Brown under fire over election plans
Thu, Nov 19, 2009

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came under fire from members of his own party Thursday after unveiling a voter-friendly agenda designed to boost their chances at next year's general election.

Brown, whose Labour party is tipped to lose the election after 12 years in power, announced on Wednesday a crackdown on the banking industry and new social measures including on caring for the elderly in their homes.

But several Labour peers, or members of parliament's upper House of Lords, branded the move aimed at 400,000 of Britain's neediest elderly as irresponsible and unaffordable.

"There has been no proper impact assessment, and no data to show how this would work," said Norman Warner, a former junior health minister.

"There's a big question mark as to whether there's even actually a Bill ready," he told The Times newspaper.

Fellow peer David Lipsey also told the newspaper that the measure amounted to a "demolition job on the national budget" which threatened to undo current work to build a system for caring for the elderly.

The measures, in a traditional Queen's Speech, detailed the government's final legislative plans before the election due by June.

As well as tougher rules for bankers, the government put boosting growth and jobs as its top priority as Britain emerges from the global slowdown.

Labour, which has been in power since 1997, looks set to suffer a heavy defeat to the main opposition Conservatives in the election.

However, the prime minister insisted the new measures - which included laws on carbon capture and storage and a ban on cluster bombs - were not simply electioneering.

"When we propose these measures we are speaking up, not in the party interest but in the national interest," Brown told the House of Commons.

However Brown also came under attack for failing to include legislation to reform the expenses system for lawmakers - set to be an election issue after a damaging scandal earlier this year.

Sir Christopher Kelly, head of a review into the system, said he was disappointed the speech did not include legislation to kick start reforms contained in his report on cleaning up the system.

"The leaders of all the main political parties have agreed that our recommendations should be implemented in full," Kelly said late Wednesday.

"It is disappointing therefore that today's Queen's Speech did not contain measures to address the changes we believe to be necessary."

Downing Street later stressed that most of the reforms could be implemented by a new independent authority, without the need for new laws to be passed.

The government has only a few months to push through the 15 bills announced Wednesday before the next election.

Queen Elizabeth II outlined the government's programme in her annual Queen's Speech to parliament, in a ceremony full of pomp and tradition.


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