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Queen’s Speech 2017: did it deliver for you?

Queen's Speech 2017

After a tumultuous few weeks in British politics, the Government tried to introduce some certainty in today’s Queen’s Speech by setting out a big agenda of new legislation it wants to pass in the next two years. So what do you make of today’s proposals?

Of course, Brexit will dominate the agenda with eight out of the 27 Bills proposed. We’ve got the Repeal Bill, which should ‘lift and shift’ existing EU rules – including many consumer issues – into UK law. And alongside it, Bills to introduce new UK approaches on customs, trade, agriculture and more.

Queen’s Speech

Beyond Brexit, however, there was a distinct consumer flavour to a lot of the Bills and announcements that the Queen announced in Parliament today.

There are Bills to establish the new single Financial Advice Body and to better regulate Claims Management Companies, which have been a source of so many nuisance calls.

There’s also legislation on automated vehicles and electric cars, action on logbook loans, steps to update the ATOL protections when we go on holiday and plans to tackle unfair fees for tenants in the private rental market with the Draft Tenants’ Fees Bill.

Plus promised consultations on energy pricing, the homebuying process and leaseholds, as well as social care funding and quality.

Tackling CMCs

The action on Claims Management Companies (CMCs) is of particular interest to Which?. Our long-standing campaign on nuisance calls and texts has, in part, been driven by the volume of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) and Personal Injury claims calls that CMCs have pestered us with over the years.

The Government announced a while back that it would move regulation of CMCs to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – something that Which? supported. We hope that the FCA will bring a similar energy and rigour to regulating these firms to the way it has gone about regulating payday lenders.

But we want the Bill to go further. When we use a CMC to make a claim for PPI or a flight delay, why should CMCs take a cut of the compensation for consumers? Shouldn’t the company paying out the compensation take the hit? We want reforms to require businesses, rather than consumers, to pick up the costs of CMCs’ charges when they are at fault.

Energy action

The big question in advance of today’s Queen’s Speech was whether it would include a Bill to introduce the much-touted energy price cap. Now that the Government doesn’t have an overall majority, it’s clearly nervous about whether such a high-profile issue would get through Parliament unchanged.

Instead, the Government has decided to consult on the cap as part of a Consumer and Markets Green Paper. This was first announced right back in autumn 2016 and is also likely to include proposals to improve the home buying process as well as more action to make the telecoms market work for consumers.

More of a surprise was the inclusion of a Smart Meter Bill. This will give the Government much greater flexibility around how it will roll out these meters. Smart meters should ensure we have accurate energy bills, a better understanding of our energy use and make it easier to switch.

There have been grumblings for some time that the proposed deadline of 2020 to get these meters into homes would be missed. Nevertheless, a delay is worrying and the Government will need to swiftly reassure consumers that this won’t lead to bills increasing and that the roll out will be delivered in the most consumer friendly way possible.

Consumer priorities

With social care and energy prices the top two priorities for consumers for the new Government, it’s good to see commitment today to make progress on these issues.

We’ll be making sure that legislation, such as the Data Protection Bill results in action on consumers’ third priority issue – fraud and scams, which often happen as a result of misuse of our data.

So there’s a lot for Which? to be working on over the next two years to make sure these Bills really do result in the reforms we need to see to essential markets. But what do you make of today’s Queen’s Speech? Do you think the Bills and consultations will make a difference? Was there anything missing for you in today’s Queen’s Speech?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks for this Convo, Pete. There is a lot for us to discuss in the Queen’s Speech.

On the point of smart meters, I’m not sure if Which? should be supporting the roll out. “Smart meters should ensure we have accurate energy bills, a better understanding of our energy use and make it easier to switch.” My last bill from e.on was £274.55. It would be very interesting to know if others are being kept well in credit. I would rather the surplus was in my bank account.

I have frequently read that moving from one supplier to another can mean that the display of a smart meter is no longer fully functional. No doubt we can have another ‘free’ one. Some competent organisation should have laid down a standard specification that all companies were required to use.

I do my best to avoid advertising but I keep seeing marketing for smart meters even though I inherited one when I bought the house. I presume that the cost of advertising is a significant contributor to the cost of the roll out.

Member
Mariers says:
21 June 2017

Fropm what I have read, the “smart” meters will be paid for by the consumer, probably adding the cost to the bill, spread over a period.So we have to pay the utilities to find out in advance what the cost of our supply will be? Oh happy day!!

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I am hoping that Which? will be supporting those consumers who do not wish to have a smart meter installed and urging the government not to make them compulsory.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

At the very least, the adverts should make it clear that there is no need to have smart meters fitted and that the cost of their installation is payed for by all customers.

Member
J N MURRAY says:
22 June 2017

I’m a voluntary worker for CAS & some of the info. we’ve received states that when electricity generation goes ‘phut’ the government, thro’ devious’ means can shut down using ‘smart meters’. Bet they didn’t say that in their publicity ‘blurb’!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

According to Which?, smart meters will need to be replaced after about ten years, whereas conventional meters can remain in use for significantly longer. If you have an earlier smart meter it may need to be replaced with one that meets the requirements of the Data Communication Company. Never, mind, you won’t be charged for the smart meters (except that your bills will be higher).

No-one has to have a smart meter installed: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/do-i-have-to-accept-a-smart-meter

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

There seems little real justification for the huge amount of money (our money, of course) being spent on introducing smart meters. Apart from automatic readings (putting meter readers out of jobs 🙂 ) I just don’t see people avidly watching their consumption and then making changes to their energy use; how many of us can intervene to make a significant change?

Energy cap – no thanks. Just sort out sensible tariffs – drop the subsidised fixed-term fixed-price ones to get standard variable tariffs to the realistic cost and put most people on those.

However, with limited expertise available , effort should be fully focused on reaching an exit from the EU that is as beneficial to us, and acceptable to the EU, as possible. It is one of the most important changes that our country will undergo since WW2. What I hope is that the silly political posturing ceases and politicians start working together for the benefit of the country, rather than for themselves and their parties. I’m really not interested in who is in power, who the PM is, providing whoever it is does a good and professional job of managing the country.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I don’t remember any public consultation prior to the smart meter roll out.

I would give smart meters to those who are in arrears or struggling to pay their bills to help them budget. Some people don’t have a good idea of how much electricity and gas is used by different appliances, etc.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I don’t know what public consultation would be. Without them knowing all the ramifications, costs, advantages of smart meters how can anyone reach a considered decision? And how many do you ask – a “typical” 2000 sample or a full scale referendum?

£11 billion to essentially get automatic meter readings? I’d rather let consumers keep the £500 a family it will cost them – how long before smart meters save them that money? Probably never; the thought of everyone sitting by their meter, switching appliances on and off to see how much they use, comparing one days gas use with another to work out….what? Sorry, i find it an expensive white elephant, made more so by puerile cartoons.

Member
Perry says:
22 June 2017

I agree that there is little justification for encouraging people to have smart meters — I don’t want one because I can read the ordinary meters at any time. What we need is sensible tariffs. Perhaps less tax on energy for people who keep below a certain level of consumption would act as an incentive to save energy. Do people realize how much tax we pay on gas and electricity?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

The vat component is 5% – around £50 on an average dual fuel bill. I believe under EU law vat has to be applied and this might be the minimum. There are other “taxes” – going under the guise of green energy for example all of which would need to be found from elsewhere if they were removed from your energy bill.

Many people have little option in the amount of energy they use, that any incentives cannot effect. Why penalise the unfortunate high users even more?

Member
Castle says:
22 June 2017

It was the UK Government, (in 1994), which first imposed VAT on fuel for Domestic consumers; not the EU. Once imposed, it couldn’t be reduced to less than 5% under EU rules.

Member
Kenneth Hyslop says:
21 June 2017

Her speech was about as pathetic as Teresa May running this country our country is in a mess

Profile photo of Mariers2
Member

As the “Queen’s” speech is written by May, it’s another instance of someone else being blamed for the Government’s mishandling ; I regarded any so called promises,or intentions as a PCP – a Pie Crust Promise, easily broken.

Profile photo of MichaelFelmore
Member

The government threw away a working majority by calling a pointless general election, when it should have been concentrating on Brexit negotiations.
We are the laughing stock of Europe and are at their beck and call.
The Chancellor sees positives, the Governor of the Bank of England sees things as they really are.

Member
Ronnie Nicolson says:
26 June 2017

Much as I do not like politicians I dislike B of E Governors even less.

Member
Rita Wale says:
21 June 2017

I would like to see government regulations on supermarket practices. Much much less packaging please. Flagging up of price increases (not just showing reductions and special offers), and very clearly indicating DOWNSIZING, (they are quick to flag up GET EXTRA TWENTY PER CENT, ETC). Better ethical practices all round please.

