Queen’s Speech – what have the Liberal Democrats brought to the table?

So, the Crown has headed back to the Tower, the Queen has left he building and all the pomp and ceremonial  of the State Opening of Parliament is over for another year. It always strikes me that it must take ages to get everyone in their finery and yet the whole thing is over in less than an hour.

There is much to cheer Liberal Democrats in the planned measures.

  • Lords Reform
  • Green Investment Bank
  • Libel Reform
  • Giving shareholders a vote on directors’ remuneration
  • Flexible parental leave – the measure Nick Clegg’s championed to give families the choices that work for them by allowing parents to divide leave entitlements between them whereas now the mother is entitled to a year’s leave, the father just two weeks.
  • Meeting the 0.7% target for overseas aid
  • Reform of the State Pension, driven by Steve Webb
  • Establishing a Groceries Adjudicator to ensure the big supermarkets treat their suppliers fairly
  • Banking reform as championed by Vince Cable
  • Reform of electricity markets – especially on fair pricing
  • Continued progress towards reforming succession so that girls have equal rights to boys, as championed by Lynne Featherstone

These issues, all or in part, would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats in Government.

There will be some elements of the forthcoming legislation which will cause anxiety for Liberal Democrats. Some will worry about the effects of public sector pension reform, others about the legislation for secret courts which Liberty has been campaigning against. Dilution of employment rights, although it doesn’t go anywhere near as far as the Tories wanted, will not go down well with Liberal Democrats who already feel it’s too easy for employers to treat workers badly.

Had it not been for the intervention of the Liberal Democrats, the Government would be introducing immediate legislation allowing surveillance of internet communication. After a furious reaction from the Party last month, this has been demoted to draft legislation, giving a longer period for scrutiny. This is a key civil liberties issue for the Liberal Democrats, one which unites the party and which prompted 15 MPs to write to the press saying they would oppose the plans. Unless the legislation contains all the safeguards deemed necessary by Julian Huppert on Liberal Democrat Voice last month,  there will be great disquiet within the Party. This battle is far from over.

Other measures in the Queen’s Speech include more help for disabled children and support for them within the family courts system along with more powers for the Children’s Commissioner. There will also be a draft bill on adult social care, a controversial issue where achieving a consensus is vital.

While it may suit the Tories to keep the news agenda focused on Lords Reform and equal marriage (which was never going to be in the Queen’s Speech given the fact that the consultation is still going on), there is no getting away from the fact that the Liberal Democrats have come up with many of the measures which will make people’s lives easier and tackle vested interests.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • “This is a key civil liberties issue for the Liberal Democrats, one which unites the party and which prompted 15 MPs to write to the press saying they would oppose the plans.”

    There’s a rather glaring contradiction there, isn’t there?

    If this issue really united the party it wouldn’t have been only 15 MPs, would it? And the leader of the party wouldn’t have publicly defended the proposals in the first place, would he?

  • Good to see Lords reform up there at the top of the list.

    It is up to Nick, Vince and the gang to portray Lords reform as relevant to the economic situation. Making Parliament more responsive to ordinary voters is NOT a minor issue. It is a crucial part of ensuring that never again can vested interests so corrupt our body politic.

    Unfortunately, Clegg is already showing every sign of wimping out. In his speech yesterday, he went on about how much more important apprenticeships were. Compared to a once-in-a-thousand-year reform!

    Instead, he needs to be saying that how the country is governed affects EVERYTHING (including funding for apprentices)!

  • Keith Browning 9th May '12 - 5:19pm

    I worry that the LibDems become associated with the ‘twiddly bits’ around the edges – nice to have instead of must have. That was the image being portrayed yesterday by the Tory Right, one of whom suggested that the LDs stand aside and let people ‘who know how to govern’ take over.It is also the image portrayed by much of the media.

    Of course Vince is at the heart of the Banks and Business, which is seen by most experts and vox populi as where solutions to the crisis lie. Vince should be fronting the public face of the party. His portfolio contains ‘stuff’ that matters to everyone, not just to a pot pourri of minority groups, none of which are of any relevance to me or my lifestyle and probably to the vast majority of the public either.

    LibDems cannot be seen as just a collection of minorities that dont fit in elsewhere. That is the road to oblivion.

  • @ Keith
    Exactly! And Reform of Parliament is fundamental to everything! Let our key spokespeople – especially Vince – make that argument! If they don’t we may well not get another chance!
    If the other parties want to block Reform, let them. We need to go down fighting hard for what we believe in! Let every voter see that while we did our bit to stick to the coalition agreement, the Tories betrayed us, because they are weak, weak, weak, and do not stick to their promises.

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