The State Opening of Parliament is always a lavish and exciting occasion in Parliament. Some MP’s, though not any from the Labour side, wear hats to mark the uniqueness of the day. It happens yearly, and almost always in November. The Queen arrives through the Sovereign’s entrance, puts on her robes of state and takes her place in the House of Lords.
The MPs are assembled in the Commons and await Black Rod’s summons and troop down to the Lords behind the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. There is such little space in the Lords that only a few of us can get in to see the reading of the speech, and, although I have tried, I still have not yet had a glimpse of The Queen. I am told that the trick is to jostle with sharp elbows to the front of the procession, being careful not to jostle the Prime Minister, as this, understandably, could be career limiting. I was, though, rather shocked to see the finery of those in the Lords, lots of tiaras and huge hats
I am heartened by this year’s Queen’s Speech, with its theme about creating a Britain where people are helped to make the most of themselves, and can rise as far as their talent and hard work will take them.
It is very difficult to do this if you are stuck in temporary accommodation on the council’s housing waiting list. Difficult to earn enough money to get you free from benefits, difficult to put down roots when you are likely to be moved once a short-term lease is up, difficult in crowded accommodation to do your homework, difficult to stay at the same school and with the same friends because you can be moved around the borough whilst you wait for a council home.
This year’s Queen’s Speech promised three million new homes by 2020 to meet the demand in Britain, more social rented homes are to be built so people can afford to work and pay their rent and new ecologically sustainable towns will be built, which is just what is needed.
The key challenge now is to ensure those homes already promised are actually delivered on the ground, with proper infrastructure that is needed to make sure we create real communities, not vast uncared for, unpleasant, estates, resulting in awful social problems which would cost the borough and the Government huge amounts of money to put right.
We know that 80% of the country want to own their own homes, but in Newham less than half of our homes are owned by the tenants. We know that the borough is already densely-populated, and will undoubtedly become more so as we approach 2012.
I want to be sure that new homes are suited to the people who need them, namely the 5,000 people in Newham housed in temporary accommodation for years on end, and the 30,000 on our waiting list who need affordable homes across the borough to meet their needs.
This will not be easy. I am sure the Housing and Regeneration Bill will take us a step further towards our ultimate goal of decent, affordable homes for all, and I will continue to campaign to ensure that the Bill is appropriate to Newham and provides us with the types of homes we need in this borough at a price that can be afforded.