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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 18:13 GMT
Crime fight tops Labour's agenda
The Queen delivers her speech
It is likely to be the last Queen's Speech ahead of an election
Tony Blair has put the fight against crime and terror at the heart of his government's programme in the run up to the next general election.

Home Office Bills - including national ID cards and moves to combat terrorism, drugs and anti-social behaviour - dominated Tuesday's Queen's Speech.

Tory leader Michael Howard said Labour was preoccupied with talk and spin.

The Liberal Democrats accused ministers of creating a "climate of fear," to gain advantage at the ballot box.

Mr Blair told MPs that although security and crime were central to this year's Queen's Speech, they should be taken alongside on-going investment in public services and continuing economic stability.

'Political football'

Home Secretary David Blunkett denied the government was "scaremongering," saying it had played down the terrorist threat by stressing "alert over alarm".

Commons Leader Peter Hain told BBC Radio 4's PM programme Britain would be more secure under a Labour government because of its anti-terror measures, such as boosting the intelligence services.

But his comments were branded "ridiculous" by Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, who accused ministers of using the intelligence services as a "political football".
KEY MEASURES
ID cards
Creating Serious Organised Crime Agency
Drug tests for minor offenders
Offering schools more freedom
EU constitution referendum rules

Earlier, in the House of Commons, Mr Kennedy accused ministers of deliberately confusing terrorism with domestic crime in the public mind and promised to campaign vigorously against ID cards.

Tory leader Mr Howard also accused the government of "over hyping" measures to tackle terrorism.

"There is no better example of the government's preoccupation with talk, spin and newspaper headlines," Mr Howard told MPs.

The Queen's Speech sets out the government's priorities for the coming parliamentary session.

With a general election expected in May, many of the 37 bills and draft bills outlined - more than in the two previous years - are not likely to become law.

The speech contained six separate Home Office Bills, with a further five, from other departments, including law and order elements.

Cherie Blair, left, with Pauline Prescott watching the Queen's Speech
Cherie Blair, left, with Pauline Prescott, watch the speech
Plans include the introduction of national identity cards, with personal data on a microchip, although Mr Blunkett said Parliament would not make a final decision on the issue until "around 2010 or 2012".

There was also a bill to create the new Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), to hunt major drug smugglers, people traffickers and paedophiles.

The speech also signalled a new focus on drug abuse including compulsory drug testing for people arrested for some crimes, and the creation of a new offence of incitement to religious hatred.

And there will be new measures to clamp down on animal rights extremists.

On anti-social behaviour, the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill will give local authorities more powers - including levying on-the-spot fines - to deal with graffiti, fly-tipping, abandoned cars and other low level nuisance.

Improved safety

The speech did not set out specific proposals to combat terrorism, but the draft Counter Terrorism Bill is likely to include controversial measures such as no-jury trials for terrorist cases and the use of phone-tap evidence in court.

OTHER KEY MEASURES
Consumer Credit Bill - New rights for borrowers to contest unfair credit terms
Constitutional Reform Bill - creation of a supreme court, scrapping post of Lord Chancellor
Charities Bill - cutting red tape
Road Safety Bill - tougher penalties for drink drivers and dangerous drivers
Animal Welfare Bill - moves to protect circus animals and pets
Railways Bill - scrapping the strategic rail authority
Corporate manslaughter laws

Shami Chakrabarti, from civil rights group Liberty, warned that "cheap" tough legislation would not make Britain safer but would undermine democracy.

The Queen's Speech also outlined laws setting out the rules for a referendum on the EU constitution, currently expected in spring 2006.

Among measures not included in the speech were Lords reform and moves to ban smoking in restaurants and pubs that serve food. They will not come until after the next election.

The Tories say the priorities should be trying to cut taxes while tackling crime, immigration, school discipline and hospital hygiene.

The Lib Dem "alternative" speech is topped with scrapping university tuition fees and replacing the council tax with a local income tax.




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Reaction to the Queen's Speech



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