ADRIAN SANDERS: Resolving the banking crisis
I WAS pleasantly surprised by the Queen's Speech, the public announcement of the Government's legislative programme for the next 12 months.
Obviously it didn't contain everything I would have liked to see, but then this a coalition not a wholly Liberal Democrat Government. However, it included many of the long-term reforms I've argued for, most importantly an overhaul of the banks.
It was failure to properly regulate the banks that largely caused the financial crisis we are still trying to resolve. The Banking Reform Bill will deliver greater financial stability and finally separate retail banking, on which households and small business rely, from the more risky investment activity. It would insulate personal finance from global financial shocks and make banks easier to resolve without taxpayer support.Our plans should put us in a position where the banks can no longer be in a position to hold the country to ransom when their financial gambles don't pay off.
The Government is also going to establish the world's first green investment bank and introduce electricity market reform to protect consumers, support low-carbon energy and invest in renewables. Even within the limits on Government spending, if Parliament agrees, we're going to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society with the introduction of a flat-rate pension, ensuring women in particular get a fair deal.
There are also proposals to modernise adult social care and support, finally ensuring dignity in old age.
We are going to improve support for children with special educational needs, introduce more flexible working and shared parental leave to cover the early months following birth.
These changes are necessary on social grounds to reflect modern family life. But they also serve solid economic purposes. By extending an individual's ability to combine work and family life, fewer people will drop out of the labour market, losing their skills and prospects in the process.
Also, research suggests that employers experience better workplace relations where flexible working occurs. Good businesses are already flexible and we want this to be the norm.
And of particular relevance to Devon's farmers and food producers we are proposing an independent supermarket adjudicator to strengthen the hand of farmers and other suppliers when negotiating a price for their efforts. Add in reform of the laws of libel to stop the wealthy using threats to bully critics into silence, reform of community sentencing to reduce re-offending and a second Parliamentary chamber where members are chosen by the electorate rather than nominated by political parties, and we have a busy programme to look forward too.
I RECEIVED an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the decisive role I played in the recent report into the phone hacking scandal following my vote on Rupert Murdoch's position. The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee being made up of five Labour, five Conservatives and me.
A few national commentators argued that in going beyond the naming of people who we believed had misled Parliament and drawing a conclusion of Mr Murdoch's fitness to exercise the stewardship of a major international company had detracted from the report and highlighted a committee split along party lines.
This amused me, as what would others have said if the votes had gone the other way with the Coalition MPs on one side and Labour on the other?
That would just as surely have been portrayed as a split along party lines, only by Labour rather than Conservatives!
The report is a public document and the detailed evidence and questioning is there for people to see and make up their minds, but as if to confirm my judgement, after our report was published, Neville Thurlbeck, former senior News of the World journalist writing in the News Statesman revealed this: "At the height of the hacking scandal, News of the World reporters were despatched to spy round the clock on the members of the culture, media and sport committee. The objective was to find as much embarrassing sleaze on as many members as possible in order to blackmail them into backing off from its highly forensic inquiry into phone hacking."
Responsibility for the culture of an organisation that apparently thinks blackmail is an acceptable tool to get its own way has to rest at the very top.
I ALMOST choked on my kipper in the members' tea room when I read the news that Thanet had pipped Torbay for the most blue flag beaches this year. Then I read further and discovered that Torbay has more blue flag beaches than Cornwall — amazing when you consider the length of our coastline compared to theirs.
With blue flag beaches, green flag parks and a purple flag nighttime economy, Torbay's got the lot. The only thing flagging are those rather sad looking Union Flag napkins on Torquay's seafront lamp posts.
Surely a couple of larger quality flags to complement the excellent new palm trees would have made a better impression on our visitor front line and drawn the eye away from the blue Meany parking ticket machines?
Saturday, 10am to 11.30am, Paignton Library, Great Western Road, Paignton.
Thursday, May 31, 3pm to 4.30pm, Torquay Connections, Castle Circus.