The Coalition round two. As the Queen sets out the government’s new plans, will new hope be given to the tired marriage of the coalition or will we just see a repeat of the previous two years?
The Queen set out the government’s new plans in front of both Houses of Parliament today, in her first speech in the Lords for two years.The Queen stated that
cutting the deficit and restoring economic growth is the government’s number one priority. The speech was far shorter than expected, lasting only around 15 minutes. Within that time 14 Bills and four draft Bills were announced, much fewer than in 2010. Despite this, many have dubbed the new legislations as the coalitions fight back, with Cameron and Clegg mounting a new offensive after the heavy defeat in the recent local elections.
Constitutional change featured in the Speech along with new laws to modernise adult care, encourage more investment in low carbon generation and clean energy and break up the banks to prevent another financial crash.
Reform for the House of Lords was announced, bringing democracy to the House to ensure the majority of its members are elected. The Lords reform is likely to prove the most debated with some Conservative MPs likely to fight plans for a smaller and mostly-elected second chamber.
Important legislation announced today included: the Crime and Courts Bill that will be introduced to establish the National Crime Agency. This will tackle serious and organised crime and strengthen border security. The courts and tribunals service will be reformed to increase efficiency, transparency and judicial diversity.
The Children and Families Bill is an important new change and will help mothers in England, Scotland and Wales. They will be able to transfer maternity leave to their partners. There will be better support for special needs pupils and improved access arrangements for divorced fathers in England. The adoption system will also be reformed.
The Government will also bring forward measures to modernise the pension system and reform the state pension, creating a fair, simple and sustainable foundation for private saving. This was received well by Conservative MP Louise Mensch who said: “Pension reform is the measure I am most excited about.” The Electoral Registration and Administration Bill was introduced which will bring individual voter registration to cut down on fraud. One of the draft bills introduced today was the Draft Communications Bill, which will make it easier for police and other agencies to access, store and share data on private phone calls and email communications.
The Queen also announced the creation of a new green investment bank that will be established to promote private sector investment in a greener economy. It will be a world first and promises to create a more environmentally friendly economy, the bank will be capitalised with an initial £3bn.
As expected, there was no mention of same-sex marriage reform in the speech. Doubts arose about the inclusion of the Bill on Sunday May 6th when George Osborne, appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, pledged the Government would “focus on the things that really matter” instead of other reforms. He was talking about the exclusion of same-sex marriage and the House of Lords reform. However with Lords reform making the speech today, how will this make the coalition look in the eyes of many especially in times when they need all the public support they can get.
“focus on the things that really matter”
In a statement released by the coalition leaders along side the Queen’s speech this morning, Cameron and Clegg have spoken strongly about the past two years and no doubt is given that they mean business in the remaining years of their possible first and only term in government. They stressed that the economy is still top on their very long list: “We have already made some tough choices, and we will continue to make sure we keep spending down so unlike others in Europe, families can benefit from low interest rates and Britain is protected from the global debt storm…But there was another urgent task – the country was crying out for a change of values, craving more opportunity and fairness in our economy and more responsibility in our society.”
A few hours after the address was given in the Lords, parliament had its first sitting of the new sessions.
Ed Milliband pulled out, of his not so consistent bag of speeches, a rather assertive and confident performance. After offering condolences for service men and MPs lost since the last Queen’s Speech, he went on to commend Nadhim Zahawi MP Conservative for Stratford and The Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP Liberal Democrat MP for Gordon on their opening speeches. After this Milliband was quick off the mark to criticise the coalitions new proposed legislations saying that it offers: “no hope” to the unemployed or those being squeezed by the rise in living costs. He went on to attack the coalitions apparent come back constantly repeating, “They just don’t get it.”
The leader of the opposition did say his party would support measures such as parental leave and a green investment bank, but the Queen’s Speech contained nothing for the young unemployed, working families and “millions of people who don’t think the government is on their side…No change, no hope – that is the real message of this Queen’s Speech,”
“No change, no hope – that is the real message of this Queen’s Speech,”
Milliband went on to talk about the prime ministers promise on future funding for the elderly and confronted Cameron on a promise he made merely two sittings ago, saying that care for the elderly is one of the biggest concerns in the country: “There is nothing to stop the government speeding up the process, committing to legislation in this session, nothing at all. But they have chosen not to do so.”
Mr Milliband, recalling an interview a few days ago, told the house how Cameron had said: ”You call it austerity, I call it efficiency.” Talking about unemployment and the abrupt approach the PM had taken on the subject. Milliband said: “In two years he has gone from David Cameron to David Brent.” Cameron blushed at the comment that received a bellowing response from all sides of the house.
”You call it austerity, I call it efficiency.”
David Cameron defended fast, but fell short in terms of having the fiery belly that Milliband appeared to possess. He was quick to remind the house and all respective members that in the last session of parliament, the longest for 100 years, the coalition brought down the deficit, capped welfare, scrapped ID cards, accelerated academies, brought in the pupil premium and froze the council tax to mention but a few.
Mr Cameron started off by talking about Foreign policy and Afghanistan and stating: “Our troops will no longer be in a combat role beyond the end of 2014, that is our deadline and I will not waver from it.”
From the war in Afghanistan to the war on Terror the PM moved on to talk about Yemen and how it is now the most serious terrorist threat to the country. This was clear yesterday with the emergence of the ‘Underwear bomber’, who is now said to be a double agent working for the US and another secret organisation. Cameron talked about support of the new government in Yemen and how it is – “absolutely vital work.”
This led on to talks about the Draft Communication Bill. Mr Cameron made himself very clear in saying he did not want to: “Look at content of peoples telephone calls but just to update the necessary measures for finding out who called who when.” He urged to the house that he doesn’t want to be the PM saying – “I could have done more to prevent terrorist acts but we didn’t have the courage to take difficult steps.” This was received to great groans of acceptance and pride from a lot of MPs all over the house.
We seem to have found ourselves back where we started, with a lot of promises and a lot of debate as to whether the coalition and their policies will deliver. With the House of Lord reform going to take up a great deal of parliamentary time, unless MPs suspicions are proven correct with senior ministers saying it is not a big thing, we may be in for another rocky road that will fall short of ours and the coalitions desires. They are hoping for something vastly better. This reset is giving the coalition another go and unless they pull it out of the bag they are at great risk in future elections`. It could also see the romantic coalition relationship that started on such good terms in the Rose Garden on that perfect spring day end. Keep all eyes on Clegg and see how he operates in the coming months, where will his allegiance lie at the end of all this. Things are going to get interesting.