Boris Johnson warned he cannot protect Brits from cost-of-living misery today as he unveiled Queen’s Speech measures to get back on track after Partygate and disastrous local elections – including a crackdown on eco ‘hooligans’, a Levelling Up drive and a Brexit red tape bonfire.
As the legislative agenda for the new Parliament was announced, the PM said that the government will do ‘whatever we can to ease the burdens people are grappling with’.
But despite growing demands for action as inflation surges towards 10 per cent and the economy stalls, Mr Johnson pointed to the existing £22billion package of help, and insisted he would make long-term investments rather than try to ease the immediate pain.
The approach was underlined by the absence of any fresh measures in the package of proposed laws – although minister have carefully refused to rule out an emergency Budget before the Autumn.
Instead the Parliamentary session – being kicked off by Prince Charles rather than the Queen for the first time in six decades as she is suffering ‘mobility issues’ – focuses on broad reforms with a smattering of crowd-pleasing policies such as bolstering police powers to tackle disruptive protests.
Schools and higher education are being overhauled to help the post-Covid recovery, while owners of unused second homes are expected to be punished, and locals given more power over housing developments.
There is also action to revive high streets, a shake-up to create Great British Railways, and a vehicle for the controversial privatisation of Channel 4 – as well as steps to ensure ‘woke’ attitudes do not hamper free speech at universities.
In his introduction to the programme, Mr Johnson said: ‘While we can be proud of what we have achieved, the economic aftershocks of COVID-19 and the biggest war in Europe since 1945 mean huge disruptions to the global economy, with people in every major country facing real pressures in the cost of living. No country is immune and no government can realistically shield everyone from the impact.
‘It is right that we continue doing whatever we can to ease the burdens people are grappling with now, supporting the hardest hit with £22 billion of help to address the cost of living and cutting hundreds of pounds off household bills.
‘But we must also remember that for every pound of taxpayer’s money we spend on reducing bills now, it is a pound we are not investing in bringing down bills and prices over the longer term.
‘And that if anything, this moment makes clear our best remedy lies in urgently delivering on our mission to turbo charge the economy, create jobs and spread opportunity across the country.’
Mr Johnson and Sir Keir have clashed bitterly over Partygate, Beergate and other issues – but appeared to share a joke as they walked from the Commons chamber to hear the speech in the Lords.
Mr Johnson apparently quipped in a reference to the furore engulfing the Labour leader: ‘Did you have a good weekend?’
The Prince of Wales read the Queen’s Speech for the first time as the monarch missed the State Opening of Parliament for the first time in almost 60 years. Prince William also attended (left)
Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer have clashed bitterly over Partygate, Beergate and other issues – but appeared to share a joke as they walked from the Commons chamber to hear the speech in the Lords
Boris Johnson will bid to get back on track after Partygate and disastrous local elections today with a Queen’s Speech vowing to crack down on eco ‘hooligans’, a Levelling Up drive and a Brexit red tape bonfire
The Imperial State Crown arrives ahead of the State Opening of Parliament
The Chamber of the House of Lords played host to the first State Opening without the Queen since 1963 – when the speech was delivered by the Lord Chancellor
Prince Charles has previously accompanied the Queen (pictured together in 2019) but she did not attend for the first time in six decades as she is suffering ‘mobility issues’
The Prince of Wales read the Queen’s Speech for the first time as the monarch misses the State Opening of Parliament for the first time in almost 60 years.
The Queen, 96, pulled out of the ceremonial occasion – when she spells out the Government’s legislative programme for the forthcoming parliamentary session – as she continued to experience ‘episodic mobility problems’.
In the Queen’s absence, Charles took on the head of state’s major constitutional duty, in a move which will be interpreted as a significant shift in his responsibilities as a king-in-waiting.
The Duke of Cambridge, also a future monarch, attended the State Opening, the first time he has done so, with the royal function of opening a new parliament delegated to both Charles and William by the Queen.
The monarch is understood to have watched proceedings on television, and will have her regular audience with the PM tomorrow.
Aside from the pomp and ceremony, the Speech marks the start of a critical phase for Mr Johnson as he looks to restore his political fortunes.
The PM has so far clung on despite Partygate and the dismal local election results, but the Tories are trailing Labour in the polls and the success of these policies are likely to decide who secures power at the next election.
In comments ahead of the speech, Mr Johnson delivered a strong hint that he has abandoned the idea of calling an early election as storm clouds gather over the UK economy, saying the programme will need the full two years to complete.
