Despite all the furore about what wasn’t in the Queen’s Speech – a Bill on the EU Referendum which is now being addressed by James Wharton MP’s Private Members’ Bill – I want, in this column, to focus on some of the positive news that was in there which I think is very deserving of attention.
As this is the first column I’ve been able to write since the Queen’s Speech, I’ve picked out a few of the measures that stood out most for me.
First and foremost are the new proposals aimed at helping small business owners across the country and hopefully, in Ealing and Acton. Three bills in particular, The National Insurance Contributions Bill, Deregulation Bill and Intellectual Property Bill, all contain measures that should genuinely help.
A good way to summarise them is to say that we plan to make it easier to hire employees, to reduce the regulatory burden on people who just want to get on with running their business and to improve our intellectual property system so that it’s easier for someone to start up a business in the first place.
The Bills are about giving people confidence and sending out the message ‘If you’ve got a good idea, go for it’ – getting that message out there is the key to success and that magic word, growth. I’m looking forward to discussing these new measures with business owners in the borough and particularly with organisations like Ealing BID who represent small businesses in the town centre. I know they will have taken a keen interest in the announcements.
Getting rid of the Fuel Tax rise, again, will also be very welcome to many business owners who depend on transport for their livelihoods.
The second set of measures I’ve picked out are those on immigration. While it’s a tricky and often controversial topic, there is one fact that we should all be able to agree on – population growth is a key issue. In cities like London especially, there is the very real danger that unsustainable demographic change puts pressure on communities and important local services like schools and hospitals. Clearly, the balance we need to find lies somewhere between attracting people who will contribute to our communities and deterring those who will not.
This Bill should help achieve that balance and its focus will be on stopping those from overseas who abuse our public services - I hope it receives the support it deserves.
And finally, the Queen’s Speech contained good news for the campaign against dangerous dogs. As readers know, tackling this issue is a cause I’ve worked on since becoming aware of how big an issue it is across Ealing and Acton. Important progress has already been made by making microchipping compulsory, which inculcates a culture of responsible dog ownership, but it was good to hear that the Government is finally going to get to grips with the other big aspects of the problem. The message appears to be getting through that the principal problem is dangerous owners rather than dangerous dogs and it’s absolutely imperative that measures against anti-social behaviour focus on the owners who train their dogs as weapons to use for intimidation and as a badge of status.
There was also welcome news that the Dangerous Dogs Act will finally be extended to cover private land and that action will be taken to prevent attacks on guide dogs. There is still much left to do - and I’m particularly keen to see more of a focus on the good work being done by local authorities like Ealing who use tenancy agreements to help tackle the problem – but this is a good start.