Hancock remains vague on care reforms as MPs prepare for Queen’s Speech

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Keir Starmer goes head-to-head with Boris Johnson today. Parliament is set to open for a new session with the Queen’s speech this morning. It is the first time the leaders will meet since the May election results. The votes on Thursday made for a disappointing weekend for Labour, while the Tory leader will be buoyed by his party’s performance; LabourList has painstakingly compiled all the results for you here. What wins Labour did have, in the Senedd and English mayoralties for example, were overshadowed by infighting as the reshuffle began even before some of the counts had started. Changes to Starmer’s top team have dominated the news since the elections, with party figures weighing in, but now attention turns to the government’s legislative agenda.

As Lisa Nandy highlighted this morning, the Prime Minister pledged in July 2019 to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. But almost two years on from this promise, and on the morning of the next legislative agenda-setting Queen’s Speech, we are still none the wiser as to how this might be achieved. Matt Hancock said today that the speech will be “jam-packed” but remained decidedly vague on how – or when – the government is planning to “fix” social care: “We are committed to bringing forward reforms on social care… We will be bringing forward a long-term plan for social care.” Nandy called for “real action” today, and senior Tories are also upset with the Health Secretary’s noncommittal statement. Former deputy PM Damian Green said: “This needs to be the year for action and decision rather than kicking the can down the road any further.”

Starmer put forward his wish list for the speech on Monday. “The Queen’s Speech must set out transformative and credible change, with a clear plan to get Britain working,” he said. “We must also see detail on long-promised plans to fix the broken social care system, reduce the shocking levels of violent crime and narrow the gap between different parts of the country.” Taking aim at the ‘levelling-up’ agenda in particular, Labour demanded “action, not more rhetoric”. The party leader accused the Tories of trying to “hide their lack of a long-term plan by making people and places scrap over funding pots”, calling for the government to ditch its “piecemeal” approach and show the “meat on the bones of a proper, ambitious plan”.

Left Labour parliamentarians Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Ian Mearns, Richard Burgon, John McDonnell and Pauline Bryan have put forward an alternative Queen’s Speech. Proposed legislation covers affordable housing, climate and ecology, the living wage, a national care service, a national education service, renters reforms, right to food, trade union rights, workers’ rights and more. “A socialist government will build a fairer, healthier, and greener Britain, and a more just and peaceful world,” they write. “Now is the time to claim the future and commit to increasing investment, ending poverty and tackling climate change.”

But what can we actually expect today? The speech is expected to cover more than 25 bills, including some carried over from the last session, such as the environment bill and the authoritarian police, crime, sentencing and courts bill. The government is also expected to announce new legislation on skills and education expanding access to student loans, a subsidy control bill to create eight free ports and the employment bill. Ministers are pressing ahead with a bill for its Advanced Research and Invention Agency, which Labour has warned risks becoming a front for “sleaze in science“, and the PM will axe the Fixed Term Parliament Act, restoring his power to call early elections. We can can also expect legislation on the asylum system, planning, electoral rules and national security. LabourList will be covering it all, so stay tuned. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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