Vernon's response to the Queen's Speech

Following the General Election, the Conservative Government’s programme was outlined in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.

When Britain is facing a fragile future – in our economy, public services and our politics – the test for the Queen’s Speech is whether it will make a positive difference to people’s lives. As we enter into a new Parliament, it is vital the Government is held to account and that the reality of the legislation the Government puts forward matches the rhetoric of this week’s Queen’s Speech.

On the economy, although some economic growth is returning, its benefits are not being shared and we need to focus on Britain’s productivity which lags behind other countries. Britain cannot succeed with low-skilled, low-wage, insecure employment and a race to the bottom, and our economic recovery must involve a high-skilled, long-term approach. I will support investment in the skills that people need for the future and genuine help to get people into work, as well as measures that help small businesses and investment in our infrastructure. However, I will not support arbitrary measures to undermine people’s rights at work.

The Queen’s Speech included measures for constitutional change. I support further devolution to Scotland, Wales and the English regions. However, any change needs to be fair and lasting and done in a way that builds the broadest possible consensus. For example, on proposals for English votes for English laws or on constituency boundary changes, the Government must proceed in a way that is best for the country and not party-political interests.

There has been a lot of media interest in the proposal for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. I will support this Bill which will allow the referendum to go ahead. However, I believe that it is better for Britain to stay in the EU. This is an important issue for the future of our country which is why I also support calls for 16 and 17-year-olds to be able to vote in the referendum.

I was disappointed that the Queen’s Speech failed to set out a Bill to address the difficulties in our National Health Service when it has become harder to see a GP, our A&E services are in crisis and waiting lists are up. We need measures to help people get to see their GP and help patients in accident and emergency to be seen promptly.

In the weeks and months ahead it will be the vital role of the Opposition to examine the detail of the Government’s programme to ensure it really improves our country, our communities and people’s lives.