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Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“Boris Johnson’s Government has extensive and some welcome plans for domestic reform, but the truth is there is less chance of it being implemented if a withdrawal agreement with the European Union is not secured imminently. Any other Brexit option raises the risk of the Government being defeated, either at the ballot box or the despatch box. The UK Government and the EU need to work together to give MPs a final opportunity to vote for a credible withdrawal agreement before the end of this month.”

“The electoral logic of this Government’s hardline Brexit approach is a more progressive social and economic policy agenda. That is because the new voters that the Government is targeting through its pledge to get Brexit done are those in the North, Midlands and North Wales on modest incomes, who need and want a more supportive state.”

“Really, we’re back to where we started with Theresa May. Boris seems to be proposing a similar Brexit deal and domestic reform agenda, but with some significant changes on immigration and sentencing.”

Below, Bright Blue has responded to the announcement of legislation that is particularly relevant to our current work. It therefore is not an exhaustive response to the Queen’s Speech.

Immigration and integration

  • Protecting the rights of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens in UK law so they can continue to live, work and study in the UK.
  • End the free movement of EU citizens under UK law.
  • The power to make changes to the current rules for access to benefits and social security coordination for EU nationals.

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“Immigration policy is changing under this Government, quickly and for the better. The indiscriminate and failed net migration target is gone. And the Government is liberalising the visa regime for highly-skilled people, rightly aiming to ensure that Britain remains a magnet for talent post-Brexit.”

“But the certainty that current EU migrants crave over their existing UK rights has not been completely confirmed, whatever the outcome of negotiations with the EU. That needs legislating for immediately.”

Agriculture

  • Replace the current subsidy system, which simply pays farmers based on the total amount of land farmed, and instead reward them for the work they do, to enhance the environment and produce high quality food in a more sustainable way.
  • Support farmers and land managers to ensure a smooth and gradual transition away from the bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), to a system where farming efficiently and improving the environment go hand in hand.
  • Set out the framework for a new Environmental Land Management scheme, underpinned by the payment of public money for public goods

Commenting, William Nicolle, Researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“Changing how we distribute agricultural subsidies stands to be one of the most significant benefits of the UK leaving the European Union. Last year, Bright Blue called for a gradual shift away from the EU’s inefficient system of distributing rural payments based on acreage in the Common Agricultural policy, to a post-Brexit system which rewards farmers, land managers, and land owners for delivering ecosystem services – in line with the public money for public goods principal.”

“Today’s announcement that the Agriculture Bill will continue to be pushed through parliament is welcome, but the final Bill needs to lay the foundations for the introduction of a market-based, commissioning scheme so private and philanthropic funding as well as public funding can be leveraged to subsidise the rural economy and vital ecosystem services.”

Environment

  • Establish a new Office for Environmental Protection.
  • Increase local powers to tackle sources of air pollution.
  • Improve biodiversity by working with developers.
  • Extend producer responsibility and introduce deposit return schemes.
  • Introduce charges for specified single use plastic items.
  • Powers to direct water companies to work together to meet current and future demand.

Commenting, Patrick Hall, Researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The costs of air pollution to our health, environment and economy are considerable. The UK Government has been repeatedly taken to court for failing to comply with legal limits on concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. It is positive to hear the Government reiterating its commitment to combating air pollution. But, in reality, it needs much more ambitious legal limits, legal responsibilities and policies to tackle this problem, which the public – and parents in particular – are deeply concerned about.”

“Local government needs greater legal responsibilities and funding. As a first step, the Government should enable local or combined authorities to make reasonable profits from the administration of clean air zones, which could generate funding for local scrappage schemes or increased electric vehicle charging infrastructure.”

“It is pleasing to see that the Government is committed to reducing plastic, but bolder policies, such as a ban on black plastics and increasing the UK’s plastic packaging tax threshold for recycled content above 30%, are needed.”

Animal rights

  • Ban the import of any trophies from animal hunting.
  • Ban the live export of farm animals.
  • Ban the keeping of primates as pets.
  • Making it mandatory to microchip cats.

Commenting, William Nicolle, Researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The ban on the import of trophies from trophy hunting is welcome and overdue. But further powers are needed to curb the illegal trade in endangered wildlife, estimated to be worth £17 billion annually. We can and must do more. An illegal wildlife trade version of the Magnitsky Act would allow the sanction of individuals implicated in wildlife crime anywhere in the world. And the question still looms of what the Government’s strategy for maximising gains for the environment from future trade deals will be.”

Employment

  • Introduce a legal obligation on employers to pass on all tips to workers.
  • Continue to introduce measures outlined in the Good Work Plan.
  • The National Living Wage will increase to two-thirds of median hourly earnings within the next five years. The age threshold will also be lowered from 25 to 21.

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“The Government’s continued implementation of the Good Work Plan, including the new legislation on increasing fairness and transparency of tipping, is welcome. Customers tip for the service offered by staff, not to provide extra revenue for companies.”

“The introduction and increase in the minimum wage over recent decades has been a success. But that is in part thanks to the careful evidence and guidance of the Low Pay Commission. To maintain the support for and effectiveness of a rising wage floor, the Low Pay Commission should advise first with the Government then setting the rates after.”

Pensions

  • Providing a framework for the establishment, operation and regulation of collective money purchase schemes (commonly known as Collective Defined Contribution pensions).
  • Strengthening the Pensions Regulator’s powers and the existing sanctions regime.
  • Providing a framework to support pensions dashboards.
  • Creating regulations to set out circumstances under which a pension scheme member will have the right to transfer their pension savings to another scheme.

Commenting, Sam Robinson, Researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The UK pensions system has seen a number of welcome changes in recent years such as auto-enrolment, although there is more to do. The Government’s intent to reform pensions is welcome, however to ensure these reforms are evidence-based and durable it should consider setting up an independent Pensions Commission to assess the pensions landscape, mediate between stakeholders and advise on policy.”

Domestic abuse 

  • Creating a statutory definition of domestic abuse which emphasises that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also consist of emotional abuse, economic abuse and coercive or controlling behaviour.
  • Legally establishing a  Domestic Abuse Commissioner.
  • Providing for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order.
  • Prohibiting perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts.

Commenting, Sam Robinson, Researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“Domestic abuse is a significant problem in the UK that affects millions, mostly women. However, currently, breaching a Domestic Violence Protection Order is not treated as a criminal offence. Through its proposed new legislation, the Government should make the breach of a Domestic Abuse Protection Order a criminal offence, as Bright Blue recommended in 2017.”

Social care

  • Consult on a 2% precept that will enable councils to access a further £500 million for adult social care
  • Bring forward substantive proposals to fix the crisis in social care to give everyone the dignity and security they deserve. This will include setting out legislative requirements.

Commenting, Sam Robinson, Researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The latest Spending Round promised a welcome boost for the social care system, however this new funding was only a sticking plaster. New legislation must provide wide-ranging and bold reforms to put the social care system on a more sustainable footing. Families have waited long enough.”