Crackdown on crime dominates Johnson’s first Queen’s Speech

A crackdown on crime dominated the first Queen’s Speech of Boris Johnson’s premiership.

A package of 26 bills was set out at the state opening of parliament, including seven relating to crime and justice.

But with no Commons majority and a general election on the horizon, it is questionable how much of the legislation will actually make it onto the statute book.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn head the procession of MPs into the Lords to listen to the Queen's Speech
Image: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn head the procession of MPs into the Lords

There is also the prospect of opposition MPs voting against the legislative programme, which will be put to a vote after several days of debate.

Rather, the ambitious agenda which has been unveiled by the government is being viewed as an attempt by the prime minister to set out his stall ahead of an election.

Labour dismissed the Queen’s Speech as a “cynical stunt”, with shadow home secretary Diane Abbott saying: “It is just an uncosted wish list which the government has no intention and no means to deliver, and nothing more than a pre-election party political broadcast.”

Measures on law and order included legislation to keep serious criminals in prison for longer, tougher sentences for foreign offenders who come back to the UK and better protection for victims of domestic abuse.

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Other crime and justice action included:

  • Extradition reform to allow police to arrest criminals as soon as an Interpol Red Notice is issued, rather than having to apply for a warrant
  • An extra 20,000 police officers
  • Assurances for police officers that driving skills will be taken into account in the event of any investigation into their response when pursuing offenders
  • The creation of a legal definition of domestic abuse “emphasising that abuse is not just physical, but can be economic, emotional and coercive”
  • The abolition of automatic halfway release for the most serious offenders given fixed-term sentences and a toughening of community sentences
  • A bill to enact “Helen’s Law”, which will see killers who refuse to reveal the locations of their victims’ remains denied parole

Brexit also featured, with ministers preparing to hurry through a bill to ratify any deal Mr Johnson manages to strike with Brussels at a crucial summit later this week.

Queen Elizabeth delivering the Queen's Speech
Image: The Queen’s Speech marks the opening of a new parliamentary session

“My government’s priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on 31 October,” the Queen said.

“My government intends to work towards a new partnership with the European Union, based on free trade and friendly cooperation”.

Britain's Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg reacts ahead of the arrival of Queen Elizabeth
Image: Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg pictured before the Queen’s arrival at parliament

Other specific measures included:

  • An Immigration and Social Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill to end freedom of movement and implement a points-based immigration system from 2021
  • A new Environment Bill will set legally binding targets to reduce the use of plastics, restore biodiversity, improve water quality and cut air pollution
  • Raising the national living wage to £10.50 an hour
  • A pledge to “bring forward proposals” to reform adult social care, but there was no specific bill included
  • Changes to the current system of railway franchising and the creation of a new commercial model
  • Establishing a new regulator with the power to impose criminal sanctions for breaches of building regulations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire
  • An NHS Health Investigations Bill to set up a new independent body with legal powers to ensure patient safety
  • Mental health reform to try and reduce the number of detentions under the Mental Health Act by making sure people get the treatment they need
  • Ensuring all tips are paid to waiting staff, placing a legal obligation on restaurateurs to “pass on all tips, gratuities and service charges to workers without deductions”.

It was also announced on Monday that Sajid Javid’s first budget as chancellor will take place on 6 November – six days after Britain’s current departure date from the EU.

EU warns ‘a lot of work remains’ to get Brexit deal

Reacting to the Queen’s Speech, which lasted for around 10 minutes, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “The Queen’s Speech was an election broadcast for the Tory Party more than anything else.

“A speech heavy on law & order from a prime minister willing to break the law. @BorisJohnson must sign the letter asking for an EU extension as the Benn act compels him if no deal is agreed.”

Business lobby group the CBI said Mr Johnson’s agenda “could excite enterprise and drive growth”, but it was “impossible to ignore the Brexit straight-jacket.

Corbyn: We’re ready for an election at any time

“To deliver the ambition set out in the Queen’s Speech, the will to get a deal must unlock a way to build a new, closely aligned relationship with the EU,” deputy director-general Josh Hardie said.

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