Queen’s Speech 2015: What to Expect:

 


Representatives of the Greens, Plaid Cymru, the SNP
and UKIP demanding electoral reform in Downing
Street, May 18, 2015
The Queen’s Speech on May 27 will set out the the government’s legislative plans for the parliamentary session ahead. Following are the likely bills, according to news sources. WWIE will write on these issues at more length following the Queen’s Speech.

Anti-Strike Bill

The government is proposing to ban strike action from taking place unless 40% of all eligible union members vote in favour of industrial action. The government also wants to lift a ban on use of agency staff when strike action takes places.

Ruwan Subasinghe, a legal advisor for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), said that these proposals will undoubtedly violate Britain’s international law obligations. While the introduction of a quorum will not in itself breach international law, the cumulative effect of Britain’s restrictive labour laws certainly will.

Counter-Terrorism Bill

The government is expected to bring forward a new bill to include new immigration rules, powers to close down premises used by “extremists”, and “extremism disruption orders”. Measures are likely to include:

Disruption orders to limit “harmful activities” of individual “extremists”, such as airing certain views in public or “radicalising” young people.

New powers to close premises, including mosques, where “extremists” are attempting to build influence.

Increased immigration restrictions for anyone believed to be preaching “extremist” views.

Strengthened powers for the Charity Commission to root out charities alleged to fund terrorism

Empowering Ofcom to act against channels that air “extremist” content.

Employment Bill

David Cameron said during the election campaign that the UK should aspire to “full employment”. The employment bill is set to be “fast-tracked” through parliament. Among the priorities are said to be a push to create two million more jobs and three million more apprenticeships over the course of the Parliament. The boost in apprenticeships is to be paid for by reducing the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000.

Childcare Bill

Another bill to be “fast-tracked” through parliament. Currently, all three and four-year olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year, which works out as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year. During the election campaign, the Conservatives promised 30 hours from 2017. The prime minister has also said he wants to introduce tax-free childcare for every child.

EU Referendum Bill

David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership of the European Union and put it to a public vote by 2017 at the latest.

Human Rights Act Repeal Bill


The Conservatives have pledged to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. The Conservative manifesto says: “This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.” The “British Bill of Rights” would allegedly be rooted in “British values”. Such a reform would “plunge the UK into a constitutional crisis,” The Guardian says, because it would place the UK government in breach of the Good Friday agreement.

The Scottish National Party has vowed to oppose the Conservative government’s plans. “The idea that we take away human rights, I think, is just an awful suggestion,” said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “So the Scottish Government will oppose that and work hard to make sure that in Scotland people still get vital human-rights protection,” she told STV. “Mr Gove [the new Justice Secretary] will have a hard time persuading Britain’s senior judges he respects the Rule of Law,” Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, told the Daily Mirror. Chakrabarti argues that the proposal “is the gravest threat to freedom in Britain since the Second World War.” If the legislation goes through, the ECHR won’t be able to force a change in UK law, but British citizens would still be able to appeal their ruling in Strasbourg. However, this is likely to slow down the process and make a case more difficult to bring to court.

Immigration Bill

The bill will propose a new criminal offence of illegal working that will allow police to seize the wages of anyone employed unlawfully as the “proceeds of crime”. It has been pointed out that the whole emphasis is upon seizing the wages of the employee. What about seizing the profit of the employer who is at least as guilty of handling the proceeds of a crime? The government has already set out a number of new offences to try to “control and reduce” migration to the UK. Among other proposals being considered are new powers for councils to deal with landlords and to evict migrants more quickly, while all foreign criminals awaiting deportation will be fitted with satellite tracking tags. It will also become an offence for businesses and recruitment agencies to hire abroad without first advertising in the UK and a new enforcement agency will be set up to tackle what the prime minister called “the worst cases of exploitation”. The proposals were condemned by migrants’ rights groups, who said they will force some people into “modern slavery.”

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett called the plans “morally reprehensible and politically inept”. “This government has spectacularly missed its migration targets, not because of the minority of migrants who stay beyond their visas, but because those targets are arbitrary and illogical; this new legislation is a transparent attempt to shift the focus away from this failure,” she said. “A promised ‘crackdown’ on illegal migrants risks forcing them into destitution, but does nothing to address the real economic issues facing Britain,” Bennett added.

Income Tax Bill

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph about his first 100 days in office, Cameron said: “It is a permanent measure to re-write not just the laws of this country but the values of this country. And it will be there as the centrepiece of the first Queen’s Speech of my new government.”

Policing Bill

Home Secretary Theresa May has pledged to ban the use of police cells for the emergency detention of mentally ill people under the Mental Health Act. In a speech to the annual conference of the Police Federation in England and Wales, Mrs May also outlined plans to extend police-led prosecutions, overhaul the complaints system, and change the use of bail.

City Devolution Bill

Chancellor George Osborne has outlined his vision to give English cities powers over housing, transport, planning and policing. He said Greater Manchester – which will take on the powers when electing a mayor in two years – should become a blueprint for other large cities.

Schools Bill

The prime minister has pledged to bring in a bill to “deliver better schools – with more radical measures to ensure young people leave education with the skills they need”. He said the legislation will “include new powers to force coasting schools, as well as failing schools, to accept new leadership, continuing the remarkable success story of Britain’s academy schools”.

Enterprise Bill

The government has outlined plans for a bill to propose a new Small Business Conciliation Service, to help settle disputes between small and large businesses, especially over late payment practices.

Scotland Bill

The prime minister has pledged to include a bill on devolution which would be based on the cross-party Smith Commission agreement on Scottish devolution. The Smith proposals included giving Holyrood the power to set income tax rates and bands, as well as control over a share of VAT and some welfare benefits.

Communications and Data Bill

This was the bill that the Conservatives’ smaller coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, refused to back in the last Parliament. Current legislation expires in 2016 and will have to be renewed. So now the Conservatives are governing alone, they can bring back what opponents call the snoopers’ charter. The previous plans proposed to extend the range of data communications companies have to store for 12 months. It would have included, for the first time, details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming, in addition to emails and phone calls. Officials would not have been able to see the content of the messages without a warrant. Currently communications firms only retain data about who people send emails to, and who they ring.

Housing Bill

One of the Conservatives’ key pledges was an extension of the Right to Buy scheme to 1.3 million housing association tenants in England. Under current rules, about 800,000 housing association tenants have a “right to acquire” their homes under smaller discounts, but the Conservatives would offer those people the same reductions as for those in local authority homes. And they would extend the scheme to those who currently have no purchase rights at all, estimated to be about 500,000 people.

NHS Bill

David Cameron has pledged to boost funding by at least £8bn extra a year by 2020 and to create “a truly seven-day NHS”. The government is also promising to recruit 5,000 new GPs.

Wales Bill

David Cameron has pledged to implement “as fast as I can the devolution that all parties agreed for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland”. Wales Secretary Stephen Crabb has said his officials were writing legislation to transfer further powers to Wales, so these could be included in the Queen’s Speech.

Hunting Ban Repeal Bill

The Conservative manifesto stated that a Conservative government “will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time”.

(BBC and other news sources)

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