- Keir Starmer said Boris Johnson’s government was “bereft of ideas or purpose” after a Queen’s speech that included bills to overhaul the planning system and rewrite human rights law, but few new measures to tackle the cost of living crisis.
- The Treasury has quashed a suggestion from Johnson that a significant government announcement about extra help for people with the cost of living is due imminently. (See 4.05pm.)
- The European Union has said renegotiation of the Northern Ireland protocol is “not an option”. In a statement issued this afternoon Maroš Šefčovič, the vice-president of the European Commission, said:
The protocol, as a cornerstone of the withdrawal agreement, is an international agreement. Its renegotiation is not an option. The European Union is united in this position.
Šefčovič said the EU was open to negotiating with the UK on how the protocol was implemented, but, for these talks to succeed, that would require “the UK government to show the same level of determination and creativity [as the EU]”. He also said that if the UK were to take “unilateral action” – ie, to abandon parts of the protocol – this would make the situation more difficult. He said:
Only joint solutions will work. Unilateral action by the UK would only make our work on possible solutions more difficult.
Earlier Johnson refused to give his Irish counterpart, Micheál Martin, an assurance that the UK will not unilaterally abandon the protocol. (See 11.20am.) In fact, the Queen’s speech contained a strong hint that legislation that would allow the protocol to be ditched is being prepared behind the scenes. (See 12.11am.) In the Commons a few minutes ago Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, said he intended to stay as an MP, instead of leaving parliament to take up his seat in the Northern Ireland assembly (he was elected last week), until the protocol issue is resolved.
- Rishi Sunak has moved to weaken regulation of financial services brought in after the 2008 crash amid fears he is aiming to make London into a post-Brexit “Singapore-on-Thames” pushed by Tory donors.
- Environmental campaign groups have hit out at the “draconian” protest crackdown bill announced in the Queen’s speech.
Ports and unions have cast doubt on the viability of legislation announced in the Queen’s Speech to ensure P&O Ferries and other ferry operators pay seafarers the minimum wage.
- The government’s proposed ban on conversion practices intended to change people’s sexuality will in fact only fully cover under-18s, Downing Street has confirmed, saying it had to “strike the right balance” on outlawing the much-condemned practice.
Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, has joined Theresa May, the Conservative former prime minister (see 4.36pm), in welcoming the inclusion of the renters reform bill in the Queen’s speech. It will abolish so-called “no fault” section 21 evictions. Khan’s office said:
The mayor welcomes the government’s decision to finally introduce long-promised legislation to ban section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. This commitment is testament to the dogged work of tenants and campaigners who have been waiting three long years for ministers to honour their previous promises.
However, the government should have used the Queen’s speech to address the eye-watering costs of renting by giving the mayor powers to introduce a two-year rent freeze in London, as a first step towards delivering rent controls that would make renting more affordable.
Shelter welcomed this bill and the social housing regulation bill, which will increase the powers of the regulator of social housing. Polly Neate, the charity’s chief executive, said:
Today’s Queen’s Speech shows the government has listened to the voices of renters, who have been fighting for a long time to be heard. For years private renters have said they need more security, so they don’t have to live in constant fear of a no-fault eviction. And for years social renters have tirelessly campaigned to be taken seriously when they say something is wrong. It’s been five years since the fire at Grenfell Tower, and we’re now one step further on the road to justice.
These are from Jayne Ozanne, founder of the Ban Conversion Therapy coalition, on the watered-down plans for a bill banning conversion practices in the Queen’s speech. (See 2.06pm.)
Green campaigners were dismayed at the lack of action on insulation in the Queen’s speech, which they said was a way to bring down energy bills quickly for hard-hit households, and by the abandonment of animal welfare measures.
Juliet Phillips, of the E3G thinktank, praised the government’s move to a new “market mechanism” that would encourage the take-up of heat pumps. She said:
Clean, efficient electric heat pumps have a critical role to play in helping UK families get off expensive fossil gas. The proposed low-carbon mandate on heating appliance manufacturers could spur innovation and investment in UK heat pump manufacturing.
This could bring new green jobs to the UK, she added.
But Greenpeace’s head of politics, Rebecca Newsom, was more scathing, accusing the government of giving up on the cost of living crisis. She said:
With this Queen’s Speech Boris Johnson is throwing in the towel on some of the biggest challenges our country faces and pandering instead to the whims of his backbenchers. There’s not a single extra penny of support for households struggling with energy bills and no serious plan to fix our heat-wasting homes and get the country off fossil gas.
Katie White, executive director of advocacy and campaigns at WWF, said:
To level up the UK while levelling down energy bills, we cannot afford for the environment to be an afterthought, but today the UK government has failed to set out the transformative changes that are needed to address the food and fuel crises, build long-term resilience, deliver on net zero and restore nature.
This is from Pat McFadden, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, on the Treasury briefing saying there are no plans for an imminent announcement about helping people with the cost of living, as Boris Johnson implied. (See 4.05pm.) McFadden said:
Families need a government with a plan for the cost of living crisis and a plan for economic growth. Instead, we’ve got a government devoid of ideas, and a chancellor and prime minister who can’t even agree on the emergency budget the country sorely needs.
