Today’s Queen’s Speech – the first for more than two years – includes 22 Bills with a focus on law and order, the environment and improving animal welfare.
Yet it also contains measures that could rig the next election against Labour voters. The vast majority of what was announced today was already announced in the past.
And of course none of this has to be implemented if an election is triggered in the coming weeks – something most people expect.
Plus, it faces being voted down for the first time since 1924 as the PM struggles to govern with a majority hovering near minus 50.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “This Queen’s Speech is farcical.
“It is just an uncosted wish list which the Government has no intention and no means to deliver, and nothing more than a pre-election party political broadcast.”
Measures to let workers keep tips and reform divorce law will finally be brought back after the Tories dragged their feet.
Boris Johnson claimed an Environment Bill will be the “huge star” of his programme – weeks after Labour backed reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030 – by imposing new charges on some single use plastics.
There will be legislation to keep serious criminals in prison for longer, impose tougher sentences on foreign offenders who return to the UK and provide better protection for victims of domestic abuse.
Brexit is of course there too – with measures to end free movement, pass a Brexit deal and carry over trade deals between the UK and EU.
And the PM forced the Queen to read out his “priority” of leaving the EU by October 31.
Boris Johnson bullishly claimed the speech will “get the gears on our national gearbox working again” as he sung the praises of the NHS and police.
The Prime Minister added: “This Queen’s Speech delivers on my promise as PM to get this amazing country of ours moving again. People are tired of stasis, gridlock and waiting for change.”
THE BREXIT DEAL
1. EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
The first Bill in the Queen’s Speech will implement any Brexit deal Boris Johnson gets with the EU.
It will aim to put into law a new way to prevent checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It will also confirm a transition period, running to December 2020, where we continue to follow EU rules and send money to the EU.
We all knew about this already. But crucially, turning it into an Act of Parliament allows MPs to have a vote on Boris Johnson’s deal.
If he gets it, that is. The PM has until Wednesday to work out something that can be put to 27 EU leaders at a crucial summit on Thursday.
2. Fisheries Bill
Powers to control access to UK waters will be enshrined in law with licences for foreign vessels – which will no longer have the automatic right to access our seas.
New powers will impose restrictions on UK fishermen – either quotas or number of days at sea – to replace the current Common Fisheries Policy.
Grants would also be available to fishermen to “conserve, enhance and restore the marine and aquatic environment”.
And EU law could be amended to allow the UK to respond to new advice on fish stocks.
3. Agriculture Bill
The Bill will set up a seven-year transition period that “gradually reduces” payments to farmers that came under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
The current subsidy system – which rewards the amount of land owned – will be replaced and focus on action farmers take to farm sustainably and help the environment.
4. Trade Bill
The Bill allows the legal “carry-over” of trade deals that the UK currently enjoys as an EU member.
However, this carrying over is still not automatic and the UK would need to negotiate the transition with individual countries around the world.
The Bill also establishes a “new independent UK body” to protect British firms against unfair trade practices – like dumping of imports such as Chinese steel.
CRACKDOWN ON FREE MOVEMENT
5. Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
This is the flagship Bill to end free movement after Brexit – including forcing checks on EU citizens who come to Britain from January 2021.
It will pave the way for an Australia-style points-based system, which Ukip has previously backed.
It would score potential migrants based on their education, skills and expected salary level.
But Home Secretary Priti Patel drew scorn after saying she wants to make the system more generous to people willing to live outside London.
Offering preferential treatment to migrants who agree to live in the North of England was branded “confused” and an unworkable “gimmick” – with Labour saying it would do nothing to solve the shortage of workers in the NHS.
The Bill doesn’t actually introduce this points-based system – just sets up a framework for it. It will also ensure Irish citizens “generally” can enter and live in the UK freely. And it will confirm the deadline of December 2020 for new EU arrivals to apply to stay – with or without a Brexit deal.
6. Financial Services Bill
This Bill will “simplify the process which allows overseas investment funds to be sold in the UK”.
