U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnsonon Thursday set out what he described as the most “radical” legislative agenda in a generation – zeroing in on how he intends to deliver key promises on everything fromBrexitto health care.
The government agenda for the year was laid out in the Queen’s Speech, delivered in the House of Lords by Queen Elizabeth II at the state opening of Parliament. It then moves to debate and eventual symbolic vote in the House of Commons.
“We have no time to waste and we begin immediately with the most radical Queen’s Speech in a generation to deliver on the affected of the British people, ”Johnsonsaid in the foreword to the speech.
It comes a week after Johnson’s Conservative Party stormed to an – seat House of Commons majority in a general election that exceeds Tory expectations and gives the prime minister a clear mandate to get his agenda through Parliament.
The top priority was Britain’s departure from theEuropean Union, having run on the slogan “Get Brexit Done.” The government intends to pass Johnson’s withdrawal bill – negotiated with the E.U. – before the end of January, and announced Thursday that the new version of the bill means that a post-Brexit transition period must end by the end of 2020.
On the question of immigration, which shadowed the Brexit issue, the Johnson government intends to introduce an Australian-style points system that it says will prioritize high -skilled immigrants who speak English and who don’t have criminal records.
It will also introduce a fast-track visa system to encourage doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to come to the UK, as part of an effort to combat a staff shortage in the country struggling National Health Service.
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The NHS was a central issue in the recent election campaign, and Johnson is seeking to tamp down fears that the Conservatives will not deliv er on the promise to increase NHS funding. In doing so, his government wants to enshrine in law its NHS spending obligations of an extra 90. 9 billion pounds a year until/ 24.
Other commitments outlined in the speech include an extra billion pounds a year and more education funding per school pupil, investment in infrastructure – particularly in the North of England – and legislation to make jailed terrorists serve more of their sentences.
Johnson is zeroing in on those areas in the North and Wales, where his party tore into traditional labor heartlands. While some of that vote was secured in pro-Brexit areas that have opposed Labour’s move to a more anti-Brexit stance, Tory strategists see an opening to realign traditional party politics and secure dominance in those regions.
Johnson has spoken appreciatively of those who voted for his party for the first time last week, “all those whose pencils may have wavered over the ballot,” and promised to deliver a “People’s Government.”
Meanwhile, the opposition Labor Party is starting on a path to picking an eventual new leader. Leader Jeremy Corbyn has been savaged by some in his own party for the defeat – with some saying he was directly responsible.
Corbyn has promised not to lead the party in the next election. However, he has indicated he intends to stay on to as late as the spring as he leads the party in what he has called a “period of reflection” over the result before a leadership contest to replace him. But that process could lead to the party’s messaging being gummed up as it turns inward to choose its new direction, giving Johnson free rein to forge forward with his agenda.