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22 June 2017

The Queen's speech: what happens now?

The Queen's speech: what happens now?

After an unexpected election – and an even less expected result – the Queen’s speech set out the government’s plans for the next two years in parliament. Normally the Queen’s speech describes legislation for the next year. However, the exceptional circumstances of the Brexit negotiations means that there will be no speech in 2018. MPs will therefore have more time to debate the required legislation as Brexit is implemented. 

A few proposals in the Conservative manifesto were missing from the speech. This is to be expected given the election result and hung parliament. The speech itself was also postponed for two days, as post-election negotiations took place between the Conservatives and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). 

Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside parliament, adding to the already tight security arrangements in response to recent terror attacks. Tensions are still running high following the election campaign, and have been exacerbated by the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower. Amidst such anxieties, London City Mission and the Message Trust called on Christians to make this a day of prayer for our nation. 

The speech 

The Queen’s speech can be read on the government website but some points stand out as of particular interest. 

As predicted, Brexit dominated the speech, with eight out of the 24 bills in some way connected to our departure from the European Union. MPs will now use their responses to the Queen’s speech to set out their positions on our withdrawal. 

Other proposals take forward both long-standing commitments and new promises from the government. These include increasing the national living wage, bringing forward legislation to protect the victims of domestic violence and abuse, and creating a new digital charter to promote internet safety. There are keen Christian campaigners in all of these areas, who will be encouraged by such proposals. 

The speech also contained pledges to modernise the courts. In addition, it promised an independent public advocate who would represent bereaved families in the aftermath of disastrous events. This was particularly poignant in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, on which an inquiry was also announced. 

The speech contained a commitment to establish a Commission for Countering Extremism. In the light of recent terrorist atrocities everyone is clear that the first duty of government is to protect its citizens. However, the creation of such a commission raises questions, especially when it seeks to define such a contested term as ‘extremism’. For more on this commission, click here

The speech also made significant commitments to the UK’s global role, guaranteeing the 0.7 per cent commitment on aid and standing by the Paris agreement on climate change. It also pledged that the UK would lead international reforms on issues of migration, poverty and modern slavery. It is now up to MPs and peers to ask what specifically the government intend to do in these areas, and how they will promote other human rights overseas, such as freedom of religion or belief

The response 

The speech will now be followed by several days of debate in both houses of parliament. Each day will focus on a different subject, such as foreign affairs, defence, the economy or domestic policy. New MPs will be making their first – or maiden – speeches in these debates, and all parliamentarians will seek to highlight specific areas of focus for the coming year. 

So do look out for your constituency MP, especially if they’re newly elected. Will some of the questions that emerged at hustings come up in their responses to the Queen’s speech? Are any of their key priorities of interest to you too? If so, how can you support them?  

As the public policy team at the Evangelical Alliance we will continue to be a voice for evangelicals to both parliament and government in the coming debates, and we will keep you informed as things of interest come before parliament. So stay in touch with what we’re doing via our website and social media. 

Finally, continue to pray for our leaders. Her Majesty’s traditional closing words to parliament were: “I pray that the blessing of almighty God may rest upon your counsels.” Let that be our prayer too for all our elected leaders, as they navigate the challenges of the years ahead and help to shape the kind of society we become.