Human Rights Takeaways From The Queen’s Speech
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Human Rights Takeaways From The Queen’s Speech

By Meka Beresford, Freelance News Editor 19 Dec 2019
Equality
The Queen's speech traditionally marks the re-opening of Parliament

The Queen gave her speech to mark the official reopening of Parliament this afternoon, in which she set out the Conservative government’s agenda for the next five years.

The Queen announced over 30 bills in the speech, including proposed legislation which would mean the UK would be out of the EU on 31 January.

A total of seven bills announced revolved around Brexit – addressing the future of trade, agriculture, fisheries, immigration, finance, and more.

As well as Brexit, the Queen also proposed laws around the NHS, education, and sentencing, many of which were flagged in the Conservative’s manifesto.

The proposed legislation was welcomed by human rights charities – but many insisted  the government “must be held” to its commitments on human rights.

“Proposed legislation set out in today’s Queen Speech must have fairness, equality and justice for all as their guiding principles, and must protect the most marginalised and vulnerable,” said Kate Allen, director of Amnesty UK.

So what were the biggest human rights takeaways from the speech?

Healthcare

The Conservatives have pledged an additional £33.9bn of funding per year for the NHS by 2023/24. This money will go towards improving hospitals, as well as growing and supporting staff.

The government also pledged to create a new visa that would allow fast track entry into the UK to qualified doctors, nurses, and health professionals, as part of a wider plan to address severe understaffing.

As well as healthcare, the Queen said that the government would look at long term reform of social care that “provides everyone with dignity and security they deserve”.

As part of that reform, the Queen promised that the government would continue to improve the Mental Health Act.

Work, Home, And Education

The main points covered in the speech by the Queen included:

  • Raising the national living wage;
  • More flexible working;
  • Entitlement for unpaid carers;
  • Better protections for tenants;
  • Improved building safety;
  • Increased funding per pupil;
  • An end to ‘no-fault’ evictions.

Some of the policy announcements have been welcomed, with housing charity Shelter saying it was “fantastic” to see the commitment to end ‘no-fault’ evictions.

This single change to the law will improve the lives of millions by giving private renters much needed security and stability,” they added. 

However, critics included Labour MP Angela Rayner, who wrote on Twitter that – despite promises of more funding for pupils – “83% of schools will be worse off in April 2020 than in 2015″.

“It will fail to help schools already struggling with finances. Almost all schools that serve poorest communities would miss out on additional funding,” Rayner added. 

Justice

The criminal justice process and sentencing laws became centre stage of the general election after the London Bridge attack that took place on 29 November.

The attacker, Usman Khan, had been released from prison one year earlier after being convicted of terrorism offences.

In her speech, the Queen said that the “efficiency of criminal justice process sentencing laws will make sure the most serious violent offenders, including terrorists, serve longer in custody”. This means that the minimum sentences for the worst crimes would be at least 14 years.

Climate

As well as continuing to strive for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the Queen explained that a bill which would “enshrine in law environmental principles and legally binding-targets” would be implemented, in order to “protect and improve the environment for future generations”.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas knocked back the climate promises made by the Conservatives, writing on Twitter that promises “to make Britain “the greenest country on Earth” won’t happen without far more ambitious policies & action”.

“We need more than empty slogans in #QueensSpeech#climate action needs to be the overwhelming & urgent priority for all our policymaking,” she added. 

Migration

The Queen renewed previous proposals made by the Conservatives to implement a points-based immigration system.