"My government’s priority is to deliver the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on January 31. My ministers will bring forward legislation to ensure the United Kingdom’s exit on that date and to make the most of the opportunities that this brings for all the people of the United Kingdom," Queen Elizabeth II told the House of Lords.
The Queen’s Speech is a document produced by a new UK government that summarises the key policies that the new administration will attempt to put into place. This year’s Queen’s Speech contained significant promises to fund the National Health Service (NHS), reinstated the UK’s NATO commitments, and also the country’s plans to conduct free-trade agreements.
"My ministers will seek a future relationship with the European Union based on a free trade agreement that benefits the whole of the United Kingdom. They will also begin trade negotiations with other leading global economies," the queen said.
Crucially, the government will look to enshrine NHS funding in law, as well as create a new visa category for qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals. Prior to the election, Johnson promised that the NHS would employ 50,000 new nurses.
"My government will embark on an ambitious program of domestic reform that delivers on the people’s priorities. For the first time, the National Health Service’s multi-year funding settlement, agreed earlier this year, will be enshrined in law," the queen said.
Other major domestic issues that the new Conservative majority will tackle include increasing social care provisions, raising the threshold of National Insurance contributions, and also an increase to the living wage.
The government also announced tougher sentencing for the country’s most violent offenders and terrorists. Before last week’s election, Johnson was accused of politicising the deaths of two prison advocacy workers on London Bridge, who were killed by Usman Khan, who himself was previously convicted of terrorism.
"My ministers will establish a royal commission to review and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice process. New sentencing laws will ensure the most serious violent offenders, including terrorists, serve longer in custody. New laws will require schools, police, councils and health authorities to work together to prevent serious crime," the queen said.
The UK will also continue to meet the NATO target that countries spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence spending. According to NATO figures, the United Kingdom spent 2.13 per cent of its GDP on defence in 2019.
Johnson’s government will also strive to meet internationally agreed-upon climate targets enshrined in the Paris Agreements. The Conservative government will hope to take steps to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and the UK will also host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2020.
The Queen’s Speech also contained two vital pieces of information that will have a significant impact on the United Kingdom’s democratic process. Firstly, the Conservative government outlined its commitment to the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom. These commitments were made on the same day that Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon announced that she is sending a letter to Johnson to demand that Scotland be given the power to enact legislation that will allow the holding of a second Scottish independence referendum.
Additionally, Johnson’s government will take steps to repeal the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. This piece of legislation was established in 2011 and declares that an election must take on a fixed date. By repealing the legislation, UK prime ministers would once again have the right to call an election whenever they pleased.
Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, if a prime minister wished to call an election, it would have to be agreed by a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons. Members of parliament rejected Johnson’s desires for a general election three times in the summer, before eventually approving the vote.
The state opening of parliament follows Thursday’s general election in which Johnson’s Conservative Party won a historic majority. The Tories now hold 365 of the House of Commons’ 650 seats, which has given the prime minister a political mandate to enact the UK’s exit from the European Union. Prior to the election, Johnson stated that he would hope to get his withdrawal agreement, rejected multiple times during the summer, back into the Commons before Christmas, in order to "get Brexit done" by January 31.