After a General Election that was surprising and divisive from the moment it was called, that resulted in what many felt was an unsatisfactory alliance and arrangement with the majority Conservative Party and the Northern Irish DUP, in the following weeks Parliament was officially opened for the next Parliamentary year.
In an ancient ceremony full of traditional British pomp and circumstance, the Queen processed to Parliament and gave the annual Queen’s Speech, outlining what the government of the day would seek to enact in legalisation that forthcoming Parliamentary year.
Regarding the legal sector, there was much to be positive about. With EU law and regulations very much intertwined with domestic legislation, prominent in the government’s agenda was a package of measures to make the legal changes needed to facilitate an impending Brexit. In response to the Queen’s Speech, Law Society President Robert Bourn stated that “unravelling and redefining ties and laws made over the past 40 years, while providing as much certainty to individuals and businesses as is possible is a task of real complexity … The government’s focus on providing this certainty is welcomed, and we hope the series of bills announced today will allow parliament to work through these issues carefully, and give them the scrutiny they deserve … [The Law Society] will continue to offer the government the expertise and insights of the solicitor profession, and encourage it to draw on that to create a new relationship with the European Union that preserves and enhances our economy, our jobs, and the rights we all enjoy.”
Additionally, the Queen’s Speech gave greater prominence to a renewed focus on protecting and safeguarding the legal rights of the most vulnerable was also warmly welcomed. According to Mr Bourns, British laws and legislation “must be accessible to the most vulnerable in our society, and it was pleasing to see that the government will give this attention in the coming parliamentary session … A significant focus on combating modern slavery, both at home and abroad; law changes to protect victims of domestic violence; and updating our employment law to reflect modern working practices are all important steps which can help those who need it most.”
Whilst applauding the government’s intentions to promote and safeguard human rights and employment rights, proposals in the Queen’s Speech to modernise the court system, and to address personal injury claims were not so favourably received – but that is for another post.
It is reassuring, however, that this new government, for this new Parliamentary session remains committed to upholding human rights and employment rights. It is those rights that safeguard and protect citizens in any number of situations and occasions. Those and related rights and laws cannot be taken lightly, or taken for granted.