Politics

7 very awkward details hidden in the small print of the Queen’s Speech

Boris Johnson could have put pretty much anything in today's Queen's Speech.

Commuter rockets to Mars, scrapping income tax, free unicorns for all – he could promise it all, safe in the knowledge he won't have to deliver it.

That's because unlike most Queen's Speeches, which lay out laws for the coming year, this one is likely to be voted down – and then be scrapped anyway if the country plunges into a snap election.

Despite the open goal, though, there are some things in Boris Johnson's announcement that still aren't that great to look at – or that aren't mentioned at all.

Jeremy Corbyn picked up on some of them when he slammed the lack of action on social care and mental health, adding the speech was "shockingly weak on education".

We've delved into a bit more detail. Here's some of the small print Boris Johnson didn't want you to read.

1. There's still no plan to fix social care

Boris Johnson has been accused of paying "lip service" to social care after the Queen's Speech didn't give a time limit or details of any reform.

Notes to the Queen's Speech said: "We will bring forward substantive proposals to fix the crisis". But they gave no time limit, did not confirm the nature of any proposals, and did not propose a law in the current one-year Parliament.

They repeated an already-announced £1.5bn cash injection. But £500m of that has to be raised by councils through a 2% rise in the council tax precept.

Jane Ashcroft, chief executive of Anchor Hanover, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of care and housing for older people, said: "It is exasperating to see government once again pay lip service to social care, and failing to meaningfully address the deepening crisis."

Kathryn Hill, Director of England at Carers Trust, said: “Carers Trust is extremely concerned to hear the government is proposing only a partial commitment to reform."

Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said: “It’s incredibly troubling that social care for working-age disabled people has been dismissed yet again."

A No10 spokesman said the government had "set out its commitment" to reform social care to "end the fear of people having to sell their homes to pay for care". But he admitted: "I can't set out a timeline now. We will be setting it out in due course."

2. The Tories are trying to 'rig' the next election

Boris Johnson is accused of using the Queen’s Speech as a “blatant” attempt to "rig" the result of the next election after it slipped out a pledge to force voters to show ID.

Her Majesty said: "My Government will take steps to protect the integrity of democracy and the electoral system in the United Kingdom."

But the small print confirms this involves ramming ahead with a highly controversial ID scheme, despite concerns it will lock millions out of democracy.

Voters will be forced to show "an approved form of photographic ID" in order to vote – despite there being just eight allegations of fraud at a polling station last year.

For comparison, a whopping 819 people were turned away in a recent trial in eight council areas.

The Electoral Reform Society today warned it could be another "Windrush" – the scandal that saw Brits who came from the Caribbean threatened with deportation.

“These plans risk excluding huge numbers of marginalised voters – including many elderly and BAME voters – from our democratic processes and risk undermining free and fair elections," ERS director Dr Jess Garland said.

No10 launched a furious response. The Prime Minister's official spokesman claimed the absence of voter ID in Britain is a “security risk” and said voter ID has run in Northern Ireland since 2003 “without any impact on the number of people who go and vote”.

But asked if the government could point to any evidence of widespread voter fraud at the ballot box, the spokesman did not. And a No10 spokesman snapped: "I’m not sure politically we’ll be taking messages about voter suppression from a party whose main mandate at the moment is to suppress the biggest vote in the democratic history of this country."

3. Plans to end 'no-fault' evictions have been shelved

The government has produced more than 120 pages of notes to the Queen's Speech. But it has no specific mention of housing, tenants or renting.

And crucially, a pledge to end "no-fault" evictions – where landlords ditch tenants at short notice without good reason – does not appear in the speech at all.

When the axe to no-fault evictions was announced under Theresa May in April, the government claimed it would be the "biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation".

Yet despite a consultation closing on Friday, there's not even lip service paid to it in the government's notes. That means there's almost zero chance of a legal change in the next year.

And a No10 spokesman today refused to say if Boris Johnson is sticking to the pledge when quizzed by the Mirror. Instead he said: "The Queen's Speech you have now is not the totality of what the government will do."

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It’s frustrating to see the housing emergency missing from the government’s agenda in the face of the current crisis. With more than 300,000 people homeless and millions fighting for a stable home, this is not something it can ignore."

4. Action to keep kids safe online isn't here yet…

Ministers had pledged to improve internet safety for children and vulnerable people. But there's no Bill announced yet in today's Queen's Speech – which means a law would be unlikely to come forward in the next year.

Last month, ministers pledged they "will establish in law" a new duty of care making web giants responsible for their users.

Yet today, the notes say only: “My Ministers will continue to develop proposals to improve internet safety."

Andy Burrows, NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online, said: “Child abuse on the Wild West Web must stop.

"The Government’s commitment to online harms is positive, but it is crucial it treats children’s safety as a matter of urgency. Boris Johnson must stick to previous commitments and introduce an Online Harms Bill in this session."

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