Norman Lamb: “A Queen’s Speech of which Liberal Democrats can be proud”

It is worth spending a moment reflecting on just how remarkable today’s Queen’s Speech is from a Liberal Democrat perspective.

We have become conditioned to believe that the policies we develop will never be implemented. A good intellectual exercise but nothing more. Yet here we have a programme for government of which we can be proud. It contains an extraordinary list of Liberal Democrat commitments on which we fought the general election.

Right from the start the speech grabs attention:

My Government’s legislative programme will be based upon the principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility.

Who would have dreamt of those words introducing the Queen’s speech just a few weeks ago?

But the substance of the speech doesnt disappoint either. Of course there is compromise. But this is in the nature of coalition Government. Far better to have the chance to make a real difference than to remain pure but irrelevant.

The Speech recognises the absolute importance of tackling the deficit. Unless public finances are put in order, so much of what we want to achieve falls by the wayside. But beyond that central objective this is no “lowest common denominator” compromise. It is ambitious, inspiring and genuinely radical.

The real achievement of the negotiating teams on both sides was to have created a coalition agreement of substance which is intellectually coherent and substantial. The Queen’s speech also reflects that.

So we see the commitment to a fairer and simpler tax system. The Government is committed to raising the personal allowance to £10,000 during the course of this Parliament.

The political and constitutional reform programme will deliver what so many of us have campaigned for throughout our adult lives.

This is what brought many Liberal Democrats into politics. We have the potential now to modernise the way this country is governed: to disperse power rather than hoard it at the centre, to clean up politics and to make Parliament more democratic.

So there are commitments to devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods, introduce fixed term Parliaments, legislate for a referendum on the Alternative Vote, giving citizens the right to recall their Members of Parliament where they are guilty of serious wrongdoing, reform of funding of political parties and a reformed second House “wholly or mainly elected on the basis of proportional representation”.

Just read those last few words again and let it sink in.

And remember also that Labour came to office in 1997 promising so much on constitutional reform – but delivered so little. 13 years in power. Yet the hallmark of that Government turned out to be a resistance to reform and an even greater centralising of power.

And remember just how nonchalant Labour was about the steady erosion of our freedoms, our civil liberties. This Queen’s Speech addresses that as well. A commitment to restore freedoms and repeal unnecessary, intrusive laws. Scrapping Identity Cards, ending child detention.

13 years of Labour Governments reminds us that we need to trust people more and empower local communities if we want to improve our country.

There are other aspects of the programme which particularly please me. It seeks to enhance the role of social enterprises and co-operatives in public services. On health, it commits to reducing health inequalities. I am thrilled that the coalition agreement commits to elected health boards. Before the election I argued the case for establishing a commission to determine how best to reform the funding of care for elderly people. That is in the Queen’s speech. On Royal Mail, having taken proposals through party conference back in 2006 for injecting private finance and for establishing a John Lewis style employee trust, we now have the chance to deliver on this!

On education and on climate change again Liberal Democrats can be enthusiastic about this programme. Look at the substance of education reforms. They are completely consistent with what we argued for in the election campaign. And the commitment to the pupil premium will make a real difference.

The road ahead is going to be challenging and there will inevitably be hard choices. What I am sure of is that a Government with Liberal Democrat policies hardwired into its fabric is the best way to secure real change and help build a fairer Britain.

Norman Lamb MP is the Chief Parliamentary and Political Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister.

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36 Comments

  • shame on you all lib dems, letting the conservatives bring froward welfare reforms that if take the form of the document (dynamic benefits) proposed by the think tank ian duncan smith was chairman of, will see a drastic reduction in those eligable for benefits, it will increase poverty and homlessness, it is a copy of the united states welfare system, the affect of which has meant millions having to rely on charities to feed and cloth them.

    5 million on out of work benefits
    445,000 job vacancys
    =4 half million without jobs

    where are all the jobs to come from, will you really let the consevatives means test dla.
    will you let them reduce sickness benefits to level of jsa

    shame on you if you do

  • Walter West 25th May '10 - 9:45pm

    It is a Queen’s speech that Lib-Dems and Conservatives can all be proud of (except for those who still won’t accept being in coalition). A devolution of power and a civil liberties being restored to the people – not a bad pair of principles.

    Together we can dismantle Labour’s ‘state of fear’ and start bringing public spending under control. The more I see of this coalition the more I like it…

  • Andrea Gill 25th May '10 - 9:55pm

    Going by the first comment, we need to invest a lot more money into basic education so at least the trolls can spell properly…

  • LOL Andrea I think you could be right there ;).

