Michael Moore MP’s Westminster Notes

Every week Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland writes a column for local newspapers in his Borders constituency. Here is this week’s edition.

Queen’s Speech

Last week, we saw the State Opening of Parliament by the Queen. Her Majesty set out the legislation planned for the second session of Parliament following the formation of the Coalition. The legislation outlined in the speech supports our efforts to reduce the deficit, rebalance the economy and put the country on the path to sustainable growth. It also sets out our commitment to provide families, businesses and communities across the country with the support they need in these tough economic times.

 Banking reform

Back in 2008 the UK was held to ransom by the irresponsible behaviour of some of our banks which led to a multi-billion pound taxpayer-funded bailout to secure people’s bank deposits. Since forming the Coalition Government we have been absolutely committed to ensuring that the country is never put in this situation again and the Banking Reform Bill announced in the Queen’s speech last week will do just this. The Bill will separate retail banking from the more risky investment banking to deliver greater stability for the retail side – which local business and households rely on – and to reduce the risk of taxpayers having to bailout the banks in the future.

 A fairer State Pension

Since fulfilling the Lib Dem election pledge to restore the State Pension triple-lock and end the paltry rises we saw under the previous Government, we have seen the State Pension increased by a record £5.30 per week this April. However, the Coalition Government wants to go further than this and ensure that the State Pension is even more progressive and fairer for low-paid workers and women. This is why we have announced a Pensions Bill which will introduce single tier flat-rate State Pension currently worth around £140. This will particularly benefit women who often have lower pension contributions and it will also guarantee everyone a decent state pension on retirement.

 A boost for businesses

Small and medium-sized businesses are the key to the UK’s economic recovery and the Coalition Government has made clear its commitment to reduce the administrative and tax burden on these businesses to enable them to thrive. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill announced in the Queen’s speech will cut red tape for businesses, saving local companies time and money and enabling them to concentrate on creating the jobs and growth our communities need.

 Green, clean, affordable energy

Rising energy prices here in the Borders are a major concern for local people especially as household budgets are already under pressure. Securing the country’s long-term energy needs and reducing our dependence on the fluctuating supply and price of imported fossil fuels is therefore a top priority for the Government. This is why we announced plans to introduce an Energy Bill which will reform the energy market to secure a clean and affordable energy supply and give customers a better deal. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will also deliver on a long-standing Lib Dem commitment to set up the UK Green Investment Bank to promote private sector investment in renewable energy and other carbon-saving technologies.

 Groceries Code Adjudicator

I have long campaigned for a supermarket ombudsman to end the unfair practices which have damaged many of our local farm businesses, so it was great to see the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill in the Queen’s speech last week. The Bill will establish a new independent ombudsman to ensure supermarkets treat suppliers fairly. It will prevent large retailers from varying their supply agreements and ensure they pay their suppliers within a reasonable time. This is great news for Borders farmers and I look forward to the Bill becoming law in due course, to ensure our farmers get a fairer deal.

* Michael Moore was the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk from 1997-2015 and Secretary of State for Scotland from 2010-2013.

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