(Another) Queen’s speech: What’s in it and what it means for charities

Just two months after her last trip to Westminster, the Queen has again set out the priorities of the incoming government. This time, however, it’s a government with a healthy majority that has a reasonable hope of passing legislation, though one that still faces challenges in implementing Brexit. We thought it might be helpful to set out the key takeaways from the speech, particularly the things that have changed since October.

Brexit

Brexit was only mentioned briefly to confirm that the government is committed to the UK leaving the EU at the end of January. The aim is to secure a free trade agreement with the EU by the end of the year, while also opening trade negotiations with other countries.

Health and social care

The speech reannounced long-term funding commitments for the NHS, though this time with that funding being enshrined in law. There was again a mention of social care, and in particular the need to seek cross-party consensus to find a long-term solution.

The speech also reiterated plans to reform the Mental Health Act, something which was previously set out in October.

Communities

Once again the UK shared prosperity fund features, though without much more detail. The Conservative manifesto pledged that the fund would match existing spending on structural funds with £500m earmarked for disadvantaged people.

As in October the speech set out plans for additional English devolution, though unlike before there was an additional suggestion that communities would be given more control over how investment is spent.

Environment

As in October, plans for an environment bill were announced, enshrining environmental principles in law, while setting up a new environmental regulator. An agriculture bill will seek to encourage more sustainable use of farm land and make a contribution to meeting the UK’s net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.

Constitution and democracy

As detailed in the Conservative manifesto, a commission on the constitution, democracy and rights has been announced. The details are fairly limited so far, beyond a brief to ‘restore trust in our institutions and how our democracy works’.

Clearly, this could have significant implications for the role of civil society, and we’re thinking about how we can ensure that engagement takes place.

The Conservative manifesto pledge to scrap the Fixed Term Parliaments Act also made it to the speech, though without any detail as yet on what would replace it.

Criminal justice

Continuing on the theme of long-term policy review, a Royal Commission has been set up on the criminal justice system, with a view to making it ‘more efficient and effective’.

Overall it was a speech that felt very familiar, though with a bit more of a nod to long-term policy. With several commissions being set up one of the key questions will be how effectively they engage with, and benefit from the expertise of, civil society.

But overall the biggest difference between this speech and October’s dry run is that the government now has the luxury of a comfortable majority for five years, and the opportunity to actually implement ideas that have until now have had to wait.

 

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Chris Walker Chris is NCVO’s public affairs manager, focusing on parliamentary work. He started his career working for several MPs in Parliament, and has also worked in public affairs and policy roles for the Federation of Small Businesses.

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