This week, the Government proposed its legislative programme in the Queen’s Speech, and details of the expected ministerial portfolios for the two new health ministers have emerged. The former children’s minister, Tim Loughton, has also called for a focus on children and young people’s issues, stating that the lack of this during the election campaign was a “concern”.
Government proposes legislative programme in Queen’s Speech
The State Opening of Parliament has taken place this week, including the Queen’s Speech setting out the Government’s legislative agenda for the coming two years. The leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, had previously announced that this parliamentary session will be extended from one to two years to enable Parliament to scrutinise legislation relating to Brexit – as such, the next Queen’s Speech will not be until 2019.
Eight of the 27 Bills announced in the speech pertained to Brexit, including the Repeal Bill to reverse the European Communities Act; an Immigration Bill; a Nuclear Safeguards Bill; and an Agriculture Bill. As expected, many elements of the Conservative manifesto which would have been included in the speech had the party achieved a majority were dropped, such as plans to means-test winter fuel payments for pensioners and scrap free school meals for all infant school students.
There was no legislation announced of major relevance to the PCF. On healthcare, there will be a draft Patient Safety Bill, which will aim to improve how the NHS investigates and learns from mistakes by establishing an independent Health Service Safety Investigation Body, and to encourage staff to share information with this body. There will also be reform of mental health legislation.
On education, the Government will not take forward its plan to repeal the ban on new grammar schools, with selective education not being mentioned at all in the document. The Government has expressed its intention to still pursue its “manifesto commitment to make [school] funding fairer”, despite the high levels of criticism received by schools which were set to lose funding under the new formula. It is thought that the formula will be revised to ensure that no school loses out from its existing funding arrangements, but schools which have historically been underfunded will have their funding increase.
Following the backlash against the Conservatives’ social care proposals during the election campaign, the Government has rowed back from legislating on social care funding in the immediate future. The speech did announce the Government will bring forward proposals for public consultation on the long-term future of social care – seemingly focused on the quality of care as well as long-term finances – and consult on these.
Responding to the Queen’s Speech, the Royal College of Physicians’ president Professor Jane Dacre expressed her concern that the Government had not addressed healthcare issues such as regulating new health professionals, and reiterated her previous statement that “the process of exiting the EU cannot be allowed to risk patient safety or the quality of care.” The Royal College of Nursing criticised the Government’s failure to lift the public sector pay cap, following significant focus on it from other parties during the election campaign.
Health ministerial portfolios emerge
Of the two health ministers appointed last week, Jackie Doyle-Price is due to be appointed as Minister for Care and Mental Health and Steve Brine is due to become Minister for Public Health and Primary Care. Doyle-Price’s portfolio is thought to cover care for vulnerable people; social care; community care; and women and children’s health, including school nursing and health visitors. Brine would have responsibility for issues including NHS transformation, including new models of care and STPs; primary care; and the public health system, along with oversight of Public Health England.
Doyle-Price’s appointment to this portfolio may have been influenced by comments she previously made about GP shortages which could be construed as critical of the profession, and would have made her appointment to the portfolio covering GPs difficult. Meanwhile, the portfolios for the two new ministers at the Department for Education – Anne Milton and Robert Goodwill – have yet to be confirmed.
Former minister calls for focus on children and young people’s issues
The former children’s minister Tim Loughton has labelled the lack of focus on improving services for children and young people from the Government “concerning” in an interview with CYP Now. Loughton, who was children’s minister between 2010 and 2012, said “It was a shame children and young people’s issues didn’t play such a prominent part in the campaign”, with previous agendas for reform such as his Positive for Youth policy statement being ignored.
Loughton also highlighted the impact of three ministers with briefs relating to children and young people losing their seats at the election – namely the children’s minister Edward Timpson, youth minister Rob Wilson, and public health minister Nicola Blackwood. Having to replace these ministers is “a slight concern”. Loughton did acknowledge the Government’s plans on children and young people’s mental health, but said that Brexit would provide a distraction, preventing other issues from coming onto the agenda over the next couple of years.