Queen's Speech: Agenda focuses on Policing bill, voter ID, and asylum system

ITV News Political Correspondent Shehab Khan watched the scaled-back ceremony as the Queen made her first major public appearance since the death of Prince Philip

The government's agenda for the new Parliamentary session has been set out in the Queen's Speech, with a number of controversial policies having returned.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is back after being shelved following demonstrations across the country over concerns it would curtail the right to protest.

Legislation to overhaul the asylum system was also set out under a bid to deter migrants from crossing the Channel in small boats - a policy already sharply criticised by United Nation's refugee agency.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston on the key pieces of legislation included in the agenda - and those noticeably absent

There's also plans to introduce a requirement for voters to prove their identity before casting their ballot - another policy which has already raised concerns from senior MPs on both sides of the Commons.

The government has faced questions on the issue of social care, meanwhile, with pressure on how significant measures to improve the system will be.

The State Opening of Parliament was the Queen's first major public ceremonial duty since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Its usual pomp and ceremony was scaled back drastically to reduce the potential for spread of Covid-19, and all attendees will need to have a negative test beforehand.

Watch the Queen's Speech in full here:

Policing Bill

After initially being shelved amid fierce protest, with some demonstrations turning violent, the controversial bill is back.

The government has previously said it hoped the bill would "restore confidence in the criminal justice system".

But critics say the bill is a move to crack down on lawful protest - they say it doesn't focus on key issues like women's safety, and instead prioritises punishment for damage to status.

Police in riot gear pictured at one of the Kill The Bill protests in Bristol.

Asylum systemLegislation to overhaul the asylum system will be set out under a bid to deter migrants from crossing the Channel in small boats.

This has already been sharply criticised by United Nation’s refugee agency, which warned the proposals risk breaching international legal commitments and triggering damaging effects on asylum-seekers who arrive irregularly.

"We recognise the need to improve some asylum procedures, but these plans threaten to create a discriminatory two-tier asylum system, undermining the 1951 Refugee Convention and longstanding global cooperation on refugee issues. It’s not too late for a rethink," UNHCR representative Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor said.

Voter ID

Civil liberties groups, electoral reformers and senior MPs on both sides of the Commons have also raised concerns over plans to introduce a requirement for voters to prove their identity before casting their ballot.

On ITV's Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, the Health Secretary refused to say which was a bigger issue for the government - reforming social care or introducing voter identification.

Matt Hancock denied there was little electoral fraud in the country, stressing it was "incredibly important" to "make sure we have integrity in our electoral system."

Matt Hancock cannot say if reforming social care or introducing voter identification is of more importance to the government

Conversion therapy

The government will announce a ban on so-called conversion therapy in the Queen’s Speech, ITV News understands.

The long-awaited ban comes three years after the then-prime minister Theresa May first promised to end the practice in an interview with ITV News in 2018.

The exact details of the scope of the ban are still being worked out with further consultation likely, including on how to protect religious freedoms and certain professions such as teachers.

People take part at a Black Trans Lives Matter march on the day Pride in London was due to take place in June 2020. Credit: PA

Adult education

The student loans system will be transformed in a bid to make higher-level education and training more accessible to adults, the government has pledged.

As a part of new legislation aimed at reforming education for older teenagers and adults, the Prime Minister has said he is "revolutionising" the system.

Number 10 said new laws will create a post-16 and adult education and training system that is "fit for the future".

But Labour called for "action, not more rhetoric" as the opposition urged the government to set out a a "clear plan to get Britain working for working people".

Social care sector

Ministers have suggested the speech will feature a long-anticipated overhaul of the social care sector.

Speaking on GMB on Tuesday, Mr Hancock was questioned on the government's record on social care having pledged in 2019 to "fix the crisis once and for all".

The health secretary declined to go into details but said: "What I can tell you is that we are committed to delivering a long term plan into social care to make sure we can look after our loved ones.

"We will deliver on that reform," vowed Mr Hancock, adding: "This government, under Boris Johnson, delivers on its commitments."

Will the government deliver on its promise to 'fix' social care?

Pushed on the country having been led by a Conservative government for over a decade, Mr Hancock said: "This is an issue that has been ducked, frankly, by government's in the past of all colours."

Sir Andrew Dilnot, who led a review into the future of funding social care which recommended a cap on costs in 2011, warned the government that failing to act on the issue "can no longer be an option".

He wrote in the Daily Mail: "As life expectancy lengthens and the population ages, the demand for social care is growing rapidly. Moreover, the Covid crisis shone a harsh spotlight on the residential care sector, exposing poor levels of provision, lack of basic resources and a beleaguered workforce. It is obvious that we cannot go on as we are."

Want more politics news and analysis - listen to our podcast: Calling Peston


New legally binding environmental targets are also expected to feature in the speech, as is a planning Bill to ease controls in England under a drive to boost housebuilding.

National Trust director general Hilary McGrady issued a warning to the PM over the plans, saying the “stakes are high, and reforms need to be carefully considered”.

"The planning system is the most important tool that we have for shaping our physical environment. It is a mistake to characterise it as simply a blocker to new homes, growth and development in general," she wrote in the Telegraph.

Watch the Queen's Speech live on itv.com/news and across our social media channels from 1130.