Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Queen's Speech 27th May 2015 ~ quick notes

The State Opening of Parliament has taken place and the Queen's Speech was delivered - see the full text of the speech (New Statesman 27th May).  The Speech outlines the principal features of the government's legislative programme.  The Speech announced some 26 Bills but it does not tell us everything that will be done.    There is always the phrase - "Other measures will be laid before you."

Much more detail is available in Briefing Notes issued by the government - Queen's Speech 2015
and see No. 10 Policy paper - Queen's Speech - what it means for you

Reform of Human Rights Law remains on the agenda but the Queen's Speech merely referred to proposals being brought forward.  It remains to be seen whether this will be merely a consultation document or more.  This is likely to prove to be an exceptionally difficult area and it seems that the government is not in an excessive hurry to legislate.

Given the constitutional importance of some of the proposals, it is disturbing to note that the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has been quietly scrapped - The Independent 27th May - The watchdog that would have scrutinised the end of the human rights just got quietly scrapped

From the viewpoints of the Constitution, Civil Liberties and Justice the following will be of particular interest - (Numbers in brackets refer to pages in the Briefing Notes):

Immigration Bill (36) - to control immigration, "root out illegal immigrants", "boost removals and deportations."  Possible conflict in this area with EU freedom of movement law and also aspects of human rights law.

Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill (45) - affecting mainly England only - giving more powers to local government including to elected Mayors.  Such Mayors may become Police and Crime Commissioners.

Scotland (50) - implementation of the Smith Commission; new powers over taxation and welfare and a new fiscal framework for Scotland

Wales (53) - devolution of further powers to the National Assembly of Wales

Northern Ireland (55) - to implement the Stormont House Agreement - will set up an Historical Investigations Unit, a cross-border Independent Commission for Information Retrieval and also an Oral History Archive.

English votes for English laws (59) - altering Parliamentary rules so that England only laws receive the approval only of those MPs representing English constituencies.  (This proposals falls well short of creating a Parliament for England).

EU Referendum (60) - to hold an in / our referendum by the end of 2017.  The government seeks to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU.  How successful this will be is debatable.  There are also calls for a "double majority" so that one part of the UK cannot be dragged out of the EU on the say of the other parts of the UK.

Extremism (62) - to strengthen powers to stop extremists promoting views and behaviour that "undermine British values"; address a gap in powers to deal with extremism that falls below the threshold in Counter-Terrorism legislation.

Investigatory Powers (64) - "Better equipping law enforcement and intelligence agencies to meet their key operational requirements, and addressing the gap in these agencies’ ability to build intelligence and evidence where subjects of interest, suspects and vulnerable people have communicated online."  Matters raised by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation will also be addressed.  This area will raise serious civil liberties concerns over surveillance by the State.

Policing and Criminal Justice (66) - more control over Police Bail (some people have been on Police Bail for extensive periods); treating 17 year olds the same way as those under 17 when they are held by the Police; amendments to Mental Health law; reform of Police Discipline.  This will be a Bill to watch because it is far from unusual for other matters to be slotted in to criminal justice bills.

Psychoactive Substances (72) - addressing the law relating to new forms of "psychoactive" substances

Proposals for a British Bill of Rights (75) - "The Government will bring forward proposals for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act.  This would reform and modernise our human rights legal framework and restore common sense to the application of human rights laws, which has been undermined by the damaging effects of Labour’s Human Rights Act.  It would also protect existing rights, which are an essential part of a modern, democratic society, and better protect against abuse of the system and misuse of human rights laws"

Victims of Crime (94) -Enshrining the key entitlements for victims and witnesses in law

Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill (102) - to create a single Public Service Ombudsman


The Guardian 27th May - Queen's Speech: What Her Majesty said and what it means

BBC - Queen's Speech 27th May

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