Queen’s Speech: what was announced at today’s State Opening of Parliament?
Newly re-elected government’s plans focus on Brexit, NHS and social care
The Queen has today set out the government’s agenda for the year ahead, with proposed new laws on Brexit and the NHS taking centre stage.
Boris Johnson’s 2020 programme also includes additional funding for adult and social care, legislation to send terrorists to prison for longer, and a “modern, fair points-based immigration system”.
The Queen’s Speech is the centrepiece of the new session of Parliament and is usually an annual event, but the previous one was held little more than two months ago, on 14 October, before the snap general election was called.
With the Christmas break just around the corner, today’s state opening was a “pared-back version” of the normal pomp and ceremony, “with the Queen arriving by car rather than golden carriage”, says The Guardian.
Here is a rundown of what was announced:
The Queen’s Speech included an NHS Funding Bill that promises the health service an extra £33.9bn per year by 2023-24.
The government claims this is the largest cash injection in the history of the health service- a suggestion that has been refuted by fact-checking website Full Fact.
Other new proposed laws include legislation to fast-track visas for foreign doctors, nurses and health professionals with a job offer from the NHS, and the abolition of hospital car parking fees for those most in need.
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which is needed to put the prime minister’s Brexit deal into law, will be the first piece of legislation to be debated by the new Parliament, with MPs due to put it to the vote on Friday.
The bill now includes Johnson’s commitment, made during the election campaign, that the Brexit transition period will finish by the end of December 2020. If negotiations are not completed by then, the default would be a no-deal Brexit.
The newly revealed measures include a pledge to provide an extra £1bn for adult and social care in every year of the next five years. The government also says that it will “urgently” seek a cross-party consensus on long-term social care reform in England.
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The Queen outlined an Employment Bill that the government says will “protect and enhance workers’ rights as the UK leaves the EU, making Britain the best place in the world to work”.
However, The Independent reported earlier this week that “workers’ rights and environmental safeguards will be ditched after Brexit after the government watered down a promise to enshrine them in law”.
The Tories have restated their promise to increase levels of funding per pupil in every school as part of a £14bn investment fund.
New legislation is planned that will end EU free movement rules and introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system from 2021. EU citizens arriving in the UK after that date will be subject to the same immigration controls as those from the rest of the world.
Laws have been promised to keep the most serious violent offenders, including terrorists, in prison for longer. The pledge was made by Johnson following the recent London Bridge attack.
A new espionage law will also be introduced:
Transport and infrastructure
A National Infrastructure Strategy will detail plans for the government’s £100bn investment in the UK’s infrastructure.
An Environment Bill will legislate legally binding targets, such as on air quality, and establish a new Office for Environmental Protection.
Work will begin to repeal the Fixed-terms Parliament Act, and the government will also set up a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission.
The Commission will investigate “the broader aspects of the constitution in depth and develop proposals to restore trust in our institutions and in how our democracy operates”.
Proposal to stop “vexatious” legal claims against the Armed Forces will also be tabled by Johnson’s government.