Queen’s speech 2017: Brexit dominates legislative programme

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The Queen has outlined the minority Government’s legislative programme for the next two years, concentrating on eight separate Brexit-related bills. However, some of the manifesto pledges made by the Conservatives have been omitted.

For employers, the Queen’s speech and the detail of the Government’s plans retains some, but not all, of the Tory election pledges.

The Queen began her speech on the subject of Brexit: “My government’s priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union.

“My ministers are committed to working with Parliament, the devolved administrations, business and others to build the widest possible consensus on the country’s future outside the European Union.

“A bill will be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act and provide certainty for individuals and businesses.”

A new Immigration Bill will allow the Government to end the EU’s rules on free movement of EU nationals in the UK and make the migration of EU nationals and their families subject to UK law once Brexit has happened, while still “allowing the UK to attract the brightest and the best”, according to the Government.

The Government’s plans around technical education are included. It will introduce 15 technical education routes, including “T-levels”, based on standards designed by employers and grouping together occupations where there are shared training requirements.

Each route would allow progression from Level 2, equivalent to GCSE, to level 5, the Higher National Diploma-equivalent for college-based students, and to level 7 for apprenticeships.

There is no mention of race pay gap reporting in the the Government’s plans.

The Queen said: “My Government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation,” but no detail is included on an ethnicity equivalent to gender pay gap reporting.

Reacting to this, diversity campaigner Prof. Binna Kandola, said: “The Government must also recognise that issues of gender and race cannot be treated separately.

“To close the gender pay gap, we must examine the race pay gap and recognise that these issues exist in the context of intersectionality. You can’t tackle the former without acknowledging the latter.”

The Government document detailing elements of the Queen’s speech also alluded to the outcome of Matthew Taylor’s ongoing review of employment practices, saying it is “an important step towards us ensuring fairness for everyone in work and we look forward to receiving the report shortly”.

Taylor has previously hinted at a new right to request fixed hours for workers on zero-hours contracts; and also a possible higher minimum wage for hours worked under zero-hours contracts.

The national living wage would continue to increase to 60% of median earnings by 2020 (currently forecast to be £8.75) but, after that, it will only increase in line with average earnings.

The Tory manifesto included plans to extend protections under the Equality Act 2010  to mental health conditions that are episodic and fluctuating – currently, conditions need to be long term, lasting 12 months or more. However, there is no mention of this in the legislative plan outlined by Government today.

Since securing a reduced majority for her party in the general election, Theresa May has been urged to scrap the public sector 1% pay cap, but the Government has not included any plans to do so in the legislative programme.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Queen’s Speech makes vague promises but says nothing about the changes working people need right now – like banning zero hours contracts or making gig economy employers treat their workers fairly.

“Nor is there anything in this Queen’s Speech to end the year-on-year real-terms pay cuts… Workers’ rights will be put at risk by the Great Repeal Bill. It will allow ministers to bypass parliament and erode rights that come from the EU – like paid holiday and protections for part-time and agency workers. The bill must contain a specific provision to stop ministers going back and undermining the rights of working people.”

This article was first published at 13:40 on 21 June 2017 and is being updated as detail emerges.

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