The government has trumpeted this as a cutting of red tape, while upholding the UK’s “world-leading” standards. But it could prompt fears from some about letting financial markets run free.
The Bill also allows for long-term market access to the UK for financial services firms based in Gibraltar.
7. Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill
This Bill is designed to “clarify” the law on disputes over kids that stretch across national borders.
It involves three treaties – the 1996, 2005 and 2007 Hague Conventions.
They include making it harder for parents who leave the country to evade paying child maintenance; and allowing co-operation between governments on family cases.
8. Health Service Safety Investigations Bill
A new Health Service Safety Investigations Body will have powers to conduct investigations into NHS incidents that have implications for patient safety.
People will be banned from leaking or publishing information held by this body, to ensure witnesses and whistleblowers more candid.
There will also be a duty on the Health Secretary to ensure enough medical examiners are appointed in England.
And advice, guidance and training will be provided to local bodies to improve medical probes.
HARDLINE TREATMENT OF SERIOUS PRISONERS
9. Sentencing Bill
Violent criminals and sex offenders will face longer sentences in a tough justice crackdown.
The point where prisoners are usually released will be moved from halfway through a sentence to two-thirds – for adults serving at least four years for serious violent and sexual offenders.
The focus appears to be a U-turn on previous Tory bids to focus on rehabilitation, which would have removed the need for the shortest sentences in favour of community work.
The Bill will also extend the range of reasons a judge can use to slap a “whole life” prison term on a convicted murderer.
10. Foreign National Offenders Bill
The law and order package includes a bill to “drastically” increase the sentences for foreign criminals who return to the UK in breach of a deportation order.
The exact increase however isn’t actually spelt out in the Queen’s Speech.
Ministers claim the move will help disrupt the activities of international crime gangs. Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We have been a soft touch on foreign criminals for too long.”
11. Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill
A new law will make it easier to deny parole to murderers, or those guilty of manslaughter, who refuse to say where their victims are buried.
The same law will apply to people who take indecent photographs of children while refusing to say who those children were.
The law will be known as “Helen’s Law” after 22-year-old Helen McCourt who was murdered in 1988 – leading to a long campaign by her mother Marie.
Her murderer was convicted but has refused to say where he hid her body.
Despite claims by ministers, the law won’t actually force Parole Boards to keep these murderers and paedophiles locked up. Instead it will put a “legal obligation” on them to “take into account” the issue when considering release.
12. Serious Violence Bill
There will be a new legal duty on agencies like councils, schools, social services and health providers to work together and share data to “prevent serious violence”.
This will include introducing an “explicit priority” in law on serious violence for Community Safety Partnerships.
It comes after a surge in knife attacks. But critics are likely to complain it is shifting the burden onto cuts-hit local authorities.
PROTECTION FOR POLICE OVER CAR CHASES
13. Police Protections Bill
Police will face a new test to grade their driving – which can then be taken into account if they end up being investigated over a crash.
This is in a bid to stop police facing prosecution unfairly for people they injure or kill when taking part in a car chase.
The Bill will also force the Home Office to report annually on progress on the Police Covenant. And Special Constables (volunteers) will be able to to get the same support as members of the Police Federation.
FUGITIVES ARRESTED WITHOUT A WARRANT
14. Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill
This is designed to make it easier for police to arrest internationally wanted fugitives – without the need to apply for a UK arrest warrant.
The idea is to cut out a waiting period of six to eight hours which fugitives can use to evade justice.
Those being arrested must be subject of an Interpol Red notice.
Initially it will only apply to those issued by a limited number of countries with trusted justice systems, the other members of the Five Eyes intelligence group, the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and two non-EU European states, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
However the Government will be able to add other countries by minor laws, possibly with minimal scrutiny in Parliament.
DOMESTIC ABUSE AND DIVORCE REFORMS FINALLY RETURN
15. Domestic Abuse Bill
The Tories will bring back the Domestic Abuse Bill – which fell as a result of Mr Johnson’s unlawful suspension of Parliament.
This law was introduced under Theresa May but still wasn’t implemented, to the fury of campaigners.
