I know people are struggling: PM promises ‘firepower’ to help hard-hit families

Queen's Speech: Boris and Keir 'more jolly than expected' says host

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The Prime Minister yesterday hinted extra support for “hard-working people” was coming – but he warned against “spending our way” out of the squeeze.

He insisted the only long-term solutions to soaring prices were economic growth and higher wages. 

Mr Johnson’s signal of further help came after his legislative plans for the coming year were read out by Prince Charles at the State Opening of Parliament.

The PM warned MPs that “no Government can realistically shield everyone from the impact” of economic hardship.

He insisted that doling out more money and racking up more debt would only scar the economy, adding: “We must also remember that for every pound of taxpayer’s money we spend on reducing bills now, it is a pound we are not investing in bringing down bills and prices over the longer term.And that, if anything, this moment makes clear our best remedy lies in urgently delivering on our mission to turbocharge the economy, create jobs and spread opportunity across the country.”

Whitehall sources said ministers were working intensively on measures to support hard-hit families and other households, although further Government spending before Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn Budget remains unlikely

One commented: “We’re constantly looking at what we can do to help. You can expect a steady drumbeat of announcements over the coming weeks.”

Yesterday’s package of 38 Bills – announced by the Prince of Wales in his mother’s absence due to “mobility problems” – focused on measures designed to stimulate growth by slashing rules, streamlining planning decisions and encouraging investment.

Following the Queen’s Speech, Mr Johnson said in the Commons: “This is what I think everybody in this country needs to understand…what we’re doing is making sure that we have a strong economy with high-wage, high-skill jobs that will enable us to take this country forward.”

He said: “It’s precisely because this Government got the big calls right and made the tough decisions during the pandemic that we had the fastest growth in the G7 last year – and we’ll return to that status, by the way, by 2024 – and therefore have the fiscal firepower to help families up and down the country, with all the pressures they face now.

“We will continue to use all our ingenuity and compassion for as long as it takes. And the Chancellor and I will be saying more about this in the days to come.”

Aides said the PM was referring to a cross-Government drive to come up with ideas for helping households save money, without more Treasury spending that could ultimately fuel more inflation.

Ministers floated a range of ideas including overhauling childcare regulations to drive down costs and reducing the frequency of annual MoT tests.

A meeting of the Prime Minister’s Domestic and Economic Strategy Committee was held last night to examine plans. More ministerial discussions are due shortly.

Mr Sunak is resisting pressure for further support based on increased public spending before the autumn when the full extent of the next increase in the cap on energy bills will be known.

In a Whitehall document setting out the Queen’s Speech measures, Mr Johnson said: “After two years of Covid-19, I know that the last thing people need are further challenges.”

“I know people are struggling with their bills, and that they are anxious. But we will get the country through it just as we got through Covid-19, with every ounce of ingenuity and compassion and hard work.”

“While we must keep our public finances on a sustainable footing – and we cannot completely shield people from the fallout from global events – where we can help, we will. Over the coming months, we will continue examining what more we can do to ease the pressures on hard-working people and families.”

In his address to MPs, the Prime Minister said: “At the same time as we help people, we need the legislative firepower to fix the underlying problems in energy supply, in housing, in infrastructure and in skills which are driving up costs for families across the country.”

“his Queen’s Speech takes those issues head-on. Above all, we are tackling the economic challenges with the best solution of all and that is an ever-growing number of high-wage, high-skill jobs.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs. And we drive up employment by creating the right platform for businesses to invest, making our streets safer, 20,000 more police, creating a healthier population, 50,000 more nurses, funding the NHS to help them clear the Covid backlogs and giving the confidence that people know that they will be looked after in old age by fixing social care.”

“Delivering gigabit broadband, giving the remotest parts of the country the access that they need, and using our Brexit freedoms to enable revolutionary technologies like gene editing to help our farmers grow more nutritious and more productive crops.”

Mr Johnson pledged: “It’s that combination of public and private sector together that is tackling unemployment with half a million people more on the payroll than before the pandemic.”

Key measures include a Brexit Freedoms Bill to wipe away Brussels regulations left from EU membership that act as a drag on UK businesses.

Other plans include a Levelling Up Bill to help revitalise town centres and education bills to improve access to skills training.

Comment by Leo McKinstry

The pomp was as splendid as ever but in Platinum Jubilee year the absence of the Queen created a poignant void at the heart of yesterday’s State Opening of Parliament.

As the Prince of Wales read her speech, there was a sense that a long tradition is ending and a new era is beginning. 

In the view of the Government’s critics, also missing was any clear plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, instead just a few warm words about the need for growth.

But this is a bogus argument. The Chancellor’s Budget and the Spring Statement are the vehicles for economic strategy.

In yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, there were a few signs of the modern tendency towards expanding officialdom and over-regulation such as the new independent football regulator, another new transport body called Great British Railways and to impose a duty on firms to conduct modern slavery audits. 

Similarly, while Northern Ireland is gripped by post-election paralysis and the Government was almost silent yesterday on the crucial issue of the NI Protocol, the speech revealed plans to establish in the province not only a new Office of Identity and Cultural Expression, but also an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery to handle the legacy of the Troubles.

Yet in the other direction there was the pledge to exploit Brexit by slashing red tape on businesses and by shredding cumbersome Brussels procurement rules. Equally welcome is a British Bill of Rights, which will enshrine our essential liberties.

In fact, with its battery of 38 Bills, the Queen’s Speech amounted to a solid, wide-ranging programme for office. This is not a government that has run out of steam or is headed by a Prime Minister who has lost his way. 

Yesterday’s statement was pragmatic and workmanlike, addressing issues of real concern to the British public.

There was toughness – as in the proposed crackdown on vandals masquerading as protesters – and compassion – as in new protections of tenants from rogue landlords. 

Regeneration was embraced through the levelling-up agenda, reform of planning laws to revitalise our high streets and the simplification of business rates. This paper can also celebrate a notable victory in our campaign to enable terminally ill people to access their benefits earlier. 

That is the sort of question that matters, not the froth of Beergate and Partygate.

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