Every day this government chooses not to act, working people suffer, and we get one step further into an economic trap with low growth, low wages, and high taxes.
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, is speaking in the debate now. He says the Lib Dems want an emergency cut in VAT.
Theresa May says it would be mistake for government to legislate to ditch parts of Northern Ireland protocol
On Northern Ireland, May says there was no reference in the Queen’s speech to a Northern Ireland protocol bill.
She says a bill of the kind the government is said to be considering, giving it the power to ditch parts of the protocol (see 12.11pm), would not be a good idea. She goes on:
I think the government needs to consider not just the immediate issues, but also the wider sense of what such a move would say about the United Kingdom and its willingness to abide by treaties which it has signed.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, says the Northern Ireland protocol has to be dealt with.
May says she put forward a Brexit plan that would have avoided new checks at the Northern Ireland/Great Britain border. But the DUP opposed that plan, she says.
She also says she is disappointed there is no employment bill in the Queen’s speech. That would have allowed the government to legislate to allow waiters and waitresses to keep their tips.
And she says she is disappointed the government is not legislating to set up an independent public advocate - something the Tories promised in their 2017 manifesto.
After backbench speeches from Sir Peter Bottomley and Meg Hillier, Theresa May the former prime minister is speaking now.
She says she is glad the government now seems to be addressing the problem of no-fault evictions. She says her government wanted to address this.
But she says she is concerned by reports that Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, favours letting people in a street vote to decide whether a housing application in their street should be allowed. She says she can see that plan backfiring.
Lewis Goodall from Newsnight says the claim from Boris Johnson that his Rwanda asylum plan is just a rehash of a New Labour proposal (see 3.39pm) is highly misleading.
Treasury quashes suggestion from PM that announcement coming shortly about help for people with cost of living
This is from my colleague Heather Stewart, confirming that when Boris Johnson said in his speech that the government would be saying more about helping people with the cost of living in the days to come (see 3.32pm), he almost certainly meant months not days.
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, is speaking now. He begins by thanking the Prince of Wales for coming to parliament today, calling him by one of his Scottish titles, the Duke of Rothesay.
He says Boris Johnson did not listen to the message from last week’s elections, which was that people want him out of office.
And he contrasts the Conservatives’ electoral performance with the SNP’s. The SNP are still gaining votes and seats, despite being in office a long time, he says. He says the party has won eight elections under Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership.
From my colleague John Crace
Johnson has now finished. His speech was delivered with a bit more verve than Keir Starmer’s, but was even weaker on substance. Its most notable feature was the implicit promise of a cost of living bailout that appears not to exist.
This is from Kate McCann from Talk TV.
Referring to Keir Starmer as the “leader of the opposition of the moment”, in a joke about the slogan used by Starmer in his own speech, Johnson criticises Labour for not backing the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. He claims New Labour looked at something similar when it was in power.
Johnson’s comment about help for people being announced in the coming days (see 3.32pm) was not a reference to an emergency budget, the Times’ Steven Swinford reports.
Johnson claims Labour would not approve new nuclear power stations. He calls them “great quivering jellies of indecision”.
Sarah Owen (Lab) asks Johnson for an apology to pensioners and children who are going hungry, and to people who lost relatives during the Covid pandemic.
In response, Johnson rattles off a list of measures helping pensioners and children.
But what the country really needs is a strong economy, he says. He says that would not have happened under Labour because the country would have remained in lockdown.
Johnson says he and chancellor to say more about help for people with cost of living 'in the days to come'
Johnson says the UK had the fastest growth in the G7 last year, and will return to that next year. That will give the government the “fiscal firepower” to help families with the pressures they face.
The government will continue to use “all our ingenuity and compassion for as long as it takes” to help people, he says. He says “the chancellor and I will be saying more about this in the days to come”.
(It is not clear from this whether, by “in the days to come”, Johnson literally means in the days to come, or whether he means at some point before the autumn. Until recently the government has been signalling that the next big announcement about help for people with the cost of living will not come until late summer, when the government has a better sense of what will happen to energy prices in the autumn.)
Boris Johnson is speaking now. He says we come to the “halfway point of this parliament” - quashing speculation that an early election might be on the cards.
After some broadbrush claims about the government, he pays tribute to MPs who have died: David Amess, James Brokenshire and Jack Dromey.
Starmer has finished. It was rather a poor speech, that got worse and worse as it went along.
One mistake was to structure it around a slogan - “government of the moment” - that will mean little to many people.
This is from Jim Pickard from the Financial Times.
And this is from Paul Waugh from the i.
Starmer says UK needs 'government of the moment'
Starmer says the country needs a “government of the moment”.
A government at the moment would have grasped the nettle and set up a new approach to the economy. An approach based on a stronger partnership between governments and businesses, a partnership dedicated to grow.
A government of the moment would finally abolish business rates and replace them with a system that creates a level playing field with online giants so that our businesses can compete ...
And a government at the moment would have a plan to revive our town centres and new businesses, providing finance for a new generation.
Starmer says the UK is forecast to have the slowest growth in the G7 next year.
It used to have growth of 2 or 2.5% every year.
If the government had matched the Labour record on growth, people would be richer, and the government would have an extra £40bn for public services, he says.
