Boris Johnson has unveiled a Queen’s Speech with measures to toughen up criminal justice, limit parliamentary democracy and potentially weaken the scrutiny of government.
The government will look at whether the Official Secrets Act needs overhauling, which determines what protections and punishments whistleblowers are given. Whistleblowers are a critical check on power. It will also consider whether there is a case for updating the treason laws.
Work will be taken forward to repeal the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act – a move which would enable the prime minister to call an election without the consent of parliament.
The government will also set up a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission to look at the broader aspects of the constitution.
What it said:
'After Brexit we need to look at broader aspects of constitution: relationship between government, parliament, courts'
What it means:
We are going to get even with Supreme Court and judges who ruled prorogation of Parliament illegal#QueensSpeech
— Paul Johnson (@paul__johnson) December 19, 2019
The prime minister’s legislative programme also includes bills which will ensure the most serious violent offenders – including terrorists – serve longer prison terms.
A Royal Commission will be established to improve the “efficiency and effectiveness” of the criminal justice process, and the government will enshrine in law a commitment on the health service’s funding.
Of the 25 bills detailed in Johnson’s second Queen’s Speech in less than three months, seven are devoted to Britain’s departure from the EU – with legislation on trade, agriculture, fisheries, immigration, financial services and private international law.
The key Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) – which implements the PM’s Brexit deal – would allow the UK to leave on 31 January, and deliver an implementation period until 31 December 2020.
Addressing both Houses of Parliament, the Queen said her government’s “priority” was to take the UK out of the EU on 31 January.
She said the “integrity and prosperity” of the UK is of the “utmost importance to my government” – amid fresh calls from the SNP to grant Holyrood the power to hold a second vote on Scottish independence.
The speech confirmed plans for the “deepest review” of Britain’s security defence, and foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.
Led by the prime minister, it will cover the armed forces, the intelligence agencies and counter-terrorism as well as the future development of foreign policy.
Other pledges include a plan to change business rates – with a retail discount upped from one-third to 50%, and measures will be developed to provide for minimum levels of service during transport strikes, essentially removing transport workers’ ability to effectively strike.
The State Opening of Parliament, which follows last week’s general election, took place without some of the traditional ceremony, with the Queen arriving by car rather than carriage and wearing a mint green dress and hat rather than her robes and state crown.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?