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Social care reforms heading for statue books by end of the year, says minister

·3-min read

A social care reform plan will be “heading for the statute books” by the end of the year, a senior Government minister has said.

The Prime Minister last week seemed to suggest a blueprint for the long-term overhaul of the sector – which he promised was ready when entering Downing Street in 2019 – might not be ready in time for the Queen’s Speech, telling reporters it would be brought forward in the “next few months”.

However, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove’s prediction of having the reforms passing through Parliament within the next seven months is a possible signal the proposals could end up making it into the announcement on Tuesday.

Mr Gove, asked whether the social care overhaul would form part of the Queen’s Speech, told Times Radio: “We’re working to make sure that we have an effective social care plan at the moment. That work is going on.

“So, by the end of the year you will have a specific social care plan that is heading for the statute books at the very least.

“We want to make sure that we can get cross-party support for it. That is critical.

“That’s the point the Prime Minister has always made. The more support we can get for it across parties, and I hope we do, the quicker we can be.”

Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The test of whether this Queen’s Speech genuinely delivers for the people of Britain is if it brings forward a proper rescue plan for the NHS and delivers a social care solution as Boris Johnson promised on the steps of Downing Street almost two years ago.”

Downing Street has signalled that the Queen’s Speech on May 11 – when the monarch sets out the Government’s legislative agenda – will place renewed emphasis on Mr Johnson’s ambitions to “level up”.

Officials said as well supporting the nation’s recovery from Covid-19 and backing the NHS, there would be draft laws designed to “spread opportunity across the UK”.

The Times said it had been briefed that the Prime Minister wanted to ensure people did not have to leave their communities for the big cities to find work.

Downing Street said the Queen's Speech will focus on Boris Johnson's aim of 'spreading opportunities across the UK'
Downing Street said the Queen’s Speech will focus on Boris Johnson’s aim of ‘spreading opportunities across the UK’ (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The newspaper quoted a senior government source as saying: “There is going to be a massive investment in further education and lifelong ‘upskilling’ so people can take on better-paid jobs in their local area.

“Some people will want to move for work but this is investment in communities so people can thrive where they live.”

Downing Street has confirmed its programme, due to be revealed during the State Opening of Parliament, will see the return of both the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Environment Bill, which they said will set legally binding environmental targets in the run-up to the international Cop26 summit in Glasgow later this year.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was shelved during the last parliamentary session after it sparked violent protests in some places across the UK.

If approved, the Bill would hand greater power to police in England and Wales to shut down protests deemed overly noisy or disruptive, with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.

Usually one of the most colourful events of the parliamentary year, the Queen’s Speech this year will be a scaled-back affair due to coronavirus restrictions.

The visit of the Queen to the Palace of Westminster will be reduced in terms of pomp and ceremony, with significantly fewer MPs and peers due to be in attendance, a reduced royal procession into the House of Lords where the speech is given from, and no diplomatic or non-parliamentary guests to be permitted.

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