Monday saw the State Opening of Parliament – the formal beginning of a new Parliamentary session. The highlight of this ceremony is the Queen’s Speech where the Government outlines it priorities. It was a proud moment for me in my role as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary to present the speech to Her Majesty the Queen.
The Queen’s Speech set out this Conservative Government’s ambitious domestic agenda, focusing on our core principles of getting Brexit done, investing in our NHS, tackling violent crime and dealing with the cost of living.
As Justice Secretary I am determined to help tackle crime, strengthen the criminal justice system and ensure that victims receive the support they need and the justice they deserve. In the Queen’s Speech it was announced that the Government is going to bring forward a Sentencing Bill which will change the automatic release point for serious violent and sexual offenders from halfway to two-thirds.
We want victims of crime to come forward and seek help, being confident in the knowledge that justice will be served. Accordingly, the Government will improve support and protections for victims by updating the Victims’ Code. Killers who refuse to disclose information about their victims may be denied release under what is known as Helen’s Law. This new law will ensure the Parole Board takes into account offenders who withhold information on victims when considering their release.
The Government will also ensure fairness and protection for individuals and families, As part of this, we will continue to take forward the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill which will transform the response to victims of this horrific crime. No one should feel scared, intimidated or controlled in a relationship. This Bill will establish greater protections for victims and ensure that the justice system is better equipped to bring perpetrators to justice.
We will also introduce the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, removing unnecessary conflict during the divorce process, which so often leaves children caught in the middle. We know that helping divorcing couples to move forward amicably makes a genuine difference to families.
The Government’s commitment to supporting the NHS and our healthcare system was made clear within the Queen’s Speech. We will take forward legislation to establish the Health Service Safety Investigations Body – a world’s first such body. A Medicines and Medical Devices Bill will also be introduced in this Parliament which will ensure our NHS has faster access to innovative medicines. The Government will also bring forward substantive proposals to fix the crisis we currently face in adult social care, giving people the dignity and security they deserve. The Government will also continue to work to modernise and reform the Mental Health Act to ensure that people get the support they need.
The Queen’s Speech reaffirmed the Government’s determination to protect the natural environment and strengthen animal welfare. We will therefore introduce a landmark Environment Bill to protect our planet for generations to come – including a new Office for Environmental Protection, more local powers to tackle air pollution and charges for specified single use plastic items. We will also take forward several measures to protect animal welfare, re-introducing the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty. This is an unashamedly bold agenda, and one I am proud to support.