The Queen’s Speech 2021

The Queen’s Speech is a UK ceremony that occurs for the opening of sitting of the UK Parliament. This speech is actually the UK government using the monarch as a mouthpiece to state what its programme of legislation is intended to be for the coming session. The monarch has (supposedly) no input, but merely recites the lines put before her.

[I have said supposedly above as this is the government’s list of actions, and by convention the monarch has no say. The vague UK constitution would actually allow the monarch to interfere. I have two objections to this ceremony. Firstly as it is the government’s programme, the Prime Minister as head of the executive should read it out and secondly, there should be no monarchical power, but only power wielded through elected means]

The speech analysed below is from Tuesday 11th May 2021 and is found in full at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/queens-speech-2021.

[I would recommend John Crace’s article at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/may/11/the-queens-a-class-act-but-the-bills-she-has-to-read-out-are-not?utm_term=62d76ba0ad428fbd729a6cadebde17fe&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=GTUK_email.%5D

Various commentators have had concerns not just with the proposals but with omissions.

The first two paragraphs are quite broad and vague and thus impossible to disagree with.

In the third the “[g]overnment [says it] will protect the health of the nation, continuing the vaccination programme and providing additional funding to support the NHS”, but not from where this funding shall come. Previously, when the NHS has needed funding to even maintain its then current level of service, it has been ordered to either make do with what it had or even to make cuts that negatively affected its level of service, as it was said there no possibility of further funding.

The third paragraph continues with “Ministers will bring forward legislation to empower the NHS to innovate and embrace technology”. There is no current legislation to stop the NHS from innovation and embracing technology; there is lack of funding.

“Patients will receive more tailored and preventative care, closer to home [Health and Care Bill]. Measures will be brought forward to support the health and wellbeing of the nation, including to tackle obesity and improve mental health. Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward”. See https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/blog/2021/05/health-and-care-bill for a careful, if potted, analysis. Its main obstacle appears to be that health and socdial care workers do not see it as workable.acIn the fourth paragraph it is claimed that because of “the success of the vaccination programme”, where that success has ben due to the NHS and not to the government, the UK will “lead the world in life sciences, pioneering new treatments against diseases like cancer and securing jobs and investment across the country”, which rather ignores the facts that the efficacious vaccines were either developed abroad or, if in the UK, by a multi-national workforce, that is, of people that this current government has tried to make felt unwelcome in the UK and that success in the implementation of a vaccine does not make for a success in any other area of life sciences.

“My Ministers will oversee the fastest ever increase in public funding for research and development and pass legislation to establish an advanced research agency [Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill]”. This again lea the governemtves a question of funding unanswered.

“Following the unprecedented support provided to businesses during the pandemic, proposals will be brought forward to create and support jobs and improve regulation”. As the UK’s Trade Unionists (see https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/tuc-government-has-rowed-back-promise-boost-workers-rights) point out this is not the same as boosting workplace rights; rights which used to be the worst in the EU and amongst the worst in the Western world.

“My Government will strengthen the economic ties across the union, investing in and improving national infrastructure. Proposals will be taken forward to transform connectivity by rail and bus [High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill] and to extend 5G mobile coverage and gigabit capable broadband [Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill]” This government shows more concern with improving services in their newly acquired (from the previous general election) seats in the north and midlands of England, than in Scotland which rejected this government. Now that the Scottish parliamentary and Welsh Assembly elections have been a heavy for the government, will we see more or less investment for Scotland and Wales? Again, there is little mention of funding and even less of how such policies show commitment to reducing global warming.

“Legislation will support a lifetime skills guarantee to enable flexible access to high quality education and training throughout people’s lives [Skills and Post-16 Education Bill]” This is criticised in https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/tuc-government-has-rowed-back-promise-boost-workers-rights for failing to address actual needs.

“Measures will be introduced to ensure that support for businesses reflects the United Kingdom’s strategic interests” although we are not told what these are. “Laws will simplify procurement in the public sector [Procurement Bill]” sees astounding in the light that in the past few months a simplified system was used to either fail to deliver required goods and services or to deliver substandard ones at a cost greater than could be had by the previous system which monitored procurement. “Eight new Freeports will create hubs for trade and help regenerate communities [National Insurance Contributions Bill]” may well be the intention, but freeports rarely do and https://phys.org/news/2021-05-freeports-hubs-centres-money-laundering.html is only the latest in a long line of study of freeports that show this is so and point out that the lack of regulation can lead more easily to smuggling and money laundering.

“My Government will ensure that the public finances are returned to a sustainable path once the economic recovery is secure” seems to hint at a return to Austerity, that is where the most economically vulnerable in society are expected to live on less.

Much in the following paragraphs, it is difficult to disagree with as it is so vague. It is as if peopl had been asked what is desirable, but not asked how it will be achieved. I will look at only some brief points.

“Legislation will also be brought forward to ensure the United Kingdom has, and promotes, the highest standards of animal welfare [Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, Kept Animals Bill, Animals Abroad Bill]”. Most people would concede that the UK used to be in the vanguard for the welfare of domesticated animals when in the EU, but the detail is missing on how he UK will able to compete in meat and dairy products with nations that ignore such welfare, such as the USA.

“My Government will strengthen and renew democracy and the constitution. Legislation will be introduced to ensure the integrity of elections, protect freedom of speech and restore the balance of power between the executive, legislature and the courts [Electoral Integrity Bill, Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, Judicial Review Bill, Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill]. My Ministers will promote the strength and integrity of the union. Measures will be brought forward to strengthen devolved Government in Northern Ireland and address the legacy of the past [Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concerns) Bill, Legacy Legislation]”. This will be the subject of a separate post.

“Legislation will increase sentences for the most serious and violent offenders and ensure the timely administration of justice [Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill]. Proposals will be brought forward to address violence, including against women and girls, and to support victims [Draft Victims Bill]. Measures will be brought forward to establish a fairer immigration system that strengthens the United Kingdom’s borders and deters criminals who facilitate dangerous and illegal journeys [New Plan for Immigration Legislation].” Again, this will be the subject of a separate post.

“The United Kingdom will … lead the global effort to secure a robust economic recovery from the pandemic”, that is, to, presumably, take the role that the EU, USA or PRO China will jointly take and “… will deepen trade ties in the Gulf, Africa and the Indo-Pacific” as will everyone else.

The claim that “[m]y Government will continue to provide aid where it has the greatest impact on reducing poverty and alleviating human suffering” must be quite sickening as the UK government has just cut the budget to levels that will have no impact. “My Government will uphold human rights and democracy across the world” also seems quite hollow. “It will take forward a global effort to get 40 million girls across the world into school”, but how as the overseas aid budget is now much reduced?.

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