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

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia  

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Oliver Poole
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices