By Matthew Barrett
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Following the Queen's Speech this morning, several think tanks have reacted to the legislation announced (full details of which can be found here). I've collected them below.
8pm update: Open Europe have given their reaction to the proposed European Union Bill:
"The UK government is likely to sell the measure as a guarantee that it will never again be forced to indirectly contribute to eurozone bailout funds – a few papers have already run with that story. At the same December summit, Britain won a political declaration and an EU decision that the article that forced it to contribute to the EU-wide bailout funds, the EFSM, won't be used again (Article 122 – for background, see here and here). However, the legal status of this guarantee is uncertain. It is not part of the treaty change itself, and MPs may argue that a guarantee that isn't anchored in the Treaties could well prove ineffective. After all, the UK has received guarantees before which proved to be pretty worthless (clue: Charter of Fundamental Rights, Working Time Directive). If MPs wake up to the legal ambiguity underpinning the 'guarantee' they may ask for something firmer in return for ratifying the treaty change."
7.15pm update: Nick Pickles, the Director of Big Brother Watch, has commented on the surveillance aspects of the Queen's Speech:
"So there we have it – the Communication Capabilities Development Programme will have it’s day in Parliament. We don’t know what the draft clauses will be or when we will see them, but the Government remains intent on pursuing legislation in the coming session of Parliament. If someone is suspected of plotting an attack the powers already exist to tap their phone, read their email and follow them on the street. Instead of scaremongering the Home Office should come forward and engage with the debate about how we improve public safety, rather than pursue a policy that will indiscriminately spy on everyone online while the real threats are driven underground and escape surveillance."
2.45pm update: The Centre for Policy Studies' Head of Economic Research, Ryan Bourne has commented:
"What’s needed now is for the Government to use the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to get serious about deregulation and repealing unnecessary legislation, especially for small businesses. This should include reform of employment legislation and the recommendations of the Beecroft report. Unfortunately, the emphasis on being family-friendly will, in some areas, directly contradict this liberalisation. Flexible parental leave, for example, is unlikely to be popular with many employers. In other areas, such as tax reform, planning, infrastructure and energy policy, it’s a case of wait and hope. Though there wasn’t anywhere near enough in the way of growth bills, it was welcoming to see the Government highlight the need to see through pensions reform. Finalising the creation of the single tier pension is a sensible step. This should be undertaken as soon as possible to put the Government in a better bargaining position with the public sector trade unions on pensioner poverty. The decision to continue with the 10 year period of protection for public sector employees approaching retirement will, however, eliminate much in the way of any early cash savings from public sector pensions reform."
The Institute of Directors has commented on a number of the specific measures announced. Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, gave his reaction to the Speech overall:
“The Government is right to place deficit reduction and economic stability at the forefront of their programme. However, we need to see them pursued enthusiastically in practice, not just in principle. To restore business confidence, which is the real key to growth, there must be drastic measures to cut costly regulation and continue to tackle the deficit. Tweaking the edges of the system will not be enough – it’s not the number of Bills that matters, it’s what is in them that really counts.”
On parental leave, Walker commented:
“Allowing parental leave to be shared is a sensible proposal that we welcome – it makes sense as an arrangement to give families more flexibility in how they use their allowance. The Government should be careful not to use this as an opportunity to increase levels of leave, though. Sharing the allowance is fine, but putting heavier burdens on business in these tough times would not be a sensible move.”
Finally, on pension reform:
“The pension system is outdated and unsuited to the realities of modern demographics. The Bills in the Queen’s speech may go some way towards improving the situation, but the urgent need for a whole new architecture for retirement savings cannot be ignored. At best these will be steps in the right direction – dramatic action will be required in the near future”.
The Adam Smith Institute's Sam Bowman also took issue with "tinker[ing] around the edges", instead of passing radical reforms:
“The government seems determined to tinker around the edges of business and employment regulation. The tepid piecemeal modifications the government is proposing will do virtually nothing to make doing business easier in Britain, and that's the only hope we have of generating a strong recovery. Our export markets are weak and domestic demand is stagnant – without a supply-side revolution that slashes business taxes and employment regulation, we will not see growth."
However, Dr Eamonn Butler, the ASI's Director, did have some warm words for the Government's public sector pensions reforms:
"The bill to reform public service pensions is long overdue, though it will be hugely controversial. But the pensions for public sector workers have to be in line with what people in the private sector can aspire to. Right now, the perceived superiority of public pensions – larger, inflation-proofed, with more generous sickness provisions and available at an earlier age than most private pensions – causes enormous resentment."
“It is time this government stopped paying lip service to growth and did more about it. Measures to encourage growth should have formed the backbone of the legislative programme. Instead, a few meagre measures simply tweak round the edges. Further spending reductions, substantial tax cuts and specific red tape reduction measures should form the core of the government’s agenda for the rest of this Parliament. When it formed the coalition, both parties said they were committed to eliminating the deficit. This will now not be achieved. Government debt is ballooning and the economy is stagnating. The government should see the latest growth futures as a serious warning. Now is the time for urgent action.”