State Opening Of Parliament

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05 Jun 2014

The State Opening of Parliament took place yesterday, with the Queen's Speech outlining the Government's proposed policies and legislation for the next year.

Many people are deeply discontented with the direction of our country, increasingly feeling that it does not work for them; in the jobs they do and whether hard work is rewarded, in the prospects for their children and in the pressures communities face.

These are big issues for our country that go beyond one party or one government, that is why we need a change of direction for Britain with a legislative programme equal to the scale of the challenge our country faces. Instead we had a Queen’s Speech that offers more of the same.

Whether it offered a new direction for Britain to make this country work for all and not just a few at the top was the test for this Queen’s Speech. It is a test that has been failed.

Many of the measures have already been announced or indeed are simply watered down versions of things previously called for.

I would like to have seen a Queen’s Speech with bills to make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again in Britain. That would be a Queen's Speech to signal the new direction for Britain that our country needs.

There are some welcome measures on pensions and childcare, which could go further, but the Queen’s Speech does not rise to the scale of discontent or set Britain in a new direction.

On zero hour contracts it refuses to ensure that those working regular hours month after month get a regular contract. On housing, it sets out plans for a one off new town with 15,000 homes, when we need at least 200,000 homes built every year. It has nothing for families renting, no mention of the NHS and on immigration it does nothing to tackle the undercutting of wages.

The danger is we carry on as we have for the past few years, with a zombie Government with no real agenda. The last session of Parliament had the fewest number of government bills compared to any other year since 1950.

Instead Parliament should be making real progress to address the public’s discontent and chart a new direction for Britain. A different Queen’s Speech could have included a Make Work Pay Bill to reward hard work with a higher minimum wage, a Banking Bill that backs British business with a real British Investment Bank and new regional banks, a Consumers Bill to freeze energy bills until 2017 and reform the energy market, and a Housing Bill with long-term reform to increase supply to 200,000 homes by 2020 and measures to end rip-off letting fees and make three-year tenancies the norm.

There could also have been a Communities Bill to give people a say over payday lenders, an Immigration Bill to stop workers being undercut through enforcement of the minimum wage and banning recruitment agencies that only use overseas labour, and an NHS Bill to put a stop to its privatisation and improve access to GPs.