Profile photo of prentonboy
Member

I haven’t seen the Queens speech but I assume Smart Meters were mentioned. Some time ago I had a fallout with British Gas over always being in Credit to them over my Gas/Electrity readings. As a result I have for many years provided monthly readings and pay in full each month.

I keep a spreadsheet to allow me to keep on top of my usage.

Who needs Smart Meters?

Member
R A Danson says:
21 June 2017

The energy market is firmly designed to benefit the companies and fleece the consumer. The whole issue with ‘Smart Meters’ is that most are fitting dumb meters. If we want to follow the best company’s prices we need smart meters that can be read by any company-not ones beholden to only one company’s system. We aren’t getting that. British Gas has Serco fitting meters that cannot be read by anyone other than British Gas. Nothing in the Queen’s speech about looking at the tariff loading in favour of the warmer south against the colder north. Why should northern Scotland have to pay to subsidise the south? A level playing field on tariff charges is desperately overdue.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

If you choose to live in a cold climate you should expect to pay for the extra heating. Why should the south subsidise the “colder north”. If we start down that route, then the north, with its significantly lower house prices and rents, should be asked to help those in the south who have to pay much more. 🙂

Member
George H says:
22 June 2017

Why do people in the south have to pay more the houses are the same ?

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

You could say George there are more jobs opportunities in the London area and that was the case when I lived there but lately City investors, Billionaires , Foreign millionaires , Hedge Fund companies etc have been buying up large parts of Central London helping to up the prices and you have-too many people-not enough housing . If you want the controversial viewpoint -house prices have been pushed up by hundreds of Billions of pounds of new money created in the years before the crisis –BBC -before banking crisis banks create money when they make a loan and pre-banking crisis they quadrupled their money through mortgage lending which was a major driver in house prices. House prices rose much faster than wages . There is a lot more info on this but guess who bailed out the banks post crisis ?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

George – supply and demand. It will cost more to build a house in the south(east) because labour rates are higher, but land made available for housing is limited, expensive, and because people seem prepared to find the money to pay the higher prices.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I didn’t have a problem with the Queen’s speech – apart from a couple of stumbles because of bad drafting, her diction, elocution and enunciation were very clear. She must get terribly bored with reading out more or less the same old stuff year after year [64 times already]. Her eldest son did look bored as he was twiddling his thumbs for much of the time – obviously couldn’t wait to get out and pop over to Finsbury Park where he would be much more useful supporting the real community. I liked the way that a man dressed like a playing card pulled the speech out of an old cloth bag and gave it to Her Majesty. He had to collect it at the end and nearly tripped on the top step as he flipped round to return to his place in the pack.

Member
Anne Robb says:
23 June 2017

I WAS PLEASED SO MANY AUSTERITY MEASURES WERE DROPPED.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Only temporarily, Anne. They are still in the Conservative Party manifesto on the basis of which they fought the 2017 election so as soon as there is Parliamentary time they could be introduced. The Queen’s speech only covered the legislative programme for the next two years. By the end of March 2019 we could have left the EU and the government would be free to get on with its domestic agenda.

The general election has shifted the timetable for Parliaments under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Instead of taking place on the first Thursday of May 2020 as would have happened but for the GE, the next general election should take place on the first Thursday of June 2022. This will put it out of step with some other elections which would have coincided with it [like those for police & crime commissioners and certain municipal elections], so people who get fed up with going to the polling station too often will be annoyed and there will be mass cries of “Not another one!” That is, of course, if the present government doesn’t get derailed further down the line and we have to go to the polls again before its term is up.

Member
Ronnie Nicolson says:
26 June 2017

Amusing but not very helpful!

Member
Ronnie Nicolson says:
26 June 2017

fingers crossed!

Member
graham Renshaw says:
22 June 2017

It all seems irrelevant to me. As. we will be having another Queens speech, before to long.
I have never seen such a mess in all my 82 years.

Member
Leonard Horsburgh says:
22 June 2017

The big six energy companies are in my opinion operating a cartel,therefore there is no real competition in the energy market. How smart are smart meters.Well they are smart for the energy companies but not for the consumer as we will be paying for them and the installation in our energy bills.The country has a massive debt hanging over it thanks to politicians borrowing money in shed loads so that we as a nation can live beyond our means.We encourage people to access public services, which continue to expand,demanding more and more cash,instead of educating people to be more self sufficient and use less of the public services and therefore reduce the size of the public sector thereby reducing the public sector borrowing requirement.

