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Queen’s Speech Policy SummaryBack

QueensSpeech2On Wednesday the Queen presented her final speech for the coalition government before next year’s general election, currently set for 7 May 2015.

A number of key legislative reforms have been announced, with a number of bills being carried over from the 2013-2014 parliamentary session. In total, 11 new bills were announced and three new draft bills (it is however, unlikely these new draft bills will receive royal assent by the general election).

Business and employment were strong themes throughout the speech with a number of bills impacting on businesses within the automotive industry; with this in mind, the RMI policy office has put together a summary of the relevant legislation you need to know about and what we will be monitoring.

The old boys

In total, six bills will be carried over into the new parliamentary term after failing to be completed by the last parliamentary sitting. Of those, the following are most notable:

Draft Consumer Rights Bill

As we found last year, the draft Consumer Rights Bill remains a topic of debate within Parliament. With the Government still working towards the consolidation and simplification of consumer legislation, a carry-over motion has granted the Bill to continue into the final legislative coalition programme for 2014-2015.

Deregulation Bill

The Deregulation Bill will also move forward into the new parliamentary session; this is attempting to streamline bureaucratic processes on businesses.

The new Bills in town

The following bills have been announced today:

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill

This will look to encourage further growth in the British economy by “cutting bureaucracy and enabling [businesses] to access finance”. Support will be concentrated on small businesses, aided by the deregulation reforms. The bill will also look to:

  • Reduce delays in employment tribunals,
  • Improve contracts for low paid workers,
  • Create a public register of company beneficial ownership,
  • Introduce higher penalties for employers who fail to pay minimum wage to their staff.

Infrastructure Bill

This will look to strengthen and encourage investment in infrastructure and planning law. Energy security will also be enhanced for Britain, as access to the UK’s shale and geothermal sites will be opened. This is crucial to support the UK’s energy independence.

Notably, it has also been stated that there will be a continued freeze on fuel duty.

Pensions

Arguably, it is the Government’s pension reforms that will be most notable from today’s speech. The two bills will look to create a new freedom for pensioners who will be able to ‘cash in’ their pension savings rather than buy an annuity.

In essence, the pension reforms and thus the new bills are centred on flexibility and freedom. The bills have been coordinated by Liberal Democrat Steve Webb MP.

Pension Tax Bill

This will provide individuals discretion over the use of their retirement funds.

Private Pensions Bill

Set to offer more alternatives as to how people can invest in the private pensions market, providing more choices. In essence, this will give employees greater control over their pension funds.

Apprenticeships

A key commitment has been announced that the Con-Lib Dem coalition will look to “increase the total number of apprenticeship places to two million by the end of the Parliament”.

Europe

The speech made mentions of the need for stronger roles for nation states and national parliaments within the European Union. This was expected following the recent European elections results (25 May). The results provided evidence of far reaching discontent across the 28 European states, with many nations showing greater support for right-centred politics, moving away from centralised European government.

Whilst the Queen spoke of “work to promote reform in the European Union’, there was no mention of an ‘in-out’ referendum. The reasoning for this lack of legislative commitment is simple, Coalition Government does not agree on this motion.

So what does this mean?

Today’s speech was in some respects, limited. Political commentators have noted that the number of new bills on the parliamentary ‘to-do list’ are relatively sparse, although a number have been carried over from the last parliamentary session.

Interestingly Nick Robinson, British journalist and political editor for the BBC stated “nothing in the speech today will change the electoral map” (BBC News). With efforts now concentrated on the impending general election of May 2015, questions will be asked as to whether the government should have gone further with their proposed plan of action? What must be remembered is with around 100 legislative days left until the general election, passing bills through Westminster will be tight; this was probably never going to be a huge legislative manifesto.

Posted by Sue Robinson on 06/06/2014