Socialist Worker

Government uses Queen’s Speech to signal new draconian legislation

Issue No. 2131

Alongside the attacks on welfare, a number of other bills announced in last week’s Queen’s speech effectively dispel any notion that Labour is making a turn to the left.

From further isolation of migrants to threats to shut “failing schools”, there is little to be thankful for in Labour’s new raft of policies. Here are a few things to watch out for:


Crime

Planned new laws would give police the right to take fingerprints of people stopped and searched or questioned in the street.

This data would be added to the national database – which is already highly controversial.

There are also plans to “streamline the extradition process” – which has worried civil liberties campaigners as it is likely to compromise the appeal process.


Immigration

The government is continuing to stir up racism against people seeking British citizenship – with a heavy emphaisis on learning English and tougher tests to qualify for “earned citizenship”.

A “failure to integrate” will mean delays in passports being issued.

Ten existing pieces of legislation will be amalgamated into and replaced by the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill. This includes measures to have a two tier system where those who learn English quicker are more likely to be fast-tracked into citizenship.

Others will have to wait a minimum of five years to apply for a passport.

Migrant workers will have to wait up to eight years before being entitled to benefits, despite paying taxes.

Those who “stay out of trouble” and do voluntary work could qualify sooner but those who do not meet the new rules will have to wait a further seven years.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas told the Sun “entitlement to benefits should be for citizens of our country, not other people”. Woolas also wants to restrict access to high court judicial reviews for asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected.

The government talks about integrating immigrants but this legislation will only isolate and stigmatise them further. Neither will it appease the right wing – which is already demanding even tougher measures.


Schools

Schools deemed to be “failing” would continue to be plagued by targets and inspections.

Schools that don’t meet government targets will fall victim to new powers given to local authorities to either close them down or turn them into academies.

Teachers will be given responsibilities to search pupils for drugs and alcohol, putting pressure on staff and student relationships and distracting from the purpose of their job – to teach.


Equality

The new legislation against ageism and for equal pay at work has had small business owners claiming that it will put them off employing affected groups – but in reality the legislation is too weak to address the problem.

Campaign groups such as Age Concern have noted that these new measures coupled with those in the Welfare Reform Bill could force older people into unsuitable jobs.


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