The Queen’s Speech set out the next steps in Building Britain’s Future. Our legislation for the next parliamentary session is a programme of tough action on the big issues that matter to people, in line with this Government’s core values of fairness and responsibility.
At its heart is the conviction that government can be a force for good – to secure economic prosperity and build a fairer society. Not small government or big government, but smarter – reformed and responsive – government.
Our focus, as ever, is economic growth, locking in the recovery and forging a stronger, fairer, Britain for the many not the few.
This is a difficult period for our country, but we are optimistic. Britain has a bright future, not of austerity but progress, based on the country’s greatest strength: the talent and enterprise of the people.
Investing for the future: building tomorrow’s economy today
We will ensure that the banking crisis we have experienced over the last two years should never again come at a cost to the living standards of Britain’s families. Instead we will rebuild banking so that it supports the economy and offers fairer finances for businesses and consumers.
So we will transform the way the financial sector is policed, through the Financial Services Bill, with banks themselves and not the taxpayer made to pay for bank failings. Part of this is about ensuring we have a tough supervisory regime; we will ensure the Tripartite system is strengthened, is more transparent and is accountable to parliament, with a legal duty on the Financial Services Authority to promote financial stability, to regulate bankers pay (including a power which allows the FSA to tear up future contracts which do not comply with the rules) and a requirement for banks to organise themselves to deal with possible future difficulties – so called ‘living wills’.
Reform also means empowering consumers to hold banks to account by taking collective action to get redress. We will require the financial services sector to fund independent consumer advice and education and ban credit card companies from sending consumers unsolicited credit card cheques.
As the economic recovery is established, we will legislate to require reductions in government borrowing in a fair and responsible way with the Fiscal Responsibility Bill. This will ensure the national debt returns to a sustainable level, with the Government accountable to Parliament rather than a new quango.
And as a key part of our strategy for growth, we will promote targeted investment that creates jobs and builds a modern green infrastructure for the digital age. The Digital Economy Bill is a key part of Labour’s active industrial strategy and will maintain and build on Britain’s leading position in the digital sector. It includes measures to ensure a competitive, modernised digital communications infrastructure, protect intellectual property and maintain plurality in regional news.
The Energy Bill will bring about a financial support mechanism to demonstrate carbon capture and storage at a commercial scale. It will also establish a mandatory social price support scheme to help more of the most vulnerable households with their energy bills, and requires the regulator, Ofgem, to ensure consumers get a better, fairer deal and access to secure, low carbon energy supplies.
Better protection for businesses, communities and homes from the risks of extreme weather as a result of climate change will be provided by the Flood and Water Management Bill. And the Child Poverty Bill will enshrine in law the Government’s commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020, defining what this means.
Fair chances for all: building the next generation of public services
A better Britain means world class public services underpinned by guarantees not gambles. So we are moving to a system, building on the achievements of the last 12 years, where patients, parents and local communities have enforceable rights over the services they receive – and front line staff have more freedom to shape services.
The Children, Schools and Families Bill will provide guarantees for parents and pupils, setting out what they can expect, with School Report Cards letting parents know how their school is performing and a new duty on local authorities to act when parents are unhappy. Where standards are unacceptably low, Ministers will be able to direct a local authority to issue a warning notice to a school and to close any school which fails to comply with a warning notice. We will also set out in law new guarantees for pupils and parents at all state schools, including curriculum reforms to equip young people with the skills they need to succeed, and a new entitlement to one-to-one tuition for children falling behind.
The Social Care Bill means the dignity of a new national care service: free personal care in their own homes for those with the highest need. From next October more than 275,000 of those with the greatest needs will be protected for good from charges and top-up fees for care in their own homes, funded by making the tough choices necessary to secure efficiencies in lower priority programmes. To help more people meet this aspiration we will also next year, begin to offer 130,000 older people needing care for the first time, six weeks of more personal intensive support designed to help all who want to remain in their homes. This will mean that those who have suffered from a stroke, fall or hospital stay will have the best possible opportunity to return to their homes and the intensive support to give them dignity confidence in doing so.
Fair rules: building a strong society
On crime, we will prioritise new ways to tackle the anti-social behaviour that still blights some estates and neighbourhoods. The Crime and Security Bill will protect communities by making parents take responsibility for their child’s antisocial behaviour, imposing parenting orders when a young person has breached an ASBO. The Bill will cut the time police spend on stop and search forms, help victims of domestic violence by allowing police to bar suspected perpetrators from their homes for fixed periods, set a six-year time limit on DNA record-keeping for adults whom are arrested but not charged,
and introduce compulsory licensing for wheel clamping businesses.
and introduce compulsory licensing for wheel clamping businesses.
The Digital Economy Bill will protect children through new age ratings for computer games. The Bribery Bill will equip prosecutors and courts to deal effectively with bribery at home and abroad.
With the Equality Bill (carried over) we will introduce a new public sector duty to narrow the gap between rich and poor, ban age discrimination outside the workplace, and introduce reporting for large employers on gender pay. And we will enact the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 to provide agency workers equal treatment with permanent staff on pay and holidays after 12 weeks in a job.
Rebuilding trust in a modern, democratic Britain
We must also restore confidence in our democratic institutions. The Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill (carried over) contain measures to rebuild trust in our democracy by putting the civil service on a statutory footing, provide a power for the House of Lords to expel a member and end the by-election of hereditary peers. The draft House of Lords Reform Bill will set out how the Government will bring about a wholly or substantially elected second chamber of Parliament.
Britain in a fairer, safer world
We will also ensure a better world by extending Britain’s influence as a global force for good. Fulfilling our responsibilities means we must remain at the heart of Europe and a leading member of the wider international community. And a safer Britain means continuing to tackle the terrorist threat at source – in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Bill will implement in UK law the Convention on Cluster Munitions that bans the use, development production, stockpiling, retention or transfer of cluster munitions. And the draft International Development Bill will make binding the Government’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on international development by 2013.