The Queen’s Speech will feature a planning bill targeting home ownership in the Midlands and north in a bid to further strengthen the Tory position in traditional Labour heartlands, it has been reported.
Conservative leaders believe the number of people who owned their homes was the key to the party’s gains in last week’s local elections, according to the Times.
Labour received a drubbing in some parts of the country, losing control of a host of councils and suffering defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in Hartlepool, with the North East constituency electing a Tory MP for the first time since 1959.
The party also lost control of Durham council for the first time in a century, saw its local leader deposed by the Greens in Sheffield and witnessed heavy defeats in Rotherham and Sunderland authorities.
Increasing home ownership in former Labour strongholds
According to the paper, the planning bill is aimed at expanding the rates of home ownership across small cities and towns in areas which have historically voted Labour.
The reforms will reportedly simplify the planning process to make it more difficult for existing homeowners to block new housing schemes, with the country to be divided into “growth” or “protection” zones.
It is believed automatic planning approval will be given to homes, hospitals, schools, shops and offices in growth areas, while development in protected areas will be restricted but not ruled out.
The Times also reported the Government is set to trial a “first homes scheme” in the former Labour bastion of Bolsover, Derbyshire, which will give discounts of at least 30 per cent to first-time buyers in their local area.
Overhaul of the social care sector incoming
The Queen’s Speech may also feature a long-awaited overhaul of the social care sector, with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove’s prediction of having the reforms passing through Parliament within the next seven months a possible indication the proposals could make it into Tuesday’s announcement.
Mr Gove, asked whether the social care overhaul would form part of the Queen’s Speech, told Times Radio: “We’re working to make sure that we have an effective social care plan at the moment. That work is going on.
“So, by the end of the year you will have a specific social care plan that is heading for the statute books at the very least.
“We want to make sure that we can get cross-party support for it. That is critical.
“That’s the point the Prime Minister has always made. The more support we can get for it across parties, and I hope we do, the quicker we can be.”
Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The test of whether this Queen’s Speech genuinely delivers for the people of Britain is if it brings forward a proper rescue plan for the NHS and delivers a social care solution as Boris Johnson promised on the steps of Downing Street almost two years ago.”
Focussing on levelling up
Downing Street has signalled that the Queen’s Speech on May 11 – when the monarch sets out the Government’s legislative agenda – will place renewed emphasis on Mr Johnson’s ambitions to “level up”.
Officials said as well as supporting the nation’s recovery from Covid-19 and backing the NHS, the speech will include draft laws designed to “spread opportunity across the UK”.
Downing Street has confirmed its programme, due to be revealed during the State Opening of Parliament, will see the return of both the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Environment Bill, which they said will set legally binding environmental targets in the run-up to the international Cop26 summit in Glasgow later this year.
The former Bill was shelved during the last parliamentary session after it sparked violent protests in some places across the UK.
If approved, it would hand greater power to police in England and Wales to shut down protests deemed overly noisy or disruptive, with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.
Usually one of the most colourful events of the parliamentary year, the Queen’s Speech this year will be a scaled-back affair due to coronavirus restrictions.
The visit of the Queen to the Palace of Westminster will see significantly fewer MPs and peers, a reduced royal procession into the House of Lords where the speech is given from and no diplomatic or non-parliamentary guests to be permitted.