Starmer says Queen's speech shows government is 'bereft of ideas'
Starmer says Britain can do more than just “get Brexit done”.
But the country needs more than what this government is offering.
He says the Queen’s speech was “thin” and “bereft of ideas or purpose, without a guiding principle, or a roadmap for delivery”.
He says he would like to think the worst is over.
But the country is “staring down the barrel of something we haven’t seen in decades - a stagflation crisis [rising inflation and rising unemployment].”
The government should be introducing a windfall tax, he says.
UPDATE: Starmer said:
As we emerge from the pandemic, find a new place in the world outside the European Union and transition to a carbon neutral economy, our country faces great challenges.
But, at the same time, great opportunities are within our reach.
We can rebuild stronger, learning where our society and our services need more resilience.
We can do more than just get Brexit done, we can ensure Britain is in the best position to thrive outside of the European Union.
And we can lead the world in zero carbon industries, generating high skill, high wage jobs across our country.
But for that to happen we need a government of the moment with ideas that meet the aspirations of the British public.
This thin address, bereft of ideas or purpose, without a guiding principle or a roadmap for delivery, shows just how far this government is from that.
Too out of touch to meet the challenges of the moment.
Too tired to grasp the opportunities of the future.
Their time has passed.
Keir Starmer is speaking. He starts with a warm tribute to the Queen.
And he congatulates the prime minister too. He has achieved a first, he says.
It sounds as if Starmer is going to launch into Partygate - but instead Starmer says Johnson is the resident of 10 Downing Street to be represented by a Labour council (after Labour took Westminster council last week). Starmer says he hopes the council will serve Johnson well.
Back in the Commons, Fay Jones is winding up. Keir Starmer is speaking next. They are all grateful he has not cancelled that speech, she says, referring to Starmer’s no-show at the Institute for Government yesterday.
Animal welfare organisations say they are “deeply dismayed” by the government’s failure to pursue laws banning imports of foie gras and fur, PA Media reports. PA says:
The Queen’s speech did not include an animals abroad bill to ban the imports of such products, as well as halt adverts for tourism practices abroad such as elephant riding.
A coalition of 38 organisations, including the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, Four Paws UK, Humane Society International and Save the Asian Elephants, said the failure to bring forward the bill was a betrayal of animals and out of step with public opinion.
Charities have criticised the Queen’s speech for its lack of action on the cost of living crisis.
Dan Paskins, director of UK impact at Save the Children, said:
The cost-of-living crisis is an emergency the UK Government should be dealing with right now. The Queen’s Speech was a major opportunity to support those most affected by rising costs and the Government didn’t take it.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said:
Government offered no short-term comfort for parents struggling to feed their kids in the face of rocketing prices, and no long-term vision for ending child poverty.
Fay Jones is now telling a story about wearing a “It’s DD for me” T-shirt when supporting David Davis’s leadership bid in 2005.
When she stood as a candidate, and was asked if she had done anything to embarrass the party, she felt she had to mention this, she says. Had she learnt anything from it? That she did not look good in pink, she says.
Fay Jones (Con) is speaking now, seconding the humble address. She starts with a series of self-deprecating stories about colleagues commenting on her joke-delivering abilities.
Back in the Commons Graham Stuart is still speaking. He says that he used to tell David Cameron what he thought of how he was doing - which led to his never getting promoted to the front bench during his first 11 years in parliament.
It changed when Therea May became PM, he says. It may have been because she saw merit in him, she says, but more likely it was because she had not seen very much of him.
Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, has told me that “nothing in the Queen’s speech will make any material difference on the immediate squeeze households are facing.”
On the expectation that there will be no major interventions until the budget in the autumn, he said:
You need to get on with it - there is a real cost to people on low incomes in not telling them what help you’re going to give. An increase in benefits is the top priority.
My overall view is that what it shows is British politics hasn’t got a lot of ideas at the moment ... When you have 1980s inequality with stagnation of 2010s coming together, that is a very dangerous place economically, but also for what it does to your society in the medium term. We’re out of ideas at a time of high inequality and low growth.
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Stuart congratulates Labour on backing the government’s policy on Ukraine.
The government is providing rocket launchers, he says.
He provokes a laugh when he contrasts this with Labour’s plan for Trident submarines under Jeremy Corbyn - which involved having the submarines, but not having any missiles (an idea Corbyn once floated in an interview).
UPDATE: Stuart said:
We are providing rocket launchers complete with rockets so different from the Trident submarines that the honourable gentleman’s party previously proposed which were to have been built but, you will remember, never armed.
Graham Stuart (Con) is opening the debate. Being invited to propose the humble address to the Queen is an honour, and the MP chosen is expected to come up with a speech that will provide some entertainment.
MPs debate Queen's speech
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, opens the proceeedings ahead of the Queen’s speech debate by reminding MPs of their obligations under the MPs’ code of conduct. There is a cheer as he tells them they have a duty to tell the truth.
I have updated the post at 2.06pm to make it clear, that, although the conversion practices ban will only fully cover the under-18s, it will also cover over-18s “who do not consent and who are coerced or forced to undergo conversion therapy practices”.
