New rights and review of the criminal justice system promised in the Queen’s speech
Marc Bloomfield
In addition to the Renters’ Reform Bill, over 30 bills and other pieces of legislation were announced in the Queen’s speech on 19 December 2019.
According to the detailed background briefing notes on the speech, the government will ‘seek cross-party consensus on proposals for long term reform of social care’ (page 37). It pledges that ‘nobody needing care will be forced to sell their home to pay for it’, but presents no fresh suggestions on how this will be achieved.
An Employment Bill will be introduced to ‘[p]rotect and enhance workers’ rights as the UK leaves the EU’ (page 43). Measures in the bill will include a new right for workers ‘to request a more predictable contract’ (page 44) and an extension to the law on redundancy ‘to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination’.
In response to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, a Building Safety Bill is promised that will improve safety for high-rise buildings and give residents ‘a stronger voice in the system’ (page 51).
New legislation on divorce (the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill) and domestic abuse (the Domestic Abuse Bill) will also be introduced in the parliamentary session.
In keeping with the Conservatives’ general election theme of law and order (see December 2019/January 2020 Legal Action 10), seven bills on criminal justice are proposed. Two of these new pieces of legislation (the Sentencing Bill and the Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill) promise longer sentences for violent criminals and terrorists. As pledged in the Conservative manifesto, a Royal Commission on the Criminal Justice Process was announced. According to the government, this will ‘deliver a fundamental review of the key issues affecting the system, both today and in the future’ (page 89).
In response to the announcement of the commission, The Law Society warned that this must not delay the cash investment the justice system needs. According to its president, Simon Davis, an effective criminal justice system ‘cannot be delivered on the cheap’, and defence lawyers should not be forgotten as they are ‘an endangered species at risk of becoming extinct’ (‘Justice can't be delivered on the cheap’, Law Society press release, 19 December 2019).

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