Queen's Speech 2015: Not many surprises for the South East

Louise Stewart
Political editor, South East


It was the 62nd State Opening of Parliament that the Queen has presided over, and the first all-Conservative Queen's Speech for two decades.

There weren't many surprises - as reported on BBC South East, the government is to introduce a Psychoactive Substances Bill.

This would create a blanket ban which would prohibit and disrupt the production, distribution, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances in the UK.

It had long been campaigned for by the former Lewes MP and former Home Office minister Norman Baker.

Psychoactive effect

The bill aims to provide a robust response to the availability of new legal highs and the problems they cause.

It would do this by making it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export psychoactive substances.

They classify this as any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect.

It will criminalise the trade in legal highs with prison sentences of up to seven years but will not make personal possession a criminal offence.

Of course, one of the problems of enforcing such legislation is that many of the so called legal highs, which are sold in "head" shops in towns across the South East, is that many of the substances are marked as not for human consumption so could potentially slip through this loophole.

Image source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
Legal highs can be smoked, snorted or swallowed

Another area of concern in the South East is how to tackle immigration.

This speech was heavy on Home Office legislation - five bills in all, including a bill to control immigration.

The government says the benefits would be dealing with those who should not be here, rooting out illegal immigrants and boosting removals and deportations.

The bill would introduce an offence of illegal working making it clear to migrants who have no right to work here that working illegally in the UK is a crime.

David Cameron has been talking tough on immigration but - as the latest figures showed last week - net migration had surged to 318,000 in 2014, up from 209,000 in 2013 and triple Cameron's less than 100,000 pre-election pledge.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and acting leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman during the State Opening of Parliament

Will these new measures be enough to tackle that?

The difficulty for the government is that whilst the UK remains in the European Union they cannot control numbers of people coming from elsewhere in Europe to the UK.

So that brings us to another bill in the Queen's speech - the European Referendum Bill - which would offer an in-out vote before the end of 2017.

The UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, gave the referendum as his reason for un-resigning.

'Dangerous and damaging'

But the question is now that a Conservative majority government has offered an in-out referendum by 2017, does that not negate the need for UKIP, whose main policy is the withdrawal of the UK from the EU?

David Cameron hailed the 26-bill package as a "programme for working people" that would create full employment and "bring our country together".

But the country's only Green MP - the member for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas - labelled the Queen's Speech as a "missed opportunity", which fails future generations.

She said: "This Queen's Speech is dangerous and damaging, locking in austerity and failing to make the investment in the green economy which would address the climate crisis and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

MPs will begin debating the contents of the speech immediately.

It's a full legislative programme but with a majority of just 12 the government will have its work cut out getting the legislation passed.