The Queen’s Speech promises to ‘grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost-of-living crisis for families’.
But the package of legislation merely reiterates measures that have already been announced – and decried by critics as not going far enough.
In his introduction, Mr Johnson said the government will do ‘whatever we can to ease the burdens people are grappling with’.
But he added: ‘We must also remember that for every pound of taxpayer’s money we spend on reducing bills now, it is a pound we are not investing in bringing down bills and prices over the longer term. And that if anything, this moment makes clear our best remedy lies in urgently delivering on our mission to turbo charge the economy, create jobs and spread opportunity across the country.’
The briefing notes highlight that the government has provided £22billion of support to families in 2022-23, and ‘will not hesitate to take further steps to support households if needed’.
Officials stressed that helping people into work was the ‘best approach’ to easing the misery, pointing to education and training policies.
The only nod to soaring energy bills is the Energy Security Bill, which the government says will ‘deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy’.
However, there has been mounting speculation that Rishi Sunak could bring forward an emergency Budget to take the edge off inflation – which is on track to reach 10 per cent in the coming months.
There have been calls for measures such as suspending VAT on heating bills and making the £200 loan a grant.
The Duke of Cambridge enters the Palace of Westminster with a guard of honour
Crackdown on eco ‘hooligans’
Police will be given powers to stop eco ‘hooligans’ blocking roads and inflicting misery on motorists, under plans announced today.
A Public Order Bill to tackle disruptive action by groups such as Extinction Rebellion was unveiled in the Queen’s Speech.
The Government had attempted to bring in the measures in January, but they were blocked by Labour and others in the House of Lords
A criminal offence of ‘locking on’ will be created to prevent activists chaining themselves to buildings, vehicles and other protesters.
It will carry a maximum penalty of six months and an unlimited fine.
Stop and search powers will allow police to detain campaigners carrying bike locks and other equipment designed to make themselves difficult to remove.
A new offence will also be introduced to specifically ban the obstruction of key national infrastructure such as airports, railways and newspaper printing presses, which will be punishable by up to 12 months in prison and an unlimited fine.
Eco-activists on top of a fuel tank truck during a protest at a roundabout in west London last month
It will also be illegal to obstruct major transport works, including disrupting the construction or maintenance of projects such as HS2.
And new Serious Disruption Prevention Orders will allow police to ban suspected troublemakers from attending specified events.
Groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil have used guerrilla tactics to wreak havoc in recent years – stopping people getting to work and costing taxpayers millions because of the mammoth police operations.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the measures are designed to stop ‘hooligan’ protests.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We have seen a number of very, very prolific, persistent offenders who decide to just flagrantly ignore the courts and so we’ll be bringing in a new serious disruption prevention order which we can place on them as individuals to deter them, if you like, from this kind of hooligan way of protesting.
‘We believe that protest is fundamental to our democracy but it has to be balanced against the rights of others to go about their business, and indeed keeping us all safe.
‘I’m afraid some of the tactics we’ve seen recently haven’t done that.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘The law-abiding, responsible majority have had enough of antisocial, disruptive protests carried out by a self-indulgent minority who seem to revel in causing mayhem and misery for the rest of us.
‘The Public Order Bill will give the police the powers they need to clamp down on this outrageous behaviour and ensure the British public can go about their lives without disruption.’
Brexit bonfire of red tape
A ‘super seven’ of post-Brexit Bills is designed to exploit the benefits of leaving the EU, from slashing red tape to bolstering protection for animals.
The Tories hope the new agenda can ease the cost-of-living crisis and deliver a ‘Brexit dividend’ in time for the next general election.
The package pledges to ‘end the supremacy of European law’, saying that reducing bureaucracy in areas such as data handling can save businesses £1billion.
The raft of legislation includes the Brexit Freedoms Bill, which the government says will ensure future regulation is ‘proportionate and created in collaboration with business to help spur economic growth’.
Boris Johnson and EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels in 2020
Restrictions in areas such as gene editing are being loosened, with officials saying it has ‘the potential to increase disease resistance in crops, which can reduce pesticide use, lower costs to farmers and increase food production’.
Mr Johnson has said the overhaul will allow the UK to ‘thrive as a modern, dynamic and independent country’.
