The Queen’s Speech from a Liberal Democrat perspective

So, the tiaras are back in their boxes, Alistair Carmichael’s wand is back in its cupboard and the Queen’s Speech has been delivered. There is plenty to make Liberal Democrats cheer, but also areas where more details are required  before we can breathe that sigh of relief.  There are, also, a couple of areas where I was hiding behind a cushion.

First, though, the truly extraordinary. We Liberal Democrats are kind of used to playing “stronger economy, fairer society” bingo every time one of our ministers opens their mouths. But we weren’t quite expecting this:

My government’s legislative programme will continue to focus on building a stronger economy so that the United Kingdom can compete and succeed in the world.

It will also work to promote a fairer society that rewards people who work hard.

If the Queen had gone on to add “enabligng everyone to get on in life”, it would surely have provoked a minor constitutional crisis.

Of particular interest to Liberal Democrats are plans for a single tier pensions. Steve Webb deserves huge credit for this major reform. Secondly, of course, is the extension of and financial help with childcare. And having helped everyone who will claim a pension and everyone who has children, we also have good news for everyone who uses the internet – no snoopers’ charter. These are three identifiably Liberal Democrat triumphs.

Also good is a reaffirmation of the commitment to tackle sexual violence during conflict on a worldwide scale. And, reassuringly for most Scots:

My government will continue to make the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Reducing the costs of employing people by cutting the Employers’ National Insurance payments is also a positive move.

Of course, where we have our successes, the Conservatives have to get something too. Liberal Democrats do not naturally feel comfortable with Tory rhetoric around immigration. In recent years, it’s only been the Liberal Democrats who have made a liberal case for immigration, but within the Coalition on this issue, we seem to have been swept along with the tide. When everyone else is obsessed with hyperbole and half truth, surely we need to stand our ground and be, to coin a phrase, a still small voice of calm. The very idea that we could deny healthcare to people in need, wherever they come from, is very worrying.

The idea of powers to evict families where one person is guilty of anti-social behaviour is another worry. Why should children be forced out of their home because of the bad behaviour of one member of the family?

There are questions, too, on what exactly, despite the lack of web snooping, the Queen meant by:

In relation to the problem of matching internet protocol addresses, my government will bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.

We will have to keep a close eye on this just in case anyone tries to slip anything illiberal in there. We can never take our eyes off the ball where the Home Office is concerned.

This is the penultimate Queen’s Speech of this Parliament. It shows the different priorities of the Coalition partners, but does it tackle the biggest problems this country faces? Parliament’s time will be taken up debating measures on foreign criminals which apply to a handful of people and on curbing benefits for migrants. The Liberal Democrat side of the coalition has some practical, relevant ideas which mean something to people. The Tories have put all their energies into a very narrow area. That sort of thinking worked so well for them in 2001 and 2005.

A couple of snapshots of reaction around the party. Firstly,  Willie Rennie was enthusiastic:

What the Queen’s speech showed today is that Liberal Democrats are delivering for people across Scotland. 210,000 families with 310,000 children will benefit from additional support for childcare, with the UK government meeting 20 percent of childcare costs for working families.

He also welcomed the fact that 35,000 Scottish firms would be lifted out of paying National Insurance.

Liberal Youth’s reaction was a bit more mixed. While they were happy with the pensions and childcare elements, they had some concerns:

However, we note with unease the lack of policy and focus on the issues which are at the centre of young people’s lives. Whilst we understand the focus on issues such as pension reform and support for carers are needed, we feel that more could have been said on youth unemployment and access to training and education.

Liberal Youth are most disappointed at the absence of a bill on internships, to ensure interns are paid a fair wage for their work. We feel the way companies use young people as free labour is unfair and must change. Unpaid internships are unavailable to those from disadvantaged backgrounds who are unable to afford to work for free.

 

 

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

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12 Comments

  • “The very idea that we could deny healthcare to people in need, wherever they come from, is very worrying.

    The idea of powers to evict families where one person is guilty of anti-social behaviour is another worry. Why should children be forced out of their home because of the bad behaviour of one member of the family?”

    Entirely agree with these thoughts. Whilst I agree with Ming regarding the dangers of Red Line Diplomacy, these have to be issues LibDems push back on.

    Also, pleased to see LY making such a strong case. An excellent response on internships, the core principles are sound and right whilst forming a sound basis for policy.

  • Richard Church 8th May '13 - 10:36pm

    Thousands of migrants to this country are brought to this country to live in a twilight world being paid below the minimum wage and housed in disgusting overcrowded conditions by rogue landlords. Yet the government suggest that the very landlords who engage in this exploitation will check their passports, visas and work permits.

    You might as well put King Herod in charge of childcare.

  • Tony Faithfull-Wrigh 8th May '13 - 11:06pm

    I agree whole wholeheartedly with Richard, regarding Landlords checking Visas & Passports, who are more likely to keep them for illegal use. A robust and secure Border Authority is the place for this kind of work. Again just an excuse for not maintaining an adequate number of staff to do the job properly.

  • What’s happened to the lobbyist register?

  • Eddie Sammon 9th May '13 - 8:46pm

    I’m sorry but properties are already subject to stamp duty, they aren’t just assets for politicians to soak with taxes. Why a property portfolio tax? Why not an equity portfolio tax?

    In my opinion we need a net wealth tax or no wealth taxes. I’m unsure which I prefer but I definitely don’t agree with more property taxes.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th May '13 - 8:48pm

    Not to mention capital gains and income taxes.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th May '13 - 1:03am

    Neale, you are incorrect to suggest that land value growth is down to luck and business growth down to hard work so we should tax one and not the other.

    You are misdiagnosing risk and return as luck. The fact that the land might increase is already reflected in a higher price. This means if you are going to make the buyer pay again when the positives manifest then you should give back when the negatives do.

    All assets should be taxed the same and all taxes should be based on the ability to pay. We need to get away from thinking about “goods” and “bads”.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th May '13 - 4:57am

    I’m sorry I respect people’s opinions but I strongly disagree with this Land Value Tax campaign.

    How is it progressive? How much land someone owns is not a good indication of how rich they are. Maybe it was 100 years ago, but it’s still not ambitious enough.

    The only new radical tax you need to be looking at is the net wealth tax. There’s too much inequality in the world so we need to ask the wealthiest to give to the poorest, and how is wealth measured? Net wealth. It’s as simple as that.

    People will complain about civil liberties but they complained about income tax at first and made us implement a stupid window tax.

    It wouldn’t lead to a flight of capital of it was implemented alongside reductions in other taxes. Corporation tax is doomed anyway because now we have multi-national and multi-ownership companies.

  • Giles Goodall 13th May '13 - 10:34am

    Thanks for that overview Caron, and you really hit the immigration point on the head.

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