It was a historic moment sitting in the House of Lords this week for the first King’s Speech in 70 years and a reminder of the legacy of service to this country by Queen Elizabeth II. The speech set out the government’s legislative agenda to grow the economy, strengthen society, and keep people safe.
At the beginning of the year the Prime Minister set five priorities. Inflation is down and set to halve by the end of the year. The economy is growing. Debt is set to fall. Industrial action has meant while the longest waits for NHS treatment are down there is still more to do. Illegal boat crossings are down by over a fifth compared to last year.
But this King’s Speech was about going beyond those immediate priorities and set out a broader agenda.
On the economy, new legislation will strengthen our energy independence by backing North Sea oil and gas. This is consistent with our climate commitments - the independent Committee on Climate Change has said that the UK will continue to rely on oil and gas to help meet its energy needs even when the UK reaches net zero by 2050. In addition, these industries support hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Alongside this, the government is working to secure record investment in renewable energy and reform grid connections to build on the UK’s record in decarbonising faster than other major economies.
A Trade Bill will confirm our membership of the Trans Pacific Partnership – giving us access to a trading zone that will account for the majority of global growth in the coming decades. Another measure only possible post Brexit which many constituents will welcome is legislation to ban live animal exports.
By modernising regulation, the most innovative firms will be able to succeed in new technologies while putting in place new protections for consumers.
To keep people safe, the Sentencing Bill will ensure the most dangerous criminals are in prison for longer. Life will mean life for the worst murderers and rapists and serious sexual offenders will serve the entirety of their sentence with no early release. I welcome changes that I campaigned for to give judges the power to require defendants to attend sentencing hearings rather hide away in their cells.
Evidence also shows that community sentences can be more effective than short custodial sentences in reducing reoffending. So while judges will still be able to give custodial sentences - for example in domestic abuse cases - there will be a presumption that sentences below 12 months will be suspended.
There were also measures to create a smoke free generation and to strengthen communities with reforms to the housing market to help ensure a fairer deal for tenants while protecting landlords interests. New measures will make it easier for leaseholders to extend their lease or purchase the freehold.
Away from the pageantry, this was ultimately about measures to promote investment and growth; tougher powers to tackle crime; measures to strengthen communities. At the same time the UK will continue to play a leading role internationally through our Armed Forces who we pay tribute to this Remembrance Sunday.
First Published in Lynn News, 10 November 2023