28 May 2015

Ahead of this week's Queen's Speech, Prime Minister David Cameron said that it would bring the country together so that "whoever you are and wherever you live you can have the chance of a good education, a decent job and a home of your own".

He would know, of course, as despite the title the Speech is actually a statement by Mr Cameron and his Ministers of their ambitions for their term in government. So what did they give Her Majesty to say?

Childcare

New measures will involve "greatly increasing the provision of free childcare". Free childcare for three and four year-olds for 30 hours a week for 38 weeks a year has been indicated.

Constitution

While there will be further devolution to Scotland, proposals will be put forward for "fairer procedures" for English MPs in the House of Commons. Presumably this will involve English votes for English laws (and a new acronym to learn: EVEL).

Construction

Nothing of much interest for the construction industry, except a repeat of the pre-election promise to introduce legislation to support home ownership and give housing association tenants the chance to buy their homes.

Economy

Measures will be introduced to increase productivity and job creation. Devolution of powers to cities (and elected "Metro Mayors") will help to build a Northern Powerhouse and better balance the economy.

EU

An in-out referendum will, as expected, be the subject of early legislation. This will give people their first chance since 1975 to have their say on the country’s membership of the EU.

Human rights

There will be a British Bill of Rights introduced (but only after public consultation). Interesting, in the light of the comment from the outgoing EU Commissioner for Justice Martine Reicherts, last year, when she warned that the UK could not pick and choose on human rights law and that if it pulls out of the ECHR then it has "to go the whole way" and leave the European Union as well.

Immigration

Measures will be introduced to control immigration but none of the detail in which businesses will be interested when they consider filling skills gaps with migrant workers.

Pensions

"Measures will also be brought forward to secure the real value of the basic State pension, so that more people live in dignity and security in retirement," according to the Speech.

Small businesses

Red tape will be cut to help them to create more jobs. Business Secretary Sajid Javid has already set a target of at least £10 billion.

Social cohesion

The Home Office will be busy as the Queen mentioned new legislation to modernise the law on communications data, to improve the law on policing and criminal justice, and to ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs.

Taxation

The Government will legislate to ensure that working 30 hours a week on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) is and always will be tax free. The income tax personal allowance will rise to £12,500 by 2020.

As promised before the election, legislation will be introduced involving a five-year tax lock which means there will be no income tax, VAT or National Insurance rises in this Parliament. (incidentally, the Financial Times said this was the silliest proposal of the whole election campaign).

Trade unions

Will be reformed and essential services protected against strikes. These moves have been flagged up in advance and involve a 50% turnout threshold for strike ballots, with an even stricter level for strike votes in essential services. The TUC has already claimed that the plans would effectively outlaw most strikes.

Young people

Legislation will be introduced encouraging employment by capping benefits and requiring young people to earn or learn. This means that, after six months, they will have to start an apprenticeship or enter training to continue to receive the youth allowance.

Want to know more

The Government has published Briefing notes on the announcements made in the Speech. The 100+ page document can be found at http://bit.ly/1BoM4jC.

The Queen concluded the speech by telling MPs and Peers: "May the blessings of almighty God rest upon your counsels". Looking at the list of proposed legislation, and the battles ahead, the Prime Minister will have said amen to that.