My colleague Rafael Behr has written a superb column on the Queen’s speech. Here’s an extract.
The Johnson flagship policy for the general betterment of life in the UK will be enacted as a ‘levelling up and regeneration bill’. Its advertised benefits are formidable. A government briefing note promises, among other treats, to ‘improve productivity, boost economic growth, encourage innovation, create good jobs and enhance educational attainment’.
Scroll down to find the method, and it turns out that Shangri-la is reached by way of measures no less drastic than ‘giving residents more of a say over changing street names and ensuring everyone can continue to benefit from alfresco dining’ …
Johnson is reduced to these inanities because the most powerful faction among his MPs will not, as a point of ideological principle, countenance anything that seriously interferes with the accrual of wealth and privilege to those who already have them. Levelling up has hit the same obstacle that derailed David Cameron’s ‘big society’ agenda. That, too, was conceived as a way to rehabilitate unhappy parts of the country without recourse to any of the explicit financial redistribution that Thatcherite Tories despise as socialism.
Johnson, like Cameron before him, has wasted time on delusions of political alchemy, trying to cook up egalitarian ends with libertarian means. The product will always disappoint. The next stage is also predictable. Someone will have to be blamed for the persistence of material discomfort, and the political subject will have to be steered away from the economy.
And here is the full article.
Bill banning conversion practices will only fully cover under-18s, No 10 says
Downing Street has said that the conversion therapy bill will only fully cover conversion practices for the under-18s. The prime minister’s spokesperson told journalists at the lobby briefing:
This is a difficult area and we need to strike the right balance. I think it’s important to wait for the full details of the bill to be set out.
Asked whether the loophole was needed to prevent people being blocked from receiving religious counselling, the spokesperson said:
It’s important that the freedom to express religious teachings is not affected by the ban, individuals will still be able to access support and counsel from religious leaders should they wish. But that’s a separate issue to seeking to force this abhorrent practice on people.
According to the government’s briefing paper, the full ban on conversion practices will only cover the under-18s. But the bill will also ban conversion practices for over-18s “who do not consent and who are coerced or forced to undergo conversion therapy practices”.
The government has already committed two U-turns on this bill. Boris Johnson promised a ban on conversion practices before the 2019 general election. In March, ITV’s Paul Brand revealed Johnson had abandoned plans for a bill. His story caused such backlash that within hours No 10 was briefing that there would be a bill after all, but that conversion practices for trans people would not be included.
The Irish deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, who negotiated the breakthrough Northern Ireland protocol with Boris Johnson in Wirral in October 2019, has said that it would be “very serious” if the UK threat to get rid of the protocol was not just sabre rattling.
Speaking to RTE, he said the UK could not simply “resile” from the international treaty by unilaterally tearing up the protocol.
If that is their approach, then we have a real problem here.
It’s one thing engage in a bit of sabre rattling … but if they were to actually go down that route, it will be very serious.
Here is the government’s 139-page briefing note (pdf) about the measures in the Queen’s speech. If you need to follow government legislation in detail, it’s a useful document to have.
Boris Johnson has been accused of using the Queen’s speech to prioritise “wedge” or “culture war” issues that are likely to put the Labour party on the wrong side of public opinion, instead of focusing predominantly on what is best for the economy, or for the country as a whole. (See 8.54am and 1.32pm.)
This is from my colleague Peter Walker on the measures in the Queen’s speech programme that do seem to have a “wedge” function.
There are seven bills arguably aimed, in part or whole, at stirring up the Tory base, creating headlines in friendly papers and annoying opponents. A public order bill will specifically target disruptive environmental protesters; a media bill will allow Channel 4 to be privatised; public bodies will not be allowed to boycott certain countries. Arguably the key bill would replace the Human Rights Act with a UK bill of rights. The higher education (freedom of speech) bill makes a return from the last parliament. The levelling-up bill promises local people “more of a say over changing street names”. Finally, the conversion therapy bill will ban practices aimed at changing sexuality, but not gender identity.
This is all part of a wider No 10-led strategy to focus on such divisive issues in the hope of shoring up support among socially conservative voters. Whether there are enough of these to win another election, if more liberal Britons become alienated, remains to be seen.
I’ve lifted this from Peter’s theme-by-theme summary of what is in the Queen’s speech. It’s here.
This is from Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, joining those attacking the Queen’s speech for its failure to include measures that will help people with the cost of living. Blackford said:
Beyond the pomp, ceremony and rhetoric, the Queen’s Speech offered nothing to help people who are suffering under a Tory-made cost of living crisis and are struggling to make ends meet
This was not just a missed opportunity – it was a political choice by a broken Tory government to sit on its hands while we face the biggest inflationary crisis in 50 years.
The Bank of England confirmed last week that we are on the brink of recession – meanwhile, both the prime minister and chancellor are consumed by scandals to get on with the day job.
Instead of tackling the Tory cost of living crisis and focusing on people’s priorities, Boris Johnson set out measures for a race to the bottom in standards through the Brexit Freedoms Bill to repeal EU-retained law and the other Brexit legislation.
The government says its public order bill, announced in the Queen’s speech, will stop “a minority of protestors from using guerrilla tactics that cause misery to the hard-working public, disrupt businesses, interfere with emergency services, cost millions in taxpayers’ money and put lives at risk”.
