Quality rather than quantity

DESPITE Labour’S protestations that the coalition is a “zombie government” which has run out of political puff, it should be the quality of the legislation outlined in the Queen’s Speech – rather than the quantity of new laws – that should take precedence.

DESPITE Labour’s protestations that the coalition is a “zombie government” which has run out of political puff, it should be the quality of the legislation outlined in the Queen’s Speech – rather than the quantity of new laws – that should take precedence.

This pre-election Parliamentary programme of 11 bills is certainly modest in comparison to the 32 measures that Tony Blair’s government outlined in the year preceding the 2005 election – or the 45 major pieces of legislation that followed. Many would contend that such frenetic policy-making did not leave Britain better off and actually distracted Mr Blair, and Gordon Brown, from the need to curtail public spending prior to the financial crash.

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In this regard, this Queen’s Speech should not be mocked – the opening sentences of Her Majesty’s address made clear that sustaining the economic recovery, while at the same time reducing Britain’s deficit, is still David Cameron’s top priority.

This should not require legislation, despite Labour’s loud complaints to the contrary. It should be the prism through which every new law should be viewed – will the measures benefit the country and will they lead to a leaner, and more efficient, public sector?

It probably explains Labour’s unease over the updated Charter for Budget Responsibility which will compel future governments to spend public money more responsibly – it is significant that many of Ed Miliband’s grand gestures still do not have a price tag and both the Tories and Liberal Democrats hope that economic competence will shape the next 12 months.

This will not be easy – charging five pence for carrier bags has the potential to be both divisive and a distraction from the need to continue reforming NHS and education policy – while many Tories will be disappointed that Mr Cameron only promised to “promote reform in the European Union” rather than a referendum.

Yet the defining issue will be how the Tories and Liberal Democrats actually conduct themselves. As the next election draws near, their differences will be accentuated. But that must not preclude them from governing responsibly and in the national interest – it is what the public have a right to expect, especially those families who are still to feel the full force of the economic recovery.

The test of time

Headingley’s £50m masterplan

THESE are, potentially, momentous times for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, with the side’s impressive performances on the pitch matched off the field of play with ambitious plans to redevelop Headingley and increase the famous ground’s capacity to 20,000 spectators.

A venue synonymous with many of the great performances in cricketing history – icons like Sir Don Bradman, Hedley Verity, Geoffrey Boycott and Sir Ian Botham have lit up Headingley through the decades – Yorkshire must move with the times if it is to compete with those modern, purpose-built grounds vying to stage Tests and one-day internationals.

As such, the club’s forward-thinking chairman Colin Graves and chief executive Mark Arthur need to be congratulated for recognising the immediacy – and scale – of this challenge and coming up with an eyecatching masterplan, in particular the long-overdue redevelopment of the North/South Stand. Not only will this benefit cricket devotees, but it has the potential to transform spectator facilities on the neighbouring rugby ground where Leeds Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie compete.

The one potential drawback is finance – this redevelopment will cost £50m and Yorkshire is still in debt – but there is no reason why such a bold blueprint cannot come to fruition if the business case is strong and it increases the likelihood of Headingley hosting Ashes matches in the future.

A very sad story

Parents neglect reading duties

even IF some of Britain’s favourite fairytales have lost their appeal because they have become “too sanitised”, the most depressing aspect of today’s survey on reading habits is that 72 per cent of Yorkshire parents do not read a bedtime story to their children.

On this evidence, it is little wonder that the county finds itself at the bottom of national league tables on literacy when parents are reluctant to fire the imagination of their children and help them to become more observant, and questioning, as they grow up.

It’s very easy to blame teachers for the county’s education woes – but what chance do they have when so many parents are abdicating their responsibilities?