1993 Leader of the Oposition's Reply to the Loyal Address
Category: Queen's Speech Opposition Replies
It is a pleasant convention of the House that the first duty of the Leader of the Opposition today is to congratulate the mover and the seconder of the Loyal Address. For me, it is an easy duty because of the quality of the contributions from both hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) has a long record of service in the House - 33 years as a Member of Parliament and, as he reminded us, most of it representing Sussex. Of course, he was also a London Member. He had a celebrated tussle with Lady Jeger for the Holborn and St. Pancras seat. He won the seat from Lady Jeger in 1959 and then lost it to her in 1964. The hon. Gentleman made a wise decision to move to Sussex in 1965 because Holborn and St. Pancras has been Labour ever since.
Before the hon. Gentleman entered the House, he had a distinguished career as a broadcaster. He was a founding member of the famous "Tonight" team. Of course, those were the days when interviewers were a much more courteous bunch than they are today. "Tonight" has developed to become "Newsnight", but I am glad to say that the hon. Gentleman is much too stylish and urbane a performer ever to be compared with the likes of Jeremy Paxman - [Interruption.] That is probably the most courageous remark that has been made for some time and it is made in the cause of being generous to a Conservative Member.
It was in a television studio that the hon. Gentleman had perhaps his greatest moment. He was the first British interviewer to question Brigitte Bardot on television. I have been told that he got straight to the point and that his opening question was, "Apart from men, what are your other interests?"
From such great heights, the hon. Gentleman has declined to senior membership of the 1922 Committee. I understand that an election to the executive of that Committee is presently in hand. It is widely expected that it will provide yet another opportunity for the Conservative party to display its spirit of unity and comradely affection. I wish the hon. Gentleman well. He wears his grey suit with style. He sounds and looks the part of a member of the executive of the 1922 Committee, which is a lot more than can be said for some others who occupy that position these days.
The hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) seconded the address with fluency, flair and, if I may say so, disarming wit. His description of the adventures of the new Member will strike a chord with many Members of the House. He has not been with us as long as the mover of the address, but he has managed to get elected twice since he first came here in 1983, with majorities of less than 1,000 on both occasions - 813 in 1987 and 185 last year. He is on record as saying that concern about unemployment made him decide to go into politics. Given the size of his majority and its downward trend, that is a wholly understandable concern.
The hon. Member for Bolton, North-East was bold enough - perhaps even rash enough - to tell us of the present that he received from the Home Secretary for service as his Parliamentary Private Secretary. He told us that the book was called "Modern Fairy Tales". He did not tell us that it was a collection of speeches to the Conservative party conference.
The hon. Member for Bolton, North-East was reported in a diary column in the press the other day as having said that the speech that he had prepared to deliver on this occasion had been stolen from his car. He appealed for it to be returned because, it is said, it was of no use to anyone else. The hint was taken and it was found in a wheelie-bin.
The House is grateful to the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East for his witty speech and we also recognise the contribution that he has made to many of our debates. He has not hesitated to be deeply embroiled in controversies as wide-ranging as abortion and social security, and his genuine devotion to the cause of the disabled is widely admired on both sides of the House.
The mover and the seconder referred to some parts of the Gracious Speech. I shall start, on the lines of the mover, by referring to foreign policy. There are some important developments which I am sure all hon. Members will welcome. In September this year the momentous agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation signalled a new start in the middle east. It is vital that those who have taken risks for peace receive the whole-hearted support of the international community as they grapple with the formidable tasks which they have set themselves.
Yesterday, as the mover noted, Mr. Mandela and President de Klerk made a historic agreement about a new democratic constitution for South Africa. On 27 April next year, the first - and crucial - non-racial elections in the history of South Africa will be held. It is vital that Her Majesty's Government give all possible assistance to ensure that those elections are both free and fair.
We welcome the commitment in the Gracious Speech to strengthening the United Nations' capacity for peacekeeping and preventive action. That cannot be achieved without greater support by the international community in terms of financial and military resources, if the United Nations is to make a more effective contribution to the solution of acute and deeply distressing situations such as those that are occurring in Bosnia, Somalia and elsewhere.