It will stop abusers from being able to cross-examine their victims in the family courts. Victims will be assumed eligible for special measures in criminal courts, like giving evidence via video link.
It will create a statutory definition of domestic abuse to include physical violence, emotional abuse, economic abuse and coercive control.
And a Domestic Abuse Commissioner will monitor the response of councils and the justice system.
16. Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill
Plans for ‘quickie’ divorces will also come forward again after being stalled under the Tories.
Reforms will remove the need to prove bad “conduct” or a “period of separation”.
Instead couples will be able to just tell a court their marriage has irretrievably broken down. And an obstructive partner will no longer be able to contest a divorce from happening.
In those measures’ place will be a 20-week waiting period between the start of proceedings and the final order for a divorce.
LONG-DELAYED PLANS TO LET WORKERS KEEP TIPS
17. Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill
Restaurants will be forced to hand over tips to staff – more than three years after the Tories first promised to crack down on abuses.
The new law in the Queen’s Speech will force employers to pass on all gratuities in full and to share fairly any pooled tips.
The Tories first promised to tackle the injustice under then-business secretary Sajid Javid who ordered a two-month consultation ending on June 27, 2016.
But Theresa May then failed to bring in the change during her time in office.
Today the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill also introduces a Code of Practice for restaurants, bars and cafes to make the system transparent.
Ten years ago, the Mirror launched our Fair Tips campaign with Unite the Union after a Pizza Express manager was sacked for revealing that the company kept 8% of tips paid by bank cards as an “administration fee”.
18. Pension Schemes Bill
On pensions there were new rules planned around everything from saving to viewing to accessing your money.
First was saving – with plans announced for new “collective” workplace pensions schemes. These would see staff and firms pay into a single, shared, pot rather than individual pots for each person. The idea is that it could be more efficient and offer better value.
Second there were plans to force firms to take part in the new “pensions dashboard” project – this is set to be a single location where you can see all your retirement savings at once. But unless everyone gets involved it won’t work. So plans to force firms to take part are a needed first step.
Finally there were new rules planned about where, when and to who you can transfer your pension to. These are needed as there have been cases where scammers have convinced people to move their money, and honest firms have been powerless to stop it.
On a more technical front, there were also bigger penalties and criminal offences planned for firms that break pensions rules and better protection for people saving when companies go bust.
19. Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill
This will aim to roll out “gigabit capable broadband across the UK to achieve nationwide coverage as soon as possible”.
The government claims it will allow faster speeds that can download an HD film in fewer than 45 seconds.
All new build buildings will need the infrastructure to support gigabit connections. And they will have to be installed in most new-build homes.
NEW POWERS TO TACKLE DRONES
20. Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill
Police will be given new powers to tackle the “unlawful use” of drones.
This include forcing a person to land a drone and “enhanced stop and search powers” if an offence involving an unmanned aircraft has taken place.
The laws will also apply to model planes and model helicopters.
It comes after the number of drone or model aircraft collisions skyrocketed from 6 in 2014 to 125 in 2018 – including a spate of shutdowns of Gatwick Airport in a mystery that still hasn’t been resolved.
NEW CHARGES ON SINGLE USE PLASTICS
21. Environment Bill
The government has responded to pressure to ramp up environmental protection. It comes as critics warn that the UK’s regulations will be weaker than the EU’s once Brexit happens.
The new moves include introducing charges for single use plastics following on from the carrier bag charge.
Councils will be given powers to clamp down on sources of air pollution.
While communities will have more of a say on the protection of natural habitats through the Local Nature Recovery Strategies.
The Queen’s Speech confirms the creation of a new Office for Environmental Protection first announced last December.
It will have the power to take the government to court to enforce environmental law after Brexit.
Climate change has been pushed up the agenda in recent months with protests organised by groups including Extinction Rebellion and the international school strikes begun by Sweedish teen Greta Thunberg.
Boris Johnson’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds, who is a senior adviser for US environmental campaign group Oceana, has urged politicians to act saying they have a “gigantic responsibility” to care for the environment.
