Queens' Speech: Opposition parties savage Boris Johnson's Government over cost-of-living crisis as Labour demand 'emergency budget'

Opposition parties have savaged Boris Johnson’s Government after a Queen’s Speech that failed to offer any new support for the cost-of-living crisis.

Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 6:11 pm

The UK Government promised to take further steps “if needed” to support households given the squeeze on cost of living, but instead focused on growing the economy.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer responded by demanding an “emergency budget”, while the Scottish Government labelled it a “missed opportunity”.

Their comments came following a speech featuring 38 bills, including:

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Prince Charles reads the Queen's Speech as he sits by the Imperial State Crown in the House of Lords Chamber

The Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill, which aims to deter companies from repeating P&O’s mass firing of staff by giving ports powers to refuse access to ferries not paying the UK minimum wage;

The sell-off of Channel 4, which will be enabled by the Media Bill;

An Energy Security Bill that seeks to transition to cheaper and greener energy, extending the price cap beyond 2023;

A Bill of Rights that will replace the Human Rights Act;

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and the leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer in the Central Lobby at the Palace of Westminster during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords, London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Measures to ban conversion therapy that attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation, although consenting adults can still go through the process.

Sir Keir called the response to the situation “pathetic” and accused the Government of being “bereft of leadership”.

He told Mr Johnson: “This Government’s failure to grow the economy over a decade, combined with its inertia in the face of spiralling bills, means that we are staring down the barrel of something we haven’t seen in decades – a stagflation crisis.

"A government of the moment would use the great powers that it has to tackle this head on.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall walk past the Household Cavalry in the Norman Porch at the Palace of Westminster ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 10, 2022.

"Bring forward an emergency budget, with a windfall tax for oil and gas producers which would raise billions. The money could be used to slash the cost of energy bills and help businesses keep their costs down.

“A government of the moment would take a step back from the crisis and ensure that Britain is never again so vulnerable to a surge in international prices, forced to go cap in hand from dictator to dictator looking for a quick fix of imported oil.

“That means standing up to those vested interests who oppose on-shore wind, the cheapest and most reliable source of electricity that we have. But this Prime Minister is too weak to stand up to his backbenchers.”

The Prime Minister earlier hailed the UK Government’s achievements during Covid, but argued the pandemic, along with the “biggest war in Europe since 1945”, meant the Government could not help everyone.

He said: "No country is immune and no government can realistically shield everyone from the impact.

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"But we must also remember that for every pound of taxpayers’ 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 turbo charge the economy, create jobs and spread opportunity across the country.”

The Prime Minister hinted at future help, using the “fiscal firepower” of the Government.

“We will continue to use all our ingenuity and compassion for as long as it takes,” he told MPs.

“The Chancellor and I will be saying more about this in the days to come.”

However, within minutes of him speaking Treasury sources stressed there were no further plans for support.

Sir Keir’s calls were echoed by the SNP’s Westminster leader, who also demanded an emergency budget to deal with the cost-of-living crisis be brought forward.

Ian Blackford said: “The very first line of the Queen’s Speech should have been a commitment to bring forward an emergency budget.

"Where is it? Where is the emergency budget that we need? An emergency budget to tackle now the rising costs of energy, of fuel, and of food.”

Scotland's social justice secretary Shona Robison said bold, radical action was needed and the speech was another missed opportunity.

She said: “The cost-of-living crisis is impacting every household in the UK and there are families struggling right now, but yet again there is no help for them.

“We have repeatedly urged the UK Government to match our level of ambition and take urgent action to address the cost-of-living crisis and spiralling energy costs.

"Unfortunately today’s Queen’s Speech was a missed opportunity, with a lack of details and clear commitments to provide adequate support to households facing hardship right now.

“People across the UK deserve to live safely and comfortably in warm homes, free from daily worries around food and fuel insecurity. The UK Government cannot stand by. They must take bold, radical action before people are forced into poverty.”

Prince Charles, who marked a historic moment in opening the new session of Parliament in the absence of the Queen, instead announced ministers planned to focus on economic growth to help people instead.

It came in an address also lacking firm plans for Scotland, that instead listed previously announced funding and insisted the “institutions of the United Kingdom benefit people in every part of our country”.

Charities, campaigners and other opposition politicians criticised the lack of any short-term measures to help people faced with soaring costs in their day-to-day lives.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the Queen’s Speech “does nothing to help the millions of families and pensioners facing soaring bills and eye-watering inflation”.

Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Alison Garnham said “this speech was a far cry from what struggling families needed to hear today”, offering “no short-term comfort for parents struggling to feed their kids in the face of rocketing prices”.

Dan Paskins, director of UK impact at Save the Children, said: “The Queen’s Speech was a major opportunity to support those most affected by rising costs and the Government didn’t take it.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said more support was needed.

Rebecca McDonald, senior economist at JRF, said: “Despite claims in today’s speech that easing the cost of living was a priority for this Government, there were no new support measures announced.

"This will be deeply worrying for families on low incomes, particularly those who have just experienced a real-terms cut to their benefits after the Government failed to uprate benefits in line with inflation last month.”

But the Confederation of British Industry’s Matthew Fell said: “Firms looking for the Government to address the cost-of-living crisis by growing the economy will be encouraged by the ambition in the Queen’s Speech.”

The Queen, 96, pulled out of the ceremonial occasion – when she reads out the Government’s legislative programme for the forthcoming parliamentary session – as she continued to experience “episodic mobility problems”.

Filling in, the Prince of Wales announced the Government’s priority was to “grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families”.

He said: “My Government will level up opportunity in all parts of the country and support more people into work.

“Her Majesty’s Government will drive economic growth to improve living standards and fund sustainable investment in public services.

“This will be underpinned by a responsible approach to the public finances, reducing debt while reforming and cutting taxes.

“Her Majesty’s ministers will support the Bank of England to return inflation to its target.”

On Scotland, the Government said it would “continue to build on the success” of the United Kingdom, but failed to offer any substantive new policies.

It said: “We are committed to protecting and promoting its combined strengths and the values we share, and to ensuring the institutions of the United Kingdom benefit people in every part of our country, building on hundreds of years of partnership and shared history.”