Queen’s Speech: New laws on crime, health and the environment planned

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The Yeoman of The Guard performing their traditional "search" of the cellars of the Palace of Westminster


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Reuters

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The Queen will announce the government’s intended new laws for the year ahead

Policies on crime, immigration, health and the environment form the heart of Boris Johnson’s new legislative agenda, to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech.

Plans to end the free movement of EU citizens to the UK after Brexit and provide faster access to medicines will also be among 22 new bills announced at the State Opening of Parliament.

Ministers say it is an ambitious programme for a post-Brexit Britain.

But with the PM having no majority, many of the bills may not become law.

And the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said there was no guarantee the Queen’s Speech – which is written by the government – would be approved by Parliament. If MPs reject it, it will trigger renewed calls for a general election.

Labour has described the whole exercise as a political “stunt”.

Despite continuing Brexit uncertainty, the government has said it is determined to press ahead with its plans, announcing its intention to hold a Budget on 6 November.

Negotiations over the UK’s departure from the EU continue, with the UK trying to secure an agreement that will enable the UK to leave by 31 October.

The government says if it can strike a deal with the EU, it will introduce a withdrawal agreement bill and aim to secure its passage through Parliament before the Halloween deadline.

Intensive talks over the weekend failed to produce a breakthrough, with EU officials openly discussing the prospect of a further extension and the PM saying “a significant amount of work” remained.

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PA Media

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The origins of the current ceremony date back to the 1850s

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Getty Images

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Boris Johnson’s government does not have a majority in the Commons

The Queen will officially announce the government’s legislative agenda for the year ahead when she opens the new session of Parliament at 11.30 BST.

The occasion is famous for its pageantry – with the monarch arriving at the Palace of Westminster in a carriage procession and delivering her speech from the throne in the House of Lords.

Mr Johnson, whose government took office in July, has said the Queen’s Speech will focus on “seizing the opportunities that Brexit present”.

The 22 bills are expected to include:

  • An Immigration and Social Co-ordination Bill to end freedom of movement and bring in a points-based immigration system from 2021. EU citizens arriving after January 2021 would be subject to the same immigration controls as non-EU citizens, based on people’s skills. The immigration status of Irish citizens will be clarified once free movement rules are removed.
  • Tougher penalties for foreign national offenders who try to return to the UK after being deported.
  • Scrapping the rail franchise system – the contracting out of services introduced when the rail system was privatised in the 1990s. Reforms will focus on getting trains to run on time, a simplified fares system, a new commercial model and industry structure, and new proposals for “a skilled, diverse and engaged workforce”.
  • Plans for an independent NHS investigations body with legal powers – the Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) – intended to improve patient safety, and a pledge to update the Mental Health Act to reduce the number of detentions made under the act.
  • An environment bill that will set legally binding targets to reduce plastics, cut air pollution, restore biodiversity and improve water quality.
  • Measures to tackle electoral fraud, including requiring people to show some form of ID before voting.

There are also proposals for tougher sentences for serious and violent crime, improving building standards, and increasing investment in infrastructure and science.

“Getting Brexit done by 31 October is absolutely crucial,” Mr Johnson said ahead of the ceremony.

“But the people of this country don’t just want us to sort out Brexit… this optimistic and ambitious Queen’s Speech sets us on a course to make all that happen, and more besides.”

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly is urging opposition MPs not to reject the government’s programme – which includes four bills carried over from the last session – saying they should “put differences over Brexit aside and give Parliament the power to get our country moving forward”.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News the whole exercise was a waste of time.

“Having a Queen’s Speech and a State Opening of Parliament tomorrow is ludicrous,” he said. “What we have got in effect is a party political broadcast from the steps of the throne.”

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A different Queen’s Speech

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PA Media

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Preparations for the ceremony have been taking place

By the BBC’s political correspondent Nick Eardley

This Queen’s Speech will feel rather different.

Boris Johnson does not have a majority in Parliament and cannot guarantee that he will be able to pass all the bills announced this morning.

There is no guarantee the Queen’s Speech itself will even pass. Add into the mix the fact that he wants a general election and some of what you will hear will feel more like a pitch to the country than a concrete plan for the next year in Whitehall.

There is also the fact that whatever is announced in the House of Lords could quickly be overshadowed by what happens in Brussels.

A lot has been spoken about crucial weeks at Westminster. This really feels like it could be one – where key questions are answered. Can the PM get a new Brexit deal? If so, can he persuade Parliament to back it? If not, can MPs force him to delay Brexit again?

Strap yourself in – it could be a bumpy few days.



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