Big wins for Bermondsey and Southwark in the Queen’s Speech

Welcoming today’s Coalition government Queen’s Speech, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes said:

“There are some big wins for Liberal Democrats in the Queen’s Speech – and some even bigger wins for people living in Bermondsey and Southwark. Liberal Democrats in the government are working hard to build a stronger economy and a fairer society. Millions of children are getting a better start in life because of more money for schools for children of poorer families, we’re making income tax fairer by cutting income tax for 24 million people and taking three million out of tax altogether. We’ve done this while cutting the last government’s deficit by a third.”

Liberal Democrats will continue to deliver these reforms over the course of this parliament, but further measures are needed to help people get on in life. This Queen’s Speech set out our plans for the next year, which include action in the following areas:

Pubs

Many landlords who are tied to larger pub companies or ‘pubcos’ struggle to earn a decent living and over half of them earn less than the minimum wage. Following a consultation, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced that a statutory code will be introduced to make sure tied tenants get an accurate assessment of how better off they could be. There will also be a new independent adjudicator to make sure pubcos are forced to behave responsibly.

Zero carbon homes

From 2016, all new homes will be required to be greener and meet a zero carbon standard. Since it is not always possible for house builders to achieve this on site, Liberal Democrat Communities Minister Stephen Williams has announced that the government will legislate to allow any remaining carbon emission reductions to be met through flexible cost-effective measures called “allowable solutions”. The changes are being welcomed by the industry and will also create a new pot of money that can be spent on other green projects.

Tackling rogue employers on the minimum wage

Employers who do not pay their workers the national minimum wage will face penalties of up to £20,000 for each underpaid employee under new proposals being introduced by the Coalition. Currently, the maximum total penalty an employer can face for underpaying their workers is £20,000. In the most serious cases, employers can also face criminal prosecution.

Private Pensions Bill

Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb is introducing this Bill to enable new Defined Ambition pensions, in the middle space between Defined Contribution (DC) and Defined Benefit (DB) pensions, to share more of the risk between parties. It will enable ‘collective schemes’ that share risk between members and potentially allow for greater stability about pension outcomes.

Pensions Tax Bill

We are liberalising pensions to give people more freedom over how they use their savings, as announced in the 2014 Budget. This Bill allows people aged 55 or over with defined contribution pension savings to withdraw these savings as they wish, subject to their marginal rate of income tax and scheme rules. Over 300,000 individuals with some defined contribution pension will benefit.

Dodgy directors  and the Small Business Bill

We’re determined to crack down on reckless company directors who ignore their responsibilities, cost jobs and cause investors to lose their money.Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced new rules – as part of a new Small Business Bill – which will mean that dodgy directors have to put money back in the pockets of their victims. Disqualification law will be changed to allow judges to take into account a wider range of matters such as directors’ previous business failures. Overseas directors convicted of a commercial offence could also be barred from being a director here.

Childcare Payments Bill

This Bill will introduce a scheme offering working families 20 per cent support towards qualifying childcare costs, up to a maximum of £2,000 each year for each child (with no limit on the number of children). The scheme will be introduced in autumn 2015. It will extend existing government support for childcare costs to self-employed parents and to those in employment who are currently unable to access it.

National Insurance Contributions Bill

We are simplifying national insurance for self-employed people while protecting public revenues by tackling avoidance. The Bill will simplify the collection of NICs for the self-employed, who currently have to navigate two different processes for two separate classes of NICs. It will do this by moving collection of Class 2 NICs into Self-Assessment, so that it could be collected alongside Class 4 NICs (for the 2015-16 tax year onwards). It would introduce a Targeted Anti Avoidance Rule to prevent people from getting round new legislation which tackles avoidance involving offshore employment intermediaries and employment intermediaries from making false self-employment easier. It will also give HMRC stronger powers to clamp down on people promoting National Insurance avoidance schemes.

Recall of MPs Bill

Our 2010 manifesto called for new powers to sack MPs who have broken the rules. This is needed because MPs can currently hold onto their jobs even if they’re in prison. This Bill will allow voters to trigger a by-election where an MP is found to have been engaged in serious wrongdoing (with a custodial sentence of up to 12 months) and has had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of their electorate.