    I was very pleased with the content of the Queen’s speech today. It should be a proud day for any Liberal Democrat to hear our policies being read out.

    It’s time to take down the beginnings of the police state that Labour wanted and restore freedom.

    I was however disappointed about the arrest of Brian Haw this morning in Parliament Square. This is not a good start for a Government that is committed to allow peaceful protest. I hope an investigation will be held into the incident.

  • Most enjoyable Queen’s Speech I have ever seen.

    @Joe – There is a Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition Government because of the results of a General Election, in which people voted as they wished to. General Election results do not happen because the Lib Dems “allow” them to, the people who vote decide.

  • @ Chris Mills, they haven’t passed the Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill yet, so Brian Haw might still be subject to “the beginnings of the police state”.

  • I have a slightly tangential question: if Nick Clegg fails to get AV through referendum (something I think is highly likely), will this represent a failure? And would such a failure be considered an existential crisis for his leadership of the party?

  • @RCM – Brian Haw was arrested for resisting the search of his tent for weapons etc. Not for being there.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th May '10 - 11:28pm

    “Brian Haw was arrested for resisting the search of his tent for weapons etc. Not for being there.”

    Also – I believe – for damaging police property (viz., a boot) when he head-butted it.

  • Sea Palling Calling 25th May '10 - 11:31pm

    Hey Norman,

    just before the election you told my wife “Vote for me to keep the tories out – a lot of people around here are doing it”.

    nice one Norman, I look forward to your next visit to the village when I would like to ask you about all that mortgage interest you claimed on your second home, and those “dangerous” budget cuts you are now implementing with your Tory friends.

    Shame on you. But no surprise.

  • Sir Humphrey 25th May '10 - 11:42pm

    As a local party chair it pains me to say this but Joe is right to a degree. I work for the JCP and am deeply troubled by the proposals which are extremely regressive in my view.

  • @Andrea and Anthony – Well that is an interesting way to conduct a peaceful protest, but in principle I stand by what I said, whether it applies to Brian Haws’ situation or not.

    @mpg – How can Nick Clegg be responsible for the results of a referendum on AV? I would feel mighty betrayed if he campaigned against it, but I doubt I would blame him for how people voted. Do you think we should introduce a new way of voting without asking the people if they want it?

  • “Look at the substance of education reforms. They are completely consistent with what we argued for in the election campaign.”

    Oh, come on. We said nothing about free schools. Let’s have some honest debate. If we traded a concession to the Tories in exchange for the things we won, that’s one thing. If some people are happy with sneaking a major policy shift through with as little discussion as possible, then it’s quite another.

  • allentaylorhoad 26th May '10 - 12:32am

    “Do you think we should introduce a new way of voting without asking the people if they want it?”

    Yes. Nobody ever asked us if we wanted FPTP. But then again, nobody asked us if we wanted fixed-term parliaments to last five years, or if we wanted a 55% requirement for a dissolution.

    If the referendum on AV is lost – I doubt if it will be, as most people think that the voting system needs reforming – then the Lib Dems will have achieved less than nothing when this coalition collapses and the party is consigned to oblivion.

    I wish that posters would stop assuming that all dissenters on here are trolls, although I’m sure some are. I was a member of the Lib Dems until two weeks ago, and if you trawl back through the pre-election threads on MSN Politics, you will see that I used to be a very enthusiastic supporter of what I thought was a progressive, anti-Tory, party.

  • Paul McKeown 26th May '10 - 1:05am

    @allentaylorhoad

    I’m sorry to read that you are no longer a member of the Liberal Democrats. What would have to change for you to come back?

  • Andrew Suffield 26th May '10 - 5:35am

    I was however disappointed about the arrest of Brian Haw this morning in Parliament Square. This is not a good start for a Government that is committed to allow peaceful protest. I hope an investigation will be held into the incident.

    Two points here:

    – he’s not been arrested for anything to do with the protest, but just the nebulous old “obstructing police”. It’s the generic police harassment charge for when they can’t come up with any actual crimes but need to justify all the effort. It usually results in small fines or dismissed cases.
    – even when repealed, there is still some legitimacy to trying people for crimes committed before the law was repealed, and short of issuing an explicit pardon the government is not allowed to meddle in this normal operation of the judiciary. Prosecutors may decide not to bother though. It would be hard to get a jury to convict on a repealed law.

    I wish that posters would stop assuming that all dissenters on here are trolls, although I’m sure some are.

