Socialist Worker

The queen's speech

Issue No. 1952

illustration by Leon Khun

illustration by Leon Khun


New work and pensions minister David Blunkett is set to step up the attack on pensions in the public and private sectors. He is expected to announce his plans after the publication of a report by former Confederation of British Industry chief Adair Turner. The queen’s speech also confirmed government plans to savage housing and incapacity benefits.

Our schools for sale

Beneath the rhetoric of “choice” and “excellence” in education, the queen’s speech and new education bill consolidate the existing model of publicly funded, privately controlled services.

Tony Blair believes that schools and universities are best run for and by private business interests — but from taxpayers’ money.

The bill will allow “new educational providers” — the private sector — to supply services or run whole schools.

Labour’s post-election agenda for education was set out last July in a five year plan.

Blair’s appointment of the unelected Andrew Adonis as an education minister will reinforce these market friendly aspects. Adonis has pulled the strings of every Labour education secretary since 1997, causing Estelle Morris to resign and preventing David Blunkett axing Chris Woodhead as Ofsted inspection chief.

Blair has set a target of 200 city academies. For £2 million an individual or corporate sponsor gets at least £20 million from the public purse to set up an academy. There is no obligation to adhere to national pay and conditions and the national curriculum can be sidestepped.

But even more pernicious — because it will affect thousands of secondary schools — will be the new legal status of independent specialist schools.

Any current community comprehensive will be able to vote on to its governing body a controlling number of people from any business, faith or charity. They can also assume ownership of land, buildings, resources and staff contracts. Some primary schools will also be given independent “foundation” status.

Nick Grant, secretary, Ealing NUT
For more information, read Hands Off Our Schools, £2 from Bookmarks.

ID card threat looms

ID CARDS were at the centre of the queen’s speech, and reports suggest the bill will be rushed through its second reading in the next two weeks.

Leader of the Commons Geoff Hoon said last week that ID cards were included in Labour’s manifesto and that the government was “elected by a substantial majority in the country to deliver that”.

But Phil Booth, national coordinator of the NO2ID campaign, said, “Barely more than one in five people voted for New Labour on 5 May.

“But they show every sign of ploughing ahead with their plans for state identity control, using a massive database to track every UK resident throughout their lives.

“Despite the manifesto ‘promises’, ID cards will not be voluntary, and compulsory fingerprinting is likely to be introduced as soon as next year.”

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Article information

Sat 21 May 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1952
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