Recently Progress have been asking for suggestions as to what could constitute an alternative Labour Queen’s Speech, ahead of the real one. You can read some of the suggestions here, and mine is below.
The Queen’s Speech is nearly upon us. It seems likely that the coalition government – having pushed through many of their “reforms” in the first two years of the parliament – will present a relatively slim line legislative agenda (preferring to focus on deficit reduction). Yet Labour people should be restless for change and accept that Britain is (as Cameron would once have argued) Broken. The need for deficit reduction is of course acknowledged by the party, but that doesn’t mean we should accept the scale, scope or focus of coalition cuts.
Here are five areas in which the party could look to push the government, some ambitious, some relatively small, but all significant, and all Labour:
1. One of Britain’s biggest problems is a chronic shortage of housing, which both fuels an unsustainable house price bubble and makes it almost impossible for young people to get onto the property ladder. The government have committed to building 3 million new homes by 2020, so let’s enshrine that in law – and set targets for affordability.
2. Another big one, but again a problem that we can either tackle now or face the grim consequences of in a decade – an aging population and a completely inadequate national system of adult social care. Ignore the inevitable caterwauling from the Tories about “Death Taxes” – we need a National Care Service, paid for through national insurance contributions if necessary. Wouldn’t you pay a few pounds a month to know that the care of your parents or grandparents was assured? I know I would.
3. Peter Mandelson once said New Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich – as long as they pay their taxes” – so why does the British government allow British Crown Dependencies to act as tax havens and cost Britain billions? Crown dependencies should be compelled to co-operate with UK tax authorities, or the UK government should place them on the OECD international tax haven blacklist.
4. In government Labour began, but did not finish, reform of the House of Lords. Nick Clegg will try (and probably fail) to reform the upper chamber, but the very least that Labour should be looking to achieve is the removal of the final 92 hereditary peers from the Lords. That would at least remove the grotesque spectacle of by-elections places in the Lords, with hereditary peers competing to replace the deceased.
5. And finally, Freedom of Information has come under attack lately with the government suggesting that a charge could be placed on requests in future, but Labour should be pushing for further transparency in government, and expand FOI to include all public sector contracts. We should have a right to know the how private companies are spending public money, in the same way that we can find out how the public sector is spending public money.
This was originally published at Progress Online.