So there we have it. Her Majesty the Queen has delivered the government’s legislative programme for the next year.
Contained within there were potentially good bits, and some pretty awful bits too.
Right now the Conservatives for Liberty team’s attention is largely focussed on the coming EU referendum – and that fight for sovereignty which out-weighs all other concerns in its importance.
But in five weeks that fight will be over. And the Queen’s Speech is a sensible time to lay out our priorities after June 23rd, in line with government plans.
We welcome the renewed commitment to our armed forces and our nuclear deterrent, and there was a little mention of planning reform – we will watch developments with interest, and advocate liberalisation when possible.
Focussing on converting schools into academies (though not forced) is the right way forward. I’ve written about my support for academisation before. However, since many of Michael Gove’s brilliant reforms are now embedded in the system, it seems to me that the government really ought to be looking at further reforms – I suggest exploring the possibility of profit making schools and a voucher system as a starting point.
And then there’s the sugar levy. Big groan. A quick reminder: sugar taxes don’t work against their stated aims, this one will cost more to implement than it raises in taxes, and government shouldn’t be nannying people anyway.
We will continue to oppose the sugar levy in every way possible.
Also, FYI, high speed broadband is a luxury, not a right. A highly desirable luxury, but a luxury none-the-less.
The government also renewed plans to require porn websites to verify the age of users. Personally I think this is ridiculous. Firstly, if there is concern about children accessing porn, then it is for parents to be more proactive in installing/enabling the multiple internet filtering tools available to them.
Secondly, I have very real concerns about how this verification will work – it will likely mean the collection and storage of users’ personal data, creating a huge honey pot for hackers.
These plans are yet another example of a government where ‘action by the state’ is the default response to any problem – even ones where the market clearly provides simple solutions. So much for Big Society.
The Queen’s Speech also contained plans for a consultation on a new British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. Conservatives for Liberty welcomes this, and we hope the government gets on and does it. We will be contributing to the consultation and beyond, advocating for a Bill of Rights that respect liberties and tackles the spiralling rights agenda.
Also within the civil liberties sphere – the Investigatory Powers Bill is set to proceed, along with the Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill. We don’t trust Theresa May to balance security and liberty adequately, so we’ll be paying close attention to developments, contributing and opposing as necessary.
On a more positive note, we’re looking forward to seeing the next steps in Michael Gove’s reforming agenda – this time in relation to prisons. Our criminal justice and rehabilitation systems are broken, and though there are no quick fixes we believe the government is on the right track now – especially with Gove at the helm.
If any of these themes grab you – or if you have another liberty issue playing on your mind – why not get involved? We’re an entirely volunteer run organisation and we can always use extra hands. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.