This ceremony, unveiling the Government’s legislative programme for the next year or so, has 38 bills in it. The programme ahead will be very busy.
A renewed focus on and increased funding for schools is most welcome. I was particularly pleased to hear £5 billion has been invested in the National Tutoring Programme. This will offer catch-up tutoring for students who fell behind during the pandemic.
But the most transformative announcement came from the Government’s pledge to build a stronger and future-proof lifelong skills system using further and adult education.
The world is changing at a rapid rate and we must have the scope and capacity for adults to retrain into new skills if we are to have a competitive, flexible and highly skilled economy.
The centrepiece of this approach is the Lifelong Loan Entitlement. This will provide people with a loan equivalent to four years of education or £37,000 in today’s fees. This can be used over their lifetime for a range of studies including shorter and technical courses. This could help them secure a promotion, or a better job.
This is a big new mechanism and a radical shift in emphasis for post-18 education designed to allow people to learn, train and remain employable throughout their lives. It will allow people everywhere opportunities and I am thrilled it is part of the government’s legislative agenda.
Other Queen’s Speech news showed the Government’s priority is ‘to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families’.
Only a growing and levelled up economy can deliver what we need to face the cost-of-living crisis caused by global post-pandemic pressures and the war in Ukraine.
As a backdrop, this year the Government will spend £83 billion paying interest on our £2.5 trillion debt. The only two government departments that have bigger budgets are health and education.
Hundreds of billions have been spent during the pandemic to protect lives and livelihoods, on vaccines and healthcare and on jobs and businesses to save our people and our society from a tsunami of redundancies and bankruptcies.
There are tough times ahead but whilst it is beyond any government to fully neutralise the effects of global inflation, we must help those in most need with targeted support. In this context, I have already raised my concern for lower fixed income pensioners with the Prime Minister.
It was not specifically identified in the Queen’s Speech, but the Department for Transport is actively considering regulation and legislation around the use of e scooters this incoming session. This was a hotly debated topic on a roundtable I chaired with the Eastbourne Access Group this week.
With our recovery still moving forward, I’m looking forward to re-establishing my ‘Pint of Politics’ debates in the pub and hugely popular tours to Westminster. Look out for details to come.