FIVE YEARS’ JAIL FOR ANIMAL ABUSERS
22. Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill
The maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences will be massively ramped up from six months to five years – confirming plans already announced under the Tories.
There will also be a “clear statement in domestic law that animals are sentient beings”, following a controversy some years ago.
And there will be a duty on government to have “all due regard to the welfare of sentient animals” when forming and running new policies.
What else is in the Queen’s Speech?
Many measures are in the Queen’s Speech – or the briefing documents around it – that aren’t spelt out fully in the speech as one of the 22 Bills. These include:
Voter ID crackdown to ‘rig the election’
Boris Johnson has been accused of using Monday’s Queen’s Speech as a “blatant” attempt to rig the result of the next election.
The Queen’s Speech paves the way for measures to force voters to show photo ID before being allowed to vote.
Hundreds of people were denied their right to vote in last year’s local elections after ministers forced through a pilot scheme, despite warnings it could disenfranchise older voters and people from minority groups.
The trial, which was held in eight council areas, resulted in 819 people being turned away.
Yet figures show there were just eight allegations of people lying about who they are at a polling station – known as “personation” – in 2018.
That was down from 28 in 2017, 45 in 2016, 26 in 2015 and 21 in 2014, the Electoral Commission figures show.
A White Paper on mental health
There will be a White Paper “by the end of this year” setting out the government’s response to possible reforms to the Mental Health Act.
It comes after pleas for patients not to be detained “any more than is absolutely necessary” and ensure their views are respected.
However there are no immediate plans for a new law in the coming Parliament.
Tory pledges on NHS and police
The Queen’s Speech will sit alongside measures already announced to invest in the NHS, strengthen environmental protections and raise living standards through increasing the national living wage to £10.50 an hour by 2024 for over-21s.
Also mentioned is the pledge to hire 20,000 more police officers… which almost but not quite reverses Tory cuts to numbers since 2010.
Stopping a repeat of Thomas Cook
A new law will attempt to stop a repeat of the Thomas Cook debacle by giving the Civil Aviation Authority oversight over airlines in distress. There aren’t confirmed plans or a set Bill yet.
Six other Bills
There are six Bills not mentioned by the Queen herself in addition to the 22. They include allowing the building of part of HS2 – despite the risk the rail line will be scrapped altogether in a government review.
It also involves a Bill to make it easier for NHS hospitals to manufacture and trial medicines and medical devices.
Other technical Bills will allow further payments under the Windrush compensation scheme to Brits who arrived from the Caribbean before the 1970s – and technical changes to legal sentencing in the criminal courts.
What ISN’T in the Queen’s Speech now?
A firm plan for social care
The Tories have kicked the can down the road on social care yet again with no plans for the ailing sector contained in the Queen’s Speech.
Despite promising an “optimistic and ambitious” programme of domestic legislation, the Prime Minister has failed to set out how to tackle the growing crisis.
Theresa May was accused of kicking the can down the road after she repeatedly delayed plans for a ‘green paper’ on social care first planned for summer 2017.
Her blighted social care plans in the 2017 general election campaign were dubbed a “dementia tax” and blamed for the Tories losing their majority in the 2017 general election.
During the Tory leadership contest, Boris Johnson said he had a reform plan ready to go once he arrived in office.
But so far there has been no suggestion of what the government would actually do.
Immediate punishments for Grenfell-style building owners
The speech documents talk of a “fundamental change” in the regulations on high-rise tower blocks to ensure “accountability and responsibility” from their owners.
Over the weekend there was talk of this leading to criminal sanctions.
But there is no mention in the Queen’s Speech documents of criminal sanctions and no firm law.
Rail reforms now
There will be a White Paper “later this autumn” on reforms to the rail industry and reforms “from 2020”. But reforms to the franchising model – which were briefed out ahead of time – are not certain yet and there’s no firm Bill to make changes in the next year.
A Bill on online harms
Ministers will “continue to develop proposals” to improve internet safety for children and vulnerable people. But there’s no Bill announced yet.