Targeting under-used holiday homes and reviving high streets
A crackdown on under-used holiday home is flagged in the Queen’s Speech.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill paves the way for councils to get discretionary powers to double council tax on second homes unless they are either regularly used or let out by their owners for at least 70 days per year.
Unlocking new powers for local authorities to bring empty premises back into use and instigate rental auctions of vacant commercial properties in town centres and on high streets
Vacant property has become a festering issue in prime beauty spots, with locals frustrated at soaring prices preventing permanent residents getting on the housing ladder.
Government sources have said wealthy owners who leave homes unused will be expected to contribute to ‘crucial services in a way that can really benefit the whole community and boost levelling up’. One option would be to deploy the revenue to cut council tax.
Properties that are not even furnished will face a 100 per cent increase in council tax after 12 months, rather than the current two years.
The same Bill will include measures to revive England’s high streets, with compulsory rental auctions to ensure landlords make shops that have been vacant for more than a year available to prospective tenants.
Authorities will also be given greater powers to use compulsory purchase orders to deliver housing, regeneration schemes and infrastructure.
The picturesque fishing village of East Looe in Cornwall. It is not known if any of the properties are holiday homes
Planning overhaul to give residents more rights
Local residents are set to get rights to be consulted on ‘design codes’ spelling out the standards that housing developments must meet.
The move is part of a new pared-back approach to planning reforms, intended to soothe Tory backbench alarm that changes will hit them in the shires.
Ministers will look at how the planning inspectorate handles targets on local housing requirements, with greenbelt and areas of natural beauty no longer forced to meet ‘unrealistic’ goals as long as they produce a plausible plan.
Developers will also need to pay a ‘locally set, non-negotiable levy to deliver the infrastructure that communities need, such as housing, schools, GPs and new roads’, according to the government.
A fast-track application category could also be added to the planning system for small builders in an effort to ‘level the playing field’ with big developers.
The measures are contained in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
Boosting education watchdogs and curbing truancy
Ministers will crack down on truancy, beef up the powers of education watchdogs and reform the funding system in new legislation to create ‘a school system that works for every child’.
Under the plans laid out in the Queen’s Speech, England’s schools will be required to publish an attendance policy and there will be compulsory registers for children who are not in classrooms so the authorities can identify who is not receiving a full-time education.
The measures will ensure pupils benefit from ‘every possible hour in the classroom’, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said.
Mr Johnson said education was ‘at the very heart of this Government’s agenda’.
The Schools Bill will also include plans for schools to join multi-academy trusts (MATs), a proposal which has been resisted by education unions, with a strengthened regulatory framework giving greater powers to intervene when they are failing.
A new national funding formula is aimed at distributing cash on a ‘fair and consistent basis’, Ofsted will be given greater powers to crack down on illegally-operating ‘unregistered schools’ and the Teaching Regulation Agency’s ability to investigate misconduct will be strengthened.
As well as the measures on school attendance, in an attempt to make sure children do not slip through the cracks local authorities will be given a duty to provide support to home-schooling families.
Ministers will crack down on truancy, beef up the powers of education watchdogs and reform the funding system in new legislation to create ‘a school system that works for every child’. File picture
Lifelong learning loans
A Higher Education Bill will enable the introduction of the promised lifelong loan entitlement, allowing people to retrain at any point.
Under the plan people can access a loan equivalent to four years of education, £37,000 in today’s fees, that they can use over their lifetime for a range of studies including shorter and technical courses.
No Bill on Northern Ireland Protocol… yet
The Queen’s Speech does not include a specific Bill to axe the Northern Ireland protocol, despite threats from ministers after negotiations with the EU stalled.
However, officials working for Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are reported to have drawn up draft legislation that would unilaterally remove the need for checks on all goods being sent from Britain to the province.
The law would also ensure businesses in Northern Ireland are able to disregard EU rules and regulations and remove the power of the European Court of Justice to rule on issues relating to the region, according to The Times.
Ms Truss is believed to have been told the proposed Bill could lead to a trade war with the bloc and there are rumours of disquiet in Cabinet – but could announce as soon as next week that the policy is being triggered.
The issue has been thrown into sharp relief by the results in Stormont elections last week, with Sinn Fein becoming the largest party for the first time.
However, the DUP has vowed it will not agree to take the Deputy First Minister role until the protocol is addressed, meaning the executive cannot function as under the Good Friday Agreement both unionists and republicans must participate.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has been engaged in frantic talks with the parties in Belfast to try to find a way through the impasse.
