When we came to office in 2010, Britain was on the brink. Our task was urgent: to rescue our economy from the mire. With that economy now going in the right direction, we are once again on the brink – but this time, on the brink of something special. We have a golden opportunity to renew the idea that working people are backed in this country; to renew the promise to those least fortunate that they will have the opportunity for a brighter future; and to renew the ties that bind every part of our United Kingdom. We now have the mandate to deliver that renewal. And it starts with today's Queen’s Speech: a clear programme for working people, social justice, and bringing our country together – put simply, a One Nation Queen’s Speech from a One Nation Government.
The first task of a One Nation Government is to help all working people have security. And nothing is more crucial to that than a job. A new Bill will help to create two million more jobs this Parliament. That means there should be a job for everyone who wants one – in other words, full employment. To help people get those jobs, we’ll train them up; three million more will start apprenticeships over the next five years. We will also reward work by letting people keep even more of the money they earn – for the first time putting it into law that the Minimum Wage is and always will be tax free. That will be alongside a five-year tax lock which means there will be no income tax, VAT or National Insurance rate rises in this Parliament.
For too long we’ve been a two-speed country. Some could afford childcare; others could not. Some could afford a home of their own; others could not. A One Nation Government will change that. Our Childcare Bill will grant working parents 30 hours free childcare a week for 3 and 4 year olds, and because of our reforms, for the first time, childcare will get proper tax relief. Our Housing Bill will dramatically extend the Right to Buy to the tenants of Housing Associations – putting home ownership within the reach of 1.3 million more families. We will require councils to sell high-value council houses and put the money into building affordable homes. We will get 90 per cent of suitable brownfield land ready for development. And we will build 200,000 discounted Starter Homes for young first-time buyers. All this will mean there are more houses for people to buy.
The second big focus of this Queen’s Speech is championing social justice. That starts with education: a decent schooling for every child, no matter where they’re from. Our school reforms in the last Parliament were bold; one million more children are now learning in good or outstanding schools. In this Parliament they will be bolder still: taking over and turning into Academies not just failing schools but coasting ones too, as part of our new Education and Adoption Bill; opening not just a few more Free Schools, but 500 more. Of course, there is nothing that embodies the spirit of One Nation and the cause of social justice more than our NHS, which is there for everyone, whoever they are, regardless of their ability to pay. So we will continue increasing spending on our health service, by at least £8 billion a year by 2020, and make it a truly 7-day NHS.
We will also continue our welfare reforms that help people into jobs, reducing the benefit cap further, to £23,000. Our reforms will incentivise work – so people are always better off after a day at the office or factory than they would have been sitting at home. That’s true social justice – not handing people benefit cheque after benefit cheque with no end in sight, but turning workless households into working households; the misery of unemployment into the purpose and dignity of employment; and the welfare system into a lifeline, not a way of life.
Third, this Queen’s Speech will bring every part of our United Kingdom together. Our legislation will make sure this recovery reaches everyone, from the oldest industrial towns to the remotest rural villages. Our High Speed 2 Bill will help bring our great northern cities together in a Northern Powerhouse that rivals the biggest cities in the world.
For our different nations and regions to coexist as One Nation, people must have more direct power over the areas in which they live. So our Cities Devolution Bill will allow them to bid for an elected mayor, with far more sway over planning, transport, policing and health. We will have a Scotland Bill, a Wales Bill and a Northern Ireland Bill, and will put into practice our promises on devolution – making Holyrood the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world. Governing with respect means respecting the wishes of the English too. That’s why we will address the fundamental unfairness devolution causes in England, by introducing English votes for English laws. And the UK will have more control over its affairs, as we bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. We will also legislate to have an EU Referendum before the end of 2017, putting the question to the British people for the first time in 40 years: the European Union – in or out. Underpinning all of this is security. With an Extremism Bill, an Investigatory Powers Bill and a Policing and Criminal Justice Bill, we will keep our people safe.
That’s our legislative programme. It’s challenging but doable; optimistic but realistic. It’s the bold first step of a One Nation Government – a Government for working people. And this is the Britain we’re setting out to create: a Britain where you can get a decent job, have a good education, buy a home of your own, have dignity when you retire, and feel safe and secure throughout your life. In the last Parliament we laid the foundations for that; in this Parliament we will use them to build something special. We’ve now got the majority we need. With this Queen’s Speech we’re going to get on and do it – for every single person in this great nation.