What’s the Queen’s Speech?

The Queen’s Speech is where the Government lays out its legislative priorities for (usually) the year.  Unusually, the Government has announced that this Queen’s Speech will cover the next two years.

The legislative agenda for the next two years is going to be dominated by Brexit. There is much to sort out. Aside from Brexit, the big picture is that we have a minority Government, and legislation will only be passed if there is cross party support for each individual Bill, which is why much of what has been announced seems on the face of it quite sensible and non-partisan with measures to address domestic violence, tenants’ fees, data protection and the like.

Importantly, Government does a lot more than initiate legislation. Published alongside the Queen’s Speech is a background briefing, which suggests that the Conservatives are looking to use the levers Government has, over and above passing new laws.

What the Queen’s Speech means for the social enterprise movement?

Government is “promoting the use of social enterprises which support disabled people, both through increasing the use of the Social Value Act 2012 in central government procurement, and through the development of the wider Industrial Strategy.” This is very welcome.

The Government is committed to an Industrial Strategy. You can read our submission to the consultation here. The Government has work to do if the final version of the Industrial Strategy is to live up to the Prime Ministerial narrative about an economy that works for everyone.

The Conservative Manifesto pledged to “establish in law the freedom for employees to mutualise, where appropriate, within the public sector.” How mutualisation in the public sector is best supported has always been up for discussion, and advice, support and appropriate resourcing are as important as rights or freedoms. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too disappointed by a lack of a specific law ifGovernment can deliver on policy and financial support.

The Queen’s Speech is silent on the other eye-catching proposal in the Conservative manifesto, the National Insurance Contribution holiday for businesses employing former wards of care, people with disability, those who have committed a crime but who have repaid their debt to society, and those who have been unemployed for over a year. However, this might be more appropriately announced in the Budget in Autumn.

There is no mention of social investment in the Queen’s Speech or its background briefing. Theresa May’s Government seems much less eager to talk about social investment than David Cameron.

We have a new minister for the sector in Tracey Crouch MP. Better known for being the Sports Minister, she is now formally the Sports and Civil Society Minister. She’s experienced, yet new to our policy area – but she knows SEUK member Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company (RBLI) well, as they are in her constituency and seems to have bags of enthusiasm for the role. We, along with others in the sector, look forward to working with her productively.

Labour’s Steve Reed MP retains his shadow civil society post. This is good news as he understands the sector, but we do want to see him being more vocal and active. For the sake of completeness, the Liberal Democrats have a leadership election, and the SNP have an election for leader in the Commons following Angus Robertson’s election loss.

The dogs that didn’t bark

Governing with a minority (or if there is a deal between the Conservatives and the DUP, a small working majority) under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 is more stable than it would otherwise be without it. Nevertheless, the prospect of having legislation amended by the opposition is a very real one and the Government will be keen to avoid too many defeats. Controversial or tricky legislation which we expected has been kicked into the long grass.

Most obviously, there is nothing in the Queen’s Speech about Local Authority retention of business rates, which was the former Chancellor’s, George Osborne, answer to local government finance. Likewise, the proposal for a new wave of grammar schools has bitten the dust, as have the plans to scrap free lunches to children in their first three years of school.

It’s not quite the agenda Theresa May envisaged when she called a snap General Election.

See SEUK’s initial response to the Queen’s Speech here.