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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 16:37 GMT
Tories slam 'talk but no action'
Police officers
Police are being left with too much paperwork, say the Tories
Labour's promises in the Queen's Speech offer only more talk and no action, Tory leader Michael Howard has said.

Law and order is the top priority of the government's agenda for the run-up to the next general election.

But all of Labour's initiatives had left crime "out of control", Mr Howard said as MPs began debating the speech.

He said Labour were "all spin and no substance". He singled out Home Secretary David Blunkett for "over-hyping plans" for new terror laws.

Action call

In the debate on the Queen's Speech Mr Howard said his party would have used the event to focus on the people's priorities.

The public wanted cleaner hospitals, good school discipline and controlled immigration, he said.

"Today after seven years of this government and five months before the election, all we have got is more rhetoric, more promises and more talk," Mr Howard told MPs.

This prime minister talks about protecting children from sweets and crisps but he won't keep them safe from cannabis
Michael Howard
Conservative leader

"But this government will never turn talk into action and it is time for a government that will."

Mr Howard claimed people were paying much more tax but were not getting value for money. "

"Hard working families are paying the equivalent of 5,000 a year more in tax," he said.

"But what have they got to show for it - a million patients still on NHS waiting lists, a million children playing truant from school and a million violent crimes.

"It's no wonder that hard working families feel hard pressed and hard done by under this government.

"People are fed up with talk, they want action."

Just a repeat?

Mr Howard said he welcomed some of the measures listed in the Queen's Speech but predicted the general response would be: "Haven't we heard it all before?"

He criticised the government for downgrading cannabis to a class C drug, something the Tories say jars with the promised new drug testing laws.

He went on: "What does it say about this prime minister's priorities when he talks about protecting children from sweets and crisps but he won't keep them safe from cannabis?"

The Folkestone and Hythe MP said the speech should have been used to set a date for the referendum on the new European Union constitution.

He chided the prime minister: "Why are you waiting for the rest of Europe? Why are you content to follow?"

Mr Blair countered by accusing the Tories of playing "fantasy" politics in planning to renegotiate EU treaties, process asylum seekers offshore and "options" for tax cuts.

"Fantasy policies are amusing for a fantasy government but suppose it became a reality," he said.

"Then the fantasy becomes a fraud on the British people and is no longer amusing but is dangerous."

'Police state'

Earlier, Tory policy coordinator David Cameron said the raft of law and order measures in the speech risked saddling police with more paperwork instead of helping them fight crime.

"What we are in danger of having is a police state without the police," he told BBC News.

The Conservatives say people needs answers to key questions before knowing whether the planned national ID card scheme will work and protect people's liberties.

It also asks why ministers are prepared to wait years for the scheme to be operational if the cards really can help tackle terrorism and illegal working.

The Conservatives do support the creation of a Serious Organised Crime Agency, a British version of the FBI.

The Queen's Speech 2004






Pomp and pageantry


Watch the speech
MPs debate the speech


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