Parliament was officially opened with HM the Queen delivering her speech on 27th May, outlining the new government’s legislative agenda for the coming year. David Cameron pledged to “create two million more jobs” over the course of the next 5 years, in order to achieve “full employment”, where there would be “a job for everyone who wants one”. He has also stated that there would be no increase to income tax, National Insurance or VAT rates over the course of this Parliament (National Insurance Contributions Bill/Finance Bill). We have prepared a brief summary of the some of the other main policies announced in the Queen’s Speech.
Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill: HM the Queen commented that the purpose of this legislation is to “help achieve full employment and provide more people with the security of a job”. She has also added that “New duties will require my ministers to report annually on job creation and apprenticeships.”
The main proposals in this Bill are to create full employment, freeze the main rates on most working-age benefits and to further reduce the benefit cap to £23,000. However, the freeze of certain benefits would not affect statutory payments, such as Statutory Maternity Pay.
The Enterprise Bill’s aim is to “reduce regulation on small businesses so they can create jobs.” It would focus on cutting red tape, achieving savings for businesses and creating a Small Business Conciliation Service, which would deal with business-to business disputes, such as late payments. The Bill would also limit the “enhanced redundancy payments” in the Public Sector.
The Personal Tax Allowance would be raised to £12,500 under the Personal Tax Allowance Bill. Additionally, David Cameron has indicated that the new legislation should ensure individuals who work up to 30 hours a week and earn the National Minimum Wage would not pay any income tax.
Parents may be pleased to know that the free childcare entitlement would be increased to 30 hours a week. This would apply to eligible working parents, whose children are three or four years old, and for the period of 38 weeks per calendar year (Childcare Bill).
The Immigration Bill would introduce a new offence on illegal working and enable the relevant authorities to seize the wages of illegal workers. It would also tackle exploitation of illegal workers by creating a new enforcement agency to deal with some of the worst cases. Furthermore, it would be illegal for an agency to solely recruit from abroad, unless the agency has advertised the relevant vacancies in English, in Britain.
The Trade Unions Bill would aim to clarify the opt-in process for the political fund element of trade union subscriptions and introduce a 50% threshold for union ballot turnouts.
Additionally, in the Queen’s speech, the government pledged the following: to ensure a seven days a week NHS service; that any decisions which are solely affecting England, or England and Wales, can only be taken with the consent of the majority of MPs representing those constituencies; to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the EU by 2017; that it will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights.
There are also other legislative measures which were included in the Conservative Party’s Manifesto and have yet to be announced, such as the pledge to lift the ban on employers hiring agency staff during strikes and the proposed measures to tackle tax avoidance in order to “raise at least £5 billion”. It will be interesting to see what the Government has in mind regarding these Manifesto commitments.