Britain: Queens announces Brexit plans, as PM drops key manifesto pledges

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles sit on the royal thrones in the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Theresa May’s minority government has dropped key Tory manifesto pledges, including expanding grammar schools and a free vote on restoring foxhunting, as the Queen announced a pared-down legislative programme focused on delivering Brexit.

As she formally opened what the embattled prime minister hopes will be a two-year session of parliament, Guardian said the Queen set out the government’s intention to deliver the eight bills necessary for Brexit – including legislation allowing Britain to determine its own immigration, customs and trade arrangements.

The Queen was accompanied by the Prince of Wales in the traditional ceremony in the House of Lords, after Buckingham Palace announced that the Duke of Edinburgh had been admitted to hospital as a precaution on Tuesday night.

The speech included a series of domestic policies, including sweeping changes to technical education and establishing a new statutory anti-extremism commission.

But there was no specific counter-terrorism legislation, instead a promise that government would review counter-terrorism laws in the wake of a series of deadly attacks in recent weeks.

“In the light of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, my government’s counter-terrorism strategy will be reviewed to ensure that the police and security services have all the powers they need, and that the length of custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences are sufficient to keep the population safe,” the Queen said.

The speech reiterated May’s promise to hold a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, “to ascertain the causes, and ensure that the appropriate lessons are learnt”.

The accompanying description of the plans says the inquiry will be held under the Inquiries Act, meaning witnesses can be summoned, and will be chaired by a judge. It promises to consult residents and victims of survivors, as well as the mayor of London and the opposition, on the terms of the inquiry, and to fund legal representation for those affected.

The plan says those made homeless by the fire should be rehoused “as close as practically possible” to where they lived before. More widely, the speech proposes a new role of independent public advocate, who would help people affected by future disasters to access help and information.

Grammar schools, one of May’s flagship proposals in the early weeks of her premiership, were not mentioned, despite the Conservative manifesto pledge to consult on opening new selective schools.

Instead, the Queen said: “My government will continue to work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded. My ministers will work to ensure people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future, including through a major reform of technical education.”

With different cabinet ministers striking markedly different tones since the election result about what sort of Brexit deal they expect Britain to strike, and May hemmed in on both sides by MPs in her own party, there was little detail about the nature of the immigration, trade or customs policies the government will seek to implement.

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