Last week saw the Queen’s Speech, marking the start of a new Parliamentary year.
The main focus of the speech was continuing the work of healing our economy, trying to reduce the deficit that we inherited from the last Government while at the same time boosting growth. One of the key measures was a Bill to make it cheaper for businesses and charities to employ people. It would give every business and charity an Employment Allowance, reducing the Employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs) they have to pay by £2,000. This would mean that if you were starting a business, you could employ four people on the minimum wage without having to pay any NICs. Some people say there is no difference between the political parties these days. Well here is a clear difference: the last Labour Government increased this tax, making it more expensive to give people a job; we’re cutting it.
There was also an Energy Bill to help hard-working families who are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living by reforming the electricity market to deliver affordable (as well as secure and clean) electricity.
But the problems we face as a country go much deeper than the economy. So the Queen’s Speech included an Immigration Bill that will ensure that only those who are entitled to do so can access public services and make it easier to remove people from the UK by reforming human rights law to give more weight to the rights of the law-abiding majority.
It included two Bills to reduce crime, one that would transform the way offenders are dealt with once they leave prison to try to reduce the chances of them re-offending; the other containing a number of measures to ensure a quick, effective response to anti-social behaviour, to tackle irresponsible dog ownership and to strengthen protection for the victims of forced marriage.
And finally it included two important long-term reforms that the last Government ducked, one introducing a single state pension that should ensure that unlike now it will always pay to save for your retirement and that parents (normally women) who take time out of the labour market to bring up their children won’t be penalised for doing so; the other reforming our care system to give people certainty about the maximum cost they will face if they need residential or nursing care later in life.
When the Coalition was formed, many people predicted that it wouldn’t last. But this Queen’s Speech demonstrates that three years later it remains focused on the crucial work of healing our economy and backing people who work hard and want to get on in life.