HUDDERSFIELD MP Barry Sheerman said a “disappointing” Queen’s Speech showed the Coalition Government was running out of steam.
But Colne Valley Conservative Jason McCartney claimed measures announced at the State Opening of Parliament yesterday would secure a stronger economy and a fairer society.
The coalition put measures to control immigration at the heart of its legislative agenda for the coming year.
It also set out plans to cap bills for social care, introduce a flat-rate state pension, extend consumer rights and cut the regulation burden on small businesses.
Measures include ones to regulate migrant access to the NHS and ensure that temporary visitors make a contribution, prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining driving licences, introduce tougher fines for businesses using illegal labour and require private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants.
Proposed legislation will make it easier to remove people from the UK, limiting rights to appeal against deportation and specifying that all foreign nationals convicted of serious crimes will be removed except in “extraordinary circumstances”.
Mr Sheerman said: “I had hoped this was going to be a Queen’s Speech about creating jobs, building skills and getting the country back on track.
“Instead, it was more a response to the fear that the Government has of UKIP. Even then, the immigration package was not as strong as most people would like in terms of people working here illegally.”
The veteran Labour MP said the Government was pressing ahead with its “vanity project” of high-speed rail from London to Leeds and Manchester with no evidence that it will benefit anyone anywhere.
“The £50bn cost of high-speed rail should have gone to our great towns and cities in the north,” he said.
“The coalition has run out of steam. It is disappointing that this was not a much stronger Queen’s Speech – one full of resolve that shows we are going to grow the economy.”
Mr McCartney countered: “The Queen’s Speech is tackling the issues people in the Colne and Holme valleys and Lindley are concerned about – jobs, immigration, crime and transport.
“It’s a Queen’s Speech that will secure a stronger economy and a fairer society.
“Interest rates at a near record low will help families stay in their own homes. Benefits reform will help people escape from the trap of benefit dependency by making work pay.”
And he added: “As vice-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Rail in the North I’m pleased to see the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, which will enable the building of HS2 from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds ‘as fast as possible’.
“HS2 is about capacity. We will invest in the East Coast line, but it won’t be able to cope with the increased number of passengers in the decades to come.”