The Queen’s speech is taking place on Wednesday 18th May and could contain some highly controversial proposals. David Cameron has been warned not to bring up too many controversial plans by former health secretary Lord Lansley, whose opinion is supported by a leading thinktank. But will the Prime Minister heed this warning? This post looks at a number of potential proposals that make be made on Wednesday and highlights why these have been the subject of controversy.
British Bill of Rights
One of the most controversial subjects of this year(and the last) is the proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with British Bill of Rights. Whilst this may attempt to assert the supremacy of the UK courts over Strasbourg, ultimately the European Court of Human Rights would be the ultimate arbiter of human rights disputes in the UK. We may also remain bound by the European Convention on Human rights, and how exactly this would differ from the British Bill of rights is still unknown. The main controversy behind this proposal is that Cameron appears to be attempting to appease members of his party at the expense of protecting the nation’s most fundamental rights.
Changes to Care and Adoption
A radical overhaul of the care system to double the number of children placed in adoptive families will be the centrepiece of the Queen’s Speech. There will also be a new ‘covenant’ giving children in care new rights until they are 25. This will include specialist help finding housing and employment while each person who leaves care will also be assigned a named mentor. There will also be a new social care watchdog created to monitor the performance of local authorities.
The Modern Transport Bill
It is also anticipated that Cameron will announce plans to allow drivers to be insured on driverless cars in an all new transport bill. In addition, the bill may introduce plans to regulate drones which could lead to wider spread use. The most interesting and controversial of these plans, however, is to build the UK’s first spaceport as part of Richard Branson’s ‘Virgin Galactic’. Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two has been unveiled by Branson only six months after the death of a test pilot. From a legal perspective, it will be interesting to see how the law is developed in these previously unexplored areas both in parliament and in the courts.
It is anticipated the PM will introduce a bill to turn more schools into academies, but this will be a much less radical than was previously thought following a rebellion of backbenchers. Under the law, schools which are performing well may but are under no obligation to become an academy. Also, guarantees will be made to ensure that small country schools are not forced to close in favour of larger academies.
In addition, there are plans to allow non-profit and commercial organisations to set up institutions which may have a short-cut to university status. The Government hopes this will bring down tuition fees, but at what cost to the quality of education?
Cameron is also expected to introduce a bill setting out a legal framework providing prisons with greater autonomy over how budgets are spent and how their prison is run.
A bill setting out the legal framework to give prison bosses a greater degree of autonomy over budgets and how they run their prisons. There will also be a new model of the prison known as ‘reform prisons’ to replace failing jails – much the same as the schools and academies model.
It will be curious to watch as these ideas are presented by the Prime Minister, and to note whether he has taken the advice of Lord Lansley and introduced the most controversial ideas gently. Regardless, there appears to be a great deal of change on the horizon and it looks like it will be a busy year in terms of legislation.