Queen's Speech: Law and order dominate government plans

14 October 2019, 07:50

The Queen and Prince Charles in Parliament
The Queen and Prince Charles in Parliament. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Queen has reopened Parliament and set out what Boris Johnson's calling an 'optimistic' programme to make the UK 'the greatest place on Earth'.

The Queen’s speech, outlines the government’s plans for legislation, included details of the withdrawal agreement bill, to be voted on if the EU agrees to a Brexit deal this week.

Among the other 26 bills are tougher sentences for violent and sexual offences and 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.

They sit alongside measures intended to invest in the NHS, strengthen environmental protections and raise living standards through increasing the national living wage to £10.50 an hour.

The speech focused heavily on law and order. The Queen said her Government was "committed to addressing violent crime, and to strengthening public confidence in the criminal justice system."

The Monarch revealed plans for new sentencing laws which would see that the most serious offenders spend longer in custody to "reflect better the severity of their crimes "

The Government will also work to improve safety and security in prisons and to strengthen the rehabilitation of offenders.

The Queen's Speech also highlighted victims and the levels of support they receive from the justice system.

The Queen said: "Laws will be introduced to ensure that the parole system recognises the pain to victims and their families caused by offenders refusing to disclose information relating to their crimes."

The Government's agenda also places a new duty which will be placed on public sector bodies, ensuring they work to address serious violence.

Mr Johnson, was keen to focus on his domestic agenda, promising a Queen's Speech that will "get this country moving again".

"The people of this country don't just want us to sort out Brexit," he said.

"They want their NHS to be stronger, their streets safer, their Wifi faster, the air they breathe cleaner, their kids' schools better-funded - and this optimistic and ambitious Queen's Speech sets us on a course to make all that happen, and more besides.

"After one of the least-active parliaments in living memory, the proposals we are bringing forward will get this country moving again.

"This is a Queen's Speech that will deliver for every corner of the UK and make this, once again, the greatest place on earth."

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the Speech as "ludicrious" likening it to a "party political broadcast from the steps of the throne."

The view in the House of Lords
The view in the House of Lords. Picture: PA

Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott hit out at Mr Johnson's plans, branding them "hypocritical," and "farcical," she said: “It is hypocritical for the Tories to set out these plans when they were the ones who imposed cuts and let crime soar in the first place. Everything was cut, from schools, to the NHS, to the police, to mental health services. They all had terrible consequences.

“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."

MPs and Commons officials listen to the Queen's Speech
MPs and Commons officials listen to the Queen's Speech. Picture: PA

Veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner refused to attend the Queen's Speech.

He appeared to mutter "I'm not going" after Black Rod requested MPs' attendance in the House of Lords to hear the Queen's Speech.

This prompted laughter from both sides of the House of Commons.

Mr Skinner is known for making quips during the State Opening of Parliament and it has become part of the pomp and circumstance of the event.

He remained behind in the Commons chamber as other MPs filed out towards the Lords.

Speaker John Bercow has led MPs back into the Commons chamber, and the sitting is suspended until 2.30pm.

Debate on the Queen's Speech will take place at this point.

As the Queen ended her speech, Labour MP Jim McMahon tweeted: "Really admire The Queen. Not sure I could have read that without swearing out loud."

Yeomen of the guard conduct a search of the Palace of Westminster
Yeomen of the guard conduct a search of the Palace of Westminster. Picture: PA

Specific measures announced include:

- Environment Bill setting legally binding targets to reduce plastics, restore biodiversity, improve water quality and cut air pollution.

- Immigration and Social Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill to end freedom of movement and introduce a points-based immigration system from 2021.

- Railway reform with a white paper setting out proposals to overhaul the current system of franchising and creating a new commercial model.

- Action on building standards in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire with the establishment of a new regulator with powers to impose criminal sanctions for breaches of building regulations.

- NHS Health Investigations Bill will create a new independent body with legal powers to ensure patient safety.

- Mental health reform to reduce the number of detentions under the Mental Health Act by ensuring more people get the treatment they need.