Prince Charles presented the British government’s legislative program for next year at Westminster on Tuesday
Charities and campaigners have warned that the Government’s programme, as unveiled in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, falls short of the values of compassion and justice needed amid the cost of living crisis.
This week, the British government’s program was presented by Prince Charles at Westminster in place of the Queen, who canceled for health reasons.
Among the priorities set in the House of Lords were some of the 38 laws ministers intend to pass in the coming year, including 27 that would affect Scotland.
The speech, written for the monarch by government officials, included pledges to tackle the current cost-of-living crisis through economic measures such as support for the city’s growth agreement and free ports in Scotland, as well as the Shared Prosperity fund which replaces EU finances.
Under-fire Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to argue Britain cannot get out of trouble, despite widespread calls for more financial support for struggling households.
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “People want a British government that believes in compassion and justice, and that ensures everyone can live a dignified life. This Queen’s Speech has failed to live up to those values.
“People experiencing poverty struggle to keep their heads above water, and more and more of us are being swept into poverty by the cost of living crisis. The UK government must provide urgent aid to rising bills to keep households afloat. There was nothing but a brief mention of it.
“There was a lot of talk in the speech about promoting growth, but now more than ever we need a just, well-being centered economy that provides adequate incomes for people, so that we can all live a dignified life. Growth must help those who need it most.
“This Queen’s Speech shows that the UK government still lacks the courage to make the changes we need. They failed to deliver a vision for our future, failed to have compassion for people, and failed to promise the economic justice we all need.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, added: ‘That speech contained 38 bills but no direct help with spiraling costs – a far cry from what struggling families needed to hear today’ today.
“The government in Westminster has offered no short-term comfort to parents struggling to feed their children in the face of soaring prices, and no long-term vision for ending child poverty in the UK.
“UK Ministers must respond now to the scale of the current cost of living crisis by committing to an increase in benefits in line with inflation from October. Leveling promises will not be kept until that families won’t have enough money to live on.”
Particular issues have also been reported over the lack of support for the elderly and other at-risk groups – who charities say could not wait for the unveiling of the autumn budget.
Morgan Vine, head of policy and influence at the independent age charity for the elderly, said: ‘Today’s Queens speech was a missed opportunity to address the crisis in the cost of life that affects millions of older people across the UK. Although the government has recognized the gravity of the moment, it has not announced any immediate plans to ease the massive financial pressure on people at the end of life.
“The government must walk the talk and come up with an appropriate plan to deal with the huge increase in the cost of living and record inflation. It can’t wait for the fall budget, older people calling our advice line are having to make tough decisions right now. They skip meals. They turn off the heating. They miss seeing their friends and family. Urgent action must be taken to support older people in these extremely difficult times. We want to see proposals that quickly put pension credit in the pockets of those who need it, reduce energy bills and prevent the elderly from going without food due to spiraling costs. If these issues are not resolved, life will continue to be extremely difficult for people of all ages, including older ones.
“There were some promising announcements in the speech, including legislation to protect older consumers from being scammed for essential goods and services, and tougher social housing rules that will allow tenants to get vital repairs quickly. However, nothing announced today will immediately help seniors who are currently struggling to pay their energy or food bills.
Among the pieces of legislation missing from the speech was a long-awaited Jobs Rights Bill, which unions say has been promised for two decades.
On workers’ rights, the Ports (Seafarers’ Pay) Bill will force ferry companies like P&O to pay the UK minimum wage to seafarers in UK waters, following the scandal that engulfed the company last month following the mistreatment of its staff.
Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady said, “Today is a big day for rogue employers.
“The government’s failure to introduce a jobs bill will leave millions of people without vital rights and protections. The workers were cheated.
Citizen’s Advice Scotland social justice spokesman David Scott added: “With the cost of living crisis pushing household budgets to breaking point, we wanted to see bolder choices on social security. and fair work.
“It is disappointing that the long-awaited jobs bill has been delayed. In recent months we have seen some bad practice by employers in the headlines, and across the CAB network counselors are seeing people who are not getting fair treatment at work and are seeking advice accordingly.
“We are seeing cases of people being paid less than the legal minimum wage and facing precarious working hours – these are issues that are being made worse by rising bills and prices in shops.
“A labor rights watchdog to crack down on employers who mistreat their workers would make a real difference, and it is disappointing that this has been delayed.
“In the meantime, people who need advice can always contact the Citizens Advice network. Our advice is free and confidential. We don’t judge, we just help.