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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May, 2005, 20:47 GMT 21:47 UK
Howard mocks Blair's priorities
Tony Blair and Michael Howard
Mr Howard had MPs laughing in his Commons address
Tony Blair's priorities for a third term in government sound very much like the Conservative's election pledges, Michael Howard has said.

"We had no idea you were thinking what we were thinking," joked Mr Howard as he responded to the Queen's Speech.

The Tory leader said he would back Mr Blair on issues such as cleaner hospitals, immigration, policing and school discipline.

Mr Blair stressed it was Labour, not the Tories, which had won the election.

"The Conservative Party didn't just lose the election, they lost the argument in the course of the election," said Mr Blair.

The way to get your colleagues to ask you to stay is to set a timetable for your departure
Michael Howard

Mr Howard said the only priority pledge from the Tory manifesto that was missing was lower taxes. "I wonder why?" he said.

His wide-ranging speech to MPs, which tackled Labour's record on keeping pledges and Mr Blair's choice of ministers, often had MPs laughing.

The Conservative leader, who is stepping down by Christmas, taunted Mr Blair about speculation surrounding his own decision to leave.

He said in his experience "the way to get your colleagues to ask you to stay is to set a timetable for your departure".

"I hope you will take that advice in the constructive way it's intended," quipped Mr Howard.

What's in a name?

He then weighed in to Mr Blair for his handling of the MG Rover plant closure at Longbridge, in Birmingham.

The prime minister's response was to simply change the name of the Department of Trade and Industry to the Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry, he said.

For the sake of our country, I hope your actions will finally match you words
Michael Howard

Even secretary of state Alan Johnson had admitted the name change to DPEI had prompted various descriptions, including "dippy", said Mr Howard.

Playing on the acronym, he said the new name was "designed to show it was a great new organ of government".

Mr Howard then claimed Mr Blair had failed to get the people he wanted in his Cabinet, saying he had "been saddled with second-choice ministers".

'Spare time job'

Mr Howard said Labour donor Lord Drayson, as the new parliamentary secretary for defence, was likely to visit far-flung places like Gibraltar, the Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.

"All locations with which he and his tax advisers are very familiar indeed," he said.

And he had given the minister for women job to MP Meg Munn, but told her "to do the job in her spare time... so much for your manifesto promise to 'narrow the pay... gap between men and women'".

Mr Howard said Mr Blair had only managed to keep five pledges in his first two terms, but in his third there were 274.

"I suppose you're hoping people won't notice when you break them," he said.

Pointing to the prime minister's call for more respect, Mr Howard said the only way to achieve this in the classroom was to give head teachers complete control over what happens in their schools.

The Tory leader said delivery was what mattered now.

"For the sake of our country, I hope your actions will finally match your words," said Mr Howard.

"If they do, we'll support you. But whatever happens, this party will hold you to account for the promises you have made to the British people."


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Main party leaders debate the Queen's Speech



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