The government’s briefing note on the Queen’s Speech says it wants to see a ‘strong functioning Northern Ireland Executive delivering a better, more prosperous, shared future for all the people of Northern Ireland’.
‘As we have seen following the elections in Northern Ireland, the problems caused by the Protocol continue to stand in the way of an Executive being formed. In the interests of all communities of Northern Ireland, the Protocol needs to change,’ the note added.
‘We urge our partners in the EU to work with us, with new imagination and flexibility, to deliver that. We will continue to talk with the EU but we will not let that stand in the way of protecting peace and stability in Northern Ireland.
‘As any responsible government would, we will take the steps necessary to protect all dimensions of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and meet our obligations under the New Decade New Approach Deal to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.’
Britain to be further removed from European courts under new Bill of Rights plan to protect free speech
Britain will be further removed from the jurisdiction of European courts under plans for a new Bill of Rights that will seek to increase protections for free speech.
It has been a long-time aim of the Conservatives to scrap Labour’s 1998 Human Rights Act, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, and replace it with a British bill of rights.
David Cameron made such a pledge before the 2015 general election, while his successor Theresa May promised to look at the UK’s human rights framework once Brexit was done.
Ahead of the 2019 election, Boris Johnson vowed to update the 1998 Act.
The bill will clarify there is no requirement for British judges to follow rulings by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
Under plans included in today’s Queen’s Speech, ministers are promising to ‘restore some common sense to our justice system’.
The Bill of Rights will seek to establish the primacy of UK case law and clarify there is no requirement for British judges to follow rulings by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
British courts will also be told they cannot interpret human rights in a more expansive manner that the ECHR.
Ministers are also promising the bill will defend freedom of speech by ‘promoting greater confidence in society to
express views freely’, and will reduce ‘unncecessary litigation’.
There is also a vow to crackdown on foreign criminals evading deportation due to human rights arguments.
Ministers set for new trans rights row with plan to outlaw ‘abhorrent’ gay conversion therapy but not action designed to prevent a change of gender
Ministers have set themselves up for a new culture war row with plans to make ‘abhorrent’ gay conversion therapy a criminal offence – but avoid a similar ban on trans therapy.
Ministers will push ahead with plans to criminalise conversion therapy seeking to change someone’s sexual orientation.
The Conversion Therapy Bill will outlaw the ‘abhorrent’ practice, often carried out by religious groups, that seeks to make gay men and women heterosexual.
But under plans outlined in the Queen’s speech the law will not apply to similar treatments aimed at stopping people changing their gender.
People hold up signs reading ‘no ban without trans’ during a protest outside Downing Street in London, over transgender people not being included in plans to ban conversion therapy
Instead the plan says there will be ‘separate work to consider the issue of Transgender Conversion Therapy further’.
The bill will also include protection for ‘freedom of speech, ensuring parents, clinicians and teachers can continue to have conversations with people seeking support’.
The passage of the legislation is likely to provoke yet more protests. When the proposed law was announced last month it led to criticism from Tory MPs and demonstrations in Westminster.
Conversion therapy can, in extreme forms, include physical violence and torturous practices.
It is not clear yet that the Government will be able to get the law through without including trans conversion therapy, with scores of Tory MPs prepared to rebel against it and force a change.
Ministers plot largest shake-up of train services in three decades with creation of Great British Railways
Ministers plot the largest shake-up of train services in three decades with creation of Great British Railways to end fragmented franchise system, improve reliability and keep fares down
Sweeping reforms to the way Britain’s rail network is run are being planned in a new Transport Bill designed to improve train services after years of falling standards and rising fares.
Under measures unveiled in the Queen’s Speech today, a new body called Great British Railways will be set up with powers to centralise control of 20,000 miles of track and the services with run on them.
Breaking with Tory policy introduced under John Major in 1993, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said passengers had been failed by ‘years of fragmentation, confusion and over-complication’
It will replace Network Rail, which was responsible for the tracks, but be given extra responsibilities to become a ‘single national leader of the railways’.
It will have additional powers to set most fares and timetables, sell tickets and issue contracts to private firms to run the trains themselves.
In bringing it in, ministers are reversing three decades of a fractures system of franchises since British Rail was privatised under the premiership of John Major in the mid 1990s.
But it is not designed to renationalise the railways, with GBR retaining ‘reserve powers of direction’ and firms handed a significant role’ in a system designed to ‘deliver a better experience for passengers and freight customers with more punctual and reliable services’.
