kennedy, focusing on the law and order measures, told MPs that although there was much that was sensible, there was "much also that is too illiberal".

He criticised proposals to inform juries of previous convictions and to scrap the double jeopardy rule.

'Out of control'

Introducing retrospective legislation was a "Pandora's box" and would have "profound consequences for the future administration of justice in this country."

"A lot of these anti-social measures do strike one as gimmicky," he said.

The government should instead "redress the trend of the closure, the withdrawal of youth facilities at community level up and down the land.

"That is what is engendering the situation all too much, not punitive measures which are only at the end of the day applying a poop scoop to a problem that is already out of control."

Iraq

Mr Kennedy stressed that if military action against Iraq was considered "the moral mandate must rest with the United Nations itself."


the quiet man approach increasingly, on the domestic agenda as well as the international agenda, is becoming the silent man approach

Mr Kennedy on Iain Duncan Smith
He welcomed progress made so far through the UN but added: "We must not allow the situation to slip in favour of those more hawkish elements in and around the Bush administration who in their hearts, many of us suspect, would still prefer a unilateralist approach with Britain tagging along if possible."

Mr Kennedy said that the international situation had cast a "long shadow" across Parliament and the country.

He accused the Tories of a lack of effective opposition.

"On the situation with Iraq (Iain Duncan Smith) has positioned himself - it's not even a question of so close to the British government - it's so close to the American administration that he does not have valid questions to ask which need to be articulated," he said.

"Says it all that the quiet man approach increasingly, on the domestic agenda as well as the international agenda, is becoming the silent man approach."

Health

Mr Kennedy called for greater de-centralisation of public services and for National Insurance to go directly to the NHS.

The Queen
The Queen set out the government's plans
He supported extra Government investment but added: "We have also argued, specifically where health expenditure is concerned, that we would like greater decentralisation than the Government is proposing in this speech on health and education because we think the money could be more efficiently deployed.

"In particular ... National Insurance contributions should be ear-marked specifically towards the health services.

"Our argument in favour of that being that unlike the short, time limited commitment that the Chancellor is able to give, National Insurance contributions go on year after year after year and are a rolling fund for ongoing, additional health service investment."

Broadcasting

Mr Kennedy said the absence of a Mental Health Bill in the Queen's Speech was a "serious omission".

"It is a serious omission largely of the government's fault because of course the draft legislation that the government came out with ... so angered so many professionals and those involved in the interests of patient rights not least in the community."

On broadcasting, Mr Kennedy said it was important to get the regulatory framework in position first before "fast and loose" decisions were taken on TV ownership.

He welcomed the environmental legislation in the speech but said company pensions and corporate responsibility should have been addressed.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"There are six new bills aimed at cutting crime"
The BBC's Carole Walker
"There's no mention of the controversial Mental Health Bill"

Key stories

Blair's programme

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