Mark Lancaster on the short, but sweet Queen’s Speech

Mark Lancaster
Mark Lancaster

THE state opening of Parliament is an event steeped in tradition and splendour. With a parade of golden carriages, crown jewels, soldiers on horseback and not forgetting the Queen and Prince Phillip in full ceremonial dress, the occasion has to be seen to be believed.

But while you can be overwhelmed by its beauty, the state opening serves a very important purpose. The opening sees the Queen deliver a speech laying out the Governments’ legislative agenda for the next year.

Two weeks ago, the coalition had its second state opening and many remarked on the brevity of the Queen’s Speech. I am a great believer that the less legislation needed the better, but while it was short in length, this speech was not light on content.

There were some monumental pieces of legislation which were highlighted to be introduced to Parliament over the next session. Some will be sure to cause controversy and others to improve existing structures. With a focus on jobs and growth it would be easy to overlook other pieces of legislation which will have a major impact.

For example, the Children and Families Bill will see real change in the methods applied to adoption. It is no secret MK has one of the worst rates of adoption in the country and while I am continuing to offer support locally, this particular Bill will see race considerations become less important when local authorities try and place a child in a loving, permanent home. This shows a rightly, more liberal approach to adoption and will certainly ensure more children are placed quicker.

The Children and Families Bill will also offer parents more choice on where children with special needs are educated, alleviating many concerns voiced when the school places lottery comes up each year.

Many of you will also have heard about the proposed flexibility of parents maternity/paternity leave. The time parents have off after the birth of their child, will now be interchangeable. Its inclusion in the Queens Speech shows the Governments understanding of the changing nature of families.

The proposed changes to the running of banks through the Banking Reform Bill will create a fundamental change in the way banks are operated and run, dividing the commercial investment side from the retail side, ring-fencing our personal cash and saving it from risk. This is one of the most important regulatory changes we will see within the Financial Services industry and will go a long way to stop history repeating itself. No one wants another Lehman Brothers catastrophe and I am proud to be a member of a Government which has introduced such change.

Finally on a local level, I was pleased to see the Crime and Courts Bill is to be introduced, which will see the establishment of a National Crime Agency, enhance boarder controls and fight cyber crime. I think the establishment of the agency, which will focus on organised crime, will see a widespread crackdown. In particular, it will help cut down on gangs being able to benefit financially for the importation of Khat and with my campaign continuing, this Bill can only help.

Although brief, I hope you can see that the Queen’s Speech, in her Diamond Jubilee year, was weighty. Some of the proposed legislative changes have been a long time coming, others a welcome change to old, outdated laws. I am excited at the prospects for the coming year and albeit there were only 21 Bills proposed, I am certain it will be an interesting and varied one.