Today in the Commons we resume the debate on last week’s Queen’s Speech; I’m hoping to speak in the debate tomorrow. It’s likely, however, that I’ll only get three minutes to speak, so I thought I’d set out a few of my thoughts here too.
Overall the Queen’s Speech was deeply disappointing. It lacked in ambition on the key crises of our time and promised to take us backwards on many areas – from reckless planning laws to undermining our democracy.
Some of the key Bills announced were…
•𝐏𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐁𝐢𝐥𝐥: The Government’s reforms to the planning system are meant to streamline the process to allow for more house building. However, I am deeply concerned about the environmental implications of slashing planning rules – which has been described as “a developers’ charter” – and am also concerned at the lack of action on genuinely affordable housing.
• 𝐄𝐧𝐯𝐢𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐁𝐢𝐥𝐥: This long-delayed Bill will set out key UK environmental legislation following our departure from the European Union. The delay means we have been five months without an effective environmental regulator, which should have come into effect before the end of the EU transition period. I hope to see the Bill strengthened when it comes to the Commons on May 26th, for example, on measures to combat deforestation in our supply chains, but our real hope for strengthening the Bill will come when it goes to the Lords.
• 𝐀𝐧𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐥 𝐒𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐁𝐢𝐥𝐥: The Government announced it would finally bring forward legislation to recognise animals as sentient beings in UK law. This was promised back in 2018, but since then there has been nothing but excuses and delays; in fact, I ended up bringing forward my own backbench bill, in a bid to force their hand. The Bill is weaker than I’d hoped – despite the best efforts of campaigners there is no recognition of cephalopods and decapods, such as lobsters, as sentient in the legislation.
• 𝐄𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐚𝐥 𝐈𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐠𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐁𝐢𝐥𝐥: The Government also announced plans to require photo ID for voters in general elections. This is a deeply suspect move, given the tiny fraction of cases of voter fraud (only six at the last election) and the over 3.5 million voters currently without photo ID. I hope that there will cross-party opposition.
But this Queen’s Speech was also highly notable for what was missing…
• 𝐍𝐨 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐞: Despite years of promises from the Government, we still are yet to see a Social Care Bill which will fix our broken social care system. Covid-19 has highlighted how important care for the elderly is, and the impact of years of under-funding, so it is deeply disappointing to see no firm action from the Government on the issue.
• 𝐍𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐧 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐫’𝐬 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐬: Despite the shocking rise in fire and rehire tactics from bad employers, the Government failed to bring forward legislation to protect the rights of those at work, or to address huge rises in employment among many vulnerable groups.
• 𝐍𝐨 𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲: Months into the pandemic, we are still waiting for ambitious action from the Government to ensure that the recovery of our economy is truly green. Yet again there was silence from the Government on this issue during the speech, and no new proposals to decarbonise difficult sectors like housing, transport or agriculture.