Lord Frost says Brexit protocol must go
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Queen Elizabeth II was due to address MPs and Lords in Parliament today but, following continued “episodic mobility problems”, will sit out the occasion. She has instead handed over to Princes Charles, who will carry out her duty of reading the Government’s legislative agenda as “counsellors of state”. While Britons will miss the Queen in the run-up to her Platinum Jubilee, they won’t want to skip out on the speech, as it includes 38 new policies – some of which will directly impact their lives.
The Northern Ireland Protocol
Last week’s triumphant win from Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland’s assembly vote was a historic moment for the country, which now has a nationalist legislative majority.
But the party still has hurdles to clear before it can establish a power-sharing Government with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has refused to work with Sinn Fein until Westminster addresses the Northern Ireland Protocol, a measure introduced to streamline post-Brexit trade by keeping the country in the EU Single Market.
The party and its Conservative allies in Westminster have claimed the mechanism cuts the north from Britain.
Ministers have teased legislation likely to feature in today’s speech that would allow the Government to unilaterally remove aspects of the protocol in the name of the Good Friday Agreement.
They have not officially confirmed the bill’s presence in the document however.
The flagship issue that allowed the Conservatives to dismantle much of Labour’s “red wall” in 2019 should feature prominently in today’s speech.
Ministers have devised a levelling up bill focussed on rejuvenating local high streets across the UK, with councils receiving more power.
The bill will allow English councils to force landlords to rent out empty commercial properties they own.
And new look compulsory purchase orders will give them control over other empty buildings.
The Government will also reportedly permit councils to redraw local taxes, doubling council tax for unoccupied second homes.
Schools and vocational training
Education minister Nadhim Zahawi has pledged to shake up schools in the new Parliamentary term, and Britons will get their first look at his department’s plans in today’s speech.
His plans to produce a schooling system fit for “every child, parent and family” will slot into the Government’s levelling up agenda with legislation designed to allow schools to join multi-academy trusts.
In the same bill Mr Zahawi will announce retooled national funding arrangements and a compulsory register for unschooled children.
While championing all-access education, the Government also intends to help people pursue the vocational track.
Among the bills introduced today is one that will guarantee those pursuing technical training with a “lifelong loan entitlement”.
The loan of £37,000, equivalent to what students receive over four years at university, will subsidise work development for over-18s off-campus.
The British Bill of Rights
Conservatives, namely justice minister Dominic Raab, have long campaigned to repeal the Human Rights Act.
Their efforts will take official form today in the Queen’s speech, which will include a “British Bill of Rights”.
Mr Raab’s proposal would give the Government and judges more power in courtrooms.
Judges will have more space to make rulings that diverge from the European Court of Human Rights.
Specifically, the bill means they prioritise public safety over the “rights of offenders”.
The Government, in turn, will have more power to deport foreign offenders, and the press will get a chance to operate outside of ECHR privacy rules.
Channel 4 privatisation
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries announced plans to privatise Channel 4 last month, a controversial move that has drawn condemnation on both sides of the political aisle.
The Government will likely make its proposal official in a broadcasting bill today.
Ms Dorries’s plans did not feature in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto and could court a rebellion in the House of Commons.
Margaret Thatcher’s Government set up the state broadcaster to encourage smaller creative companies in the UK.
Officials have claimed the move flies in the face of levelling up, given its role in championing marginalised voices.
Privatisation could disrupt the channel’s recent northern focus, spearheaded by a new Leeds HQ, where it has produced approximately 200 jobs and has plans to boost spending to UK home nations by 50 percent over the next few years.
Those who object to any of the above may find it harder to express their disagreement publicly in the new Parliamentary year.
Following a Lords defeat over its controversial “noisy protests” bill, ministers have reportedly opted to try and pass its contents via a new piece of legislation.
A public order bill will include measures designed to quash particular types of protests.
These include criminal offences for locking on to buildings and disrupting infrastructure that earn protesters between six and 12-month jail sentences.
Additional measures would also make it illegal to instruct transport works, such as HS2, with punishments including unlimited fines and a six-month prison sentence.
The move is likely designed with groups like Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain in mind, as they have employed tactics like these to garner additional attention by disrupting everyday life.
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