/ Health, Money

Did the Queen’s Speech deliver?

The Queen delivering the Queen's Speech

Did the Queen’s Speech set out the most consumer-friendly parliamentary agenda in years? If done right, there are five Bills that could put you at the heart of the new agenda.

Our research paints a pessimistic picture of consumer sentiment, with the majority expecting the cost of living and their household budget to get even tighter than last year, squeezed by spiralling utility and food costs.

Six in 10 people say they’re worried about the value of their pension and a majority don’t feel they’ll be able to live comfortably in their retirement. Many others are struggling with the complicated social care system which sees many using up a large proportion of their assets on care costs.

Meanwhile trust in energy suppliers and banks has hit rock bottom; unacceptable practices and poor standards persist in these and other essential services; and at worst, rogue traders ruin the lives of vulnerable consumers.

So, what are the five Bills that could spell change for consumers and give people hope?

The Consumer Bill of Rights

A Consumer Bill of Rights – the first major upgrade to consumer law since 1977 – should make it easier for people to know their rights when things go wrong and for regulators to crackdown on those who breach the law. It will also extend consumer rights to digital products, such as games, movies and music, for the first time.

The more consumers feel able to challenge bad practice and shoddy service, whether on the high street or online, the harder it will be for bad businesses to rip off their customers. And that’s good for good businesses too.

Trust in banks and energy companies at rock bottom

With Libor rate-rigging, the exposure of the true extent of the PPI mis-selling scandal and catastrophic IT failures over the past year, the reputation of banking industry is in tatters. An overwhelming majority of people support our call for the Banking Reform Bill to include a fully independent code of conduct for bankers, backed by statute, with tough sanctions for bad practice.

Trust in energy companies has also fallen to an all-time low. Rising energy prices are a top financial worry for UK consumers, but people can’t find the best deals because of the sheer number and complicated pricing of energy tariffs.

The government must not only deliver on the prime minister’s promise to ensure everyone gets put on the best tariff for them, but also use the Energy Bill to start fixing our broken energy market by introducing a single unit price and making it easier for people to switch.

The complex care system

For people needing care, the current system is complex, daunting and difficult to navigate. We welcomed the move by government to provide greater certainty about what people will have to pay towards their care by putting a cap on total costs.

People are crying out for help that delivers greater long-term financial security. That is why it’s essential that everyone understands how the new system will operate in practice, and the costs they will still have to pay. So the Care and Support Bill must also ensure improvements in the quality of information and advice available to people planning care.

Reforming the state pension

Finally, the expected reform of the state pension in a Pensions Bill is important, but also needs to address the bigger challenge facing the millions of people preparing for retirement. The state of the economy is eroding any hope many may have of long-term financial security.

It’s vital that people get the most out of every penny they save for retirement, so we’re disappointed that the government has decided to press ahead with the ‘pot follows member’ approach that could mean small pension pots end up in poor value schemes.

The government must also use the Pensions Bill to set clear quality standards for all workplace pension schemes and protect savers from excessive fees.

Is the government on your side?

With the cost of living now firmly top of the political agenda, there is much to do for a government keen to show it’s on the side of hard-pressed consumers.

The coming year will not only be crucial for the government but also for consumers struggling with rising prices, uncompetitive markets and a bleak economic outlook.

The strength of this legislation in the Queen’s Speech will show just how much the government is prepared to give consumers a helping hand.

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

According to the BBC News website, we are likely to hear about tougher rules on immigration.

I welcome this because many of our current problems are exacerbated by rising population. In contrast, foreign tourists and overseas students are of considerable benefit to our economy.

Profile photo of Figgerty
Member

The Queens Speech delivered good headlines but Spin is still ongoing.

It appears that the government are planning to get landlords to check the immigration status of their prospective tenants. I wonder how that is going to work in practice and will the landlords renting out their garages and garden sheds and shanties to their own immigrant community check their immigration status.

The government also plan to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining a driving licence. Well, if all local paper reports of court cases are like mine, the illegals don’t bother about a licence, insurance, tax or generally breaking our laws. I don’t know if the illegal immigrant criminals are deported when they in the hands of the law or do we have a backlog of illegal immigrants using up our legal aid funds fighting their deportation.

Our government plan on introducing a £72k cap on the amount we have to pay for social care. Now that sounds good unless we end up in a care home and we find that £72k cap does not apply to our room and meals cost just our ‘social care’. More work to be done there and more transparency in their announcements.

The government also plan to increase the ratio of children to nursery care workers in nurseries or childminders, they expect this to reduce the cost of child care to parents. The new ratio for children aged under one is due to rise from three per adult to four. Each adult would be able to look after six two-year-olds instead of four as at present. I would love to see Mr or Mrs Cameron or Clegg looking after six two-year-olds. As for managing to change nappies, bottle feed and burp four babies. A new reality TV show indeed.

Member
Tony says:
10 May 2013

We seem to be entering another period of thinly-disguised racist comments regarding the motivations and lives of members of immigrant communities. I, like many British citizens, need only go back a couple of generations to find my immigrant roots. This does not, however, make me feckless, idle or prone to illegal acts. Such negative attributes are also clearly to be found amongst those who can point to many unblemished years of Britishness. Suggestions that all our problems result from rising populations were wrong when Thomas Malthus wrote in 1798 and remain wrong now.

Profile photo of Figgerty
Member

The immigrants of the past contributed to our economy as do most of the current legal immigrants. Now we are told that the A&E service is collapsing under the strain of our ageing population. No mention of the health tourists and the number of illegal immigrants accessing the system without paying or contributing towards it. I do not thinly disguise anything I say but when I attend my local hospital for a blood test, and in the 35 minutes I waited saw only two non east European names on the screen, then the poor ‘ageing population’ is not using any blood test resource. The ironic thing is there is not supposed to be any significant east European population in my area. There is a small Asian community and the other person waiting was Asian.

I thought like you until recently, but no more. Why do you think UKIP is suddenly so popular. It is not because of the way we think they would run the country. It is because by voting for them we hope the main parties will sit up and see what is happening in the country and how a huge number of people are feeling. At least that is why I may vote for them in the Euro elections.

It is because people in the NHS are afraid of being called racist that we are in this position. No other country is accused of racism just because they enforce the rules of eligibility to their health service. It is because access to our system is so easy we get so many people abusing it.

Perhaps an identity card identifying all benefit entitlement would quickly weed out the abusers.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Here is a summary of the bills covered in the Queen’s Speech:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22436103