The Queen’s Speech ducks the long-term economic challenges – my Independent on Sunday article

A flatlining economy, falling living standards, declining business investment and almost a million young people out of work. With this backdrop, Britain deserved a Queen’s Speech focused on growth and jobs. But the Government has no answers and nothing to offer.

First, on our long-term infrastructure, not only has the Government invested billions less than the plans they inherited, but major projects are beset by dithering and delay. The decision on how to expand aviation capacity in the South-east has been kicked into the long grass and 80 per cent of government infrastructure projects haven’t even started construction.

This is why Ed Miliband and I have asked Sir John Armitt, the chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, to examine how our country can improve decision-making on long-term infrastructure. Rather than leaving it to the next Labour government to act, ministers should embrace Armitt’s recommendations, due later this year.

Second, on energy policy, uncertainty means vital investments are not being made. The Government should be legislating now for a decarbonisation target for 2030 to give a framework for those seeking to invest in renewable, nuclear, and clean gas and coal technology. But ministers have ducked the issue by saying they will wait until 2016 before even making a decision.

On banking reform, the Chancellor is rejecting the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission he set up. And finally on welfare, we’ve had unfair choices and divisive rhetoric but nothing serious to tackle the underlying causes of the rising benefits bill.

To drive down the social and economic costs of long-term unemployment, we need a compulsory jobs guarantee – a paid job for every young person out of work for 12 months or more and every adult unemployed for over two years, which they would have to take up or lose benefits.

To tackle the housing shortage, create jobs and get the housing benefit bill down, we need a major programme of affordable house-building. This would mean a temporary rise in borrowing, as the IMF has been urging. But investing in infrastructure now, at low interest rates, would get our economy moving, give us a long-term return and help cut the deficit and benefits bill.

These are vital issues, but instead we have the bizarre spectacle of the Prime Minister, under pressure from Eurosceptic backbenchers, saying he is relaxed if ministers vote against his own Queen’s Speech. This coalition is a total shambles – offering more of the same, just at the time when the country is crying out for change.

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Posted May 12th, 2013 by Ed