The Queen’s Speech is an annual event held to mark the opening of the new Parliamentary year, and gives the Government a chance to set out plans and priorities for the next 12 months – including what will be written into law. The speech is read by the Queen herself from the throne in the House of Lords but is entirely written by her Government ministers. This year, the event will be scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Queen will be closely watched after losing her husband of 73 years just last month.
Eight things we can expect:
1. Some important bills will be carried over into the new session
We can expect to see the following bills carried over into the new Parliamentary year:
- The Environment Bill on post-Brexit rules for protecting nature
- The controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which sparked protests earlier this year
- New bills will include a Post-16 Education Bill which will promise a “lifetime skills guarantee”, building up adult education and training.
2. Animals will have their feelings recognised
An Animal Sentience Bill will give creatures with backbones the “right” to have their feelings recognised in law, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
This will also ban imports of hunting trophies and keeping primates as pets.
3. Adult social care funding reform promises
The Government is expected to use this speech to reiterate its promise to reform how adult social care in England is funded.
But Boris Johnson has not said whether a commitment to a new bill on funding will be included in this year’s speech.
Reports suggest that discussions are ongoing within the Government about the potential cost of changes, which could run into the billions.
Social care could still get a mention as part of the wider Health and Care Bill implementing planned changes to the structure of NHS England.
4. Northern Ireland veterans to be protected from prosecution
The speech is expected to promise legislation to restrict future prosecutions of British soldiers who fought in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Mr Johnson has been under pressure from Conservative MPs to act in this area, following commitments he made during the party leadership race.
5. Post-Brexit asylum system to be overhauled
The Government will confirm plans to overhaul the UK’s post-Brexit asylum system will feature in the speech.
A Sovereign Borders Bill is expected as part of a bid to dissuade migrants from crossing the English Channel.
Under plans announced in March, people seeking protection as refugees would have their claim assessed based on how they arrive in the UK.
Detailed proposals will be watched closely by refugee and human rights groups.
7. Fixed-term Parliament bill to be scrapped, changing general election rules
Ministers have confirmed the speech will commit to introducing a bill to replace the 2011 Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.
That law, passed during the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, created a fixed five-year period between general elections.
Under a draft bill published in December, this would be scrapped – with the power to call early elections returning to the prime minister.
8. New building safety rules for post-Grenfell era
A Building Safety Bill was included in the 2019 Queen’s Speech and published in draft form last July, but is yet to be introduced, and is expected to be addressed.
The bill would introduce a new system for regulating the safety of high-rise buildings and inspecting buildings under construction.
Alongside the recently passed Fire Safety Act, it is the second bill designed to improve building safety after the devastating 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.