Queen's Speech 2019: Boris Johnson aims to shore up new Tory support with Brexit and NHS-heavy programme
Boris Johnson made a bid to cement the Tories’ new electoral coalition as he unveiled a Queen’s Speech heavy on Brexit, the NHS and workers’ rights.
The Prime Minister hailed the “seismic” shift in British politics as he committed his new Government to leaving the EU at the end of 2020, boosting health service funding and upping state support beyond the Tories' traditional heartlands.
Thursday's state opening of Parliament comes just a week after the Conservatives bagged an 80-seat Commons majority by eating into Labour’s support in the North and the Midlands.
Introducing the speech, which includes more than 30 bills, Mr Johnson said: “Last week’s seismic election not only changed the political landscape, it has broken the parliamentary deadlock of the last three years and allowed the country to go forward.
“Millions of people, many of them who have never voted Conservative before, voted overwhelmingly for us to move this country on and deliver change. We have no time to waste, and we begin immediately with the most radical Queen’s Speech in a generation to deliver on the priorities of the British people.”
The centre-piece of the programme is the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, which will turn Mr Johnson’s deal with Brussels into law.
It is one of six pieces of Brexit-related legislation in the speech, as Mr Johnson argued that his Tory majority “would release the country from the stranglehold of indecision” and restore “confidence to people and businesses”.
But it also includes a raft of domestic pledges, such as an NHS Funding Bill and NHS Long Term Plan Bill aimed at putting Tory campaign promises to increase funding into law.
There was a new Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill too, promising a “modern, fair points-based immigration system” that will prioritise skilled workers after Britain quits the EU.
In a move onto Labour's traditional policy area, the new Tory pitch also promises an 'Employment Bill' aimed at introducing flexible working and leave for unpaid carers, as well as a vow to boost the National Living Wage.
The speech was the second such occasion in recent months, and the programme bears many similarities to the pre-election Queen’s Speech which took place in October.
But the new Tory majority will allow the PM to push ahead with what he dubbed a “radical” programme that would “take our country forward with an ambitious One Nation programme to unite and spread opportunity to every corner of our United Kingdom”.
A wave of hardline law-and-order pledges also feature prominently, with a promise to set up a new Royal Commission “to review and improve” the way the justice system works and a Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill aimed at ensuring those convcted of terror offences servce longer sentences.
Measures on domestic abuse, knife crime and victims’ support also make the cut.
The speech meanwhile makes a raft of pledges aimed at ensuring “every part” of the UK sees investment.
It promises a ‘National Infrastructure Strategy’ to guide public sector investment and infrastructure spending, a boost to research and development funding, and a new White Paper which the Government says will “reiterate our commitment to levelling up opportunities and investment in the regions across England”.
Measures to help the high street through reform of business rates are also mooted, and a “landmark” Environment Bill will make good on the Tory pledge to set up a new post-Brexit environmental watchdog aimed at curbing pollution.
Elsewhere in the programme, the Government vows to “celebrate and support the work of our courageous armed forces”, pledging to end “vexatious” claims made against service personnel in the line of duty.
It vows a crackdown on public sector bodies that try to impose “direct or indirect boycotts, divestment or sanctions” against foreing countries, in a nod to the movement against the Israeli government.
And it declares that the Government will “champion Conservative values and put a strong United Kingdonm front and centre in the world”.
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