Westminister Comment - Parliament Open

On the first Wednesday in June I joined other MPs in the Commons to await the traditional summons to hear the Queen’s Speech that formally opens the new session of Parliament.

The date was postponed from the new traditional day in May to avoid being seen to try and influence the recent elections.

One of the flagship proposals that is the responsibility of my Lib Dem colleague Prof. Steve Webb is the new pension legislation. This will give savers greater freedom as to how people invest for their pension.

The speech tends to be reported on as to what new laws are going to be made in the year, but we do not need new laws for the sake of it. Government is, also, and some would say, more importantly, about economic management. The continued rise in employment is a welcome sign of increased economic activity. Four years ago the country faced a very unstable economic situation.

The stability on the political front brought about by the coalition agreement helped to reassure the markets and avoided some of the potentially more serious economic outcomes. Another consequence of the coalition was the decision to take many people out of tax by raising the tax threshold to ten thousand pounds. This has allowed people to take home more of their hard earned salary.

A key announcement by the Queen was the decision to implement the suggestions from Sir Ian Wood for a new regulator to unlock more of the remaining potential for oil and gas production from the North Sea.

I intervened on the Prime Minister when we debated the response to the Queen’s Speech to highlight the importance of the measure. So many jobs are dependent on investment in the North Sea. It is important that the rest of the UK realises this as well.

The range of skills in companies supplying the oil and gas industry were on show at a mobile technology exhibition I visited in Westhill on Friday. It was, also, an important reminder of the geographical extent of the supply chain. One of the concerns expressed by the companies was the difficulty finding skilled staff.

Later that day I saw the potential talent for the next generation of skilled engineers at the Greenpower challenge held at the Grampian Transport museum. It was electric car racing competition for schools where I had the pleasure of presenting the prizes to the secondary school entries. It was great to see the enthusiasm the students brought to the task. It was a great opportunity for them to see the practical application of their science and technology subjects. On the eve of the Queen’s Speech MPs and Lords gathered to help raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. We were doing it by taking part in the annual tug of war competition between the two houses. I was first in the team in 97. I am glad to say I was yet again in the winning team when we beat the Lords two nil. In the last two weekends I have seen a range of community events starting with the Feein’ Market in Stonehaven followed by the Westhill Gala and then this weekend the Banchory River Festival.