Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, has today given his verdict on the government’s upcoming legislative agenda as announced in the Queen’s Speech this morning.
For the first time, the Queen’s Speech took place in a socially distanced ceremony, with only certain MPs and Lords allowed in the chamber itself, and many watching the proceedings from home. In it, the Queen outlined the key legislative plans of the government, and referenced several bills which will be carried over from the previous Parliamentary session.
Andrew Gwynne said:
There are aspects of the Queen’s speech that I obviously welcome. I was pleased to hear talk of strengthening animal welfare and environmental legislation. However, I will be watching closely and scrutinising the legislation to make sure that it takes the robust steps needed to tackle the climate crisis. It is for this reason that I am supporting Caroline Lucas MP in her calls for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill to be front and centre of the government’s legislative agenda.
However, I am extremely concerned with the government’s plans to introduce compulsory Photo ID to allow people to vote in elections. This issue is being framed by the government as a means of ‘strengthening the integrity of our elections’, but its implications are deeply concerning. The electoral watchdog itself has stated that there remains ‘no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud’. To put the issue into perspective, 595 cases of alleged voter fraud were investigated by police in 2019, with just four leading to a conviction and two individuals given a police caution. This, in an election in which over 47 million votes were cast, is almost farcically tiny. This is a dreadful solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist and will only succeed in disenfranchising the poorest and most marginalised groups.
The jury is also out on the government’s rhetoric of ‘levelling up’. After 11 years of Tory cuts to policing, education and public services, places like Denton and Reddish must start seeing the benefits of investment. It is not enough simply for the government to claim that it is ‘levelling up’ without doing any of the hard work involved.
There is still no formal plan on dealing with the social care crisis, with no detail being given on potential legislation or timetabling. Yet again the government mentions ‘social care’ as if by saying the words enough times it will solve the problem. The care system has been decimated by the Coronavirus crisis, and we need action urgently.
The government needs to start properly addressing the problems that the country faces in the aftermath of the pandemic. We simply do not have the time for cynical legislation or empty slogans. It’s time for the government to step up and listen to communities up and down the country who are crying out for support. However, after watching today’s speech, I was left worrying that it still wasn’t getting the message.