Leading article: No surprises, but a focus on the business of government

Share

In the end, Gordon Brown managed to resist the temptation to insert any surprises into yesterday's Queen's Speech. No rabbits were pulled out of the hat in an attempt to wrong-foot the opposition parties. The Prime Minister chose to keep the parliamentary legislative programme he had pre-announced in July pretty much intact. This was sensible in the light of the torrid time Mr Brown has had in the wake of his mishandling of last month's snap election speculation. The public does not want stunts from the Prime Minister. It wants solid and considered government.

Indeed, one of the more encouraging aspects of yesterday's programme is what was downplayed. There was no concrete proposal to extend pre-charge detention for terror suspects beyond 28 days, despite strong indications from ministers that a new 56-day limit would be put forward. We must hope that this presages a retreat from this grossly illiberal and dangerous plan. All the evidence suggests that the introduction of what would effectively be internment powers for the police would do far more harm than good to the struggle against militant Islamism in Britain, regardless of any new powers of judicial oversight.

Some of the bills and draft bills announced yesterday are, naturally, welcome. Powers for local councils to impose charges on persistent non-recyclers and giving them the right to trial road charging schemes are sensible. Both these proposals have the potential to do a good deal for the environment by reducing the amount of refuse sent to landfill and also the emissions arising from road congestion. Plans to create a more personalised NHS should also be good for patients who, despite the vast sums poured into the NHS since 2000, are not receiving the level of service they have a right to expect.

Greater incentives for young people to go into training at 16 are also necessary if we are to reverse the skills gap that exists between the UK and the rest of Europe, although the Government would do well to acknowledge that the problems many children experience in education begin much sooner than at age 16. It is also plain that local authorities need a push to build more houses. Shortages of supply, especially in the South East, are having a socially divisive effect by helping to price first-time buyers out of the market. The proposals to extend flexible working rights for parents of older children should also be a welcome step towards correcting the skewed work-life balance that exists in much of Britain.

Other plans proposed yesterday are more depressing, in particular the building of more nuclear power stations. But what characterises this programme overall is a strange lack of ambition. There are to be no annual statutory reduction targets on UK carbon dioxide emissions in the proposed climate change bill, merely "five-year carbon budgets". Plans to devolve power within the NHS that Mr Brown hinted at before assuming power in June appear to have been discarded. Similarly, there is a failure to address the looming pension crisis head on.

The proposed constitutional reforms are piecemeal, rather than truly radical. If Mr Brown really wants to create a new relationship between MPs, the Government and the public, he must embark on a programme of electoral reform.

It is encouraging that Mr Brown has decided to concentrate on the business of government rather than on the scramble for short-term party advantage. But the inescapable message from yesterday's Queen's Speech is that the Prime Minister still needs to raise his sights.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all