Posted: June 1, 2015
“Like a teenager’s bedroom, it will become a mess” – this was how one Guardian writer described this year’s Queen’s Speech. But then that’s hardly surprising from a newspaper that is not exactly pro-Conservative (according to a MORI poll taken in 2005, 48% of Guardian readers were Labour voters and 34% Liberal Democrat voters).
Still, even unbiased observers would admit that, despite the cut-and-paste nature of the first Conservative-only Queen’s Speech for nearly 20 years, the devil could be in the detail further down the line, given the Tories small majority in the House. For now, though, the key message was about a “One Nation” government, purportedly with the best interest of everyone in the country!
Reading out the speech, which is prepared for her by the government, from her throne in the House of Lords, the Queen said: “It [the government] will adopt a one nation approach, helping working people get on, supporting aspiration, giving new opportunities to the disadvantaged and bringing different parts of our country together.”
Mr Cameron described his first legislative programme as the head of a Conservative government as an agenda for “working people,” with three million more apprenticeships promised over the next five years and a new law to ensure the minimum wage remains tax-free. “There should be a job for everyone who wants one – in other words, full employment,” said the prime minister in his introduction to the Queen’s Speech.
He said that after the British economy was hauled back from the brink of disaster in 2010, the UK now stands “on the brink of something special”.
“We have a golden opportunity to renew the idea that working people are backed in this country; to renew the promise to those least fortunate that they will have the opportunity for a brighter future; and to renew the ties that bind every part of our United Kingdom.
The measures were unveiled by the Queen amid the usual pomp and ceremony. The proposed legislation includes:
• A ban on income tax, VAT and national insurance increases for five years
• A freeze on working age benefits, tax credits and child benefit for two years from 2016/17
• 30 hours free childcare a week for three and four-year-olds by 2017
• Cutting the total amount one household can claim in benefits from £26,000 to £23,000
Here are the some of the bills in more detail:
Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill (and related legislation): To freeze the main rates of the majority of working-age benefits, tax credits and child benefit. Pensioners and extra costs relating to disability will be protected. The benefit cap will be reduced to £23,000 per year. A new Youth Allowance for 18-21 year olds will be introduced, with stronger work conditions. Automatic entitlement to housing support for 18-21 year olds will be scrapped. Frequent reports will be required on progress towards full employment, three million apprenticeships and the status of the Troubled Families programme.
Personal Tax Allowance Bill: Ensuring that future increases to the income tax personal allowance reflect changes to the national minimum wage — so individuals on 30 hours a week do not pay income tax.
Enterprise Bill: Aiming for £10 billion of red tape savings by 2020, creating the Small Business Conciliation Service to help resolve business disputes, improving the business rates system ahead of a revaluation in 2017 as well as other measures to ‘strengthen the UK’s competitiveness’. Regulators will need to be more transparent and a cap will be introduced on exit payments for public sector workers.
Finance Bill (and National Insurance Contributions Bill): Setting a ceiling on rates of Income Tax, VAT and National Insurance so they cannot be raised above current levels.
Childcare Bill: Doubling free childcare to 30 hours a week for parents of three and four year olds. To help parents, local authorities will be required to publish more information about provision of childcare.
Housing Bill: Extending Right to Buy discounts to 1.3 million housing association tenants. Local authorities will be required to dispose of their most high-value properties. The bill will also provide statutory framework for the Starter Homes programme and Right to Build will be introduced, making it easier for individuals to build their own properties.
Energy Bill: Establish the Oil and Gas Authority as a new independent regulator, with the aim of maximising revenue from the UK’s oil and gas reserves. Local authorities will be given the final say on onshore wind farms applications. The objective to transition to a low carbon electricity system will remain, while maintaining the security of our energy supply.
Bank of England Bill: strengthening the governance and accountability of the Bank of England and formalising changes to the senior management. More details to be announced at a later date.
Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill: Strengthening the powers of the Charities Commission so they can close down a charity after an inquiry.