Blair is preoccupied with headlines and spin, says Howard

Michael Howard challenged Tony Blair to deliver on his promises yesterday as he mocked the Queen's Speech, declaring: "Haven't we heard it all before?"

Michael Howard challenged Tony Blair to deliver on his promises yesterday as he mocked the Queen's Speech, declaring: "Haven't we heard it all before?"

The Conservative leader accused government ministers of being preoccupied with "talk, spin and headlines", telling Mr Blair: "What the country wants to know is, when will you deliver?" But the Prime Minister hit back angrily, accusing the Conservatives of promoting the politics of fantasy.

Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, attacked plans for a package of anti-crime and terror legislation, likening the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to the Republican neoconservatives in the White House.

The Queen's Speech debate took on the atmosphere of a pre-election hustings as Mr Howard launched an assault on the Government's record, insisting that families were paying more tax but were not getting "value for money".

He said: "Hard-working families are paying the equivalent of £5,000 a year more in tax. 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."

Mr Howard demanded to know when Labour would deliver on its promises, more than seven years after the party came to power. He said: "If it took Winston Churchill five years to win the Second World War, and if it took Clement Attlee six years to build the welfare state, surely seven and a half years is more than enough for you to get a grip on the problems that face Britain today.

"In a year or so we're going to have an election when people will say: 'We've paid a lot of taxes but what's really been achieved with all that money?'"

He mocked the Government's plans for a draft anti-terror Bill, asking why ministers were waiting to introduce legislation and chided Mr Blair over asylum policy. Mr Howard said: "We have a government which admits that the law needs to be changed, but not yet; a government which says protection from terrorism is a priority, but not yet; a government which says we'll take action to keep you safe, but not yet."

He added: "How can he keep a straight face talking about security when he is going to cut our armed forces and disband historic regiments, including the Black Watch?"

But Mr Blair attacked the Conservatives for publishing options for tax cuts and public service savings while refusing to commit themselves to policies, and said planned Tory savings were already under way in his government. Mr Blair said Tories wanted to spend £1.3bn extra on police through immigration and asylum savings by processing all claims abroad.

But no country would agree to this, the Prime Minister said. "We start with fantasy tax cuts, we then have fantasy spending, we then have fantasy savings and now we have got a fantasy country. Fantasy policies are amusing for a fantasy government, but supposing it became a reality. Then the fantasy becomes a fraud on the British people and is no longer amusing but dangerous. It would be back to the failed polices of the past."

He said to Mr Howard: "You are not the hope of a successful Tory future because you are the reincarnation of a failed Tory past."

Mr Blair tried to deflect claims about the Government's concentration on anti-crime and terrorist legislation. He said: "It's said that these measures are scaremongering, but the fact is that the threats faced by the country and every other major country around the world are real."

But Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, accused the Home Secretary of undermining liberal opinion in the country. He said: "If you look at Britain today in so many ways, reflected by much of the legislation we have been passing here on same-sex relationships and on other matters too, Britain today is a much more liberal society in its attitudes and aspirations. The Home Secretary seems to have lost that plot or indeed is seeking to undermine that development."

* Tony Blair is planning to hold the general election on 5 May next year, according to reports in The Sun. The spring election is due to coincide with local elections and will put to an end to speculation that the Prime Minister was considering delaying the vote until autumn. Peter Hain, leader of the Commons, yesterday said that none of the measures in the Queen's Speech would be made law in time for a May election.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?