Yesterday, Prince Charles addressed Parliament to deliver the Queen’s Speech, outlining the government’s upcoming legislative agenda. Plans for 38 pieces of legislation were announced, which included a Levelling Up Bill, an energy security bill, and the long-awaited Online Safety bill. We are at a time where the country needs a transformative agenda to rebuild Britain after a decade of austerity, two years of a global pandemic, and now the current cost-of-living crisis. However once again the Queen’s speech has revealed the Government’s continued failure to meet the scale of the challenges this country is facing.
In terms of Health and Social Care, after a decade of government underfunding, the NHS is suffering from staff shortages, fewer beds, record-high waiting lists and a mental health service on the brink of collapse. Despite these challenges, the NHS provided a heroic service to the nation during the pandemic, and the Government must now deliver on its promises to support its recovery. Furthermore, the government policies on reforming social care laid out in the Queen’s Speech were vague and failed to clearly address the current crisis in social care.
Increasingly, I hear from constituents in Lewisham Deptford who are struggling to pay their energy bills, and who are also impacted by the lack of affordable social housing. A decade of slow economic growth coupled with rising inflation under the Conservatives has left our economy weakened, a burden that continues to fall on those on lower incomes. This requires a real and long-term plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, but the announced legislation offered little in terms of offering long term solutions and tackling rising energy prices, while the Levelling Up Bills lack real ambition to improve our communities.
In my role as Shadow Minister for Disabled People, I was once again frustrated to see barely any mention of disabled people throughout the entire speech. Policies relating to disabled people cut across all aspects of public life such as transport, housing and employment, but once again the government agenda has overlooked disabled people and treated them as afterthought, just as they did throughout the pandemic.