Queen's Speech: Levelling up top of agenda
- Credit: PA
The government has unveiled a raft of new legislation in a bid to supercharge its levelling up agenda.
The backbone of the Queen's Speech - delivered without the usual pomp and ceremony owing to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic - focused on education and skills.
Proposed new legislation includes the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, aimed at offering lifelong learning, and the Product Security and Telecommunications Bill of which a major part will focus on rolling out high-speed broadband across the country.
There was also a promise to create more green jobs as the government reiterated its target of reaching net zero by 2050.
But there will be disappointment that more emphasis has not been placed on the social care crisis.
Campaigners and many MPs had hoped for a significant bill to be brought before parliament in order to address the failings in social care. However the monarch only mentioned the issue briefly in the government-penned speech: "Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward."
Local authorities in Norfolk and Suffolk have previously warned shortfalls in cash post-pandemic could spark further cuts and many fear the social care provision will be hit hard.
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There was also a firm hint that once the economy had stabilised after the pandemic there could be tax hikes for the better off and big businesses in a bid to pay down some of the crippling debts.
The Queen's Speech is a largely ceremonial event marking the state opening of parliament. She delivers a brief statement setting out the government's legislative agenda for the coming months.
There will also be concerns from some rural areas about proposed relaxations in planning laws as the government bids to up the rate of housebuilding.
Many MPs in East Anglia will fear a backlash from constituents as the government looks to build as many as 300,000 homes a year nationwide if greenfield sites are lost and infrastructure not improved where new builds are approved.
This year, however, was unlike any other during the monarch's long reign.
Instead of arriving from Buckingham Palace by horse-drawn carriage she made the short journey in a Bentley limousine.
And the usual military band and guard of honour did not greet her when she arrived at the Palace of Westminster.
Delivering the speech from the throne in the House of Lords, the Queen said: "My government’s priority is to deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before.
"To achieve this, my government will level up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom, supporting jobs, businesses and economic growth and addressing the impact of the pandemic on public services."
She added: "My ministers will oversee the fastest ever increase in public funding for research and development and pass legislation to establish an advanced research agency.
"Following the unprecedented support provided to businesses during the pandemic, proposals will be brought forward to create and support jobs and improve regulation.
"My government will strengthen the economic ties across the union, investing in and improving national infrastructure. Proposals will be taken forward to transform connectivity by rail and bus and to extend 5G mobile coverage and gigabit capable broadband.
"Legislation will support a lifetime skills guarantee to enable flexible access to high quality education and training throughout people’s lives.
"Measures will be introduced to ensure that support for businesses reflects the United Kingdom’s strategic interests and drives economic growth. Laws will simplify procurement in the public sector. Eight new freeports will create hubs for trade and help regenerate communities."
Among other proposals is the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill. This aims to repeal the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act which was brought to law by the 2010 Conservative Lib Dem coalition.
It removed the power of calling an early general election from prime ministers who instead required the backing of a supermajority in the Commons to go to the polls early.
The repeal, although previously hinted at, is perhaps a sign that the currently buoyant Tories are eyeing an early election once the worst of the pandemic is over in a bid to cash in on the vaccine bounce.
The government's bid to push through a new policing bill is also set for fierce opposition over claims it would curtail peaceful protests. However the government said it was aimed at "cutting crime" and "modernising" the court process.