UK Politics

Miliband attacks Queen's Speech as 'more of the same'

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has said the Queen's Speech offers "more of the same" rather than a "new direction" for the country.

The Labour leader said the government's legislative agenda lacked the policies needed to reward people for hard work and to tackle economic insecurity.

Its programme, he told MPs, "did not rise to the challenge" of helping the five million low-paid people and dealing with the shortage of new homes.

He also urged action on bank lending, energy bills and rogue employers.

The Queen's Speech, the last of the five-year coalition government, includes:

  • reforms to pensions
  • measures to speed up infrastructure projects
  • a tax-free childcare subsidy of up to £2,000
  • enhanced anti-terrorism powers
  • proposals to allow voters to recall MPs between general elections

The Labour leader said his party backed measures on recall of MPs, childcare and modern slavery but said only a Labour government could properly address the pressing economic concerns facing millions of families.

'Chasm'

He called for:

  • the minimum wage to keep pace more closely with earnings
  • structural reform to the banking and energy sectors to increase competition and reduce bills
  • devolution of more powers for skills, transport and development to the English regions

"There is a chasm between the needs of the people of this country and whether this House and politics is capable of responding," Mr Miliband said. "We need to rise to this challenge but this speech does not do it.

"But it can be done... this is the choice the country will face in a year's time."

Image copyright PA

On housing, he said the market was "not working" for people, with developers not having the "incentives to build at the pace we need".

A minimum of 200,000 new homes were needed every year and developers should have to forfeit land if not using it.

On pensions, he said he backed coalition reforms to annuities and workplace schemes but said people needed to be given proper advice to prevent the mis-selling scandals of the past.

After last month's European elections, in which more than 60% did not vote, Mr Miliband also said Parliament faced a battle to remain "relevant and legitimate" in the eyes of the public.

After UKIP's success in those elections, the Labour leader said it was not prejudiced to talk about immigration but said that the government needed to address the sources of people's concerns with practical steps, such as stopping rogue employers undercutting wages and exploiting workers.

'Uninspired'

UKIP dismissed the Queen's Speech as a "pick and mix of PR" of little relevance to the public.

The Green Party of England and Wales said the government should be moving towards a low-carbon economy rather than "riding roughshod" over the public interest with regard to shale gas drilling and distribution.

The SNP said there were no promises of more powers for Scotland, suggesting voters would take note of this in the run-up to September's vote on whether Scotland should remain in the UK.

Although the government has pledged to hand more tax and borrowing powers to Wales, Plaid Cymru said the Queen's Speech was "uninspired" and suggested the coalition was "ready for retirement".

In other reaction, the CBI said the focus on targeted measures to sustain the economic recovery rather than a raft of new laws was "refreshing" and it backed initiatives on planning, small business finance and housing.

But the TUC said ministers "lacked the courage" to tackle the casualisation of the workforce.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the government's long-term economic plan was working but that it would take the remainder of the current Parliament and the whole of the next to "finish the job".

He also accused Labour of failing to be straight with the public about Europe and their plans for jobs' taxes.

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