CentreForum’s Tom Frostick outlines nine measures a “big L” liberal government would enact in a Queen’s Speech.
By CentreForum’s Tom Frostick
ConservativeHome has published its own version of the Queen’s speech, charting what a “big C” conservative government would be doing had the Tories won a majority in 2010. At CentreForum, we conducted a similar exercise, and came up with nine measures a “big L” liberal government would enact.
Our Queen’s speech is based upon the principles of freedom and fairness. It will help disadvantaged children escape their circumstances. It will get more people into housing. It will cut youth unemployment immediately, promote consumer choice and strengthen our democracy. It will boost the economy now and into the future.
This is a Queen’s speech that liberals and progressives, from all parties, can get behind:
1. Legislate to get all children reading by the age of 11
No child who is eligible for the pupil premium should leave primary school without being able to read. A target along the lines of the 2020 child poverty target may help concentrate minds, but the government must also look to intervene where pupils are struggling to read to a decent standard.
2. Tackle the housing crisis by liberalising the planning system and giving leaseholders a better deal
Community land auctions should be introduced immediately to incentivise housebuilding. More houses will mean more leaseholders; the government should reform this unfair form of property ownership as an accompanying measure.
3. Go further in relaxing controls on the number of students entering higher education, and introduce a bill for postgraduate loans
As CentreForum’s chief economist Tim Leunig has argued, creating extra university places will cost nothing. The government should continue to relax controls on student numbers. It should also offer loans for one year taught Master’s courses. This again would cost the government next to nothing.
4. Change Home Office visa rules so overseas students who are studying in the UK on a temporary basis are treated differently to permanent migrants
Overseas students contribute billions of pounds a year to the UK economy. Home Office statistics show only about ten per cent stay on in the UK permanently. Clamping down on these students to reduce overall net migration makes no sense.
5. Press ahead with legislation for a majority elected and smaller House of Lords
“Asquith’s unfinished business” was in each of the major parties’ manifestos before the last general election. They should get on with it.
6. Commit to changing water industry legislation to make hosepipe bans a thing of the past
A hosepipe ban is a poor response to a drier than normal winter. In future drought years, water companies should offer businesses compensation for reducing the amount of water they consume. The water saved can then be sold on to metered domestic users who pay more for water than business users. This generates the cash needed to compensate businesses.
7. Push for a more diverse senior judiciary
Following the Ministry of Justice consultation ‘A judiciary for the 21st century’, the government should be looking to make the Supreme Court a more diverse institution.
8. Legislate to raise the state pension age by one month every year
People are living longer and will therefore have to work longer and wait longer before claiming their retirement benefits. It is time the government maps out a clear path for increasing the state pension age.
9. Go further in making the energy market friendlier to consumers
Switching energy tariffs should be made as easy as possible. Companies should have to tell people if a competitor is cheaper, and how much they can save, based on their estimated usage. As well as being told who is cheapest, customers should get a QR code linked to a pre-populated form, a web address and a phone number if they want to switch. All companies should offer the same prices to everyone – existing customers as well as new ones.
• The Queen’s Speech needs an ‘Economic Freedom Bill’ 9 May 2012
• Will Clegg stick or twist? 8 May 2010
For more on these measures, check out the CentreForum website; with the exception of Lords reform, we don’t expect to see any of them in Her Majesty’s speech, but there is always next time…