It is aimed at people like those behind the Just Stop Oil protests. My colleague Damien Gayle has been looking at what they have been doing, and why, and he has just made this video about their campaign.
These are from Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader.
And here is a senior Conservative also criticising the Queen’s speech for its failure to include measures that would help people through the cost of living crisis. Gavin Barwell was chief of staff to Theresa May when she was prime minister and is never shy about saying when he thinks Boris Johnson is making a mistake.
Queen's speech measures fail to help people with cost of living, say opposition parties and unions
The opening sentence of the Queen’s speech said: “Her Majesty’s government’s priority is to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families.” But there is a growing chorus of criticism from people saying that there is little or nothing in the legislative proposals announced by the government that will address these two key priorities.
Opposition politicians (see 12.25pm and 12.43pm, for example), trade unions (see 12.40pm) and thinktanks (see 12.52pm) have all been making this argument. The New Economics Foundation, another leftwing thinktank, has also made the same point. Miatta Fahnbulleh, its chief executive, said:
Last week, voters sent a clear message to the government: you’re not doing enough to tackle the cost of living crisis.
People have had enough of the government doing nothing whilst millions are forced to turn their heating off, and skip meals. Today’s Queen’s speech was a chance for the government to act – to tackle the cost of living crisis and truly level up the country. Not one that plays politics and stokes culture wars, without making any material difference to people’s lives.
Here is the clip of Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer chatting on their way to listen to the Queen’s speech.
The Beergate controversy does seem to be having a significant, but not catastrophic, impact on Keir Starmer’s poll ratings, new figures from YouGov suggest. But Starmer still has a clear lead over Boris Johnson on the best PM measure.
Here are comments from two leftish thinktankers on the Queen’s speech.
From Ian Mulheirn, head of policy at the Tony Blair Institute
From Torsten Bell, head of the Resolution Foundation
In a Twitter thread starting here, the Resolution Foundation has more on the econonomic problems facing the UK that it thinks the Queen’s speech is not addressing.
Plaid Cymru has criticised the Queen’s speech. This is from Liz Saville Roberts, its leader at Westminster.
This Queen’s speech was a disappointing series of platitudes by a government utterly detached from reality. This legislative programme will do nothing to address the worsening cost of living crisis and will only deepen divisions by persevering with an increasingly authoritarian agenda.
Queen's speech won't help workers, but good for unscrupulous bosses, say union leaders
Here is some trade union reaction to the Queen’s speech.
Referring to the absense of an employment bill in the package, Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said:
The prime minister promised to make Britain the best place in the world to work. But he has turned his back on working people.
Today, bad bosses up and down the country will be celebrating.
No employment bill means vital rights that ministers had promised – like default flexible working, fair tips and protection from pregnancy discrimination – risk being ditched for good.
And it means no action on the scourge of insecure work and ending exploitative practices like zero-hours contracts and fire and rehire.
This is from Sharon Graham, the Unite general secretary.
Workers and communities are suffering. We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis and a recession is looming. So where is the programme to address these issues head on? Where are the laws to stop profiteering and prevent attacks on workers? Where is the help for the millions who are already faced with the shocking decision of whether to heat or eat?
And these are from Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison.
These are from Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, on the Queen’s speech.
This is from Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, on the Queen’s speech.
This Queen’s speech does nothing to help the millions of families and pensioners facing soaring bills and eye-watering inflation. The Conservatives have failed to deliver a cut to VAT that would have saved families an average of £600, failed to help pensioners and failed to help the most vulnerable in our society.
The Conservatives are continuing to neglect rural communities. There was nothing in these plans to support farmers on the brink, to tackle soaring ambulance waiting times and GP shortages, or to stop the dumping of filthy sewage into our river and seas.
It shows a prime minister refusing to listen to the clear message sent by voters at last week’s local elections who are fed up of being taken for granted by this Conservative government.
How Queen's speech contained veiled reference to plan to abandon Northern Ireland protocol
Last week it emerged that ministers have drawn up legislation that would give them power to abandon large parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. The bill would present this in terms of giving ministers powers to protect the Good Friday agreement.
The bill was not referred to directly in the Queen’s speech, and the bill does not get an explicit mention in the 139-page briefing document released by the government explaining the measures in legislative programme. (It is not online yet, but I will post a link when it goes up.)
But the Queen’s speech did implicitly refer to this legislation. The Prince of Wales said:
The continued success and integrity of the whole of the United Kingdom is of paramount importance to Her Majesty’s government, including the internal economic bonds between all of its parts.
The main unionist objection to the protocol is that it does disrupt those internal economic bonds - as was obvious from the moment Boris Johnson signed it.
Charles also said:
Her Majesty’s government will ensure the constitution is defended.
Unionists argue that the protocol undermines the constitution; some of them even took the government to court on these grounds (so far unsuccessfully).
In the briefing pack on the Queen’s speech the government says:
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. 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.
Johnson tries to woo Tory voters with planning powers in Queen’s speech
Here is a summary of what is in the Queen’s speech from my colleagues Jessica Elgot and Heather Stewart.
And this is how it starts.
