BORIS JOHNSON has promised a ‘new golden age’ after the Queen’s Speech set out his plans for post-Brexit Britain.
The prime minister told MPs they would finally ‘peel back the plastic wrapping’ on his withdrawal deal, which is expected to pass its first reading today.
They then face the busiest programme for ten years with bills tackling the NHS, housing, pensions, armed forces, prison terms and national security to be introduced when they return after Christmas.
Following the Conservative’s General Election landslide last week, the PM called the Queen’s Speech — her second in nine weeks — a ‘blueprint for the future’ and insisted he would ‘repay the trust of the people who sent us here’.
He added: ‘I feel a colossal sense of obligation to the electorate who I am humbled to serve. I am filled with invincible confidence in the ability of this nation.
‘This Queen’s Speech of this people’s government sets out a vast interlocking programme to unleash the promise of all the British people.
‘I don’t think it implausible to say that a new golden age for the UK is in reach, and we will work flat out to deliver it.’
During the speech, the Queen — who appeared to have a cold — reiterated that leaving the EU on January 31 remains the government’s overriding priority.
The NHS was high on the agenda with promises to reform the Mental Health Act, to fast-track visas for medics from overseas and enshrine an extra £34billion for the health service in law. Outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared grim-faced and ignored a smiling Mr Johnson as the pair made their way from the Commons to the Lords to hear Her Majesty speak.
Back in the Commons, he accused Mr Johnson of ‘false promises’ and said he was ‘mimicking Labour policies but without the substance’.
Mr Corbyn added: ‘Those who have been swayed by the government’s promises will be woefully disappointed.’
He called the proposed legislation for NHS spending a ‘gimmick’, adding: ‘I don’t remember the last Labour government having to pass a law to force itself to invest in the NHS, yet it increased NHS funding at a rate of six per cent a year. This government is proposing little more than half that.’
The speech included pledges to tackle cyber-interference by hostile states, overhaul the Official Secrets Act and review the law on treason.
It promised to set up a register for foreign agents, create new online offences, and could make it illegal to knowingly spread false information on behalf of a foreign power. Downing Street said: ‘This work is delivering on a commitment made by the former prime minister in the wake of the Salisbury attack. It would bring together new and modernised powers, giving our security services the legal authority they need to tackle the evolving hostile state threat now and in the future.’
A crackdown on early release for terrorists and serious criminals, along with a consultation on delivering savings of 30 per cent for first-time buyers, and a plan for a million new homes in the next five years were also included in the speech.
Key pledges at a glance
THERE are 25 bills in the Queen’s Speech, which sets out the government’s legislative programme for the next term. Here are the main points:
■ The Withdrawal Agreement Bill, allowing the UK to quit by the delayed departure date of January 31, is ‘the government’s priority’ and seven bills are devoted to Britain’s departure from the EU — including ones on trade and immigration.
■ The NHS is the other key issue dominating the speech. As extensively previewed, extra funding enshrined in law is being promised. An additional £33.9billion per year will be provided by 2023/24, according to the speech.
■ Hospital parking charges will also be ‘removed for those most in need’.
■ IMMIGRATION: The speech says skilled workers will be ‘welcomed’ to the UK via a ‘points-based immigration system’.
■ HOUSING: ‘No fault’ evictions will be abolished and a ‘lifetime deposit’ initiative will also be brought in.
■ EDUCATION: There will be an increase in funding per pupil in schools.
■ JUSTICE: New sentencing laws ‘will ensure that the most serious violent offenders, including terrorists, serve longer in custody’.
■ TRANSPORT: New laws will ensure ‘minimum levels of service during transport strikes’.
■ HIGH STREETS: Business rates will be reformed, with a retail discount increased from one third to 50 per cent.
■ ENVIRONMENT: Legislation will introduce ‘legally binding targets’, including for air quality.
■ DEFENCE: Proposals will be brought forward to tackle ‘vexatious claims that undermine our armed forces’. Meanwhile, an integrated security, defence and foreign policy review will take place to ‘reassess the nation’s place in the world’.
■ SECURITY: A review of the Official Secrets Act is promised to decide if it needs overhauling in the wake of the Salisbury chemical weapons attack. The government will also consider whether there is a case for updating treason laws.
Pledge to ban evictions unless tenant is at fault
NO-FAULT evictions are set to be abolished under legislation to improve security for renters in England.
It will stop landlords getting rid of tenants without a valid reason — which they can now do at just two months’ notice unless a fixed-term contract is in place.
Lifetime deposits have been proposed, with landlords obliged to pass the funds on, rather than expecting tenants who move house to pay out anew before being reimbursed.
Flatfair, a company that enables tenants to avoid putting down deposits by paying it a membership fee, said the idea was ‘great in principle’ but ‘fundamentally flawed’.
The firm’s Franz Doerr added: ‘Tenants still need to secure a large lump sum when they start renting.’
More powers for owners to reclaim possession of homes if there is a valid reason were also included in the Queen’s speech .
Charity Shelter called the ‘no-fault’ evictions pledge ‘fantastic’. It has long called for section 21 of the Housing Act, which allows for them, to be scrapped.
The Residential Landlords Association warned there could be a ‘mass sell-off’ of homes — causing a ‘rental housing crisis’ — if landlords do not support the reforms.