Thursday, 19 December 2019

Queen's Speech 19 December 2019

State Opening 19 December 2019
Following the General Election held on 12 December, the Conservative government has put forward its plans in the Queen's Speech.

The Speech may be read via the No 10 Downing Street website and is accompanied by Briefing Notes (151 pages pdf).

Overall, the Speech sets out a considerable number of Bills which the government will seek to drive through Parliament.


Seven Bills are planned to address aspects of Brexit. The first is the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill to ensure that Brexit takes place as planned on 31 January 2020.   This Bill was
presented immediately to Parliament  - see the Bill here.

Amongst other things, the Bill prohibits a Minister of the Crown from agreeing in the Joint Committee to an extension of the implementation period.

The Bill also repeals section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and ensures that the withdrawal agreement is not subject to section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 -

For further analysis of the Bill see the paper by Graeme Cowie at House of Commons Library
 - The new EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill: What's changed?

Other Brexit-related Bills are:
  • Agriculture - will reform UK agriculture by improving environmental protections and strengthening transparency and fairness in the supply chain
  • Fisheries - reclaiming control over our waters, ensuring the sustainability of our marine life and environment
  • Trade - establish the Trade Remedies Authority to protect UK industry from unfair trading practices
  • Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) - end free movement and pave the way for a modern, fairer points based immigration system
  • Financial Services - provide certainty, stability and new opportunities for the financial services sector
  • Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill - a clear framework for cross-border resolutions for individuals, families and UK businesses involved in international legal disputes.
Criminal Justice:

Bills envisaged are:
  • Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill - ensure the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders stay in prison for longer
  • Sentencing Bill - ensure the most serious and violent offenders serve more of their sentences in custody
  • Serious Violence Bill - place a duty on public bodies to work together to identify and tackle early factors that can lead to crime and ensure the police can more easily stop and search habitual knife carriers
  • Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill       
  • Police Powers and Protections Bill - establish a Police Covenant and ensure the police are able to fully conduct their duties by providing them with additional support and protection         
  • Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill - Recognising the pain felt by victims and their families when offenders refuse to disclose certain information about their crimes, the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill will require the Parole Board to take this into account - a version of “Helen’s Law”
  • Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill -  empower police officers to immediately arrest someone wanted for a serious crime committed in a trusted country, without having to apply to a court for a warrant first
The Queen's Speech also included - a Royal Commission to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice process.  

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation:

A Bill to remove unnecessary conflict during the divorce process, in which children are so often caught up, while ensuring that divorce remains a carefully considered decision.

Domestic Abuse:

A Domestic Abuse Bill - strengthening protections for victims and providing new enforcement mechanisms.

UK and Constitution:
  • The government is committed to upholding the constitutional integrity of the UK - working constructively with the devolved administrations and their legislatures to ensure our Union continues to flourish
  • To urgently pursue the restoration of the devolved power-sharing government at Stormont to ensure the people of Northern Ireland have the political leadership of their elected local representatives
  • A  Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission to consider the relationship between Government, Parliament and the courts and to explore whether the checks and balances in our constitution are working for everyone
  • Take forward work to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act
  • Protect the integrity of our democracy and elections, tackling electoral fraud through the introduction of voter ID and banning postal vote harvesting.
The points noted above are those of most relevance to this blog but a full reading of the Briefing Notes is essential to see proposals relating to the NHS, Mental Health Act review, Education, Employment, Housing, Building Safety, Fire Safety, the Environment etc. 

House of Commons Timetable:

Friday 20 December - Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. The Bill passed Second Reading by 358 votes to 234 - majority 124.  The programme motion for the Bill passed by 353 votes to 243 - majority 100. Hence, the House of Commons will devote just 3 days to the Bill in early January.  House of Lords stages will follow.

Christmas Recess until 7 January 2020

7 and 8 January - Committee of Whole House - EU (Withdrawal Agreement)

9 January - final stages in Commons for EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Debate on the Queen's Speech commenced on Thursday 19 December and will be resumed in January.

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