Last week you may have seen the Queen coming to Westminster to open the new session of Parliament.
There is much pomp, pageantry and ritual on such occasions. When the Queen’s servant, Black Rod, comes to summon the Commons, they slam the door in his face. When the House first sits after hearing the Queen lay out the Government’s legislative programme, the first item of business is always a Bill which wasn’t part of that programme. Traditions which go back centuries and which serve as a reminder that it is Parliament (and not the Monarch) which is sovereign.
However, the Speech itself is important. Although it is read by the Queen, it’s written by the Government of the day and gives an indication of the Government’s priorities for the next 12 months.
This year’s programme uses the opportunity of a strengthening economy to deliver security for working people, increase life chances for the most disadvantaged and strengthen our national security.
There will be a new Digital Economy Bill giving everyone in the UK the right to fast broadband. A Children & Social Work Bill to make it easier for children to be adopted on a permanent basis. A Lifetime Savings Bill to foster a culture of saving amongst young people and a Counter-Extremism & Safeguarding Bill to protect vulnerable people from being brainwashed by extremists.
The Bill I am most delighted about, however, is the Education for All Bill. A million more children are now at Good or Outstanding schools than in 2010 but there are still too many at failing schools. We want to give children the best possible start in life, so the Bill will give the Government more powers to intervene in underperforming schools where Local Authorities are not doing enough to improve standards.
The Bill also introduces something I’ve been campaigning for since first being elected – a proper national funding formula for schools. This will mean that, for the first time, schools with similar characteristics will get similar levels of funding – regardless of which part of the country they are in. This will benefit Warrington – which is one of the worst-funded areas in the country.