The State Opening of Parliament is always a splendid occasion, and after the news
that the Queen would not be travelling to the Commonwealth Summit this year, it was reassuring to see her looking radiant as she arrived at Westminster this week.
There is always a local connection to this event as it is organised by the Duke of Norfolk who holds the office of Earl Marshal. This year the Duke gave an interview in which he spoke about the symbolic importance of the ceremony in our unwritten constitution.
But the Queen’s Speech is an important political event, too, because it sets out the Government’s legislative programme and priorities for the year ahead.
I don’t agree with critics who say that there wasn’t enough legislation announced this year. Why should we want more laws? If anything, previous governments have interfered and regulated too much.
Significantly, the British Chambers of Commerce welcomed the proposals and the focus on measures to boost growth, arguing that “when it comes to new legislation, less is more.”
A Deregulation Bill to reduce burdens on business will certainly be welcomed by local businesses if it delivers, as will the National Insurance Bill to entitle every business and charity to a £2,000 Employment Allowance from April next year.
I also believe people will applaud the focus on issues of real concern. There’s no doubt that uncontrolled immigration has upset people greatly, not least locally because the rising population has piled on the pressure for more housing.
The Government has made real progress in this area, with net immigration already down by a third. But a new Immigration Bill will go further, preventing immigrants from accessing public services to which they are not entitled.
The Bill will also tackle another issue of huge concern, the difficulty of removing people from this country who should not be here and who make spurious claims under human rights laws.
There will also be legislation to create a new flat rate pension, and to cap care costs and extend the means test threshold for financial assistance to ensure that no-one has to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for residential care.
These measures reflect the theme of this year’s Queen’s Speech, which is to back people who work hard, save, play by the rules and want to get on in life.
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