Westminster notes

Queen's-speech-1Diamond jubilee address

Both Houses of Parliament gathered in Westminster Hall in March to hear the Queen’s diamond jubilee address.

There was humour in the Queen’s speech. She remarked that “in an era when the regular, worthy rhythm of life is less eye-catching than doing something extraordinary, I am reassured that I am merely the second sovereign to celebrate a diamond jubilee.” Recalling her long history with the Palace of Westminster, she said that “at the last count” she has had the “pleasurable duty of treating with 12 prime ministers.” This drew laughter and applause.

The monarch referred to her “happy relationship” with Parliament, that has “extended well beyond the more than three and a half thousand bills I have signed into law”. Referring to the gift of a stained glass window commissioned in her honour, to be installed in Westminster Hall later this year, the Queen remarked: “Should this beautiful window cause just a little extra colour to shine down upon this ancient place, I should gladly settle for that.”

“Resilience, ingenuity and tolerance” had created the national story, said the Queen. She concluded by rededicating herself to serving the country and its people now and in the years to come.

Paisley opposes surveillance plans

Ian Paisley Junior has expressed his opposition to the Government’s plans to extend police and security services’ monitoring of email and social media communications. The proposals have been opposed by civil liberties groups and some Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, saying it is an intrusion into freedom and privacy.

“By limiting the use of this information to terrorism and other named serious crimes, it would be much more likely to receive support from the public,” said Paisley. Safeguards about “exactly which agencies would have access to the data” would also be reassuring, he said.

While the public wanted safety from the threat of terrorism, “people do not want to see this being used as an excuse to have ever greater interference into their lives and the kind of snooping these proposals appear to amount to.”

Alliance and the SDLP oppose the proposals while the UUP has said it will scrutinise the Home Secretary’s plans.

mark-durkanDurkan criticises Budget

SDLP MP Mark Durkan has claimed that the Budget was “a slap in the face to the worst off in society, not least here in Northern Ireland.” He criticised the cut in the top rate of income tax, describing it as a “very telling signal” of the Government’s real priorities. He added that, while increases in personal allowances to help low paid workers were welcome, the Chancellor “is not advertising the fact that he is adjusting other bands to take more people into the 40 per cent tax bracket, many of whom would not be regarded as particularly well paid.”

Durkan also criticised the withdrawal of age-related allowances for new pensioners and the freezing of allowances for current pensioners. He told the Commons that at a time of pension reform, and when people are being encouraged to save for pensions, the Government appeared to be sending out “the wrong signal.”

His party is calling for VAT relief for Northern Ireland’s tourism and hospitality sectors.

Related Posts