Queen’s Speech: No new help with cost of living in Boris Johnson’s plan to get Britain ‘back on track’ after Covid

Prime minister uses 38-bill Queen’s Speech in bid to reset premiership after Partygate scandal

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 10 May 2022 14:11
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Prince Charles says government will 'ease cost of living crisis' in Queen’s speech

A package of measures unveiled by Boris Johnson today with a promise to get Britain “back on track” after the Covid pandemic contained no new support for households struggling with the cost of living.

Announcing his legislative programme for the year ahead, the prime minister acknowledged that families are “anxious about the future” and promised to monitor the situation over the coming months and help “where we can”.

But he poured cold water on any further imminent steps to ease the burden of skyrocketing inflation - predicted to top 10 per cent before the end of 2022 – warning that any such measures will have to be balanced against the need to keep public finances on a “sustainable footing”.

Mr Johnson attempted to use the Queen’s Speech to draw a line under Covid and the Partygate scandal and reset his premiership on a more positive course for the general election due by 2024 at the latest.

He said it would focus on the government’s three top priorities – “growing the economy, safer streets and supporting the NHS to clear the Covid-19 backlogs”.

The 38 bills announced by the Prince of Wales – standing in for the Queen after the 96-year-old monarch pulled out due to “mobility problems” – included measures to regenerate disadvantaged areas through “levelling up” and to develop the UK’s green energy capacity.

Six years on from the EU referendum and two years after the UK left the 27-nation bloc, it included a Brexit Freedoms Bill, which Mr Johnson said would allow the removal or revision thousands of pieces of Brussels-derived law still on the statute book.

He claimed that this would “lighten the burden” of regulation on UK businesses, many of which are currently reeling under the additional load of red tape created by Brexit.

The package featured highly controversial plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, and replace it with a British Bill of Rights which lawyers warn will put Britain on collision course with Strasbourg.

A Transport Bill will create a new Great British Railways governing body, while a Media Bill will pave the way for the highly contentious sell-off of Channel 4.

A Genetic Technology Bill risks furious debate over plans to allow the “precision breeding” of animals and plants through futuristic gene-editing techniques.

A Schools Bill will aim to get 90 per cent of primary school children to expected standards in reading, writing and maths by 2030. And a Conversion Therapy Bill will introduce a criminal offence of attempting to “convert” people away from homosexual orientation - but will controversially not cover transgender people.

New measures will protect Army veterans from prosecution for alleged crimes committed during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. And a National Security Bill promises “the biggest overhaul of state threats legislation for a generation” updating official secrets legislation dating back a century in order to bring it into the modern world of cyberattacks and online disinformation.

But there was no place for promised animal welfare legislation to ban imports of fur and foie gras, reportedly ditched for being too “un-Conservative”.

And despite sabre-rattling from foreign secretary Liz Truss, there was no promise of legislation to override Mr Johnson’s Northern Ireland Protocol, which has disrupted commerce in the province since its negotiation by the prime minister as part of his Brexit deal.

Unveiling the package, Mr Johnson made clear he hoped to revive the spirit of optimism which he deployed in the 2019 general election but which has been dealt heavy blows by the pandemic and the failure so far to deliver on ambitious promises to “level up” the country.

“This is a Queen’s Speech to get our country back on track and ensure that we deliver on the promises we made at the start of this Parliament,” said the prime minister.

“Together, these measures make this Queen’s Speech one that will help us meet today’s challenges. They will ensure we can continue building back a better Britain after the pandemic, boosting our growth and recovery so that every part of our country can thrive.”

He said that the government had already provided £22bn to help with cost-of-living pressures in 2022/23, including a £200 loan to cover heating bills and a £150 discount on council tax for poorer households.

But he continued to set his face against calls for an emergency budget to deliver more assistance, instead offering to unleash “ingenuity and compassion and hard work” in response to rising prices.

“After two years of Covid-19, I know that the last thing people need are further challenges,” said Mr Johnson. “I know people are struggling with their bills, and that they are anxious about the future.

“But we will get the country through it just as we got through Covid-19, with every ounce of ingenuity and compassion and hard work.

“While we must keep our public finances on a sustainable footing – and we cannot completely shield people from the fallout from global events – where we can help, we will.

“And over the coming months we will continue examining what more we can do to ease the pressures on hard-working people and families.”

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