    There’s only about three or four of them, but at the rate they spam up comment threads with semi-coherent ranting, they tend to draw the most attention. Incidentally “assume all dissenters are trolls” is one of their lines. I don’t think anybody really does that, it’s pretty obvious which people have a genuine disagreement and which ones are just looking to start a pointless argument.

    (That doesn’t mean people have much sympathy for the group whose disagreement was just “I want to bash Tories and this coalition doesn’t accommodate that”)

  • Grammar Police 26th May '10 - 8:30am

    @ Sea Palling Calling; unless you didn’t notice – Norman did keep the Tories out in his own seat, and the Lib Dems generally prevented the Tories from having a majority Government (or even a minority one). We now have a Government which at least has some Liberal Democrat policies.

    Norman didn’t say “Vote for me because I’ll automatically put Gordon Brown back in No 10 no matter what.” If you thought he would, you were sadly mistaken. Shame on you. But no surprise.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th May '10 - 8:34am

    “Oh, come on. We said nothing about free schools. Let’s have some honest debate. If we traded a concession to the Tories in exchange for the things we won, that’s one thing. If some people are happy with sneaking a major policy shift through with as little discussion as possible, then it’s quite another.”

    Surely it’s more a question of educational circumstances having changed completely in a way nobody could possibly have foreseen the weekend after the election.

  • ” Nobody ever asked us if we wanted FPTP. But then again, nobody asked us if we wanted…”

    The basis of your point seems to be that nobody asked us about “blank”, therefore we don’t have to ask them about “blip”. If it was rude not to be asked, then I think it would also be rude not to ask. Although I can deal with not being agreed with.

    Regarding the theory that the party will be “consigned to oblivion”, do the people who are saying that not know that there was a time when the Liberals had 6 MP’s? We are already back from there!

    For those who thought that they were in the “Anti-Tory Party”, as far as I know there isn’t one – but you are in a multi-party democracy, so if that is what best reflects your ideas, you can start one up.

  • The “free schools” plan as outlined by Michael Gove this morning seems just like a re-hash of the failed “opted out” schools policy of the late 80s / early 90s. The only thing that stops me shouting more about it is that it can’t be introduced in Scotland by Westminster (and in any case, in the whole time it was available in Scotland only 2 schools opted out, both because they were threatened with closure and not because they really wanted to.) It’s the old theory of introducing markets into education – markets and education don’t mix, because markets need success and – through nature – not all children have the same ability.

    I’m still prepared to give the coalition the benefit of the doubt for now, though, mainly because of the constitutional changes we can see coming. Hopefully there won’t be too many other things like this creeping out of the woodwork, though.

  • David Allen 26th May '10 - 9:32am

    Anthony,

    You’re right, of course. The Greeks have changed everything in one fell swoop, so, now we’re all going to have to study Greek!

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '10 - 9:57am

    In reply to joe, the alternative was to abstain and let a minority Tory government have its way, which would be likely to do far worse things. I’d have preferred the situation to have been one where a coalition with Labour would have worked, but the way the people of this country voted meant this was not a possibility. Now we are in this situation, it is clear the old line “Which would you go into coalition with?” doesn’t have a clear answer – it depends on what the situation is after the election.

    I’m pleased to see quite a few things in this Queen’s Speech which would not have been there had the government been a purely Tory one, and quite a few things not there which probably would have been had this been a purely Tory government.

    I am particularly pleased to see the Queen’s Speech has a pledge to increase Capital Gains Tax to a level similar to income tax. Look at how the front page of the Telegraph today is an attack on that. The Telegraph calls increasing CGT an “attack on the middle classes”. Actually, the people who are really in the middle income bracket in this country are unlikely to be serious payers of CGT but they will benefit from the reduction income tax made available by CGT rises. The class warfare waged by the Telegraph, Mail and Times on behalf of what is really the upper class in this country is disgusting. These hypocrites were moaning about “job tax” before the election, and by “jobs tax” they meant a tax on income as NI contributions are. Now we have proposed higher CGT in order to have less income tax, do they maintain consistency and praise us for our wish to cut jobs tax? No, when it comes to protecting the super-rich and their income gained merely by being rich not by working, that is their first priority, and they’re happy to have a jobs tax to pay for the idle rich to be able to remain idle and rich.

  • I’m a Lib Dem member and activist, lifelong Liberal and support the coalition. But, to proclaim we are restoring freedom to protest and then to see the peace camp outside Parliament being broken up by Boris is sickening. I was in London last weej, saw the camp and it gladdened my heart to see it as a symbol of democracy. Is Boris deliberately making waves? I also read in the Independent that Nick gave his tacit agreement to this. If so he has been very naive. We should hang our heads in shame.

