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19 December 2019 16:48

State Opening of Parliament United Kingdom Elizabeth II

The prime minister outlined 29 bills including legislation to strengthen national security, invest £20.5 billion in the NHS and end all-out train strikes. At the state opening of parliament the Queen outlined the government's plans to put NHS funding increases into law and lengthen terrorism sentences TIMES PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD POHLE The agenda for the new Conservative government has been outlined in the Queen's Speech this morning with the monarch talking about Brexit, the NHS and security. The Queen opened the speech this morning to say that the government's priority will be to ensure that the UK exits the EU on January 31st, and to then agree a free trade agreement with the European bloc. The government specified that this will entail the passing of several bits of legislation including the EU Withdrawal Bill, the Agriculture Bill, the Fisheries Bill, the Trade Bill, and a Private International Law (implementation of agreements) Bill. She confirmed the Tories' announcement to define NHS funding in primary legislation: "For the first time the NHS's multi-year funding settlement agreed earlier this year will be enshrined in law." The background briefing document published alongside the Queen's Speech says that legislation will be introduced which will codify in law a £33.9bn increase in cash terms for the NHS.

Steps to grow and support the NHS workforce were announced, with a particular mention of the proposed new visa that would "ensure qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals have fast-track entry to the United Kingdom". On social care reform, the Queens said the government will seek to find "cross-party consensus" and ensure that "no one that needs care has to sell their home to pay for it". On the environment, the Queen said: "My government will continue to take steps to meet the world leading target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050." She added: "To protect and improve the environment for future generations, a bill will enshrine in law environmental principles and legally-binding targets, including for air quality. Businesses can expect to see changes with the Queen's Speech outlining an increase in tax credits for research and development, the establishment of a national skills fund and "changes" to business rates. The speech today also confirmed the government will legislate to "accelerate the delivery of new gigabit capable broadband." The Queen hinted at government crackdowns on strikes: "To ensure people can depend on the transport network, measures will be developed to provide for minimum levels of service during transport strikes." New laws on sentencing were also included in the agenda-setting speech, to "ensure that the most serious violent offenders, including terrorists, serve longer in custody".

Other public bodies were implicated in changes to security in the UK: "New laws will require schools, police, council and health authorities to work together to prevent serious crime." The background briefing specified that the government would "create new duties on a range of specified agencies… to work collaboratively, share data and information, and put in place plans to prevent and reduce serious violence within their communities." On knife crime in the UK, she added: "My Government will ensure those charged with knife possession face swift justice." My Ministers will bring forward legislation to ensure the United Kingdom's exit on that date and to make the most of the opportunities that this brings for all the people of the United Kingdom. Thereafter, my Ministers will seek a future relationship with the European Union based on a free trade agreement that benefits the whole of the United Kingdom. For the first time, the National Health Service's multi-year funding settlement, agreed earlier this year, will be enshrined in law. Steps will be taken to grow and support the National Health Service's workforce and a new visa will ensure qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals have fast-track entry to the United Kingdom. My Government will bring forward measures to support working families, raising the National Insurance threshold and increasing the National Living Wage. New sentencing laws will ensure the most serious violent offenders, including terrorists, serve longer in custody. New laws will require schools, police, councils and health authorities to work together to prevent serious crime. My Government will ensure those charged with knife possession face swift justice and that the courts work better for all those who engage with them, including victims of domestic abuse. My Ministers will bring forward measures to ensure that every part of the United Kingdom can prosper. My Government will prioritise investment in infrastructure and world-leading science research and skills, in order to unleash productivity and improve daily life for communities across the country. To support business, my government will increase tax credits for research and development, establish a National Skills Fund, and bring forward changes to business rates. To ensure people can depend on the transport network, measures will be developed to provide for minimum levels of service during transport strikes. My Government will continue to take steps to meet the world-leading target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To protect and improve the environment for future generations, a bill will enshrine in law environmental principles and legally-binding targets, including for air quality. My Government will work to promote and expand the United Kingdom's influence in the world. My Ministers will promote the United Kingdom's interests, including freedom of speech, human rights and the rule of law. It will stand firm against those who threaten the values of the United Kingdom, including by developing a sanctions regime to directly address human rights abuse, and working to ensure that all girls have access to twelve years of quality education.