Opposition Members warmly welcome the signing of the chemical weapons convention and we agree with the Government about the importance of an indefinite and unconditional extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The cause of non-proliferation will be immeasurably assisted by early agreement on a nuclear test ban. The continued moratorium on tests, led by the current United States administration, is encouraging and the time is overdue for Her Majesty's Government to give the initiative their full support.
We welcome enthusiastically the early accession of Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden to the European Union. In making their applications they have not sought to opt out of the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty, which they all strongly support. Once they are members, Conservative Britain will be isolated, not just as one among 12, but as one among 16.
In Northern Ireland a window of opportunity now exists to achieve a lasting and peaceful settlement. The Government must grasp this opportunity and work with the Irish Government and the constitutional parties in the Province to create the conditions for peace. The speech by the Tanaiste on the principles that should be applied has rightly been recognised as an important step forward, particularly his acknowledgement of the importance of recognising the legitimate concerns of both communities in Northern Ireland.
We agree with the Government that if the IRA genuinely and clearly abandons the use of violence, there should be no objection to the participation of Sinn Fein in constitutional discussions. We believe also that the elected representatives of Northern Ireland have an obligation to respond to calls from all sections of the community to enter into discussions to agree a peaceful settlement. The British Government should not hesitate to call the parties back to the negotiating table. Compromise and concessions will be required from both sides. All the parties involved, including the British Government, must not be afraid to take risks for peace. They must all be prepared to transcend the old dogmas that stand in the way of reconciliation, which is passionately desired by the vast majority of people throughout the whole British Isles.
At the Conservative party conference the Prime Minister launched his big idea - "back to basics". It is true that those magic words do not appear in the Gracious Speech itself. We should perhaps be grateful that Her Majesty was not obliged to repeat the mantra, but there is no doubt that that is the right hon. Gentleman's chosen course. He could not have been clearer about it at Blackpool. The Conservative party, he told us, is now going back to basics. Ever since then political commentators, some bewildered members of the Cabinet and millions of incredulous electors have been trying to work out what the Prime Minister means. The first thought that occurs to them, perhaps not surprisingly, is that the Conservatives have been in government for 14 years. If now we have to go back to basics, what on earth has been happening over 14 years of Conservative Government? Or is this perhaps another coded attack on the glorious achievements of the former Tory leader - another oblique reference to "the golden age that never was", to quote the Prime Minister's own revealing description of his predecessors's achievements? I hope that there are still some loyal souls on the Tory Benches who will be prepared, as a matter of honour, to rebut such a surreptitious attack on the Thatcher Downing Street years.
We know, of course, that the Prime Minister is haunted by those years and even more troubled by the recent flood of memoirs from former Cabinet Ministers all bearing the same title, "How I almost stood up to Mrs. Thatcher". Her memoirs rather stole the show at the Conservative party conference. Even the Prime Minister's speech could not avoid them. At the start of his speech to the conference he said :
"Memoirs to the left of me
Memoirs to the right of me,
Memoirs in front of me
Volley'd and thundered".
He borrowed the quote from Tennyson's great poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade". Perhaps he should have read on. The poem continues :
"Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death
Rode the six hundred".
I know why the Prime Minister did not finish the quote - there are only 332 Tory Members facing obliteration at the next election. We all know that, after 14 years of Conservative Government, "back to basics" is no more and no less than an appalling admission of failure. The Conservative party and the Prime Minister have clearly reached the conclusion that they can no longer plausibly defend their record in office, so they are seeking to wipe from our consciousness the fact that they have been in power for the longest single period of any Government since the second world war and that they - and they alone - after all these years, are responsible for the state of Britain today.
Let us look at the record of failure from which the Conservatives seek to shy away. Since 1979, economic growth on average has been only 1.7% per year - worse than the preceding decades of the 1960s and the 1970s. Now, after all those years, we have an economy weighed down by the burden of two massive deficits in our public finances and overseas trade. Worst of all, the 14 Conservative years have seen the return of mass unemployment, with millions of our fellow citizens denied the opportunity, dignity and responsibility of work.
