Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 17:56 UK

Brown sets out future programme

Gordon Brown addresses the Commons

Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlined reforms on schools, hospitals and law and order as he set out his legislative programme for next Parliamentary year.

He pledged help for housebuyers, a savings scheme for low earners and new rights for workers to request training.

Hospital funding will also be linked to performance, and a system of elected police chiefs brought in as well.

The Tories said he had "run out of steam". The Lib Dems said he had "scraped the barrel to save himself".

Mr Brown made his statement to MPs ahead of next week's by-election in Crewe and Nantwich - seen as crucial to Labour's prospects of recovery after dire local election results.

It comes after Tuesday's surprise 2.7bn tax cut designed to head off a backbench rebellion over the abolition of the 10p tax cut - dubbed by the Conservatives an "exercise in political survival".

200m to buy unsold new homes and rent them to social tenants
100m for shared equity schemes to help first-time buyers purchase new-build homes
Parents' councils to help run schools
More accountable chief constables
Protection for depositors in the event of future bank collapses
Help for first-time buyers
Extension of flexible working to parents with older children
Jobless skills and training assessments
Tests for immigrants
Seas and shores protection, plus review into last year's floods implemented
Lords reform, party funding reform and consultation on Bill of Rights

But with rising inflation and ministers predicting a 10% drop in house prices this year, Mr Brown was under pressure to shore up the economy and prove his government has not run out of ideas.

His Commons statement on the government's programme for the next Parliamentary session was effectively a preview of November's Queen's Speech.

He announced a 200m fund to buy unsold new homes and rent them to social tenants or make them available on a shared ownership basis.

An additional 100m would be also made available to shared equity schemes to help more first-time buyers to purchase newly-built homes on the open market.

A Banking Bill, introduced in the wake of the crisis over Northern Rock, would bolster protection for depositors against future bank collapses.

A national savings scheme would be created for eight million people on low incomes, with each pound saved matched with a contribution from government.

I've no idea what we can expect you to bring forward next - Christmas? How desperate are you?
Nick Clegg
Lib Dem leader

Schools would be made more accountable to parents through the first independent qualifications system and guarantee the highest standards.

Labour MPs cheered as Mr Brown said the right of flexible working will be extended to parents with older children from next April, along with new rights for agency workers.

Police reforms

There will be a police reform bill, with chief constables being made accountable to a directly elected representative.

There may also be moves to introduce different degrees of homicide including provocation, diminished responsibility, complicity and infanticide - subject to consultation.

And a new Sentencing Commission to monitor the size of prison populations.

A last ditch attempt to save their skins, only prompted by the dismal recent elections
Richard Bown

A bill to introduce a new national coroners service with full-time coroners and a right of appeal for families is also planned.

Tests for immigrants to receive British citizenship are to be made tougher, with newcomers expected to learn English and prove they are making an economic contribution.

Hospital funding will be linked to performance in England by using patient experience to measure quality of care and an NHS constitution established to set out the standards patients can expect.

'Desperate week'

The long-term unemployed will be forced to retrain or face having their benefits cut under a Welfare Reform Bill.

Mr Cameron said he welcomed many of the measures, as his party had proposed them in the first place.

"This Queen's Speech has nothing to do with the long-term needs of the country and everything to do with your short term political survival," he told Mr Brown.

"We need a government that tackles the underlying causes of poverty, that fights family breakdown, that breaks open the monopoly of state education - we need a government that can work with the voluntary sector.

"You can't do that and we can."

Lid Dem leader Nick Clegg said Mr Brown had faced "a desperate week", with early announcements on the 10p tax rate and "a rag bag of proposals" in the draft Queen's speech.

"I've no idea what we can expect you to bring forward next - Christmas? How desperate are you?"

Critics say Mr Brown's decision to preview the government's programme diminishes the role of the monarch and the relevance of the State Opening of Parliament in November.

But the government says it is appropriate to announce proposed measures earlier to allow consultation over the summer, resulting in a more concrete Queen's Speech.

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