The Queen, seated on the Throne and attended by Her Officers of State, commanded that the Yeoman Usher should let the Commons know that it was Her Majesty's pleasure that they attend Her immediately in this House.
The tax and benefits system will be made fairer and simpler. Changes to National Insurance will safeguard jobs and support the economy. People will be supported into work with sanctions for those who refuse available jobs and the timetable for increasing the State Pension Age will be reviewed.
My Government will support investment in new high-speed broadband internet connections, enable the construction of a high-speed railway network and reform the economic regulation of airports to benefit passengers.
The voice of patients and the role of doctors will be strengthened in the National Health Service to improve public health alongside actions to reduce health
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A Bill will be introduced to devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities control over housing and planning decisions. Legislation will be introduced to stop uncompleted plans to create unitary councils.
My Government will introduce legislation to implement recommendations from the Final Report of the Commission of Scottish Devolution and is committed to a referendum on additional powers for the National Assembly of Wales.
My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government will introduce legislation to ensure that in future this Parliament and the British people have their say on any proposed transfer of powers to the European Union.
The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to our visit to Canada in June and to our visit to the United Nations in New York in July. We also look forward to receiving His Holiness Pope Benedict the Sixteenth in September.
The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, I regret that I have to inform the House of the recent deaths of Viscount Colville of Culross, Lord Bernstein of Craigweil and Lord Wolfson. On behalf of the whole House, I extend our condolences to those noble Lords' families and friends. I am also sure that the whole House would wish me to use this opportunity to extend our sympathy and condolences to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, on the sad death of her husband during the Dissolution.
The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, I have to acquaint the House that Her Majesty was pleased this morning to make a most gracious Speech from the Throne to both Houses of Parliament assembled in the House of Lords. Copies of the gracious Speech are available in the Printed Paper Office. I have, for the convenience of the House, arranged for the terms of the gracious Speech to be published in the Official Report.
"Most Gracious Sovereign-We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
Earl Ferrers: This is a great day: State Openings of Parliament always are. Amid all the pomp and glory, they are happy, rejoicing occasions-and today has been no exception. Having had the privilege of being in your Lordships' House for 55 years, I have never before been asked to undertake this awesome responsibility. Your Lordships will soon find out why. At least your Lordships will realise that youth is on your side.
We have witnessed today what must be the greatest constitutional spectacle in the world. Its majestic procession says a hundred and one things to all of us. The uniforms in all their glory have ensured the anonymity of the wearers. Gone are the Berts and Freds of normality. In their place, as we tiptoe back in history, come the glorious titles of Bluemantle Pursuivant, Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, Maltravers Herald Extraordinary. Then there are the Queen's Body Guard, the Gentlemen at Arms and all the others. Each represents a facet of the constitution in which we all bask. We should never forget that. We live in a country full of history, traditions and peculiarities. Sometimes we get stroppy and want to change it all, but we should never forget that the intricate weave of the constitution and the majesty of the monarchy allow us flexibility to wriggle and to move within their confines. We must be careful not to snap the thread. Today, as we saw Her Majesty once again open her Parliament, there can have been few people who did not admire the grace, dignity and elegance with which she carried out her tasks.
Earl Ferrers:I, along with most other noble Lords, I fancy, am humbly grateful for all that she does for Parliament and for the nation, and for all the pleasure, pride and encouragement that she gives to people all over the country. We are indeed blessed.
It was particularly sad that his great office could not be performed on this occasion by Black Rod himself because of his indisposition. He has endeared himself to everyone in your Lordships' House in the time that he has been with us, and we offer him our best wishes for a speedy recovery. The Yeoman Usher, if I may say so, jumped in, as it were, at the deep end and was masterly. He looked as though he had been doing it all his life and we congratulate him on that.
What had been the portents of a dull old election suddenly became one in which everyone was riveted with interest. The electorate decided to punch each party on the nose, which no one likes. The Labour Party wanted to win, but it did not. It is never a nice experience being removed from office, and I think that in your Lordships' House we probably understand that better if only, but not only, because in your Lordships' House there is real friendship between your Lordships, irrespective of party. I thank all noble Lords opposite, and especially those who held office, for their kindness and for the fun that they made it for all of us-at least, for most of the time.
The Liberal Democrats thought that they were sailing into a lovely welcoming port, but they were not. They received fewer seats than they expected, but I congratulate them on holding office for the first time in 65 years. That is quite an achievement whichever way you look at it. They have been at the forefront of all political jokes, especially from my party, most of which we thought were wholly justified. But not no more! We are chained together like suffragettes. When the late Lord Pethick-Lawrence, whom I remember sitting at the end of the Bench opposite, was in another place and his wife was a formidable suffragette, he made the wonderful observation that he would give £100 to a charity for every day that his wife remained chained to the railings of the House of Commons.
