The Queen’s speech today laid out the plans for her government over the coming year, emphasising educational, environmental, and infrastructure reform among many other new bills that will ‘level up’ the economy.
A common thread throughout is taking the steps necessary to return public health and finances to a sustainable path beyond pandemic recovery.
Ministers will ‘bring forward legislation to empower the NHS to innovate and embrace technology’ and provide NHS patients with ‘tailored and preventative care, closer to home’ through the Health and Care Bill.
The ‘Government will build on the success of the vaccination programme to lead the world in life sciences, pioneering new treatments against diseases like cancer and securing jobs and investment across the country.’
This project will see the fastest ever increase in public funding for research and development, creating an advanced research and development agency.
Social care reform was mentioned but is yet to be detailed – this is a topic that had been anticipated, and further information is eagerly awaited. The lack of mention of social care goals has already been criticised by campaigners arguing that this is a vital investment in the country and its people, not something that is optional dependent on cost.
Though it only received a very brief mention, the introduction of the Electoral Integrity Bill is perhaps one of the most debated parts of the speech. Protecting the integrity of elections has become a crucial issue following Russian influence in the US 2016 election and unfounded voter fraud accusations in 2020. There is however concern regarding the impact on people’s ability to vote after a 2018 trial saw people being turned away from polling stations for not having the necessary ID.
The controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will – alongside the protest restrictions that have been the centre of protests across the country – increase sentences for the most serious and violent offenders. Support for victims will be offered through the Draft Victims Bill, especially for women and girls who have been victims of violent crimes.
The Queen also spoke of a ban on conversion therapy (the practice of trying to ‘convert’ LGBTQ+ people out of their identity) – though the BBC understands that this will be ‘preceded by a public consultation’. There were other social justice goals embedded in the speech with a goal of improving racial disparity and working to get 40 million girls across the world into education.
The Queen also spoke of the biggest Armed Forces spending increase in 30 years. After the recent confirmation of an £800m deal for 148 new fully-digitised Challenger 3 tanks and the general shift to drone and cyber warfare, this spending increase comes as little surprise. Though it would be easy to assume the spending means an increase in the size of the military, it is in fact largely being invested in a smaller amount of more expensive technology.
The introduction of a Lifetime Skills Guarantee will provide adults with access to education at any time of their lives through flexible loans covering the equivalent of four years of full-time learning.
There will also be a focus on early years education to ensure children have the best start in life, as well as schemes to address lost learning due to the pandemic. This goal is heavily linked to the improvement of internet infrastructure with internet access playing more of a key role in education now than ever.
Industry & Infrastructure
The Queen pledged that the government will invest in new green industries to create jobs and protect the environment – boosting the economy and working towards the goal of carbon neutrality in one fell swoop. Extending these green ideals to the transport sector improvements will be vital to reaching the goal of carbon zero by 2050 that was reiterated today.
Eight new freeports will be opening over the course of the year; ‘companies inside the sites will be offered temporary tax breaks [and] pay less national insurance for all new workers, from April 2022.’
A true sign of the times in which the speech was delivered, the Queen discussed increasing the rollout of 5G technology and the provision of gigabit-capable broadband through the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill.
An upcoming ‘draft Online Safety Bill will contain new requirements on tech giants to tackle harmful and illegal content online’ as the infrastructure is built to supply free, open and secure internet.
The government will support people in owning their own home while enhancing the rights of those renting. Additionally, there will be an end to ground rent for new leasehold properties while streamlining the planning permission process. There will also be a new building safety regulator appointed ‘to ensure that the tragedies of the past are never repeated’ – a very clear and sobering nod to the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017.
Impressively ambitious and as eloquent as ever, the Queen laid out a wide range of important goals in her speech today, setting her government on a very positive yet challenging path.
Whilst the Queen’s speech laid out a lot of interesting and impressive goals, the true challenge lies in how these will be met. The white paper draft legislation expected later in the year will provide more details on these ambitious – yet seemingly achievable – targets.
About the Author: Leo Hynett
Leo Hynett is a contributing Features Writer, with a particular interest in Culture, the Arts and LGBTQ+ Politics.
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