Let us look at the other dismal record-breaking achievements of the Government. Record levels of crime - up by a massive 120% since they came to power; record levels of homelessness; record numbers of families living in poverty; and the gap between the rich and the poor wider now than in Victorian times. [Hon. Members : - "Rubbish."] With a record like that, it is no wonder that they want to divert attention from their own responsibility. Their means of diverting attention is the oldest trick in the book - create a diversion, search out a scapegoat and put the blame on someone else. They know that it is no longer convincing to blame the last Labour Government or the trade unions - [Hon. Members : - "Why not?"] Why not? There are still some brave souls prepared to try that one on. Well, let them try. The public will not listen very carefully to that. They cannot use the last Labour Government or the trade unions as an excuse; it is doubtful that they can any longer blame the Government of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath). After 14 years in power, the Government know that those excuses are unconvincing. The Prime Minister in particular knows they are unconvincing.
This summer the Prime Minister gave an interview to the Los Angeles Times. He was asked directly about the unpopularity of his Government so soon after they had won an election, and he replied: "Fiddle-de-dee! I said immediately after the election, sitting up the day after we won the election with a number of people around me: Within the next twelve months the Government will be the most unpopular we have seen for a long time!' Nothing in the interim has changed my judgment about that. It was staggeringly prescient. It perhaps hasn't come about in quite the way I had myself imagined, but it has. We have been here for 14 years. There is no-one else one can blame for anything that has gone wrong."
What a revealing conclusion--
"there is no one else one can blame for anything that has gone wrong."
The Prime Minister's conclusion, hidden until now in the columns of the Los Angeles Times, deserves a wider audience. I suggest that he circulates the remarks in a memorandum to his Cabinet colleagues, in particular to those who, for reasons of delicacy, have now become known as the B team - for they were the ones who were let loose at the Tory party conference to target single mothers as the new enemy within. What a disgraceful exercise that was. It was an exhibition so odious that it drew a stinging rebuke from the right-wing commentator, Mr. Simon Jenkins of The Times, who described it as :
"Mob oratory of the worst sort."
Let me quote his assessment. He wrote :
"Ministers paraded the Tory Party in its least attractive mode: lecturing the working class on personal morality. No single parent, no homeless teenager, no dole recipient, no immigrant refugee was free of a sneer from somebody on the platform."
We all listened to those speeches and watched that conference and we all know how true that assessment is.
What Ministers did at Blackpool, consciously and deliberately, for their own political purposes, was to exaggerate cynically a social problem. In doing so they insulted thousands of conscientious and caring parents, widowed as well as divorced.
Simon Jenkins went on to say :
"Such sanctimoniousness is a measure of the insecurity and desperation of some in the Tory party."
That desperation is nowhere more evident than in the bizarre theories of the Home Secretary that rising crime and what he calls moral decay can be traced back to the second world war when fathers were absent in our fighting forces. Of course that was a time described by a former Conservative leader as "Britain's finest hour". No evidence is produced for the Home Secretary's wild assertion, but with this lot evidence is not required.
Apparently it is not enough to blame it all on Harold Wilson and the 1960s ; now it is all Winston Churchill's fault. Do the Government really believe all this? Do they seriously expect anyone in the country to believe it? Clearly it is not just a few Conservative Back Benchers who are barmy. I do not know to which of the two B teams the Home Secretary has been assigned. For all I know he may have sought to qualify for membership of both.
I mentioned evidence. The Government's view is clearly that not only - [ Hon. Members :-- "Get on with it."] Hon. Members do not like it when "back to basics" is challenged. All I am asking for is some evidence for the assertions that the Government have been making. They do not believe that it is necessary to have evidence when one is making a constant appeal to prejudice. If they get contrary evidence, what do they do with it? They have a simple solution - bin it. Even the evidence of their own advisers at the Home Office, the Department for Education and the Cabinet Office is treated to the same response - "Just bin it". Perhaps they should also shred it, for sometimes it comes out.
In the leaked memorandum from the Cabinet Office - [Interruption.] Hon. Members do not like reference to be made to that memorandum from the Cabinet Office. I am glad to say that it has now made its way into the public domain despite the fact that every single page has stamped at the top, "Policy in Confidence". [Interruption.] It is wholly in the public interest that what I am about to say has been revealed to the public. Having in mind what I am about to say, it would be disgraceful for it to be prevented from reaching the public because that memorandum dealt with the assertion of the Secretary of State for Social Security that young ladies get pregnant just to jump the housing list.