Boris Johnson has pledged to ensure local people benefit from new housing developments and promised to overhaul human rights law, in a Queen’s speech designed to woo back disenchanted Conservative voters.
Standing in for the Queen, Prince Charles announced plans for 38 new laws including a levelling-up bill giving local leaders powers to tackle decaying high streets.
Local people will be given powers to shape planning decisions, in a pared-back set of changes aimed at avoiding the risk of infuriating voters in Tory heartlands by unleashing a building boom.
And this is how Charles concluded.
In this year of the Platinum Jubilee, I look forward to the celebrations taking place across the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth, and to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer.
MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Estimates for the public services will be laid before you.
MY LORDS AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Other measures will be laid before you.
I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.
Finally, some remaining measures.
Her Majesty’s Government will introduce legislation to improve the regulation of social housing to strengthen the rights of tenants and ensure better quality, safer homes.. Legislation will also be introduced to ban conversion therapy. Proposals will be published to establish an independent regulator of English football.
The government will defence the constitution, Charles says.
Her Majesty’s Government will ensure the constitution is defended. Her Majesty’s Ministers will restore the balance of power between the legislature and the courts by introducing a Bill of Rights.. Legislation will prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion.
And now Northern Ireland.
The continued success and integrity of the whole of the United Kingdom is of paramount importance to Her Majesty’s Government, including the internal economic bonds between all of its parts. Her Majesty’s Government will prioritise support for the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and its institutions, including through legislation to address the legacy of the past.
Charles addresses defence.
Her Majesty’s Government will lead the way in championing security around the world. It will continue to invest in our gallant Armed Forces. Her Majesty’s Ministers will work closely with international partners to maintain a united NATO and address the most pressing global security challenges.
Next come the economic crime bill, and the national security bill.
A bill will be brought forward to further strengthen powers to tackle illicit finance, reduce economic crime and help businesses grow.. Measures will be introduced to support the security services and help them protect the United Kingdom.
Charles turns to the public order bill briefed overnight.
Her Majesty’s Government will protect the integrity of the United Kingdom’s borders and ensure the safety of its people. Her Majesty’s Ministers will take action to prevent dangerous and illegal Channel crossings and tackle the criminal gangs who profit from facilitating them. Legislation will be introduced to ensure the police have the powers to make the streets safer.
Next comes the genetic technology (precision breeding) bill.
Her Majesty’s Ministers will encourage agricultural and scientific innovation at home. Legislation will unlock the potential of new technologies to promote sustainable and efficient farming and food production.
Charles turns to trade.
Her Majesty’s Government will continue to champion international trade, delivering jobs across the country and growing the economy. Legislation will be introduced to enable the implementation of the United Kingdom’s first new Free Trade Agreements since leaving the European Union.
From Andrew Fisher, who used to be Jeremy Corbyn’s head of policy
Charles turns to the financial services bill and the data reform bill.
New legislation will strengthen the United Kingdom’s financial services industry, ensuring that it continues to act in the interest of all people and communities. The United Kingdom’s data protection regime will be reformed.
Now we’re on to Brexit.
Her Majesty’s Government will continue to seize the opportunities of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, to support economic growth. Regulations on businesses will be repealed and reformed. A bill will enable law inherited from the European Union to be more easily amended [Brexit Freedoms Bill]. Public sector procurement will be simplified to provide new opportunities for small businesses.
Education comes next, and a reference to the draft mental health act reform bill.
Reforms to education will help every child fulfil their potential wherever they live, raising standards and improving the quality of schools and higher education. My Ministers will publish draft legislation to reform the Mental Health Act.
Charles goes on:
Her Majesty’s Government will establish the UK Infrastructure Bank in legislation, with objectives to support economic growth and the delivery of net zero.
That is the UK infrastructure bank bill.
Next Charles refers to the energy bill.
Her Majesty’s Ministers will bring forward an Energy Bill to deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy. This will build on the success of the COP26 Summit in Glasgow last year. Draft legislation to promote competition, strengthen consumer rights and protect households and businesses will be published. Measures will also be published to create new competition rules for digital markets and the largest digital firms.
Transport comes next.
Her Majesty’s Government will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovations. Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers.
That’s the transport bill.
Charles turns to levelling up.
A Bill will be brought forward to drive local growth, empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas, and ensuring everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success. The planning system will be reformed to give residents more involvement in local development.
This is a reference to the levelling up bill.
He turns to the economy.
Her Majesty’s Government will drive economic growth to improve living standards and fund sustainable investment in public services. This will be underpinned by a responsible approach to the public finances, reducing debt while reforming and cutting taxes. Her Majesty’s Ministers will support the Bank of England to return inflation to its target.
The Prince of Wales is speaking.
Her Majesty’s Government’s priority is to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families.
Her Majesty’s Government will level up opportunity in all parts of the country and support more people into work. My Ministers will continue to support the police to make the streets safer, and fund the National Health Service to reduce the COVID backlogs.
In these challenging times, her Majesty’s Government will play a leading role in defending democracy and freedom across the world, including continuing to support the people of Ukraine.
From the Tory MP Greg Hands
MPs are now in the Lords for the speech.
Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer are leading MPs into the Lords. From the TV feed, we can see them talking to each other, and smiling. It may not have been particularly sincere, but it did look amicable. Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May used to process together in virtual silence.
Sarah Clarke, Black Rod, has just summoned MPs to attend the House of Lords.
Labour says abandoning Northern Ireland protocol would trigger trade war with EU
Labour says abandoning parts of the Northern Ireland protocol (see 11.20am) would start a trade war with Europe. This is from Jenny Chapman, Labour’s Brexit spokesperson.
The government’s threat to tear up the protocol risks a trade war during a cost of living crisis.
Instead of negotiating practical fixes that would benefit businesses and communities, the government plans to break the agreement they themselves negotiated and sold to the British public. Tensions are high in Northern Ireland while families across the country face rising prices and higher bills. There is no consensus to scrap the protocol in cabinet, let alone in Northern Ireland.
The last thing the country needs is more instability and a damaging trade dispute with our nearest trading partners.
This is from Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP, on the public order bill proposals briefed by the government overnight.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, is now processing into the Commons chamber before the state opening ceremony.
Johnson refuses to assure Irish PM that UK won't unilaterally abandon Northern Ireland protocol
The Irish prime minister, Micheál Martin, urged Boris Johnson in a phone call this morning not to take unilateral action over the Northern Ireland protocol. (See 10.26am.) Downing Street has just released its version of the call, and it makes it clear that Johnson refused to give Martin the assurance he wanted about not abandoning the protocol.
A No 10 spokesperson said:
Following last week’s Northern Ireland assembly elections, [Johnson and Martin] both agreed on the vital importance of restoring the devolved institutions, both the assembly and executive, as soon as possible. The prime minister said that the UK government would remain in close contact with the parties following initial engagement yesterday.
The prime minister made clear that the situation in respect of the Northern Ireland protocol was now very serious. The balance of the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement was being undermined and the recent elections had further demonstrated that the protocol was not sustainable in its current form.
Despite repeated efforts by the UK government over many months to fix the protocol, including those sections related to the movement of goods and governance, the European Commission had not taken the steps necessary to help address the economic and political disruption on the ground.
The prime minister reiterated that the UK government would take action to protect peace and political stability in Northern Ireland if solutions could not be found.
The Prince of Wales has now arrived at the Houses of Parliament before the state opening.
As Caroline Davies reports, the Prince of Wales will be reading out the Queen’s speech on behalf of his mother. It will be the first time Charles has performed this role at the ceremony, and a harbinger of what we can expect at some point in the years ahead when he takes the throne.
The Queen, who is 96, has only missed the state opening twice before, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward in 1959 and 1963 respectively.
The Queen is understood to be watching the proceedings on television from Windsor Castle, PA Media reports. She will have her weekly phone audience with Boris Johnson on Wednesday.
The regalia – the imperial state crown, the cap of maintenance and sword of state – were transported to the Palace of Westminster in three state limousines before the Queen’s speech, PA Media reports. In past years the symbolic items would have travelled in a carriage but this year vehicles are being used and a state limousine will also carry the royal party later.
This is what Sarah Jones, the shadow policing minister, said about plans for the public order bill briefed before the Queen’s speech this morning.
Home Office ministers should be asking themselves why they are taking no action to tackle the shameful collapse in prosecutions, put more rapists behind bars or crack down on criminal fraudsters scamming the vulnerable.
After more than a decade of Tory government, victims of crime are being let down. The government is completely out of ideas, and it is communities across the country who are paying the price.
And this is from Sam Grant, head of policy and campaigns at the human rights group Liberty.
These rehashed measures to crack down on protest in today’s Queen’s speech are yet another power grab from a government determined to shut down accountability.
Protest is a right, not a gift from the state – and measures like these are designed to stop ordinary people making their voices heard. Parliamentarians and the general public rejected these dangerous measures when they were first rushed through in the policing bill, but the government has refused to listen.
From restrictions on protest to scrapping the Human Rights Act, this is all part of the government’s continued attempts to rewrite the rules so only they can win, and prevent ordinary people from having their say.
There is no end to the ingenuity of the British tabloid press and, having campaigned aggressively for a fresh Durham police investigation into Beergate, this morning the Daily Mail has run a story criticising Keir Starmer for saying he will resign if said investigation shows he has broken the law. The Mail headline is based on comments from an unnamed government source, the digital minister Chris Philp and a barrister called Francis Hoar saying Starmer’s intervention amounts to putting the police under pressure.
Rachael Venables from LBC points out the hypocrisy inherent in the paper’s approach.
In an interview on the Today programme this morning Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said the claim that Starmer’s intervention would put undue pressure on the police was “wide of the mark”. He said:
My experience of working with the police in very sensitive cases under full glare of public and press interest was that, very quickly, you find your focus taking over and, in a sense, a sort of bloody-mindedness creeps in: ‘This is my case and I’ll decide it, thank you very much, without any help from you.’
So, that sort of pressure actually becomes, in my experience, reinforcing of independence, which I’m sure is what we want.
I don’t think Durham police will be troubled at all by that sort of aspect.
And this is from Jonathan Jones, a former head of the government legal service, on the argument used by the barrister quoted in the Daily Mail splash.
