Queen's speech greeted with praise (and fury)

Businesses welcome increased apprenticeships, unions angered by plans to introduce threshold in strike ballots

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Britain Queen's Speech
Queen's Speech Highlights: EU Referendum, NHS and Scotland

The first all-Conservative Queen's Speech for two decades drew praise, anger and concern.

While much of the reaction will focus on the future of the UK's membership of the European Union, human rights and immigration, the speech drew differing responses on domestic issues.

Unions pledged to fight plans to introduce a threshold in strike ballots, while business leaders welcomed measures to increase the number of jobs and apprenticeships.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "This is a Queen's Speech which entrenches inequality. Visits to food banks will increase as benefit cuts bite, the sale of housing association stock will not address the housing crisis and more families will be uprooted due to the bedroom tax."

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: "The Government's plan to cut housing benefit for 18-21 year-olds could spell disaster for thousands of young people who cannot live with their parents.

"At an age when other young people are leaving home to travel, work or study, growing numbers could be facing homelessness and the terrifying prospect of roughing it on the streets."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "It is heartening that a Conservative Government committed to scrapping the Human Rights Act has at least paused for thought in its first Queen's Speech. There is a long struggle ahead but time is the friend of freedom.

"The more this new Parliament understands the value of the HRA for all of us in this United Kingdom and our reputation in the world, the more it is likely to understand how dangerous it would be to replace human rights with mere citizens' privileges."

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children's Society, said: "It is a scandal that by 2020 it looks likely that millions of children will still live in poverty in one of the richest countries in the world.

"The Government could do much more for children in poverty by helping families escape problem debt, providing free school meals to all children in poverty, and helping poor families with fuel bills."

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the speech was a "missed opportunity".

"The glaring omission from the Queen's Speech is any substantial action on climate change," she said. "The evidence in favour of urgent action could not be clearer, yet the Government is set to sit idly by and miss this historic opportunity to be a world leader in facing up to the climate crisis.

"Credible solutions to tackle climate change and rebuild our economy exist, but the lack of environmental policy in this Queen's Speech shows that the Government is failing in its responsibility to future generations.

"If the Government is serious about playing a leading role in the climate talks in Paris later this year then it must do more than offer warm words on climate change. Ministers must shelve plans for fracking and take action to invest in a renewable energy system fit for the 21st century."

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of the manufacturers' organisation EEF, said: "The coalition Government set the UK off on the road to economic recovery and this Government's task is to get us safely over the finish line.

"The timing of the EU referendum must be accelerated so that it does not become a drag on industry and investment, but overall today's speech suggests that the Government stands shoulder-to-shoulder with business in wanting to see policies that support growth, productivity and jobs."

Mark Littlewood, director general at the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank, said: "Today's announcement saw constitutional matters overshadow the UK's pressing economic challenges.

"While commitments to tax locks and deregulation are welcome, it is vital that the Government redoubles its efforts on tackling the deficit and balancing the books.

"Regrettably, some of the Government's proposals will see the role of the state further expanded into people's lives."

Imran Hussain, head of policy at the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "Today's Queen's Speech leaves the low-paid still facing benefit cuts, still gaining least from the personal tax allowance. The best test of the Government's stated desire to provide opportunities for the most disadvantaged is its child poverty record. Unless it takes action now, it will fail that test comprehensively.

"With two-thirds of poor children living in working families, the focus on those in work is welcome but freezing in-work benefits will harm the low-paid, undermine the Government's own flagship universal credit and mean that the Government fails to meet the statutory targets it signed up to ending child poverty."

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director general, said: "This is a jam-packed Queen's Speech, with a strong focus on stepping up a gear on the economic recovery - locking in growth, creating jobs and boosting investment right across the country.

"With the starting gun on the European Union debate having been fired, the Government must be careful not to let it overshadow the rest of its programme.

"Businesses need to see it commit to a genuinely achievable reform agenda, making the UK and the EU more competitive. That must go hand in hand with other measures to boost growth, like expanding aviation capacity and getting on with HS2."

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "If the last parliament was defined by austerity, this one should be defined by growth. And the Government needs a confident, unapologetic programme to deliver that sustained growth.

"What we have seen in the Queen's Speech is a positive start, and overall the message appears to be one of ambition, enterprise and growth for firms across the country."

The SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: "The SNP in Westminster will stand firm against the relentless drive of Tory austerity and their proposals to slash social security spending by removing benefits from young people and freezing benefits for working families.

"Scotland did not vote for these cuts and we will work with others across Parliament to prevent them.

"With Labour all over the place and each of their leadership candidates seemingly getting ready to race even further to the right, the SNP is the only real opposition to unfair Tory cuts in the House of Commons.

"At the general election, people in Scotland gave the SNP an unprecedented democratic mandate to put an end to the cuts agenda which is hurting people across our communities - and we will use this mandate to work with other progressive forces in Parliament in Scotland's best interests."

Peter Riddell, director of the Institute for Government think-tank, said: "The legislative programme announced today in the Queen's Speech contains some very ambitious policy commitments.

"While these are consistent with the Conservatives' manifesto pledges, they can only be turned into action and positive change through effective implementation. Too often in the past, grand promises have led to disappointment through an inadequate link between policy-making and implementation.

"The four proposed devolution Bills present large constitutional challenges, not only in the nations and regions affected but also for the government of the UK as a whole. There is not going to be one solution for the whole of the UK, but the changes need to be coherent and consistent. The Institute for Government has stressed the need to strengthen relations between the various governments of the UK."