Beyond satire: the Tory right's "alternative Queen's Speech"

Bills to privatise the BBC, restore the death penalty, ban the burqa, leave the EU and introduce Margaret Thatcher Day are among the 40 proposed by Tory MPs.

Six weeks too late, the Tory right has launched an "alternative Queen's Speech" - but it was well worth the wait. The list of 40 proposed bills reads like something from a Chris Morris satire. You can view them all below, but here's my quick guide to the most egregious/bizarre.

- Ban the burqa (1)

- Bring back national service (2)

- Leave the EU (3)

- Make parents legally responsible for crimes committed by their children (4)

- Reintroduce the death penalty (10)

- Decriminalise the non-payment of the licence fee (16)

- Rename the August bank holiday as Margaret Thatcher Day (18)

- Hold a referendum on equal marriage (23)

- Privatise the BBC (27)

- Abolish the office of Deputy Prime Minister (also known as "kill Nick Clegg") (28)

- Leave the EU - again (they're not taking any chances) (30)

- Ban sexual harassment claims unless the alleged offence is illegal and has been reported to the police (34)

1) Face Coverings (Prohibition) – Bill to prohibit the wearing of certain face coverings; and for connected purposes.

2) National Service – Bill to provide a system of national service for young persons; and for connected purposes.

3) European Communities Act 1972 (Repeal) – Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and related legislation; and for connected purposes.

4) Young Offenders (Parental Responsibility) – Bill to make provision for the parents of young offenders to be legally responsible for their actions.

5) Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the United Kingdom) – Bill to make provision to exclude from the United Kingdom foreign nationals found guilty of a criminal offence committed in the United Kingdom.

6) Asylum Seekers (Return to Nearest Safe Country) – Bill to facilitate the transfer of asylum seekers to the safe country nearest their country of origin.

7) Prisoners (Completion of Custodial Sentences) – Bill to require prisoners to serve in prison the full custodial sentence handed down by the court.

8) Fishing Grounds and Territorial Waters (Repatriation) – Bill to make provision for the Government to designate certain fishing grounds and territorial waters as sovereign territory of the United Kingdom outside the control of the Common Fisheries Policy.

9) School Governing Bodies (Adverse Weather Conditions) – Bill to require school governing bodies and headteachers to make provision to keep schools open in adverse weather conditions.

10) Capital Punishment – Bill to allow for capital punishment for certain offences.

11) Government Departments (Amalgamation of Scotland Office, Wales Office and Northern Ireland Office) – Bill to make provision for the amalgamation of the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Offices.

12) Residential Roads (Adoption by Local Highways Authority) – Bill to require the handover of residential roads built by developers to local highways authorities within certain time periods; and for connected purposes.

13) Equality and Diversity (Reform) – Bill to prohibit the use of affirmative and positive action in recruitment and appointment processes; to amend the Equality Act 2010 to remove the special provision for political parties in relation to the selection of candidates; and for connected purposes.

14) Sentencing Escalator – Bill to provide that a criminal reconvicted for an offence on a second or further occasion receives a longer sentence than for the first such offence.

15) Leasehold Reform (Amendment) – Bill to amend the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 in relation to the permitted signatories of notices; and for connected purposes.

16) BBC Licence Fee (Civil Debt) – Bill to make provision to decriminalise the non-payment of the BBC licence fee.

17) Smoking (Private Members’ Clubs) – Bill to make provision to allow smoking in a separate ventilated room in a private members’ club if a majority of the members of the club so decide.

18) Margaret Thatcher Day – Bill to make provision that the annual Bank Holiday Monday in late August be known as Margaret Thatcher Day.

19) Department of Energy and Climate Change (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and for its functions to be absorbed into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

20) Married Couples (Tax Allowance) – Bill to make provision for a tax allowance for married couples.

21) Foreign Aid Ring-Fencing (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for foreign aid and development not to be linked to a specific percentage of Gross National Income, but to be set yearly, by Parliament, in relation to need.

22) Charitable Status for Religious Institutions – Bill to make provision for a presumption that religious institutions meet the public benefit test for charitable status.

23) Same Sex Marriage (Referendum) – Bill to make provision for a referendum on whether same sex marriage should be allowed.

24) Wind Farm Subsidies (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for the cessation of subsidies for the development of wind farms.

25) Withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights and Removal of Alleged Terrorists – Bill to make provision for an application to the Council of Europe to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights and to deport alleged terrorists subject to approval by the British courts.

26) Romanian and Bulgarian Accession (Labour Restriction) – Bill to make provision for restrictions on the residence in the UK of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals to continue.

27) BBC Privatisation – Bill to make provision for the privatisation of the British Broadcasting Corporation by providing shares in the Corporation to all licence fee payers.

28) Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for the abolition of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and its responsibilities to be allocated to other Departments of State.

29) Prime Minister (Replacement) – Bill to make provision for the appointment of a Prime Minister in the event that a Prime Minister is temporarily or permanently incapacitated.

30) United Kingdom (Withdrawal from the European Union) – Bill to make provision for the Government to give notice under Article 50 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; and for connected purposes.

31) Asylum (Time Limit) – Bill to require that asylum claims in the United Kingdom be lodged within three months of the claimant’s arrival in the United Kingdom; and that persons who have already entered the United Kingdom and wish to make an asylum claim must do so within three months of the passing of this Act.

32) Benefit Entitlement (Restriction) – Bill to make provision to restrict the entitlement of non-UK Citizens from the European Union and the European Economic Area to taxpayer-funded benefits.

33) Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) – Bill to make provision for criminal sanctions against those who have entered the UK illegally or who have remained in the UK without legal authority.

