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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 00:54 GMT
Peers face 'challenging' programme
House of Lords
The Queen delivers her speech at the State opening
Peers face a "challenging programme" of legislation over the next few months, leader of the upper house Lord Williams of Mostyn has said.


I wonder whether a little less industry and a little more imagination might not be such a bad thing

Baroness Williams Liberal Democrats
Measures on licensing reform, waste and landfill, crime and policing in Northern Ireland will all be introduced by the government during the current parliamentary session.

Bills on sexual offences and water will be added after the Christmas break.

But most attention is likely to focus on attempts to pass new legislation on hunting with dogs, fiercely resisted by peers in the past.

Hunting

Earlier on Wednesday, the Queen revealed Tony Blair's plans for 19 bills and three draft bills over the next 12 months in her annual speech to MPs and peers in the House of Lords.

Three bills from the Home Office - on criminal justice, sexual offenders and anti-social behaviour - are being pushed by Tony Blair as the centrepiece of the plans.

In the speech - written by government - the Queen said the aim of the proposals was "to reform and rebalance the criminal justice system to deliver justice for all and to safeguard the interests of victims, witnesses and communities".

Lord Williams said the government wanted to re-build a sense of true community.

He said: "We need to attack the scourge of anti-social behaviour.

"It is the poor, the weak, the underprivileged and otherwise defenceless who suffer from that and it is a constant pollutant to their daily lives and it is a disgrace."

Red tape attack

But the Tories' leader in the Lords Lord Strathclyde attacked the government's record, saying the "veins of industry and the economy are furring up month by month".

Lord Wiliams
Lord Williams urges a return to community spirit
"We have too much bureaucracy, too much meddling and too much interference from the top and we have crumbling public services far worse now than they were five years ago."

Liberal Democrat peers' leader Baroness Williams of Crosby said the new Criminal Justice Bill was "the 38th Bill from the Home Office since the Government was returned to power in 1997".

She told peers the Home Office was "an extremely industrious department".

But she added: "I wonder whether a little less industry and a little more imagination might not be such a bad thing."

Hunting

The Queen's Speech also flagged up a new Hunting Bill, which aims to finally resolve the issue, possibly by introducing a system of licensed hunts.

Previous attempts to ban hunting with hunts have met fierce resistance in the Lords.

The hunting bill was welcomed by the Middle Way Group, which promotes licensed hunting and has the support of many peers.

It called for a "serious measured commitment by the government to resolve the issue of hunting with dogs once and for all".

"The words of the Queen's Speech are important because they recognise that no simple solution exists.

"Whilst some MPs are firm in their belief that a total hunting with dogs ban must be enacted, it has proven to be exceedingly difficult to draft legislation which would bring this about."

A spokesman added: "It is up to the Middle Way Group, and the other organisations engaged in this debate, to continue to put forward their cases and trust that, at last, Parliament will truly consider the arguments."


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