Queen's Speech: economy is top priority

Beating the recession and helping cash-strapped families is the government’s number one priority, the Queen told Parliament today.

In the annual Queen’s Speech, which is the central part of the State Opening of Parliament, the Monarch said that the strength of the financial sector is “vital to the future vibrancy of the economy”.

“My government’s overriding priority is to ensure the stability of the British economy during the global economic downturn,” she said. “My government is committed to helping families and businesses through difficult times.”

The speech sets out the government’s policies and proposed legislative programme for the new parliamentary session.

This year's included a proposed bill to ‘clean-up’ the banking sector, with fairer and more secure protection for depositors, as well as plans to bring forward the planned Saving Gateway Accounts, which encourage people on lower incomes to save more by offering financial incentives.

A bill will also be brought forward to reform the welfare system, the Queen said, which will improve incentives for people to move from benefits into sustained employment. Legislation to address the difference in pay between men and women will also be introduced as part of the government’s fight to end discrimination in the workplace.

The Queen ended her speech by stating: “My government will work for a coordinated international response to the global downturn, including by hosting the next G20 Summit on financial markets and the world economy in the UK in April next year and reforming financial institutions.”

Responding to the Queen's Speech, Gordon Brown said: "Every day we’re taking action to give real help now to help everyone get through this economic downturn fairly.

"But as we concentrate on bringing Britain through this downturn, we’re also preparing for a future in which Britain emerges stronger and fairer."

He promised to build a "fairer future" by protecting homesowners from repossession and enforcing rules to reward hard workers and penalise those who try to "game the system".

Brown also took the opportunity to attack the opposition. "The Conservative Party would do nothing to give real help now to families and businesses. It is no accident that it has chosen this course – it is the same unfair Conservative instinct that abandoned people, families and communities to sink or swim in the 1980s and 1990s."

Vince Cable, shadow chancellor for the Liberal Democrat Party, however, says the banking bill "misses the point".

"Rather than introducing legislation which will take months to come into force, ministers should be acting now to get banks lending again," he says. "The government must appoint directors to the boards of the nationalised and part-nationalised banks to enforce a business strategy that keeps credit available for good businesses.

"The government has propped up the UK banks, lending them billions of pounds. The banks must now in turn stop sending businesses bankrupt by taking away their lending and overdraft facilities."


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