Queen Elizabeth II Attends The State Opening Of Parliament. Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

Queen’s speech at a glance

A round-up of the legislative agenda announced for the coalition's last Parliament.

PENSIONS

The pension reforms are the centrepiece of the Coalition’s last legislative programme. The first bill introduces collective defined pension contributions, popular in Canada and the Netherlands.

The second lays out pensioners’ new freedoms, allowing them to withdraw cash freely from their pension pots and making the purchase of annuities optional rather than mandatory.

Drawn up by pensions minister Steve Webb, the reforms will be seen as chiefly Lib Dem offerings. Since this pensions overhaul was announced in the budget in March, the Coalition has left itself open to Labour’s charge that it is presiding over a “zombie Parliament” that makes few new laws.

 

CHILDREN

A bill introducing free childcare of up to £2,000 a year for parents of children under 12, which was set out earlier this year.

 

PLANNING AND INFRASTRUCTURE

New legislation relaxing planning laws and empowering new locally led garden cities to provide housing.

High-value government land is to be sold off to encourage development and increase housing provision. Help to Buy promoted in the speech, despite recent Bank of England warnings about its contribution to an over-heating housing market.

Reforms to speed up infrastructure projects, including new freedoms for the Highways Agency.

 

FRACKING

Modification of trespass laws to allow fracking companies access to run shale gas pipelines deep under private land without getting prior permission.

 

MODERN SLAVERY

Setting out terms of reparations from traffickers to victims of slavery, compensating exploitation and loss of dignity.

 

CORPORATE OWNERSHIP

Increasing the disqualification period for directors who neglect their responsibilities and break the law, and introducing compensation for victims.

The bill will also introduce a public register of beneficial ownership. Shares which do not reveal the owner – so-called "bearer shares" – are to be scrapped and new restrictions on corporate directors, the practice of naming companies rather than people as directors.

 

SERIOUS CRIMES

New measures against child neglect, and powers to disrupt criminal gangs and strengthen powers to seize the proceeds of organised crime.

 

MP RECALL

Empowering constituents to recall an MP found guilty by the standards committee of breaching the members’ code of conduct. First promised by ministers in 2010 in a bid to curb public outrage at MPs who kept their seats despite involvement in the expenses scandal in 2009. Recalled MPs will face a by-election.

  

HEROISM

Legal protection for individuals who act heroically, responsibly or for the benefit of others. Courts to take such actions, performed in good faith, into account and “heroic” individuals to be safeguarded from negligence claims.

 

SMALL BUSINESS

Promise to cut red tape and help small businesses access finance. The bill will force ministers to set and report a deregulation target for each Parliament.

 

PUBS

Introduction of a new statutory code and dispute adjudicator for pub landlords.

 

EMPLOYMENT

High penalties on employers who fail to pay their staff the minimum wage. Reduction in employment tribunal delays and improvement in fairness of contracts for low paid workers pledged.

Legislation to tackle avoidance of national insurance contributions and simplify collection from the self employed.

 

LIMIT ON PUBLIC SECTOR PAYOUTS

Preventing highly-remunerated NHS executives and civil servants from taking redundancy and then going back to the same place of work within a year. 

 

SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION

 

All children to receive free school meals. Help for more schools in England to become academies. GCSE and A level reform to raise standards in schools and prepare school pupils for employment.

Raising the number of apprenticeships to 2 million by the end of the Parliament.

 

... AND THE REST

SCOTLAND:  More financial powers to be granted to Holyrood.

WALES: The Welsh government given greater powers over taxation and investment.

ARMED FORCES WATCHDOG: Creation of an ombudsman to handle complaints in the armed forces.

PLASTIC BAGS: 5p charge for bags, as announced at Lib Dem conference last year

PARKS: Direct elections to national park authorities in England.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

Getty
Show Hide image

Not since the Thatcher years have so many Tory MPs been so motivated by self-interest

Assured of an election win, backbenchers are thinking either advancing up the greasy pole, or mounting it for the first time. 

One hears despair from Labour not just about probable defeat, but from MPs who felt they had three years to improve the party’s fortunes, or to prepare for personal oblivion. In the Conservative Party, matters seem quite the opposite. Veterans of the 1983 election recall something similar: a campaign fought in the absolute certainty of winning. Theresa May talked of putting the interests of the country first when she engineered the poll, and one must believe she was sincere. However, for those expecting to be Tory MPs after 8 June there are other priorities. Theirs is not a fight for the national interest, because that for them is a foregone conclusion. It is about their self-interest: either advancing up the greasy pole, or mounting it for the first time. They contemplate years ahead in which to consolidate their position and, eventually, to shape the tone and direction of the party.

