GOOD FOR BUSINESS?
It’s the first wholly Tory Queen’s Speech since 1996 and David Cameron is in a hurry to get things done. That’s sensible politics because the grim reaper and rebel backbenchers may erode his fragile majority. Also after the EU referendum, the clamour will rise for him to depart. The downside is that the 20 odd bills are rammed through without proper scrutiny in the first session of the parliament in contrast to the zombie session that is likely in 2019-20. Our poor legislative calendar leads to poor laws.
The programme reflects the Conservatives breaking free from the Lib Dems and business will welcome many of the proposals. The Enterprise Bill promises to cut red tape (where have we heard that before?) and sets up a conciliation service to deal with disputes between firms. The “Tax Lock” Bill has been criticised by former Chancellor Nigel Lawson, and quite right too. Passing a law to stop rises in income tax, VAT and National Insurance is unwisely restrictive. It shows how low political credibility has shrunk and there are ways round the income tax pledge anyway. The bill to let housing association tenants buy their homes will do nothing to deal with the underlying problems of the housing market. There are already signs of overheating in the South East now that the threat of a mansion tax has gone away.
One had hoped that in, what is effectively a second term, the Conservatives would have introduced wide ranging constitutional reform to deal with ending two tier local government and the House of Lords amongst other things. Instead a piecemeal approach is being adopted. Scotland will get devo max whilst Ministers hope to make low key changes to parliamentary standing orders to introduce English votes for English laws. Then we will have a bill to give power over transport, housing, planning and policing to northern cities. And that’s it. The interim elected mayor for Greater Manchester is due to be announced this afternoon. It may be a close vote between current Combined Authority leader Peter Smith and Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd.
Trade Union members are going to have to opt in to contribute to the Labour Party in a bill that also raises the threshold for calling strikes. We now need a bill to allow customers to deduct an amount from the price they are charged by companies that fund the Tory Party.
It is good news that the EU Referendum Bill will define the question to be asked, “Should the UK remain in the EU?” That gives those of us supporting our continued membership the opportunity to be on the bright positive “yes” side whilst the better off out brigade will be associated with the negative “no” proposition.
MANDY FOR MANCHESTER?
Manchester University is on a roll under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell. The institution is embracing the Northern Powerhouse with all the opportunities for business and the academic world to work together.
Now Lord Peter Mandelson wants to lend his shoulder to the wheel by becoming Chancellor. It is an honorary position but one where he could use his worldwide contacts to benefit the university. In government he had responsibility for higher education policy and was a northern MP.
He obviously brings some political baggage but he would be a high profile successor to Urban Splash boss Tom Bloxham.
Mandelson is opposed in the election by writer and broadcaster Lemn Sissay and the Music Director of the Halle Orchestra Sir Mark Elder.