This week saw the delivery of the Gracious Speech from Her Majesty the Queen to Parliament. The Queen’s Speech in normal times is used by a government to put forward its legislative programme for the year ahead. But these are not normal times.
The Speech delivered a wish list of laws, none of them achievable as the government has a majority of minus 45. That means that there is no chance of many, if any, of these uncosted promises being implemented in the near future.
I my response to the Speech I noted there were some grounds for cross-party cooperation. Issues like ending trophy hunting of wild animals and bringing the Northern Ireland Assembly back online.
But there were many other aspects of the Speech which deeply worried me.
One was a proposal to introduce voter ID. This would mean that no one would be allowed to vote without government recognised identification. Now, if you just glance at this you may not think there is a problem. But when you look at the details you quickly see how this is actually a proposal to suppress the vote.
25% of the UK population doesn’t have a driving licence and/or passport. Currently, a passport costs £85 and a driving licence costs £34 (plus £10 more if you can’t apply online). This means that the most vulnerable people will be locked out of voting. Age UK has said that these proposals are ‘crazy’ and the Electoral Reform Society has pointed out that electoral fraud is minuscule and these policies are like a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
I also was deeply disappointed that no announcements were made on introducing laws to protect shopworkers from violence at work. 115 retail staff are attacked a day just for doing their job. We cannot continue with the madness of people being scared of going to work for fear of attack.
There was also no news on legislating on air weapons. The UK Government launched a review of air weapons on the 12 December 2017. That review closed in February 2018. We still haven’t had a response from the UK Government. I have constituents who have put in efforts to providing evidence for this review because they have lost loved ones. The discourtesy of the UK Government towards these families is appalling. We need action on protecting people from harm from air weapons.
I also raised concerns about the government’s plans on immigration. The most concerning are the words on Irish nationals. Since 1922 the UK and Republic of Ireland have operated a Common Travel Area. This means that Irish nationals can travel and work within the UK. When in government, we secured this even further in the Good Friday Agreement. This ensured that those who wanted to identify as Irish, British or both could do in Northern Ireland. Removal of the 1922 agreement would deeply divide communities in Northern Ireland and undermine lasting peace.
In all, this was a uncosted wish list by the Government. There was an opportunity to deliver radical policies to help people get on in life. Sadly, this was an opportunity missed.