Irish PM urges Johnson to avoid 'unilateral action' over NI protocol amid reports ministers might start ditching it next week
Micheál Martin, the taoiseach (Irish PM), has used a call with Boris Johnson this morning to urge him not to take “unilateral action” over the Northern Ireland protocol.
According to a report in the Times this morning, the government is poised to announce that it will take unilateral action over the protocol, with legislation that would abolish large parts of it. The Times says:
The foreign secretary has concluded that there is little point trying to reach a Brexit deal with the European Union and will move as soon as next week to scrap large parts of the Northern Ireland protocol in British law.
Officials working for Liz Truss have drawn up draft legislation that would unilaterally remove the need for all checks on goods being sent from Britain for use in Northern Ireland.
It would also allow businesses in the province to disregard EU rules and regulations and take away the power of the European court of justice to rule on issues relating to Northern Ireland.
The paper said an announcement could come next Tuesday.
Johnson would not have to resign over lockdown breaches even if Starmer did, says minister
In his interviews this morning Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, also said he did not think that Keir Starmer should have to resign if Durham police fined him for breaking lockdown rules. Asked whether Starmer was right to say yesterday he would quit if that happened, Malthouse replied:
That’s a matter for him. Look, my view is that this was a very difficult situation with complicated rules that were often changing quite quickly.
Mistakes were made and they’re acknowledged and fixed-penalty notices are paid.
I don’t see why anybody, be they so high or so humble, should lose their job.
Malthouse also said that, if Starmer were to resign, that would not mean Boris Johnson (who has already been fined for a breach of lockdown rules) would have to go too. Asked if Johnson would have to follow Starmer’s example, Malthouse replied: “Not necessarily, no.”
Liz Truss ‘preparing to tear up Northern Ireland protocol’
Liz Truss is reportedly preparing draft legislation that would unilaterally scrap key parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, removing the need for checks on goods between Britain and Northern Ireland, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.
Tesco chairman says Queen's speech should include windfall tax on energy companies
John Allan, the chairman of Tesco and a former president of the CBI, has joined those calling for a windfall tax on energy companies. Asked what he would like to see in the Queen’s speech, he told the Today programme this morning:
First of all, I think action to help people cope with a very, very sharp increase in energy prices.
It’s harder for people to mitigate energy than it is with food, and I think there’s an overwhelming case for a windfall tax on profits from those energy producers fed back to those most in need of help with energy prices.
I think that would be the single biggest thing that could be done.
A windfall tax on energy companies is the Labour party’s most distinctive policy proposal. The Liberal Democrats and the SNP also back the idea.
The government is opposed, on the grounds that this might deter investment by the energy companies in the UK. But there have been hints that a U-turn might be possible. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said last month that he would consider the case for a windfall tax if energy companies did not invest in the UK. And William Hague, the former Tory leader, recently said a tax on a genuine windfall was “not a crazy idea” and something Conservatives had done in the past.
Minister says Queen’s speech will tackle ‘hooligan’ protesters amid concerns ‘non-Tory’ bills left out
Good morning. It’s the Queen’s Speech, and overnight the government has flagged up measures that will be included in a new public order bill. My colleague Rajeev Syal has a preview here.
Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, has been doing the morning interview round and he told BBC Breakfast this would allow the government to tackle “hooligan” protesters. He said:
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.
If you think this sounds more like the kind of language you would hear at a Conservative party conference, than in a speech setting out legislative priorities for the whole of the nation for the next year, then you would not necessarily be wrong. Legislative programmes are inherently party political but, as Jim Pickard and George Parker report in the Financial Times, this one has gone through a particularly rigorous filtering process, with non-Tory measures removed. They attribute this to the influence of David Canzini, Boris Johnson’s newish deputy chief of staff, who has reportedly told ministerial aides to come up with more “wedge” issues that differentiate the Tories from Labour and the Lib Dems. The public order bill is a good example.
The FT says that, as a result some measures that had widespread support, but that that were deemed too regulatory and consensual, and insufficiently Tory, have been dropped. It says:
Legislation to improve UK auditing and corporate governance, provide statutory powers for a technology watchdog, and create a new football supervisory authority — all meant to enhance the operation of business or to enable fairer market conditions — have been dropped from the Queen’s Speech ...
With the Bank of England warning last week that the UK is heading for recession, Canzini has told colleagues in recent days that Downing Street believes that “Conservative governments don’t legislate their way to economic growth”, said one official.
The government has dropped plans for a bill which would have created a single agency to enforce employee rights and made flexible working the default option for staff ...
One minister said that the aversion by some in Number 10 to new business regulation was part of a “bastard form of Thatcherism” which failed to recognise that good rules could help the operation of markets — for example by stopping corporate scandals.
The FT quotes the Institute of Directors, the business group, as saying this approach is “disappointing”.
Here is the agenda for the day.
11.30am: Prince Charles delivers the Queen’s Speech on behalf of his mother at the State Opening of Parliament.
12.30pm: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
2.30pm: MPs open the debate on the Queen’s Speech. Conservative MPs Graham Stuart and Fay Jones will start, proposing and seconding the loyal address, and they will be followed by Keir Starmer and then Boris Johnson.
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