Transport Secretary grant Shapps unveiled the planned changes last year, saying passengers had been failed by ‘years of fragmentation, confusion and over-complication’.
Ministers push ahead with a £1billion sale of Channel 4 in the face of luvvies’ anger
Ministers will fuel the flames of another culture war battle as the Government pushes ahead with the sale of Channel 4.
Nadine Dorries will go ahead with the £1billion sale of the broadcaster despite a wave of criticism, most recently at the weekend’s Baftas.
Channel 4 is owned by the Government but receives no public money, funding itself commercially.
But Ms Dorries has vowed to push ahead, saying that the current ownsership is ‘holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon’.
Nadine Dorries will go ahead with the £1billion sale of the broadcaster despite a wave of criticism, most recently at the weekend’s Baftas.
Jodie Comer claimed the leading actress award for her role in Channel 4’s Help and thanked the broadcaster for ‘believing in the script’
The Queen’s Speech says a sale will ‘unleash the potential of the UK’s creative sector’ and ‘give it the tools it needs to succeed in the future as a public service broadcaster while protecting its distinctiveness’.
The celebration of the great and the good in TV and film on Saturday evening was hijacked by a number of political statements, including one demand to ‘get the Tories out’, which had to be hastily cut from the televised broadcast.
A number of Bafta winners used their speeches to hail the value of Channel 4 and criticise the Government.
Jodie Comer claimed the leading actress award for her role in Channel 4’s Help and thanked the broadcaster for ‘believing in the script’.
Gogglebox won its second TV Bafta for best constructed factual show and the chief executive of production company Studio Lambert, Stephen Lambert, used his speech to voice opposition to the Government’s plans.
British ports to be handed powers to block ferry services from mooring if they pay crew less than minimum wage
The government will hand British ports the power to block ferry services from mooring if they do not pay their crew the minimum wage.
In action prompted by the P&O scandal, new legislation unveiled in the Queen’s Speech will crackdown on ferry companies seeking to underpay their staff.
Under what has been titled the Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill, ministers are seeking to ensure ferry crews are paid at least £9.50 an hour while in UK waters.
The proposed laws will hand ports the power to surcharge ferry operators if they pay less than this.
And harbour authorities across the UK will even be given the power to ultimately refuse access to ferry services if they do not comply.
In March, P&O sacked close to 800 workers and set out plans to replace them with cheaper agency workers
In March, P&O sacked close to 800 workers and set out plans to replace them with cheaper agency workers.
The firm, which is owned by Dubai-based DP World, was widely condemned for the move and for giving its staff zero notice their employment was being terminated.
P&O’s high-earning boss later admitted he would be paying replacement staff below the minimum wage at £5.50 an hour.
The firm insisted this was allowed under international maritime rules and said the company had no future without the dramatic action.
Unions have claimed that some Indian agency workers are being paid less than £2 an hour by P&O.
The government’s new bill seeks to close ‘legislative gaps’ used by some ferry companies operating in and out of UK ports to avoid paying crew less than the minimum wage.
Ministers confirm post-Brexit ban on live animal exports and action on trophy hunting – but drop plans to stop imports of fur and foie gras
A post-Brexit ban on live animal exports is finally set to be put in place as ministers aim to deliver on manifesto commitments to strengthen animal welfare.
It has been confirmed that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill will return to Parliament after being carried over from the last session.
The Government also used the Queen’s Speech to restate its commitment to legislating to ban the import of hunting trophies.
However, there is no return of previous plans to impose import bans on fur products and foie gras, which have now been abandoned.
Legislation will prevent thousands of animals having to face journeys of more than 18 hours from Britain to the Continent
Ministers have dropped previous plans for a ban on foie gras imports
Ministers ran out of time to complete the passage of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill – along with a number of other pieces of legislation – in the last parliamentary session.
The need to deal with large amounts of Covid legislation was blamed for the lack of progress in other areas.
As part of the bill, ministers are seeking to use the UK’s Brexit freedoms to ban the export of livestock abroad for fattening and slaughter.
This will prevent thousands of animals having to face journeys of more than 18 hours from Britain to the Continent.
The legislation will also ban the keeping of primates as pets without a licence and include measures to tackle puppy smuggling, such as raising the minimum age that pets can travel into Britain and banning imports of dogs with cropped ears and docked tails.
There will also be the creation of a specific new offence for pet abduction and updates to laws concerning zoos.