•   Monday, 16 May, 2022
Queens Speech: Government to focus on growing the economy

Queens Speech: Government to focus on growing the economy

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Boris Johnson has promised to get the country "back on track" as the government unveils its plans for the year ahead in the Queen's Speech.

The speech is expected to focus on boosting economic growth, but the PM will say that the UK cannot spend its way out of trouble and will need to grow the economy.

In all, 38 parliamentary bills are due to be unveiled.

Labour said the Tories were not up to the challenge of growing the economy.

A senior government source defended the lack of new direct help with the fast-rising cost of living in the Queen's Speech, telling: "There's been enough pain relief. It's time for the surgery the economy needs."

Ministers will also recommit to tougher penalties for protest groups, like Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion, who use disruptive tactics.

The Prince of Wales will deliver the address to Parliament at 11:30 BST, after the Queen pulled out on Monday, for the first time since 1963, due to what Buckingham Palace called "episodic mobility problems".

The Queen's throne will remain empty, with Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince William expected to be seated in front of assembled politicians.

The speech will open with a promise to grow the economy, ease the financial burden on households and pursue the government's levelling up programme, aimed at tackling regional disparities in the UK.

But there will be no bill specifically aimed at tackling the cost of living.

In a House of Commons debate following the speech, the prime minister is expected to argue the government "cannot simply spend our way out of the country's problems", arguing that the answer lies instead in creating highly paid, highly skilled jobs.

The comments will follow a recent prediction from the Bank of England that inflation is likely to rise to around 10% later this year, with food and energy price rises placing a particularly high burden on households.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Times are tough for working people. But they are much tougher than they should be. Some 12 years of the Conservatives have meant low economic growth, high inflation, and high taxes.

"Because the Tories are not up to the challenge of growing the economy, all those tax hikes aren't going into improving public services. Never before have people been asked to pay so much for so little."

Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesman Tim Farron urged the government to use the speech to help the countryside by protecting farmers from being undercut by global trade deals.

And SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused ministers of a "deafening silence" over the cost of living, saying they had to "deliver desperately needed support to put money into people's pockets".

In the Queen's Speech there will be seven bills which ministers argue deliver the benefits of Brexit, and a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is expected to change planning rules in England after previous proposals led to a backbench rebellion.

A Public Order Bill would create a new criminal offence - aimed at protest groups - with a maximum sentence of 12 months for "interfering with key national infrastructure" such as airports, railways and printing press. This would also make it illegal to obstruct major transport works such as HS2.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the powers would clamp down on the "outrageous behaviour" of "disruptive protests carried out by a "self-indulgent minority who seem to revel in causing mayhem and misery".

But the Liberal Democrats called the plans "dangerous and draconian", with home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael arguing that police already had the powers to stop "guerrilla protesters".

The new police powers were originally announced last autumn, after campaign group Insulate Britain began blocking major roads and motorways.

Ministers then tried to add the powers as amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - but failed after Labour and other opposition peers teamed up to oppose them.

Because the changes were introduced after the bill had passed all its stages in the Commons, the government did not have another opportunity to add them before the previous session of Parliament ended last month.

The government will be confident of getting the measures through Parliament in this session as it has a large majority in the House of Commons.

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