Last week saw the Queen attend Parliament to perform the official State Opening of Parliament. This marks the formal start of the Parliamentary session and includes the Queen’s Speech –which sets out the Government’s legislative agenda over the coming year. This year’s speech built upon the important measures this Government has already introduced during our first year as a Conservative majority Government and I welcomed the Government’s renewed commitment to strengthening our economy to provide security for working people and improving life chances here in Amber Valley.
I was particularly pleased by the inclusion of a Digital Economy Bill, as I know slow broadband speeds affect a number of my constituents, and crucially their businesses every day. This Bill affirms the Government’s commitment to ensuring we can compete globally, introducing new obligations on broadband providers to give everyone the right to high-speed broadband, which is fantastic for those who I know encounter problems with internet speeds.
I know many of my constituents will also be pleased to see the inclusion of a Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill which will give local communities more power and control to shape their own area. Planning issues are frequently an area of concern for my constituents and I remain committed to ensuring that the planning system works in the interests of local communities and recognises their concerns.
The Queen’s Speech also provided clarification on future plans for encouraging educational excellence everywhere. Whilst all schools will be encouraged to become an academy there will be no compulsion for good or outstanding schools to do so. This is something I expressed concern to the Secretary of State about and I am glad this has been reflected in the Government’s agenda for the coming year.
To build on measures introduced in the Chancellor’s Budget, the Government also announced plans to further support and encourage people to save, through a Help to Save scheme. This will be aimed at helping those on low incomes and in receipt of certain benefits and those who put aside £50 a month will see this matched by the Government.
My constituents can also expect further progress on consumer choice through the Better Markets Bill which will make it easier to switch banks and energy providers and ensure these markets work fairly for consumers.
To ensure the NHS works in the interests of local people, the NHS (Overseas Visitors Charging) Bill – will see new, higher charges introduced for overseas migrants, meaning the full cost of treatment will be recovered, alongside obligations on hospitals to collect the payment. This is something I know a number of my constituents have contacted me about in the past and comes up frequently on the doorstep. Her Majesty also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to providing a 7 day NHS, to ensure patients can expect the same level of care right across the week. I am glad the Government is taking decisive action to safeguard and improve the quality of care available to my constituents.
I look forward to working alongside the Government on these Bills and representing the views of my constituents as they progress through Parliament over the coming months.