Jan Royall on the Coalition’s failure to tackle the real issues concerning our country
Today’s Queen’s Speech follows a set of election results that made clear the high level of dissatisfaction felt by many people about the direction in which our country is heading. 64% of the electorate did not see the point of voting, while some of those who did put their cross on the ballot paper did so in the spirit of ‘a plague on all your houses’. Many of them believe national politicians have failed them, that we have over promised and under delivered, and that they simply don’t have a voice.
So do today’s announcements address the real challenges before our country? Looking at the speech, you have to wonder whether it was finalized before the government knew the results of the May elections. Either way, the Coalition does not seem to want to face up to the issues many of us will have heard on the doorstep about insecurity, unfairness and instability.
Media briefings have made the reduction in the use of plastic bags a key measure. All very important but the fact that this has taken centre stage when there is no mention of the health or adult care tells you all you need to know about the Coalition’s priorities. Where is the Bill to put right the mistakes made in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act? We need more than the measures to limit excessive redundancy payments across the public sector – a direct consequence of the wasteful £3 billion restructuring of the NHS.
We welcome the Small Business Bill, a direct response to Labour’s policies, but it doesn’t go far enough. Nor does the proposed legislation to improve the fairness of contracts for low paid workers and that to impose higher penalties on employers who fail to pay the minimum wage. More must be done to ensure that work pays and workers are not exploited.
The government’s re-announcements on childcare are to be commended, as they were when they were first announced. But if Ministers really do believe that investment in childcare is critical for working parents and our economy, why won’t the measures be introduced until 2015? Parents need improved child care now.
We also can’t forget earlier legislation, the negative impact of which is now being felt, for example the Bedroom Tax (as DWP Minister Lord Freud often calls it), the scope of which has now widened. I look forward to being part of a government that will abolish what has ultimately been a pernicious attack on vulnerable people.
Next Thursday will see the start of the World Cup when I hope all parliamentarians will be cheering England on, despite the Home Office’s shameful assessment of the team’s chances. To win games, they will have to be fit, work as a team and meet the challenges of their competitors.
Likewise, in the globalised world of the 21st Century, where competition from the developing and developed world is getting stronger, each and every part of our country needs to be fit, with economic growth and quality sustainable jobs; and each and every member of our society needs to have the opportunity to realise their potential for their own wellbeing and that of their community. With this Queen’s Speech, the Coalition had an opportunity to respond to some of these challenges but they have failed to do so.
Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon is Shadow Leader of the House of Lords. She tweets @LabourRoyall
Published 4th June 2014