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Labour sets out alternative Queen's Speech for One Nation

In advance of the Coalition Government's latest Queen's Speech on 8 May, Labour has set out its alternative Queen's Speech to show the action that a Labour Government would be taking over the next year.


Labour's Bills would include:

Housing Bill

Problem:
• The housing market has changes significantly in recent years. There are now 3.8 million households in the private rented sector, including more than one million with children.
• Many are being ripped off through hidden fees, which are costing tenants £76m per year.
• More than a third of all privately rented homes are not up to decent standards, with more than 15 per cent lacking minimal heat in winter.

The Bill would:
• Introduce a national register of landlords, to allow councils to root out and strike off rogue landlords, including those who pack people into overcrowded accommodation.
• Tackle rip-off letting agents, ending the confusing, inconsistent fees and charges.
• Seek to give greater security to families who rent and remove the barriers that stand in the way of longer term tenancies.

Finance Bill

Problem:
• Since the government’s Spending Review in the fourth quarter of 2010, the UK economy has grown by just 1.1 per cent – compared to the 6 per cent forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility at the time.
• The lack of growth means that the Government is now borrowing £245bn more than they planned.
• Prices are rising faster than wages and people are now £1,700 a year worse off than they were in May 2010.

The Bill would:
• Reintroduce a 10p rate of income tax, paid for by taxing mansions worth over £2m.
• Stop the cut to the 50p rate of income tax for those on the highest incomes to reverse cuts to tax credits.
• Reverse the Tory-led Government's damaging VAT rise now for a temporary period - a £450 boost for a couple with children.
• Provide a one year cut in VAT to 5% on home improvements, repairs and maintenance - to help homeowners and small businesses
• Put in place a one year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers - helping small businesses to grow and create jobs

Consumers Bill

Problem:
• Families are facing record fuel bills while energy companies are enjoying huge profits. Since the election average energy bills are £300 a year higher.
• Rail fares are rising by up to 9 per cent a year, after the Government gave back to private train operators the ability to increase some fares by up to another 5 per cent above the fare increase ‘cap’.
• Upon retirement a pensioner can discover that up to almost half the value of their pension fund has been wiped out by hidden costs and charges.

The Bill would:

Energy
• Abolish Ofgem and create a tough new energy watchdog with the power to force energy suppliers to pass on price cuts when the cost of wholesale energy falls
• Require the energy companies to pool the power they generate and to make it available to any retailer, to open the market and to put downward pressure on prices
• Force energy companies to put all over-75s on their cheapest tariff helping those benefiting to save up to £200 per year

Trains
• Apply strict caps on fare rises on every route, and remove the right for train companies to vary regulated fares by up to 5 per cent above the average change in regulated fares.
• Introduce a new legal right for passengers to the cheapest ticket for their journey.

Pensions
• Tackle the worst offending pension schemes by capping their charges at a maximum of 1 per cent.
• Amend legislation and regulation to force all pension funds to offer the same simple transparent charging structure so that consumers know the price they will be paying before they choose a particular scheme.

Jobs Bill

Problem
• There are nearly 1 million young people out of work.
• The number of people out of work for two years is half a million – the highest since the end of the last Tory Government in May 1997.
• Since David Cameron became Prime Minister, the number of unemployed people has risen.

The Bill would:
• Introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, a paid job for every adult who is out of work for more than two years. People would have to take up those jobs or lose benefits.  The £1 billion costs can be funded by reversing the government’s decision to stop tax relief on pension contributions for people earning over £150,000 being limited to 20 per cent
• Guarantee a 6 month paid job for all young people out of work for over a year, paid for by a bank bonus tax. Those offered a job would be required to take it.
• Require large firms getting government contracts to have an active apprenticeships scheme that ensures opportunities to work for the next generation.

Banking Bill

Problem
• Lending to businesses is falling month on month, including a fall of £4.8bn in the three months to February according to the latest Bank of England figures.
• The Government’s schemes, such as the Merlin deal, the National Loan Guarantee Scheme and the Funding for Lending Scheme have all failed to help businesses.
• The Treasury has allocated just £300m in funding to their Business Bank, which isn’t a real bank, is staffed by BIS civil servants and is still not up and running.

The Bill would:
• Create a real British Investment Bank on a statutory basis, at arm’s length from government and with proper financing powers to operate like a bank.
• Set out that one of its purposes is to support small and medium sized businesses, including across the regions of the UK through regional banks.
• Provide a general backstop power so that if there is not genuine culture change from the banks they can be broken up.
• Put in place a Code of Conduct for bankers so that those who break the rules are struck off.
• Toughen the criminal sanctions against those involved in financial crime.

Immigration Bill

Problem
• In certain sectors there is evidence that workers, particularly migrant workers, are being exploited by being paid less than the minimum wage. A recent Kings College study found that between 150,000 and 220,000 care workers are paid less than the minimum wage. 
• Enforcement is weak. There has not been a single prosecution for non-payment of the National Minimum Wage in the last two years.

The Bill would:
• Double the fines for breaching the National Minimum Wage and give local councils the power to take enforcement action over the NMW
• Extend the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to other sectors where abuse is taking place.
• Change NMW regulations to stop employers providing overcrowded and unsuitable tied accommodation and offsetting it against workers’ pay.
 

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