Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Clegg attacks 'fantasy' proposals

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg
Mr Clegg said Labour had squandered a chance to boost trust in politics

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has attacked the Queen's Speech as a "fantasy" package full of "unnecessary" measures.

Mr Clegg said there was nothing in the proposed legislation to help create jobs, boost bank lending and fix the UK's "rotten" political system.

He accused Gordon Brown of "raising the hopes" of many pensioners over proposals for free personal care that would only help a "fraction" of people.

Ministers insist their legislative programme is relevant and affordable.

The Queen's Speech, the last before the general election, contains proposals to toughen financial regulation, to provide new educational entitlements and free personal care for about 400,000 pensioners, as well as a commitment to halve the budget deficit over four years.

'Dying days'

Critics say few of the proposals will ever become law because of lack of parliamentary time before the election - which must be held by June.

Mr Clegg said the proposals were a smokescreen to obscure the government's failure to bring about an economic recovery and to help those worst affected by the recession.

"In these dying days of the Labour government, when people desperately need help, the government should legislate less and focus on getting things done," he told MPs.

"All the pageantry in the world cannot cover up the fact that this is a fantasy Queen's Speech from a government that has run out of road in a Parliament that has lost the people's trust."

The deficit pledge was worthless, Mr Clegg argued, comparing it to "passing a law promising to get up early every morning".

"You don't just pass a law; you just do it," he told MPs.

He said the government's attempt to enshrine in law its pledge to eradicate child poverty by 2020 would not put an "extra penny" in the pockets of the most vulnerable families.

In the remaining time before the election, Mr Clegg said MPs should instead focus on reforming Parliament, the voting system and party funding to begin restoring public trust after the expenses scandal.

"These changes would be a tall order but with political will they could transform our threadbare democratic institutions.

"Instead of being just a sorry footnote to a shameful year at Westminster, these months could have been a moment of important change in British political history."

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