    Please forgive any bad spelling, sending this from my phone on a non too smooth train.

    Donald

  • @Donald – I agree it sound like Boris is kicking up a fuss in protest (irony!), however protesters climbing buildings, making a mess, urinating on monuments, are NOT doing their so called cause ANY favours whatsoever.

  • Urinating on monuments is not exercising freedom of speech, and it is not going to help stop any war, anywhere.

  • “My government’s legislative programme will be based upon the principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility”

    The Lib Dems are obviously proud to have their policies in the Queen’s Speech. But don’t get carried away. At the General Election the Conservatives polled 36.1%; Labour 29%; Lib Dems 23%; Others11.9% Clearly, 77% of those who voted did not want Lib Dem policies but they are going to get them anyway. Fairness?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th May '10 - 11:02am

    But Nick Clegg was pushing this “free schools” idea quite strongly himself a couple of years ago, wasn’t he? I could never see it myself, but quite a few people here seemed pretty keen on it.

  • Paul McKeown 26th May '10 - 11:06am

    @MacK

    “Clearly, 77% of those who voted did not want Lib Dem policies but they are going to get them anyway. Fairness?”

    And whose policies would you have implemented then? Fairness?

    Who cares? Go Duopolitans, go!

    A bit more logic and mathematical awareness next time, please?

  • “But Nick Clegg was pushing this “free schools” idea quite strongly himself a couple of years ago, wasn’t he?”

    So it would seem. I remember at the time being struck by the lack of an audit trail. There were plenty of unattributable briefings to journalists, but no recorded speeches or writings. At the time, I was inclined to give Nick the benefit of the doubt on the issue. After all, it is quite legitimate to get excited about a clever idea, and then decide that it isn’t yet quite solid enough to turn it into policy. I reasoned that if Nick and others had not launched our systematic procedures for developing policy and writing manifesto commitments on free schools, then that meant that we weren’t going to be pushing them any time soon.

    What price our systematic policy development procedures now?

  • George Kendall 26th May '10 - 12:56pm

    Like Sir Humphrey, I think Joe has a point.

    I think there is a case for conditional benefits as a way to help pull people out of the psychological trap of long-term unemployment. But it cannot be done as a revenue-saving exercise, especially at a time of high unemployment. To work, it needs to provide high quality support and training, and, in the short-term, that will cost extra money.

    I do, however, take some comfort from the presence of Steve Webb in Ian Duncan Smith’s department. He is someone with real expertise in the area, and a passionate commitment to social justice.

  • @MacK

    However, there was a lot of cross over between the LD/Con Parties manifestos, read both and you’ll see that in areas the only real difference is the wording.

    So using your own methodology, you would have to say that there are plenty of areas where 59.1% of the vote did want those particular Lib Dem proposals.

  • Andrea Gill 26th May '10 - 4:56pm

    I must say that Simon Hughes had a lot of good arguments for Academies etc. Faith schools – one of which he is involved in – enjoy this sort of privilege already, this just frees it up.

  • @MacK, Can you please point out which General Election, since WWII, left this country being governed by a party which had been voted for by the majority of the electorate? If you cannot do that, please explain how the current Coalition is any less fair than any of their post war predecessors?

  • Sea Palling Calling 26th May '10 - 6:04pm

    @Grammar Police

    I didn’t mention Gordon Brown? Or voting Labour. Or wanting a Labour government still. Don’t infer, just read what’s there.

    I am narked that we DO have largely Tory policies that are now being helped along and also justified by Lib Dems who told me they were dangerous policies. The sight of Cable explaining how the “dangerous” cuts that would “risk a double recession” are now necessary and a good idea (using Greece as the reason – total bollocks as we all know) is nauseating. But again, no surprise. It will be hilarious.

  • John Emerson 26th May '10 - 7:23pm

    “And remember also that Labour came to office in 1997 promising so much on constitutional reform – but delivered so little. 13 years in power. Yet the hallmark of that Government turned out to be a resistance to reform and an even greater centralising of power.”

    hmmm, while labour did come up short in many areas, perhaps calling devolution ‘so little’ may not be the best way to push the new ‘respect’ agenda. Talking of which why on earth would the coalition be thinking about taking out the tax-raising power from the Calman recommendations.

  • @ Sea Palling Calling – Ok, so you didn’t want a Tory Government, and you didn’t want a Labour Government, what was it you did want? What did you think Norman Lamb was offering you, which you feel cheated out of?

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