The Queen has delivered her 64th speech at a State Opening of Parliament, setting out the government's plans for the next two years. Normally covering just one year's worth of legislation, this Queen's Speech will, the government says, cover two years because it thinks it will be too busy next year with Brexit negotiations.
Amidst negotiations between the Conservative Party and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form a coalition government, the ceremony itself was a dressed down one that the BBC said was down to “scheduling issues” the Queen had during the time of Royal Ascot.
As part of the usual pomp and circumstance, when Black Rod, who summons the House of Commons into the House of Lords to hear the Queen's speech entered the Commons chamber, MP Dennis Skinner – famous for his quips on these occasions – shouted, “Get ya skates on, first race is at 2:30.”
The BBC reported that Prime Minister Theresa May is approaching the day with ‘humility and resolve', presumably after losing her party's majority in the June 2017 election, the motivation for striking a deal with the DUP.
Focusing on technology and security…..
The Queen spoke of the government introducing new legislation “to ensure the United Kingdom remains a world leader in new industries, including electric cars and commercial satellites”.
There was promise of more investments in technical education “to ensure people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future”.
The Queen touched on new laws to ensure“the United Kingdom retains its world-class regime protecting personal data,” which presumably refers to the government's plans to replace the EU's General Data Protection Regulation aimed at modernising data protection laws.
There was mention of a new “digital charter” designed to ensure that “the United Kingdom is the safest place to be online”. A line promoted by the newly christened National Cyber Security Centre, which will presumably also be working on the government's promise to “bring forward proposals to ensure that critical national infrastructure is protected to safeguard national security.”
Finally, in light of “ terrorist attacks in Manchester and London” the Queen promised a review of the government's “counter-terrorism strategy” to ensure that “the police and security services have all the powers they need” to fight terrorism.
“A commission for countering extremism will be established to support the government in stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread,” said the Queen.
The government is also looking “to tackle the threat of terrorism at source by continuing the United Kingdom's leading role in international military action to destroy Daesh in Iraq and Syria.”
Iain Chidgey, VP and general manager, international at Delphix: “The Data Protection Bill as outlined in the Queen's Speech today suggests the UK plans to go even further than the legislation put in place by GDPR. While GDPR will be folded into UK law post-Brexit, the proposed bill adds additional safeguards, including overhauling the powers of law enforcement and the powers of the Information Commissioner. If the government is serious about making the UK the safest country in the world to be an online user, this legislation is another step towards that goal. It shows the government recognises that data privacy is a basic human right that must be protected.
The Brexit in the room
Other than this, the big issue this year was of course Brexit. The Queen said the UK will repeal the European Communities Act, and her ministers will seek to “provide certainty for individuals and businesses”.
“This will be complemented by legislation to ensure that the United Kingdom makes a success of Brexit, establishing new national policies on immigration, international sanctions, nuclear safeguards, agriculture and fisheries.”
But the government won't turn its back on Europe. The Queen promised, “My government will seek to maintain a deep and special partnership with European allies and to forge new trading relationships across the globe. New bills on trade and customs will help to implement an independent trade policy, and support will be given to help British businesses export to markets around the world.”
And overall, “A priority will be to build a more united country, strengthening the social, economic and cultural bonds between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”
techUK CEO, Julian David, said in a statement: “This Queen's Speech confirms Brexit will be the key priority of the next Parliament. It will be crucial that the Repeal Bill, alongside legislation on customs, trade and immigration, recognises the importance of the tech sector to our economic future. It is right that the Government seeks to achieve the broadest possible consensus on Brexit across both Parliament and business. This will mean focusing on the future needs of our economy and society.
David added: “The Government cannot focus on Brexit alone. techUK welcomes measures to radically reform technical education and give people the tools they need for the high-skilled, high wage jobs of the future. Invention is in the UK's DNA so plans to support the space industry and electric vehicles will keep the UK at the forefront of innovation.