Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Queen's Speech 2010 - Good, Bad, and Ugly

From 11:30 to 11:42 this morning, the Queen set out the objectives of our New Government.

The full text is available in the Hansard.

The Good

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government’s legislative programme will be based upon the principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility.
'Fairness' can be tricky, but freedom and responsibility are unquestionably good.

The first priority is to reduce the deficit and restore economic growth.
This must be the priority, and we must not stop until we have turned the deficit into a surplus, and used it to pay off the national debt. Thereafter, we need laws that prevent politicians from raising taxes, running up debts, or printing money without the explicit consent of the people.

The tax and benefits system will be made fairer and simpler. Changes to National Insurance will safeguard jobs and support the economy. People will be supported into work with sanctions for those who refuse available jobs and the timetable for increasing the State Pension Age will be reviewed.
We will have to await the details, but this all sounds positive to me. To avoid horrendous compliance costs, deadweight costs, and unjustified invasion of privacy, tax reform is urgently needed. Let us hope these are not empty words.

The best way to simplify taxes is to eliminate some altogether. To promote growth, those that remain should be as low as possible, and engineered to minimise disruption of the free market. Employers' NI should be abolished, and employees' NI should be rolled into Income Tax until such time as that can be abolished.

As for benefits, it is imperative that we break the welfare trap. Work should always pay; pregnancy should never pay.

State pensions are a farce, as well as a dangerous liability. I'm certainly not counting on receiving one.

My Government will seek to build a strong and fair society by reforming public services and encouraging individual and social responsibility.
Responsibility is good, but the devil is in the details. The only thing the government needs to do to encourage individual and social responsibility is to step back. From his past comments, we must fear that Cameron has a much more interventionist approach in mind.

Legislation will be introduced to enable more schools to achieve academy status, give teachers greater freedom over the curriculum and allow new providers to run state schools.
Greater freedom is good, and so is the introduction of new providers, but I fear the reforms won't go far enough, and that the government won't be able to resist meddling.

It's a difficult problem, because there are definite positive externalities to an educated workforce, and early equality of opportunity is the only sort of equality that deserves any consideration, but I don't trust the government to educate our children, and nor do I want taxpayers' money going to madrassas.

It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Constituents will be given the right to recall their Members of Parliament where they are guilty of serious wrongdoing.
This is certainly a step in the right direction. The trouble is that it will be politicians who decide whether serious wrongdoing has occurred.

I'd suggest that citizens should be able to force a by-election at any time, for any reason, through a simple-majority referendum, triggered by the collection of sufficient signatures. The trouble with this idea is a problem inherent in democracy: the people may resist good changes as well as bad.

Proposals will be brought forward for a reformed second House that is wholly or mainly elected on the basis of proportional representation.
Assuming this is true proportional representation (not AV, AV Plus, or STV), I think this would be a good move. The current system of appointments is hopelessly corrupt.

Legislation will be brought forward to restore freedoms and civil liberties, through the abolition of Identity Cards and repeal of unnecessary laws.
This is unquestionably good, though they will not go far enough.

My Government will introduce legislation to implement recommendations from the Final Report of the Commission of Scottish Devolution and is committed to a referendum on additional powers for the National Assembly of Wales.
A federal structure sounds like the right answer to me. Let us end the transfer payments, and let the Scottish and the Welsh fund their own socialist programmes. It is the only way they will see the light, and recover their pride.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government will introduce legislation to ensure that in future this Parliament and the British people have their say on any proposed transfer of powers to the European Union.
Good, but not enough. We need an In or Out referendum.

The Bad

Legislation will reform financial services regulation to learn from the financial crisis and to make fair and transparent payments to Equitable Life policy holders.
Our financial system is badly in need of reform, but the changes we're likely to see won't address the fundamental problems, and will probably make things worse.

Taxpayers' money should never be used to bail out private policy holders.

My Government will support investment in new high-speed broadband internet connections, enable the construction of a high-speed railway network and reform the economic regulation of airports to benefit passengers.
High speed rail is closer to genuine 'investment' than most government spending, but it is still an illegitimate use of confiscated wealth.

Investment in broadband internet is unnecessary, and represents an unjustifiable wealth transfer from city dwellers to those who choose to live in the countryside.

My Government will limit the number of non-European Union economic migrants entering the United Kingdom and end the detention of children for immigration purposes.
I don't have much faith in the ability of bureaucrats to determine who will make a contribution to our society. They should simply require that migrants have a job, and ensure that they receive no state subsidy, either directly, or indirectly through the translation of government documents into foreign languages.

The same policy should apply to EU migrants. If that cannot be negotiated, it is yet another reason we are better off out.

Legislation will be introduced to improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses, to promote low carbon energy production and to secure energy supplies.
My Government will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change, including at the climate change conference in Mexico later this year.
The risks of Anthropogenic Global Warming have been greatly overplayed, and in any case we are better off adapting to climate change, rather than burning billions trying in vain efforts to prevent it. At a time of economic crisis, the last thing we need is burdensome 'green' regulations and wasteful environmental projects.

What environmental laws we have should focus on genuine local problems, such as air and water quality, not exaggerated and intractable global problems.

My Government will remove barriers to flexible working and promote equal pay.
Government attempts to institute "equal pay" will always be heavy-handed and unfair, as it is very difficult in practice to determine "equal work". Even if this were achievable, the government should have no say in the remuneration programmes of private firms; those companies who fail to attract the best workers will suffer, and that is enough. Likewise, nobody has a right to flexible working.

My Government looks forward to an enhanced partnership with India.
My Government is committed to spend nought point seven per cent of gross national income in development aid from 2013.
All aid to India must cease. A country that can afford a space programme does not need financial assistance from us. Other development aid goes on similarly dubious projects by highly corrupt governments. If nothing else, it is ridiculous that we are borrowing in order to give. The best thing we can do to support the developing world is to engage in free trade. We can only do this by leaving the EU.

The Ugly

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.
Centuries of tradition and official Establishment notwithstanding, God has no business in politics.

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