The State Opening of Parliament is one of Westminster’s great formal occasions.
Each year, ‘Black Rod’ summons MPs from the Commons to the House of Lords to hear the Queen’s Speech, during which Her Majesty sets out her government’s programme for the twelve months ahead.
All the pomp and ceremony provides a colourful backdrop to one of our most abiding democratic traditions. However the really important detail, politically, is the list of measures and bills that ministers intend to enact.
The Queen’s Speech showed that the Conservative-led government intends to use every single day before the general election in May 2015 to benefit people across the UK. David Cameron’s administration continues to turn the economy around and implement a series of measures aimed at helping hard-working people, like raising the level at which employees pay income tax to £10,500 and abolishing national insurance contributions for those under the age of 21.
Next year the Government will do a number of other things which are very important to Northern Ireland. It will cut the level of national insurance contributions paid by businesses, ensuring more jobs are created. It will provide more help for families with the costs of childcare, so that parents find it easier to balance their work commitments with bringing up children. It will also implement pension reforms that reward people who do the right thing and save for their futures.
In addition, the Treasury continues to work on measures to devolve powers to cut Corporation Tax to Northern Ireland. Its final decision will be no later than September 2014, opening up exciting possibilities for the economy and job creation.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Government’s plan is its decision to link extra economic help for Northern Ireland with ensuring progress toward building a prosperous and united community. Without creating a shared and stable future, frankly, our prospects are bleak. The current parties at Stormont have proved incapable of tackling these issues properly on their own and it is absolutely right that David Cameron is showing leadership and forcing them to act.
The aim is to equip Northern Ireland, with a vibrant, rebalanced economy, an integrated, stable community and a shared, prosperous future. We can all agree that these are worthwhile goals. The work toward achieving them is well underway, thanks to David Cameron, but they also make a great reason to ensure a Conservative government is re-elected in 2015, so that they are seen through to the end.