The Queen’s speech signifies a new parliamentary session and outlines some new policies and proposals for the year ahead.

This year’s speech operated slightly differently because of social distancing, so only a few MPs and Lords were able to attend the speech in person. The speech covered various items including the NHS, policing, infrastructure, education and housing. There are a number of items that are particularly relevant to Christians.

Consultation on conversion therapy

The Government intends to consult the public before releasing legislation on banning conversion therapy. We have outlined our concerns here. We are completely opposed to subjecting others to coercive or abusive practices and would support any moves to end these. However, we have raised concerns over regular church activities, such as pastoral prayer, being conflated with abuse. We hope the consultation will create space for nuance in the discussion and treat matters with sensitivity.


Freedom of speech in higher education

Levels of academic freedom in UK universities are some of the lowest in Europe, leading to self-censorship and the chilling effect that some people are afraid of being penalised for their views. As a country that values the freedom to exchange ideas and cultivate meaningful debate, the Government proposed free speech champions” for university campuses. This Bill includes fines for breaches (such as banning speakers for a particular view), having student unions advocate for free speech, and compensation in scenarios where breaches have led to monetary loss. It would be a worrying sign if we have to legislate to guarantee free speech. These proposals may not be the most effective, but we are encouraged that the value of freedom of speech and disagreeing well is being highlighted.

Asylum reform The consultation on the New Plan for Immigration closed last week and we outlined our position here. Our main objections to the plan were the creation of a two-tier system based on mode of arrival as well as the failure to provide dignity to people seeking asylum. Reception centres” and the inability to work in the first year mean people arriving in the UK are ending up in unbearable conditions. While the Government should deter criminal activity, it should not come at the expense of vulnerable people who would be punished for taking irregular routes to the UK. People escaping persecution and terror do not have a choice in how they arrive in the UK. Ultimately, the plan shows no compassion.

Other items

  • The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to give police more powers to stop disruptive” protests.
  • The Draft Victims Bill aims to address violence against women and girls and support them within the criminal justice system.
  • Health strategies include tackling obesity, smoking and drugs. There is also a focus on mental health as the pandemic exposed the extent of problems.
  • A Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill removing the five year period between general elections and allowing the Prime Minister to call elections.
  • Proposals for new green industries to create jobs while protecting the environment. The Government has made a commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • The Online Safety Bill aims to make online platforms accountable for illegal content in order to protect children. However, the phrase legal but harmful” has not been defined in legislation and this could stifle legitimate debate. 
  • The Early Years Healthy Development Review focuses on giving children the best possible start in life. Other plans in this area include addressing lost learning from the pandemic and investing £35 million in the Breakfast Club Programme to provide healthy free school meals to 1.4 million disadvantaged children.
  • Measures to address racial and ethnic disparities in the UK after the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, including building trust and improving public services.
  • The Government has committed to get 40 million girls around the world into school.

These proposals and policies will have a significant impact on the UK during this recovery period and reach into every aspect of society. Unfortunately, there were limited details on social care and gambling reform. In order to care for the most vulnerable people in our society, effective policies must be in place. It has been very clear that the people who have disproportionately suffered during the pandemic are the homeless, poor and vulnerable. During this recovery period, the Government should be doing all they can to improve their lives. We hope that this will be a focus of parliament in the next year.

"In order to care for the most vulnerable people in our society, effective policies must be in place. It has been very clear that the people who have disproportionately suffered during the pandemic are the homeless, poor and vulnerable."