Member
Ronnie Nicolson says:
26 June 2017

Have you ever considered why we are ” living beyond our means” ?
Might it not be that the cost of living is far too high??
And that wealth is so unevenly spread that the less well off, and that is most of us, have no chance of living within our means.

Member
kel meyler says:
22 June 2017

A couple of points, I did not see anything in the so called Queens speech about controlling the energy markets and stopping energy companies continually raising their prices and ripping consumers off. That should be a priority for the government. You here a lot of hype and rhetoric about it but to date no actions. Hopefully now that the voters is no longer fodder for the Tories to walk all over something will be done.
Finally there is no question Theresa May has messed up big time but I am proud of the British electorate for not giving the arrogant women the landslide she desired it has served to curtail a lot of misery that was heading the way of pensioners and the less well off.

Member

There is a new manual being released in the coming weeks titled ‘HOW TO BUGGER A COUNTRY UP’ , co- authors David Cameron and Theresa May. I think it could well become a best seller. [please excuse the necessary ‘B’ word in the title]

Member
Anne Robb says:
23 June 2017

TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU>

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I listened to Boris Johnson being ‘interviewed’ by Eddie Mair on PM (Radio 4) yesterday. A little disappointing but I strongly dislike aggressive interviewers.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Radio 4 seems to have a hostile approach to some interviews. If they ask a question, I want to hear what the interviewee has to say, not have them cut off in mid-sentence by the interviewer – except of course if they go into motormouth mode. Yo sometimes feel the “Today” staff are an inquisition, rather than capable of teasing out information for the listeners. Perhaps they could form a “Today” Party and get a landslide victory as in France.

One interviewer I do respect is Andrew Neil – he appears very well informed and although incisive, does give his subjects a fair hearing, providing they respond sensibly.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks for giving me a good laugh on a wet and miserable day, Malcolm. Andrew Neil is a bit on the aggressive side for me but I agree that he lets his victims get a word in edgeways.

Profile photo of Ian
Member

The latest tactic of bellowing at hapless ministers as they leave Downing street is very odd.

Member
Ronnie Nicolson says:
26 June 2017

Lets hope a lot of them are leaving soon…for good!

Member
George H says:
22 June 2017

I read the whole of the Queen’s Speech and there were a lot of words, but I didn’t nod off. When I’ve rested I shall attempt to analyse the meanings of what appear to be important aspects in the hope that our disunited country and most British (I avoid the words “United Kingdom”) people eventually prosper from the Brexit.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

George – The term ‘British’ excludes the residents of Northern Ireland which, although part of the British Isles [as is Eire], is not a part of Great Britain which consists of just England, Scotland and Wales. Perhaps you don’t wish to be inclusive but if you have a recent passport it will be a UK one rather than a British one [still issued on behalf of Her Britannic Majesty though].

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I liked the Queen’s Euro hat. 🙂 Just a friendly gesture, or anticipating a much-reduced EC?

Profile photo of Gwen
Member

I recently had to have a new electric meter fitted. I was told by my supplier it was too old. I was also told I would have to have a new gas meter fitted forv the same reason and same supplier. Since it seemed to be obligatory to allow the meter change on the grounds of aged meters I agreed. I made it very clear I did not want any ‘smart’ meters fitted. About a week before the due date I got a letter saying the engineer would be coming on the agreed date to fit ‘smart’ meters. I immediately phone my supplier and told them I wopuld not allow the fitting of ‘smart’ meters and my reasons for this stance. I said that if necessary I would not allow the engineer into my home to carry out such work. I received an apology and assurance that no ‘smart’ meters would be fitted. Next I was told it would only be the electric meter that would be changed as the gas meter was (now) not old enough. The electric meter was changed but the one that was put in was a “pre-used” meter that already had a reading on it. I accepted the explanation that when calculating my usage the reading will be from the finally point recorded and not the existing reading on this re-cycled meter. I will be watching like a hawk to make such this is so. I do not believe that anyone should have a ‘smart’ meter foisted upon them. If they are like the ‘smart’ street lights then there will be problems.
We recent complained because the new street lights are staying lit until 2am, (two hours beyond what is supposed to be) and consequently still lit when it is full daylight. We had been told they functioned on light sensors but the reply to our complaint was to the effect that nothing can be done to adjust the lighting as the units are programmed by the manufacturer. West Sussex ount Council have shown no concern for a) the waste of tax payers money b) the effect of light pollution c) the waste of resources. I fear the various utility companies are much the same in their attitudes. I agree with the person who favours having the surplus in their bank than in the bank/s of these companies.

