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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 16:14 GMT


UK Politics

Speech fails to deliver - Hague

Together for the ceremony but Blair and Hague clashed later

Conservative leader William Hague has attacked the measures set out in the Queen's Speech for failing to tackle Labour's key pledges.

He claimed none of the 28 bills set out during the state opening of Parliament would bring down waiting lists, cut class sizes, help business or reduce crime.

The Tory leader branded the prime minister a liar in a strongly worded ending to his address.

The Queen's Speech
But he poked fun at Labour's pains over whether it will allow left-winger Ken Livingstone go forward as a contender to become its candidate for London mayor.

"I don't know how the prime minister could write with a straight face, 'My government will make it easier for people to participate in elections'," Mr Hague quipped.

"It must be the first time something has been put in the Queen's Speech entirely as a joke."

Some proposals would receive the support of the opposition as they progressed through Parliament in the coming year, Mr Hague said.


[ image: The Tories seized on the farrago surrounding Ken Livingstone]
The Tories seized on the farrago surrounding Ken Livingstone
But many would not, and the core of his argument was a critique of what was absent from the legislative programme.

"Remember the prime minister's year of delivery?" he asked.

"He promised he would cut class sizes and a year later class sizes have risen. Where are the measures to save our schools?

"He promised lower waiting lists and a year later the waiting list for the waiting lists are double what they were. Where are the measures to help the health service?

"He promised to cut crime and a year later police numbers have fallen. Where are the measures to cut crime?

"There is nothing in this Queen's Speech to make next year anything other than another year of no delivery."

Mr Hague lived up to his reputation as an able and amusing Commons performer, working his audience with a series of attacks on other politicians.

Highlighting the absence of referendums for Westminster elections, he said: "The poor old Liberal Party, they behave themselves all year not saying boo to a goose and what do they get in return?

"The Liberal leader has gone in a few short months from Have I Got News For You to Sorry, I Haven't Got A Clue."

Mr Hague branded Home Secretary Jack Straw as "top of the league of incompetence" listing a string of blunders such as the row over police numbers.

"It's enough to make people want to leave the country, but under this home secretary, you can't even get a passport," he said.

He claimed Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's understanding of park and ride schemes meant parking in one Jaguar and riding away in another.

On the serious issue of the transport bill promised, Mr Hague said it amounted to a "declaration of war against everyone who drives a car".

Responding to Mr Hague, Prime Minister Tony Blair said there was a difference between "good jokes and good judgement".

But he added a jibe of his own, after congratulating the opposition leader on his "great after-dinner speech".

"If Michael Portillo comes in, you'll be making many more of them," the prime minister said.

For the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy criticised the Queen's Speech for its "timidity" and "lack of ambition".



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