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The Queen's Speech - What readers thought
This year's Queen's Speech has been dismissed by press commentators as 'lacking in substance'. But that doesn't mean it doesn't contain some more poison for workers. Readers of the Socialist tell us what they thought.
More attacks on workers and their rights
The coalition government want to roll back employees' rights, just like they have rolled back public sector workers' pay. A new Bill proposed in the Queen's speech, The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, will increase the period of employment required, from one year to two, before you can take a case, such as unfair dismissal, to tribunal.
Additionally, in future all tribunal cases will have to be referred first to the arbitration organisation, Acas. Acas' resources are already very stretched and, given the government's deficit-slashing agenda, there is unlikely to be any investment in Acas to deal with this additional workload.
The government claims that they must take action to halt the supposedly "astronomical" rise in tribunal claims. In fact employment tribunal claims have levelled off recently. This is not likely to be due to increased worker satisfaction or a decline in bullying but more likely frustration with a long-winded and expensive process which usually doesn't get you your job back.
Behind the scenes
And who is driving this agenda? None other than Adrian Beecroft, a £100 million venture capitalist. Beecroft has given £530,000 to Tory funds under David Cameron and in return he was asked to produce a report on cutting employee rights as a way to 'boost growth'.
A few Lib Dems squealed and the report has never been published but the Queen's Speech has Beecroft's finger-marks all over it. Beecroft is chair of Dawn Capital, whose portfolio includes Wonga.com, which offers short-term loans at scandalous rates of interest up to several thousand per cent. These are the people Cameron listens to.
Watch out for the bogeyman
Terrorism, serious crime, the bogeyman - all of these would justify the state apparatus leafing through your mail and analysing everything you've read, as part of legislation outlined in the Queen's speech.
Knowledge that you've been in contact with the bogeyman him/herself is all they need to get a warrant. A warrant to read your mail, to poke around in your private life and find out one of a million things that could potentially be used as leverage to have you confess to all manner of discrepancies.
To justify such measures while at the same time professing to protect free speech is an insult. If we are to be watched at all turns, to fear for who may be watching us at every corner, how can we be expected to freely speak our minds? Where does criticism, a fundamental part of learning, get a look in? The answer may be as sinister as you would imagine.
Whether giving up government secrets, speaking out against the regime or planning action to stop workplace discrimination, they may well be watching you soon. Recently protesters staged an occupation of Menwith Hill, the largest US spy base outside the homeland and central to plans to further the observation of communication in Britain.
This Draft Communications Bill makes the campaign to defend our democratic rights an urgent part of the fight against austerity.
Family friendly measures?
The Families Bill that was proposed in the Queen's speech may look like a good idea to those outside the Special Educational Needs (SEN) community and can be seen as freedom from bureaucratically controlled council departments.
However all it means is a continuation of privatisation and cuts to already massively overstretched social services departments.
As a father, single parent and carer of two special needs kids and one adult, I can see the consequences this could entail for me and the other SEN families that I know.
I was told that if I had direct payments, I could have more respite as I could negotiate with the carer and pay them less giving me more hours. So in effect parents and people in need of care will have to make their own cuts. If the budget provided is not increased either, there will be less and less respite making life intolerable for families with SEN children. They say managing budgets will be optional but with the cuts to council services they will not have the staff to do it.
This system is supposed to be in place in our schools already, but owing to a lack of staff and funding many children slip through the net or those who do need support are not given support as there is no adequate funding available. With the current ongoing cuts in education, this is likely to be just words.
It is likely that children with less noticeable special needs, such as some cases of autism, will be out of the category altogether therefore not receiving any help at all and ending up being excluded from some mainstream schools, especially academies.
What is needed is full public funding for education, the NHS, social services and other departments to end the profit motive and with democratic control so that parents, carers, service users and staff can together plan the best provision possible.
John Gillman, Reading Socialist Party
Noticeable by its absence: same sex marriage
US President Barak Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage in a TV interview on 9 May. That same day in Britain marriage equality was conspicuously absent from legislative plans set out in the Queen's Speech, despite David Cameron's avowed support.
Obama previously avoided committing himself on the issue and when he did come out in favour he did so very cautiously. Nevertheless, is this a sign of courage, coming only a day after voters in North Carolina voted to ban same-sex marriage in the state's constitution? Not really.
Most US voters sufficiently opposed to 'gay marriage' for it to be a determining factor when choosing candidates already back Obama's Republican Party opponents due to their generally reactionary stance.
Voters wanting a change in the law would probably back Obama anyway or abstain in disgust at his big business policies. He is trying to shore up his base and campaign funding.
It is claimed that gay men and lesbians among Obama's super-wealthy financial backers influenced him, but they are unlikely to push for measures that would guarantee jobs and improve conditions for millions of workers, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers.
Socialists support marriage equality as an important democratic right. This should go with the right to a job and decent standard of living in your married (or unmarried) life. The capitalist system cannot provide such rights.
Marriage should not be used to privatise the basic functions of society by getting family members to work as unpaid carers when workers are disabled, fall ill or reach old age. This is the agenda behind Cameron's support for same-sex marriage. He wants to "strengthen the institution of marriage" - that is, for families and partners to fill in for the services he is cutting.
The absence of marriage equality in the government's programme has been attributed to pressure put on Cameron by his right-wing backbenchers.
Many Tories yearn for the open homophobia of the Thatcher years. They want to sow division in society and scapegoat minorities in the hope of diverting opposition to austerity. Their plan is to pull Cameron even further to the right in the hope of splintering the coalition with the Lib Dems.
No politician representing big business can be relied on by LGBT communities. They may say they support us but they all dance to the tune of the ruling class in the end. We have to fight against prejudice and the system that encourages it if we are to win and guarantee liberation.