The facts that the Cabinet Office produced are these: only 5% of lone mothers are teenagers; 88% of pregnancies are unplanned; most single mothers do not know the benefits to which they are entitled; and 90% of 16 and 17-year-old mothers live at home with their parents. That was what was contained in the evidence given to Ministers in the Cabinet. But what have facts to do with Tory prejudice?
Despite the evidence, the Secretary of State for Education ploughed on with his ill-considered plans for tests in schools. Two senior advisers resigned and this week he even lost his permanent secretary. Undeterred by those failures and, once again, with no evidence whatever to back it up, he proposes to begin the deskilling of the teaching profession. He would be much better employed if he had plans to provide nursery education for all children and the Queen's Speech would have been much better if it had contained such plans. As the report of the National Commission on Education shows only too clearly, investment in the education of the under-fives is the right sort of basic investment in education and provides real benefits for children, families and society. Typically, the commission's evidence was not good enough for the Government. It is not just Ministers who ignore evidence. In one of his recent essays on modern Conservative thought, delivered at the Carlton club earlier this year, the Prime Minister - ever eager to scapegoat and to ignore evidence - sought to distinguish between the social problems of suburbs, small towns and villages on the one hand and inner cities and that that was not the fault of 14 years of Conservative Government but was down to socialism. As the Home Secretary knows well, when the evidence is examined, it can be seen that crime in rural areas is, regrettably, rising much faster than in the inner cities. But when did facts ever get in the Government's way ? [Interruption.] The Conservative party does not like discussing "back to basics", but we shall have many such discussions. I fear that the abject failure to tackle the real problems that affect our nation is reflected all too clearly in the legislative programme that has been laid before us. Apparently, we are to have a Bill on deregulation.
Mr. David Howell (Guildford) : I respect the right hon. and learned Gentleman's concern for crime and defeating violence. Does that mean that he will now resume support for the Prevention of Terrorism Act ?
Mr. Smith : The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that, when that matter has been debated, we have drawn attention to advice given by Home Office advisers supporting the points that we have made on the prevention of terrorism. Conservative Members should reflect on why the so-called "party of law and order" has seen crime rise by 120% during its period of office. The right hon. Gentleman would be better employed asking the Home Secretary why that has occurred during a period of Conservative Government.
I was about to refer to the Bill on deregulation, which is to be presented to the House as part of the legislative programme. Apparently, after 14 years of Conservative Government, too many regulations have accumulated. How that happened during the years of the so-called enterprise culture, and the M&S and economic miracle, is hard to imagine. Of the 3,500 regulations apparently reviewed by the Government, 71% have been introduced since 1979.
There can be no objection to weeding out outdated and unnecessary provisions. What is to be objected to is a weakening of the proper protection for both employees and consumers in the name of the same misguided dogma which, last Session, saw the abolition of wages councils. Any weakening of safety standards for people at work will be fiercely resisted by the Opposition. Too many avoidable accidents already happen at the work place and it cannot be right to dismantle protection that would increase their number. Consumers, too, will be rightly concerned at any weakening of protection contained in, for example, fire safety regulations. It is right, is it not, that there are strict provisions controlling the manufacture of furniture and children's nightwear? To avoid horrific dangers, that protection should be not only maintained but enforced with vigour.
It would also be wrong, although I understand that it is being considered, to seek to reduce insulation standards for new houses. Energy costs for millions of people are being increased enough already by the imposition of VAT on fuel without extra costs being caused by a lowering of standards, which inevitably will cause greater energy waste.
Hard though it is to believe, I understand that one of the regulations being reviewed is the obligation on employers to provide toilet paper and soap in workplace lavatories. What kind of uncivilised nonsense are the Government engaged in? [Interruption.] That may not sound important to Conservative Members, but it is extremely important to people who work in factories. The public, listening to Conservative Members' sneering reception of that, will draw their own conclusions.
