Just as Sarkozy so Cameron…
Queen’s speech: Ed Miliband accuses David Cameron of joining Ukip ‘circus’
Labour leader’s attack comes as veteran Tory MP warns PM not to appease voters on the right in response to Ukip surge
Ed Miliband mocked David Cameron for joining the Ukip “circus”, accusing the prime minister of attempting to out-Farage Nigel Farage, Ukip’s leader, and appearing to distance himself from same-sex marriage legislation in Wednesday’sthe Queen’s speech.
As a veteran Tory MP warned the prime minister not to appease disgruntled voters on the right in response to the Ukip surge, the Labour leader said that insulting or imitating the new fourth force in English politics would fail because the government had a reality problem.
In his response to the Queen’s speech, Miliband said: “They used to call [Ukip] clowns, now they want to join the circus. The whole point of the prime minister’s speech [on the EU] in January was to head off Ukip. Tory MPs were crowing the Ukip fox had been shot – job done, mission accomplished. Only it wasn’t.
“The lesson for the prime minister is you can’t out-Farage Farage. Banging on about Europe won’t convince the public, and the people behind him will keep coming back for more. A Europe referendum tomorrow, drop same-sex marriage, the demands go on. They will never be satisfied.”
Miliband attacked Cameron after the government moved to address the concerns raised by voters who have defected to Ukip by unveiling a new immigration bill in the Queen’s speech that will impose fines on private landlords that fail to check the immigrant status of their tenants.
Meanwhile, there was no mention of the bill legalising gay marriage, which was introduced in the last session and is being carried over into the new session.
Under the immigration plans, migrants will also face new restrictions on access to the NHS, with temporary migrants forced to make a contribution towards the cost of their care.
However, Downing Street admitted that the immigration bill would not be in place by next January, when labour market restrictions are lifted on citizens from Romania and Bulgaria. The bill will be introduced after the summer parliamentary recess, following a consultation on the proposed fines on private landlords and on the changes on NHS charging.
Government sources said the main measures aimed at Romanians and Bulgarians will be introduced through secondary legislation that will be in place by next January. These include a residency test for social housing, a requirement for migrants to have been resident in the UK for at least 12 months before they are entitled to claim civil legal aid and the plan to limit most jobseeker benefits to European Economic Area citizens if they fail to find work within six months.
The prime minister told MPs the immigration bill was the centrepiece of the legislative programme because it cuts across all government departments. He said: “For the first time, we will look to ensure that everyone’s immigration status is checked before they get access to a private rented home. For the first time, we are going to make sure that anyone not eligible for free healthcare actually foots the bill for that healthcare, either through themselves or through their government. And for the first time, foreign nationals who commit serious crimes will, wherever possible, be deported first and appeal second from their home country.”
Vince Cable, the business secretary, indicated that there may still be a battle within the coalition over plans to monitor migrants’ use of the NHS. He told The World at One that doctors must not be expected to make such checks.
“That is not the role of doctors – doctors are there to provide medical care,” he said. “There is a question about whether people who administer GPs’ surgeries and hospitals should be in the business of checking. Actually there is a fair amount of that goes on already.”
Cameron indicated the government had ambitious plans on foreign criminals when he said that senior ministers examined plans at a meeting of the national security council last week to deport foreign nationals as soon as they are sentenced. He made his remarks after Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the commons home affairs select committee, said there are 4,000 foreign national ex-offenders living in the community, 65% of whom have been doing so for two years.
Cameron said to Vaz: “The situation with foreign national offenders is still completely unacceptable. There are very large numbers still here from countries like Nigeria, Jamaica and others that we have very good relations with. We are going to make sure we deal with this problem a lot faster.”
The prime minister faced criticism for abandoning plans to force tobacco companies to use plain packaging and to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, but he said: “On the issue of plain packaging for cigarettes, that consultation is still under way and we are looking very carefully at that issue. On the issue of minimum unit pricing for alcohol, I think it is important we take action to deal with the very deeply discounted alcohol –a can of lager sometimes at as little as 25p in supermarkets. We will be coming forward with a package of measures. That is important and we need to get that right.”
Labour pointed out that the consultation on tobacco packaging closed in August 2012.
Peter Luff, the MP for Mid Worcestershire and former Tory defence minister who was the first MP to respond to the Queen’s speech as he delivered the traditional backbench proposal, warned Cameron against attempting to appease Ukip. He cited the example of Stanley Baldwin, a fellow Worcestershire MP and pre-second world war Tory prime minister who is regarded as one of the upholders of the Tory “one nation” tradition, as he said: “That one nation tradition … has inspired me. It runs though the Conservative party like the lettering in seaside rock, and it is by holding fast to that tradition that my party will be trusted to serve the nation.
“Our response to other parties, particularly those with beguilingly simplistic agendas, must not be to appease or to trim, but to listen and understand and then to challenge and confront from the strength of that unique one nation perspective.”
Nigel Nigel Farage, Ukip’s leader, said: “It was a Queen’s speech designed to tell Ukip voters: ‘don’t worry, we are dealing with things’.”