Boris Johnson has unveiled the “most radical Queen’s Speech in a generation”, outlining plans for justice and investment in the NHS.
The Prime Minister’s legislative programme, outlined at the State Opening of Parliament, includes Bills which will ensure the most serious violent offenders – including terrorists – serve longer prison terms.
Addressing both Houses of Parliament, the Queen said her Government’s “priority” was to take the UK out of the EU on January 31 – but that it would also embark on an “ambitious programme of domestic reform that delivers on the people’s priorities”.
However, the Queen’s speech didn’t go down well with all. On the NHS and Social Care, Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said:“For all the words about the NHS, today’s sticking plaster won’t make up for chronic underfunding of the health service.
“Our NHS is on its knees after a devastating decade of austerity and we need to see urgent action. The Tories have no plan to deal with growing waiting times and the 100,000 nationwide staff vacancies which are pushing services to breaking point.
“It’s not good enough to simply trot out the same old words about seeking a cross-party consensus on the social care crisis without any concrete detail.
“That won’t wash on anymore – we need to see deeds not words, and that means the Prime Minister unveiling the clear plan he claims to have prepared.”
On the Employment Bill, Roache, added: “We look forward to seeing the detail of specific proposals and GMB is happy to meet with any government so we can represent the perspectives and experiences of our members.
“Trade unions are vital to ensuring rights are fully applied in the workplace and that workers have a voice.
“Restricting the rights of workers to organise and to withdraw their labour undermines all of that – as does the continuation of David Cameron’s hostile Trade Union Act.”
There are 25 Bills in the Queen’s Speech, which sets out the Government’s legislative programme.
Here are the main points:
– Brexit was the issue Boris Johnson anchored his election victory on and it inevitably features prominently in the speech.
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill, allowing the UK to quit by the delayed departure date of January 31, is “the Government’s priority” and seven Bills are devoted to Britain’s departure from the EU – including ones on trade, agriculture, fisheries, immigration, financial services and private international law.
– The NHS is the other key issue dominating the speech. As extensively previewed, extra funding enshrined in law is being promised. An additional £33.9 billion per year will be provided by 2023/24, according to the speech.
Hospital parking charges will also be “removed for those most in need”.
But there is little detail on social care, with a pledge to seek cross party consensus on the issue.
– On immigration, the speech says skilled workers will be ‘welcomed’ to the UK via a “points based immigration system”.
– On housing, ‘no fault’ evictions will be abolished but landlords will be given more rights to gain possession of their property.
A ‘lifetime deposit’ initiative will also be brought-in to “ensure tenants don’t have to save for a new deposit every time they move house”.
– On education, an increase in funding per pupil in schools is being promised.
– On justice, a Royal Commission “to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system” will be established.
And new sentencing laws “will ensure the most serious violent offenders, including terrorists, serve longer in custody”.
– On transport, new laws will ensure “minimum levels of service during transport strikes”.
– On high streets, business rates will be reformed with a retail discount upped from one-third to 50%.
– On the environment, legislation will introduce “legally binding targets”, including for air quality.
– On defence, proposals will be brought forward to tackle “vexatious claims that undermine our armed forces”.
And an integrated security, defence and foreign policy review will take place to “reassess the nation’s place in the world”.
– On security, a review of the Official Secrets Act is promised to decide if it needs overhauling in the wake of the Salisbury chemical weapons attack as well as considering whether there is a case for updating treason laws.