The luxury of such thoughts during a campaign comes only when victory is assured. In 1983 I worked for a cabinet minister and toured marginal seats with him. Several candidates we met – most of whom won – made it clear privately that however important it was to serve their constituents, and however urgent to save the country from the threats within what the late Gerald Kaufman later called “the longest suicide note in history”, there was another issue: securing their place in the Thatcher revolution. Certain they and their party would be elected in the aftermath of the Falklands War, they wanted their snout in the trough.

These are early days, but some conver­sations with those heading for the next House of Commons echo the sentiments of 1983. The contemporary suicide note has not appeared, but is keenly awaited. Tories profess to take less notice of opinion polls than they once did – and with good reason, given the events of 2015 and 2016 – but ­imagine their party governing with a huge majority, giving them a golden opportunity to advance themselves.

Labour promises to change the country; the Liberal Democrats promise to force a reconsideration of Brexit; Ukip ­promises to ban the burqa; but the Tories believe power is theirs without the need for elaborate promises, or putting any case other than that they are none of the above. Thus each man and woman can think more about what the probability of four or five further years in the Commons means to them. This may seem in poor taste, but that is human nature for you, and it was last seen in the Labour Party in about 2001.

Even though this cabinet has been in place only since last July, some Tory MPs feel it was never more than an interim arrangement, and that some of its incumbents have underperformed. They expect vacancies and chances for ministers of state to move up. Theresa May strove to make her team more diverse, so it is unfortunate that the two ministers most frequently named by fellow Tories as underachievers represent that diversity – Liz Truss, the Lord Chancellor, who colleagues increasingly claim has lost the confidence of the judiciary and of the legal profession along with their own; and Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, whom a formerly sympathetic backbencher recently described to me as having been “a non-event” in his present job.

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, was lucky to survive his own stint as lord chancellor – a post that must surely revert to a qualified lawyer, with Dominic Grieve spoken of in that context, even though, like all ardent Remainers in the government, he would be expected to follow the Brexit line – and the knives are out for him again, mainly over Southern Rail but also HS2. David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and the little-known Ben Gummer, a Cabinet Office minister, are tipped for promotion with Grieve if vacancies arise: that all three are white men may, or may not, be a consideration.

Two other white men are also not held in high regard by colleagues but may be harder to move: Boris Johnson, whose conduct of the Foreign Office is living down to expectations, and Michael Fallon, whose imitation of the Vicar of Bray over Brexit – first he was for it, then he was against it, and now he is for it again – has not impressed his peers, though Mrs May considers him useful as a media performer. There is also the minor point that Fallon, the Defence Secretary, is viewed as a poor advocate for the armed forces and their needs at a time when the world can hardly be called a safe place.

The critical indicator of how far personal ambition now shapes the parliamentary Tory party is how many have “done a Fallon” – ministers, or aspirant ministers, who fervently followed David Cameron in advising of the apocalyptic results of Brexit, but who now support Theresa May (who is also, of course, a reformed Remainer). Yet, paradoxically, the trouble Daniel Hannan, an arch-Brexiteer and MEP, has had in trying to win selection to stand in Aldershot – thanks to a Central Office intervention – is said to be because the party wants no one with a “profile” on Europe to be added to the mix, in an apparent attempt to prevent adding fuel to the fire of intra-party dissent. This may appease a small hard core of pro-Remain MPs – such as Anna Soubry, who has sufficient talent to sit in the cabinet – who stick to their principles; but others are all Brexiteers now.

So if you seek an early flavour of the next Conservative administration, it is right before you: one powering on to Brexit, not only because that is what the country voted for, but because that is the orthodoxy those who wish to be ministers must devotedly follow. And though dissent will grow, few of talent wish to emulate Soubry, sitting out the years ahead as backbenchers while their intellectual and moral inferiors prosper.

Simon Heffer is a columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs

Simon Heffer is a journalist, author and political commentator, who has worked for long stretches at the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. He has written biographies of Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Enoch Powell, and reviews and writes on politics for the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

0800 7318496