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PM vows to look beyond pandemic in Queen’s Speech as controversial Bill returns

·3 min read

Boris Johnson has vowed to “look forward” past the pandemic as he confirmed plans to bring back a controversial Bill designed to boost police powers in the Queen’s Speech.

The Prime Minister, fresh from a buoyant set of local election results in England for the Conservative Party, said next week’s State Opening of Parliament would see fresh attention placed on his Government’s so-called “levelling up” agenda.

As part of his legislative proposals, he is set to bring back the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a draft law that was shelved during the last parliamentary session after it sparked violent protests in some places across the UK.

If approved, the Bill would hand greater power to police in England and Wales to shut down protests deemed overly noisy or disruptive, with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.

It was drafted partly in response to previous disruptive action by environmental activists Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Mr Johnson said: “The impact of the pandemic on people’s lives has been unique in our history.

“My Government is still focused on beating this disease, saving lives and livelihoods and rolling out vaccines, but I am also determined that we look forward and get on with fulfilling the promises we have made to the British people.

“Not only will we address the legacies of the pandemic, we will go further to unite and level up the country, fight crime and create opportunities up and down the country for businesses and families to build brighter futures.”

Demonstrators march from College Green in Bristol during a ‘Kill The Bill’ protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill last month
Demonstrators march from College Green in Bristol during a ‘Kill The Bill’ protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill last month (Andrew Matthews/PA)

No 10 officials confirmed the Queen’s Speech on May 11 – when the monarch sets out the Government’s legislative agenda – will see the return of both the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Environment Bill, which they said will set legally binding environmental targets in the run-up to the international Cop26 summit in Glasgow later this year.

They defended the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, arguing it would overhaul sentencing to keep serious sexual and violent offenders behind bars for longer, while also boosting police stop and search powers to tackle knife crime.

Downing Street said the Government’s new legislative programme would be directed on supporting the nation’s recovery from Covid-19, backing the NHS and spreading opportunity across the UK.

Officials said the incoming legislation would support jobs, businesses and the economy, while delivering on the Government’s commitments to create safer streets and neighbourhoods and achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

However, there has still been no confirmation on whether the Prime Minister’s key social care reforms, as promised when he was elected in 2019, will be detailed in next week’s speech.

Asked last week whether social care was likely to feature, Mr Johnson told reporters his blueprint for the long-term overhaul of the sector and its funding would be brought forward in the “next few months”.

Usually one of the most colourful events of the parliamentary year, the Queen’s Speech this year will be a scaled-back affair due to coronavirus restrictions.

The visit of the Queen to the Palace of Westminster will be reduced in terms of pomp and ceremony, with significantly fewer MPs and peers due to be in attendance, a reduced royal procession into the House of Lords where the speech is given from, and no diplomatic or non-parliamentary guests to be permitted.