Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Queen’s Speech: What It Means For You

The Queen’s Speech reinforced the party’s key priorities:

TaxThe Liberal Democrat commitment to raising the tax threshold to £10,500, giving 25m people a further income tax cut in April next year.

Cutting income tax for working people remains a top priority for the Liberal Democrats. It was on the front page of our 2010 manifesto. The Liberal Democrats have had to fight to keep this on the agenda in the internal coalition discussions running up to each fiscal event in the parliament.

PensionsThe biggest reforms to the pension system since its inception, conceived and driven by Liberal Democrat pensions minister Steve Webb. It will be the major centrepiece of the Government agenda, ensuring fairness in retirement and the long-term dignity of our pensions.

ApprenticeshipsThe Liberal Democrats and Vince Cable have been the driving force behind the growth in the number of apprenticeships. We are now setting the ambitious target to have create 2m new apprenticeships in this Parliament.

Childcare and Free School MealsChildcare has been a top priority for Nick Clegg. Major reforms to help parents and young children will be legislated for; giving vital help and support to ensure every child has the best possible start in life. This is in addition to the extra hours of childcare we have already delivered and in addition to the pupil premium.

Free School Meals are a vital and signature Lib Dem achievement. Free school meals will be offered to every infant, in a bid to improve educations attainment and child health.

HousingLabour oversaw a major housing crisis. The Coalition is tackling the problem. New starts in house building are up 31% on last year, and new orders in residential construction are at their highest levels since 2007. But there’s a lot more to do.

Garden Cities A key commitment for Nick Clegg. We will pioneer a new generation of locally-led garden cities to provide vital housing where it’s needed and wanted.

Environment, Energy and Climate ChangePlastic bag charges – announced by Nick Clegg in September 2012, will come into effect in 2015. 7bn plastic bags were used in England alone last year, 133 for every person. Wales saw a 76% decrease when it introduced the charge.

The large scale electricity market reform, led by Ed Davey, will ensure the lights stay on, bills are kept low and that the UK remains committed to green energy.

This is on top of the Energy Act which will significantly boost green energy and create green jobs - 200,000 of them by 2020 - as we move to decarbonising the electricity sector. It will do this in a way that is affordable, by boosting 'homegrown' energy rather than relying on ever increasing imports.

Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, the Coalition is a strong international leader in tackling climate change. Ed Davey has pushed through significant wins - in the UK we’ve doubled the amount of electricity generated from renewables since 2010.

Climate Change – Ed Davey has secured cross UK government agreement on proposing an ambitious target of a 40% reduction (on 1990 levels) in greenhouse gas emissions. He is working to build agreement on this target with our European partners through a ‘Green Growth’ group that he established.

Liberal Democrats work in Government has ensured that the Government will meet the target of zero carbon homes by 2016.

Small BusinessesThe Liberal Democrats insisted from the start that the recovery would be about more than just cutting the deficit, which is why Nick, Danny and Vince have led to the government’s focus on infrastructure, help for small businesses and support across all regions of the UK.

Vince's proposals to help small businesses get greater access to finance and to facilitate access to public sector contracts show that Lib Dems are matching our words with proposals that will make a difference to new as well as existing small businesses.

National Minimum Wage - Vince is determined to protect lower paid workers and the toughening up penalties faced by rogue employers who don’t pay the NMW is a demonstration that Lib Dems have the interests of the most vulnerable at heart. The Conservatives alone wouldn't do this and Labour never did it despite 13 years in Government.

Zero Hours Contracts – As part of the Small Business Bill, Vince Cable will bring forward plans to tackle abuse of Zero Hours Contracts.

Ethical and responsible business practices – Liberal Democrats will crack down on rogue directors and strengthen whistleblowing protections ensuring that the way in which Britain does business - which is already one of the best - is one of the most trusted in the world.

A campaign led by Greg Mulholland, and delivered by Liberal Democrats in Government is providing greater protections for pub landlords, ensuring they get a fair deal from their contracts.

Serious CrimeThe ‘Cinderella’ law will be part of this Bill. This is the culmination of a long campaign from both Mark Williams and Annette Brooke. The Bill will make it explicit that cruelty which is likely to cause psychological harm to a child is an offence.

The Bill would improve our ability to recover criminal assets by amending the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, as called for by the Liberal Democrats.

As minister for drugs policy, Norman Baker is committed to tackling the drug trade in ways that work, not just talk tough. This Bill will establish new powers to seize, detain and destroy chemical substances suspected of being used as cutting agents for illegal drugs.

Under the guidance and perseverance of Norman Baker and Lynne Featherstone, there will be tougher powers to prosecute the perpetrators of FGM.

Fuel DutyPetrol and diesel costs are a significant item on the budgets of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of businesses. Danny Alexander is the most senior member of HMG to meet with leading fuel duty campaigners and establish an ongoing dialogue about how fuel duty affects the economy. Danny pioneered the 5p per litre fuel duty rebate now in effect for island communities. He is leading efforts to extend this rebate to some parts of the UK mainland.

Political ReformRecall – The Liberal Democrats believe in disrupting the system, and have long argued for political reform. While we have been often knocked back by the establishment, we will continue to fight for reform.