So there were few surprises in the Queen’s Speech in the end. Perhaps that itself isn’t too surprising. As the Coalition goes into its final few months before the election, this final session of Parliament is light on legislation and focuses on a few selected areas. It’s a shame to see public service reform rather unceremoniously dropped; it wasn’t mentioned at all in today’s speech.
What did we get?
A highlight was the new Modern Slavery Bill, which proposes to strengthen powers against human trafficking. There was confirmation of Chris Grayling’s new Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (‘Sarah’) Bill, too, which could in principle help encourage more people to volunteer by reducing their risk of being sued. In practice, such cases are very rare, but anything that reduces barriers to civic involvement should be a good thing. Notably, the government has also confirmed that a Draft Protection of Charities Bill will be published, along the lines of the Cabinet Office’s recent consultation. It will strengthen the Commission’s powers of enforcement. I hope this will also mean more resources for the Commission. Anything less will simply put it under even more pressure.
Lastly, it was sad to see the departure of Nick Young which was announced today. He has been a towering figure in the third sector for many years. A very distinguished CEO of the Red Cross for the last thirteen, and of Macmillan Cancer Care for six years before that. I remember his wise counsel to me on a number of occasions. And I wish Mike Adamson well in his role as acting CEO. I have recently been working with him on our plans for the NHS, and in particular our proposals for alleviating the problems of A&E departments.