Surely the basic truth is that this much-trumpeted deregulation programme is marginal to the real problems that confront our industry and our economy. Let me remind the House that Britain is still struggling to recover from recession--the greatest recession since the 1930s - and is still afflicted by mass unemployment. Neither in the Gracious Speech nor in any other manifestation of their policies do the Government show any understanding of the real problems that lie in the way of recovery and prosperity. Our problem is persistent underinvestment in industry, persistent underinvestment in skills development and persistent underinvestment in innovation and in our regions, causing structural defects in our economy, which cause low growth, high unemployment and a deficit in overseas trade which is unprecedented at this stage of the economic cycle.
The external deficit in the first half of this year is equivalent to 2% of national income. After 14 years of Conservative economic management, the wealth-creating core of our economy is simply too small to sustain our prosperity or to allow us to pay our way in the world.
Sadly, there is no sign that those vital and, if I may say so, basic strategic issues are being tackled by the Government. They are engaged, in contradiction of their election promises, in a series of tax increases which are not only unfair to millions of people but which threaten to undermine the consumer confidence that is necessary to any recovery of demand.
Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley) : Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) that the introduction of a minimum wage would cost jobs?
Mr. Smith : I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to ask me about VAT, but I know that he does not want to do that. The introduction of a minimum wage, as experience in other countries shows, works, if anything, towards the strengthening of employment rather than in the opposite direction. The hon. Gentleman would benefit from reading some of the recent research that has been conducted, especially the evidence from France. Does he agree with the right-wing Prime Minister of France, who said that despite its austerity programme the minimum wage would be preserved because it was part of the social compact with the people of France? The hon. Gentleman will not ask me about VAT and nor will other Conservative Members because they stood at the last election on a manifesto that said that they would not increase VAT - [Interruption.]
Madam Speaker : Order. I shall not warn the hon. Gentleman further.
Mr. Smith : I am not sure what happened there, but I shall get on with my speech.
The trouble is that not only does the Gracious Speech show no contrition for the tax increases that the Government have imposed, but it signals another piece of legislation that flows from the previous Budget - an increase in national insurance contributions from 9% to 10% For most people in this country, that is an extra tax on income slightly higher than another 1p on income tax - so much for Tory promises at the general election not to increase taxes on income. As a result of tax increases already announced and even without taking into account what the Chancellor may propose in his forthcoming Budget, a typical family in Britain will be paying another £8.50 per week from next April. Who at the general election could have divined from anything said by the Conservative party that tax increases of £8.50 per week would happen within a year of its being elected to office?
Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton) : On the subject of taxation and its fair and proportionate nature, on which some of us may wish to comment later in the debate, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that taxation should be collected? As leader of the Labour Party, what does he say about the London borough of Lambeth, which dismally fails to collect 75% of its council tax?
Mr. Smith : All the agencies, including central Government, should make it their business to collect tax properly. If the hon. Gentleman has a genuine sense of proportion and of fairness--I take his comments as an indication that he may speak on that later and I hope that he does--why not ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he does not begin to block up the tax loopholes that cost the country's taxpayers billions of pounds? If that was an aspect of fairness that had passed him by until now, he can mention it in his speech. [Interruption.]
Madam Speaker : Order. Calls from sedentary positions do not enhance our debate one bit. Indeed, they are boring.
Mr. Smith : The discomfort that occurs on the Government Benches whenever tax increases are mentioned is quite noticeable because it is the party that told a lie at the general election. It said that it would not increase taxes and even told us which taxes it would not increase. Those are the very taxes that it is now increasing and it will cost a typical family in Britain an extra £8.50 per week. The Budget later this month needs to be geared to economic recovery that promotes investment and begins to tackle the deep-seated long-term problems that are the legacy of 14 years of Conservative Government. Instead of concentrating on those issues, the Government are intent on promoting irrelevancies. A prize example of that is to cause yet another upheaval in local government. Not only is there no demand in Scotland and Wales for the Government's proposals, but there is massive opposition across a wide spectrum of political views. An overwhelming majority of the hon. Members who represent Scottish and Welsh constituencies are against the Bills that will only be carried by the votes of English Conservatives who do not represent the people in the countries concerned. I understand that it is proposed to introduce the Bill concerning Welsh local government in the House of Lords. That is a quite outrageous and reprehensible way for the Government to proceed.
Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr) : The right hon. and learned Gentleman is suggesting that hon. Members from England should not determine issues in Scotland and Wales. Is not it the case that we are a United Kingdom Parliament? Does not everyone deserve to be able to speak on such issues?
Mr. Smith : The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) showed a sense of aptness in intervening at that point. I was about to point out that the change was especially reprehensible because the true purpose of the legislation in Scotland was to gerrymander boundaries in the interests of the Conservative party. One of the most blatant examples occurs in the hon. Gentleman's constituency where there is deliberate gerrymandering to assist the interests of the Conservative party. Everyone in Scotland knows that to be the case.
Local government reform in both countries should be preceded by the devolution of power from central Government. That would be a genuine increase in democratic accountability. But of course a Government who are committed to a relentless increase in quangos and to the imposition of unelected Conservatives to administer our public services are hardly likely to be interested in democratic accountability.
There is one thing for which we should have a little gratitude. The Government were forced back from their plan to privatise water in Scotland because of a nationwide campaign led by the Labour party. They were forced into the curious halfway house of removing water from local authorities, and therefore from democratic control, and giving it to so-called "public" boards which, of course, will just be another set of quangos. The only thing that can be said for that is that it is not privatisation. The Government should be warned that if it is intended to be a paving step towards privatisation, the passage of time will not diminish public opposition to the privatisation of water. Taxpayers in Scotland, Wales and England will continue to wonder why the Government spend hundreds of millions of pounds on another local government reorganisation when vital public services are being undermined by a lack of finance.
Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West) : The right hon. and learned Gentleman will not convince my constituents. The Bournemouth and District Water Company, which has been private for more than 100 years, has consistently had the lowest rate of charges in the United Kingdom and has never had even a restriction on supply.
Mr. Smith : The hon. Gentleman seems to be unaware that the privatisation of water in England and Wales has pushed water charges to unprecedented heights. The people who pay the water charges know that that is the case.
In 1979, at the start of their party's years of power, the Conservatives complained loudly about the prevailing levels of crime. Their manifesto boasted that they would restore the rule of law. We know their record 14 years later. Crime is up by 120%, violent crime is up by 126% and burglary is up by 180%. Only one in every 50 crimes committed ends in a conviction in court. So much for restoring the rule of law!
We shall, of course, examine with care the Government's proposed legislation on criminal justice. We believe in a twin-track approach. While we should be prepared to be tough on crime, we should be equally tough on the causes of crime. We need to make far more effort to detect crime and to bring its perpetrators to justice. We also need to take more effective action to prevent crime from occurring in the first place. We need visible and effective policing in our communities. We need to take seriously the prevention of crime by better security for property and by better safety in public places. We also need to offer our young people in particular opportunities for employment and for personal fulfilment to counter the alienation from society which corrodes a sense of responsibility and which inevitably fosters crime.
We have been told that part of the intention of the "back to basics" policy is to teach people the difference between right and wrong and the importance of the acceptance of responsibility. The problem for the Government in that approach is their credibility as teachers and the example of responsibility that they have set. Surely it is wrong to break election promises as cavalierly as the Government have done. Surely it is wrong to impose a tax on the heating of every household in Britain when such an action was expressly excluded before the 1992 election. Surely it is wrong to scapegoat single parents and to stigmatise their children. Surely it is wrong never to resign voluntarily if major errors are made. Surely it is wrong to deny responsibility for policies which have led to mass unemployment and misery for millions of families. Surely it is wrong to have deliberately widened the gap between the rich and poor in our society.
Those are actions of a Government who purport to lecture others about getting "back to basics". I believe that "back to basics" is easily exposed as a political sham, but there are basic needs and aspirations among our people. They want jobs for themselves and for their children. They want a truly national health service which is available to all and which provides the best possible health care proudly in line with the principles of the service's founders. They want well-equipped schools and well-trained and valued teachers to provide opportunities for their children to learn and to succeed. They want decent and affordable homes for their families. They want our industry to compete with the best and to win, for they know that that is the best security for their prosperity.
I regret that the Gracious Speech is irrelevant to the real aspirations and needs of our people. It is so removed from those aspirations that, instead of going "back to basics", the Government should be going back to the drawing board.