34) Sexual Impropriety in Employment – Bill to require that claims by employees alleging sexual impropriety be limited to cases where the alleged misconduct is contrary to the criminal law and has been reported to the police.

35) Collection of Nationality Data – Bill to require the collection and publication of information relating to the nationality of those in receipt of benefits and of those to whom national insurance numbers are issued.

36) Foreign Nationals (Access to Public Services) – Bill to restrict access by foreign nationals to United Kingdom public services for which no charge is made.

37) House of Lords (Maximum Membership) – Bill to provide for a maximum limit on the number of Peers entitled to vote in the House of Lords, and to provide for a moratorium on new appointments.

38) Control of Offshore Wind Turbines – Bill to restrict the height, number, location and subsidies of wind turbines situated offshore within 20 miles of the coast.

39) Employment Opportunities – Bill to introduce more freedom, flexibility and opportunity for those seeking employment in the public and private sectors; and for connected purposes.

40) EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) – Bill to require an independent audit of the benefits and costs of UK membership of the European Union.

A Conservative rosette worn by a supporter in Loughborough's Market Place. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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There is nothing compassionate about Britain’s Dickensian tolerance of begging

I was called “heartless” for urging police to refer beggars to support services. But funding drug habits to salve a liberal conscience is the truly cruel approach.

In Rochdale, like many other towns across the country, we’re working hard to support small businesses and make our high streets inviting places for people to visit. So it doesn’t help when growing numbers of aggressive street beggars are becoming a regular fixture on the streets, accosting shoppers.

I’ve raised this with the police on several occasions now and when I tweeted that they needed to enforce laws preventing begging and refer them to appropriate services, all hell broke loose on social media. I was condemned as heartless, evil and, of course, the favourite insult of all left-wing trolls, “a Tory”.

An article in the Guardian supported this knee-jerk consensus that I was a typically out-of-touch politician who didn’t understand the underlying reasons for begging and accused me of being “misguided” and showing “open disdain” for the poor. 

The problem is, this isn’t true, as I know plenty about begging.

Before I became an MP, I worked as a researcher for The Big Issue and went on to set up a social research company that carried out significant research on street begging, including a major report that was published by the homeless charity, Crisis.

When I worked at The Big Issue, the strapline on the magazine used to say: “Working not Begging”. This encapsulated its philosophy of dignity in work and empowering people to help themselves. I’ve seen many people’s lives transformed through the work of The Big Issue, but I’ve never seen one person’s life transformed by thrusting small change at them as they beg in the street.

The Big Issue’s founder, John Bird, has argued this position very eloquently over the years. Giving to beggars helps no one, he says. “On the contrary, it locks the beggar in a downward spiral of abject dependency and victimhood, where all self-respect, honesty and hope are lost.”

Even though he’s now doing great work in the House of Lords, much of Bird’s transformative zeal is lost on politicians. Too many on the right have no interest in helping the poor, while too many on the left are more interested in easing their conscience than grappling with the hard solutions required to turn chaotic lives around.

But a good starting point is always to examine the facts.

The Labour leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Leese, has cited evidence that suggests that 80 per cent of street beggars in Manchester are not homeless. And national police figures have shown that fewer than one in five people arrested for begging are homeless.

Further research overwhelmingly shows the most powerful motivating force behind begging is to fund drug addiction. The homeless charity, Thames Reach, estimates that 80 per cent of beggars in London do so to support a drug habit, particularly crack cocaine and heroin, while drug-testing figures by the Metropolitan Police on beggars indicated that between 70 and 80 per cent tested positive for Class A drugs.

It’s important to distinguish that homelessness and begging can be very different sets of circumstances. As Thames Reach puts it, “most rough sleepers don’t beg and most beggars aren’t rough sleepers”.

And this is why they often require different solutions.

In the case of begging, breaking a chaotic drug dependency is hard and the important first step is arrest referral – ie. the police referring beggars on to specialised support services.  The police approach to begging is inconsistent – with action often only coming after local pressure. For example, when West Midlands Police received over 1,000 complaints about street begging, a crackdown was launched. This is not the case everywhere, but only the police have the power to pick beggars up and start a process that can turn their lives around.

With drug-related deaths hitting record levels in England and Wales in recent years, combined with cuts to drug addiction services and a nine per cent cut to local authority health budgets over the next three years, all the conditions are in place for things to get a lot worse.

This week there will be an important homelessness debate in Parliament, as Bob Blackman MP's Homelessness Reduction Bill is due to come back before the House of Commons for report stage. This is welcome legislation, but until we start to properly distinguish the unique set of problems and needs that beggars have, I fear begging on the streets will increase.

Eighteen years ago, I was involved in a report called Drugs at the Sharp End, which called on the government to urgently review its drug strategy. Its findings were presented to the government’s drugs czar Keith Hellawell on Newsnight and there was a sense that the penny was finally dropping.

I feel we’ve gone backwards since then. Not just in the progress that has been undone through services being cut, but also in terms of general attitudes towards begging.

A Dickensian tolerance of begging demonstrates an appalling Victorian attitude that has no place in 21st century Britain. Do we really think it’s acceptable for our fellow citizens to live as beggars with no real way out? And well-meaning displays of “compassion” are losing touch with pragmatic policy. This well-intentioned approach is starting to become symptomatic of the shallow, placard-waving gesture politics of the left, which helps no one and has no connection to meaningful action.

If we’re going make sure begging has no place in modern Britain, then we can’t let misguided sentiment get in the way of a genuine drive to transform lives through evidenced-based effective policy.

Simon Danczuk is MP for Rochdale.