Profile photo of peter b
Member

I have been pestered by OVO to have a smart meter installed over many months. This has been done by email. Recently I received a phone call asking me to have one installed. When I questioned the rep regarding the compatibility of smart phones across providers, he admitted that these were not, in the main, compatible. I said that I frequently changed my energy provider to ensure the best value for money, so why would I have one installed with all its associated costs. I also had to emphasise that it is the consumer who pays for all this.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Prior to the general election we were told that the government intended to introduce a price cap on standard variable tariffs to stop energy suppliers charging some customers substantially more for energy. This did not feature in the Queen’s Speech.

The possibility of a price cap has resurfaced: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/05/09/energy-price-cap-does-mean-bills/ I wonder how long it will be before action is taken.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Could be a long time. Wavechange. The Queen’s Speech covered the legislative programme for the next two years. The price cap is buried in the Conservative Party manifesto but whether it sees the light of day remains to be seen.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I agree, John, but at least it has resurfaced. Our political parties are good at promising jam tomorrow and maybe the Queen should engage in a little leg pulling about what has been omitted from her speech.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Government intervention is usually inept and distorts the market. I would like to see two things happen.

One, abolish the subsidised fixed price deals and have all customers on a (consequently) reduced price standard variable tariff.

Two, have Ofgem publish regularly the benchmark costs for energy so we can see how close companies come. (if government thinks it can control costs then Ofgem must have this information to be able to advise it in an informed way).

If we have to help people with energy, make sure they are deserving of help and then provide that from the social fund, not from some ill-founded cap. Many people with borderline finances will spend far more on food, housing and travel to work that they spend on energy. Are we proposing a cap on those would be a good idea?

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

The DT article you referenced, Wavechange, was dated four weeks before the general election. Has it been regurgitated like some of our Conversations are?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

A significant percentage of the population is mentally unfit and as we age, there is a fair chance that any of us will go into decline, lose our eyesight or suffer other serious problems that could make it more difficult to keep on top of our financial affairs. Many of them will not be classified as ‘vulnerable’. I would like to see prompt action to stop them being exploited.

I recall reading that former Exec Director of Which?, Richard Lloyd, now works for an organisation that raises awareness of the financial problems that mental illness can cause.

John – My comment was prompted by today’s news from the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40476691 The Telegraph article provides a reminder of what was said before the election.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Thanks, Wavechange. I missed that news item. I don’t know what happened to the third of July. As you say “a significant percentage of the population is mentally unfit and as we age, there is a fair chance that any of us will go into decline“. I know the feeling.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

It is wonderful how the Queen is able to keep on going. I think we all need to be optimistic but realistic.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Wavechange-There is an emergency word in the event of the Queen,s demise it was something like-London Bridge has fallen , regardless of Harry,s comments about -“nobody wanting the job ” I am sure Charles wont “knock it back ” he deserves it for sheer perseverance alone . Mentally unfit ??? not me ! if a “significant proportion ” of the population is “mentally unfit ” then I blame this new society and all it entails . I will tell you who are “mentally unfit ” a lot of HMG and that applies 1000 fold to the US Congress who both act like children in this world and have brought us very near to annihilation –for money, have you honestly listened to the rhetoric coming out of both governments ?? you hear more sanity in a primary school playground .

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I’m surprised that the Queen manages to keep a straight face when delivering the Queen’s Speech in recent years. I hope that everyone realises that she is just the messenger.

Profile photo of Ian
Member

I keep hoping she’ll introduce a little improvisation. The odd joke, perhaps, or simply a few of her own suggestions. I have a few…

My Government will introduce legislation to vote on the fate of all Government ministers annually. Each year a popular vote will be held and those unable to achieve a popularity rating of 70% or higher will face a variety of penalties, ranging from the merely embarrassing to the outright painful and humiliating. These will be televised on Channels 4 and 5 as Big Brother is no longer providing the anticipated revenue streams.