But then the unthinkable comes along: a coalition. The whole point of a coalition is that no one gets their way, which is not necessarily a bad idea. Parties which said that they were going to do one thing find that they cannot-at least, not without a good bit of shake and shove. It will be a case of co-operation, which is no bad thing. However, there is a gritty determination by the two young leaders to make it work. A few feet will get stamped on in the process and there will be some squeals but, as the lyricist would say, "What's New Pussycat?".
If the parties of the coalition will all work together to get the country straight, that will be a huge statement of statesmanship and a great reflection on the corporate wisdom of Parliament. It will, I hope, emphasise how much we all have in common with each other, rather than highlight the things that keep us separate. The gracious Speech has heralded in a new era, ensuring the fundamental importance of reducing the deficit and restoring economic growth. That will not be easy: it may be like turning a battleship around by giving it a poke with a boat hook. However, it is possible and it is essential for everything else to work.
I hope that we will get out of the modern habit of saying, when something goes wrong, that it is all somebody else's fault. People tend to suspect that the upheaval in the economy is all the bankers' fault. I do not believe that. They may have made some mistakes but they are affected by the upheaval just like everyone else. It is rather like blaming the captain of a ship for trying to steer his vessel through a storm for which he is not responsible. You need him to succeed; you do not have to shoot him. All the countries in the world have been affected by this and we shall have to co-operate to get out of it. There is usually a silver lining to most clouds and we must rejoice in the fact that we are not members of the euro.
Afghanistan, that thorny problem, will be high on the list of the Government's priorities. We admire all the effort, total devotion and dedication of our soldiers there and we all regret the loss of life to which so many of them have been subjected. I hope that the Government will ensure that those soldiers, who are prepared to give their lives to a cause on the other side of the world, to which at home there is not a natural sympathy, will nevertheless be properly equipped. We neglect our forces at our peril.
I was delighted at the coalition's determination to cut down on consultants and bureaucracy. Cutting down on bureaucracy will be an almost Herculean task and one thinks that it will never be achieved, but it must be. It is not enough just to remove the heads of bureaucracy and hope that the rest will wither. It will not. If you cut off a mushroom at the top, another three will grow from the mycelium underneath. It is the mycelium that must be dug out. I hope that this will be pursued with vigour.
I was glad to see that the Government intend to get more police on the street and to do away with bureaucracy. We all want that. Some years ago I had the privilege of being an ornament in the Home Office and I visited a police force. I actually visited more than one, but there is one in particular that I remember. A police officer asked, "Can you do anything about this?". I said, "I don't know, what is it?". He replied, "I have to write out this form 13 times and the person won't even be charged". That was 20 years ago; I do not know how many times he has to write it out now. It must be possible to remove such absurd practices. Everyone knows that they are indefensible but nothing seems to be done about them. I hope that the Government will do something.
The attack on bureaucracy must be allied to the generation of civility. Civil servants and local authorities must have it drilled into them that they are the servants and not the masters. There is too much of the police state about now-in what is said, written and inferred. "Keep out of the bus lane-fine £150" may be factually correct but it is deeply offensive. In their reform of bureaucracy I hope that the Government will remove the word "targets". They may be fine for a salesman but they are inappropriate for policemen, doctors and others.
Out go identity cards. At least that will create some savings even if it causes disputes in other respects. Exeter and Norwich are no longer to become unitary authorities. That will save money and will please a lot
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A second House which is wholly or partially elected is in the gracious Speech. One does not have to be a genius to realise from which end of the suffragette's chain that idea came. I have always had the respectful temerity to advise your Lordships not to cheer too much at the removal of the hereditary Peers because the life Peers would be next. Well, that was a little premature. They got rid of the Lord Chancellor and the Law Lords first but, if there is to be an elected Chamber, now will come the time of the life Peers. Each one will have to take leave of each other and say, "Farewell, pleased to have met you"-but not yet. Get rid of everyone in the House and what are you left with? The Clerks. As Gilbert and Sullivan would say, "Here's a pretty how-de-do". Nobody will know where to go, what to do or how to do it, because there will not be anyone here. That is most odd. I can never understand why we always have to use up energy and parliamentary time in changing things which are working well-time which could be better addressed to the subjects which are not working well. I think that I had better not pursue that line too far, because it might be regarded as controversial, which of course it is not.
I think that there is at last an understanding by the Government that people are fed up with being cocooned with regulations, laws and obligations. Governments consider it a matter of pride to pass more laws. Actually, people want to live their lives in peace and contentment with fewer laws. It is often said that we know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. A German wrote a not dissimilar paradox on our time. It was, of course, in German, but I thought that for the convenience of your Lordships I would give it in English. He said that we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less opinion; more experts, but more problems. We have learnt to make a living, but not a life. We have added years to life, but not life to years. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, and accomplish less. We have learnt to rush, but not to wait.
I think that that encapsulates much that is wrong with our society. If our coalition Government succeed in getting some of that right, the chances of us crawling out of the mess that is all around us are large. What a triumph that would be, and I wish them good luck.
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