On Wednesday 27th May, The Queen issued her first Conservative Speech in nearly two decades.
The speech, which can be read in full at www.gov.uk, outlines new proposed legislation, which (among other proposed policies) includes:
- An ”In/Out” EU Referendum Bill by 2017, which will decide whether Britain remains part of the European Union
- A National Insurance Contributions and Finance Bill, which will see no increase in income tax rates, VAT or national insurance before 2020
- A Childcare Bill to greatly increase provision of free childcare in England by 2017 – to up to 30 hours per week for 3-4 year olds*
- A Full Employment and Benefits Bill – which would aim to create more jobs, as well as a planned reduction in the welfare cap – from £$26,000 to £23,000. As part of the government’s welfare reforms, young people will be required to “earn or learn”, with automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21-year-olds scrapped
- Further devolved powers to Scotland, as part of plans to deliver “a strong and lasting constitutional settlement”. The Scottish Parliament will be given new tax and welfare powers, under the proposals following the recommendations of the Smith Commission on Scottish devolution.
- Further devolved powers will also be given Northern Ireland and Wales, as well as ‘English Votes for English Laws’
- A Psychoactive Substance Bill– blanket ban on so-called legal highs
- An Immigration Bill – will include a new offence of illegal working – with police given the power to seize the wages paid to illegal workers as the “proceeds of crime”. It will also become an offence for businesses and recruitment agencies to hire abroad without first advertising in the UK
- A “truly seven day” NHS by 2020 – Increased investment by at least £8 billion a year by 2020, as well as extending opening hours within England*
- Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill – Measures to protect charities from abuse and to strengthen the powers of the Charity Commission for England and Wales feature in this bill. It is also designed to enable charities to more easily undertake social investments*
- Proposals for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act
*N.B - These are devolved matters and applicable to England only.
The Guardian’s public leaders network, in which our previous colleague Milind Kolhatkhar serves on the 2015 Editorial Board, compiled a list of leaders across the U.K’s hopes and fears for the new proposed legislation, and in light of the Speech, will be adding their response to the outlined proposals.
EVOC Director Ella Simpson had her own speech, commenting :
“I am deeply disappointed that the Queen’s Speech does not address the increasing issue of “in work poverty”. I cannot get my head around the supposed logic of wages being so low that people have to claim in work benefits – which come from the tax system! Surely that is the most negative economic cycle ever and contributes to the divisions within our society.
I am also concerned that the proposal to withdraw housing benefit from young people will result in an increase in youth homelessness. There is robust evidence which demonstrates the devastating impact on individuals and families when relationships breakdown to the extent that young people feel they have no option but to leave the family home – which in turn puts a much higher burden on the public purse. Surely supporting families and young people to find the right solution is a much better use of the diminishing public pound.”
The full impact of the proposed legislation remains to be seen, but we can be sure the Third Sector will be at the forefront fighting for social justice and equality.