THE Queen’s Speech to both Houses of Parliament has taken place for the last time before the next General Election.
The occasion was splendid, laden with custom and highly significant. The speech set out the legislative agenda and the government’s programme for the next ten months and will, itself, be debated in Parliament for a week.
Several of the measures have direct relevance to the Stroud Valleys and Vale, not least because they are part of the long-term economic plan so necessary to rebalance our economy and produce sustainable economic growth.
With nearly a quarter of all local jobs directly connected to manufacturing and engineering, this focus has brought more jobs, more investment and more spending power to our towns and villages.
With the economy set to grow at least 3 per cent per annum, measures will be made to make sure fairness and opportunity are hallmarks of our local economy.
This will include the government introducing legislation to improve contracts for low paid workers, increase access finance for small businesses, enforce the minimum wage, which is set to increase and facilitate more flexibility in private pensions.
With Stroud’s long time commitment to end slavery in mind, a Bill will be introduced to strengthen powers to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking.
It will also improve levels for support for victims of such crime. Another Bill will make it possible for courts to recognise heroic acts for the benefit of others.
Plastic bags will be subject to legislation to discourage their use in order to protect the environment. This matter was carefully considered by the Environmental Audit Committee (on which I sit) and is yet another example where local priorities in the Stroud Valleys and Vale have influenced the political agenda.
Ongoing reforms will be continued. Making sure young people have the best schools and training is a top priority. There will be more investment in extra school places, further reforms to GCSEs and A Levels, free school meals for infants and a new Bill to help with the cost of childcare.
Overall, the speech sets out measures to further strengthen our economy and provides good news for local people.