The Queen's Speech - some silver linings
There's actually some good stuff in the Queen's speech today - thanks, I have to say, to the Lib Dem involvement in the Coalition.
For several years Vince Cable has been saying that the retail and investment arms of banks should be separated from each other. The kind of banking services that individuals and small businesses use should be protected from the risks associated with high level gambling. It won't prevent people taking risks, if they wish, through the investment sector but the consequences will fall solely on the investors. At last we have promised legislation to bring that about.
Nick Clegg's proposals for flexible parental leave have made it in to the Queen's Speech. Parents will be able to choose for themselves how to split the total parental leave to which they are entitled.
Ed Davey is taking through some excellent environmental policies that had been developed by Chris Huhne, including the Green Investment Bank and the Energy Bill and we are promised legislation for both during the coming year.
Before he took on his new job, Ed was developing the idea of a Groceries Adjudicator to ensure that suppliers are treated fairly by the big supermarkets. That will now happen.
I also like the idea of giving shareholders a vote on directors' pay (though would personally like employees to have that right as well) - another of Vince's proposals.
Then we come to reform of the House of Lords, and the chance to finally implement the agreement made in Westminster over 100 years ago! Tories are claiming that it is a distraction from the measures needed to sort out the economy, but frankly that argument could be used to delay almost any piece of legislation. I really don't understand why they are opposed to a smaller House, having already imposed a smaller House of Commons on us, with all the complex bureaucracy of the Boundaries Review. And today it does seem bizarre to be advocating an upper house consisting largely of those who have found favour with the Government, instead of a body chosen democratically by the people.
The one proposal that I am very unhappy about is the Draft Communications Bill - that is the one that will extend snooping, requiring ISPs to keep full details of every email you send, every message you tweet and every phone call you make. This was going to be pushed through by the Tories a couple of months ago, but Lib Dem intervention has slowed down the process so it will be subjected to greater scrutiny. However, we still need to be vigilant.