Queen’s Speech: Boris Johnson ‘running out of ideas’ to deal with cost of living crisis | queen’s speech
Boris Johnson has been accused of being ‘devoid of ideas or purpose’, after a Queen’s Speech which included 38 new bills but offered no specific measures to deal with the immediate cost of living crisis .
Instead, the speech, delivered by the Prince of Wales in the pomp of the official opening of parliament, planned to tear up the Human Rights Act, make it harder for councils to rename streets and to privatize Channel 4.
Labor leader Keir Starmer said the speech showed the government had no guiding principles, while Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation think tank, was equally depressed.
“British politics is running out of ideas,” he said. “New measures were promised on the cost of living, but there were certainly none in the Queen’s Speech. It rightly highlighted the need for growth – the essential prerequisite for ending the stagnation in our standard of living – but did little to achieve it.
With the Queen unable to deliver the speech for the first time in nearly 60 years, Prince Charles began by saying: “My government’s priority is to grow and strengthen the economy and help alleviate the cost of life for families”.
However, Johnson’s platform for the new parliamentary session included a series of well-followed and controversial plans, including banning disruptive protests and banning universities from hosting speakers without a platform; but few new policies likely to stimulate the economy in the short term.
Instead, the government highlighted the help it had already provided, including the temporary energy bill rebate and reduction in the Universal Credit discount rate.
Government sources said two-thirds of the planned new laws are aimed at boosting medium- and long-term economic growth, pointing to the Energy Security Bill, which aims to open the market to new technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture.
Johnson said the country had “overcome challenges unprecedented in recent history”, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the deployment of vaccines, as well as Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the supply of arms by the UK in kyiv and the sanctions regime that had been imposed.
But he warned that the “economic aftershocks” of global crises meant huge disruption to the global economy. “No country is immune and no government can realistically shield everyone from the impact,” he said.
Responding to the speech in the House of Commons, Starmer said the government had failed to react to the scale of the impending ‘stagflation crisis’, while Tory backbench MPs David Davis and John Redwood called to tax reductions.
Theresa May’s former chief of staff Gavin Barwell tweeted that there were ‘lots to love’ about the Queen’s Speech, including a ban on no-fault evictions once promised in May; but he criticized the “lack of action” on the cost of living, adding that “both morally and politically the government needs to do more”.
Starmer said, “We need a government of the moment, with ideas that respond to the aspirations of the people.”
He claimed that instead the government was “devoid of ideas or purpose, without a guiding principle or a roadmap for achievement”. He added: “Their time has passed.”
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: ‘The Queen’s Speech does nothing to help the millions of families and pensioners facing soaring bills and staggering inflation. It shows a Prime Minister refusing to listen to the clear message sent by voters in last week’s local elections who are tired of being taken for granted by this Conservative government.
Away from the cost of living, the government said it would introduce measures to ban no-fault evictions and tackle rogue landlords; and giving councils new powers to sell empty high street properties, in a leveling and regeneration bill.
There was also a series of measures which were intended to enable the government to pursue ‘culture war’ issues – including a promise that local people would be consulted before street names were changed; and a ban on councils pursuing political boycotts.
Dominic Raab’s plan to replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights, aimed at reducing the power of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, has been confirmed as a government priority.
The speech said the legislation “would strike the right balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government, bolstering freedom of expression.”
Law Society President Stephanie Boyce, however, attacked the bill, warning that it would undermine human rights. “If the new bill of rights became law, it would be harder for all of us to protect or enforce our rights.
“The proposed changes make the state less accountable. It undermines a crucial element of the rule of law, preventing people from challenging illegitimate uses of power.
The Queens speech also confirmed that proposals to radically overhaul the planning system have been shelved, in favor of more modest changes. Ministers insist on giving residents more, not less, a say in developments in their neighborhoods.
Previous plans provided for a zoning system that would introduce a presumption in favor of development in certain areas.
These were dropped, along with then Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, after the Tories’ shock defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-elections was partly due to fears the government was on the verge of realizing the green belt.
The Treasury was then forced to dampen hopes of an emergency budget to help struggling households, after Johnson suggested in the debate that he and the chancellor would have more to say about the cost of living crisis, “in the coming days”.
Rishi Sunak has repeatedly made it clear that he does not want to act until energy regulator Ofgem specifies how much it will raise the price cap by – an announcement that is expected to take place in August. “We’re not there yet because we don’t know where the prices are going to land,” a Treasury source said.
A No 10 source confirmed there were unlikely to be any new spending measures to ease the cost of living crisis – but said all cabinet ministers had been tasked with proposing policies in their areas to help.
The government’s cost of living committee was due to meet on Tuesday evening, before a day’s absence from the cabinet in Staffordshire on Thursday. Proposals discussed at previous meetings have included deregulating childcare and carrying out MOTs every two years.