The State Opening of Parliament took place last week. Amongst much pomp and ceremony that accompanies what is the most British of occasions Her Majesty delivered the Queens Speech. The speech lays out the Governments legislative programme for the coming session of Parliament. The last Queen's Speech was shortly after the General Election in 2010, meaning we have just concluded one of the longest Parliamentary Sessions in history.
Two draft bills included in the speech are; A Draft Communications Bill that has already caused some concern regarding access to people's email records. At this stage I share those concerns and will look carefully at any Government proposals. There is a case to be made that as digital communication moves on at a pace then legislation may be required to ensure that usage by terrorist organisations can be successfully combated, but I do have worries about people's privacy.
A Draft Care and Support Bill was also mentioned in the speech. I believe this is a huge issue facing the country. As people are living longer then how we provide and fund adult care and support is a key issue to be dealt with. Again I will watch what the Government proposes with interest.
There were other Bills promised in the speech that will no doubt occupy people's thoughts as to how they will impact on everyday life. A Pensions Bill looking to reform the State Pension for future pensioners by creating a flat rate single tier pension set above the level of the basic means test will lift more future pensioners out of means testing. This is the sort of thing that people will watch carefully. The proposals will not apply to existing pensioners but the pensioners of future years.
The phrase Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) isn't one that may trip too lightly off the tongue, however it is something I have received many letters and emails on. The purpose of the Adjudicator is to deal with instances of large supermarkets exploiting their powers to put undue pressure on suppliers and to compete unfairly with smaller retailers. A draft bill was published last year but concerns were aired that the GCA may not be strong enough, with a Select Committee recommending more robust provisions could be included. When the Bill comes before the House we can see what the content is and whether it goes far enough, but giving the smaller producers stronger support against the power of supermarkets is something I would definitely be in favour of.
The new session of Parliament has now begun. The above and much more will be working its way through the legislative processes during the coming 12 months. The deficit and the economy are always at the front of our minds, but the Government is not coasting and the contents of the Queens Speech 2012 promise a busy year.