Skip to main content

Petitions Committee members react to Government commitments in the Queen’s Speech

17 May 2021

Members of the Petitions Committee have reacted to proposals announced in the Queen’s Speech, which include commitments to address issues of concern to hundreds of thousands of petitioners.

On 11 May, the Government’s plans for the new Parliamentary session were announced in the Queen’s Speech, including Bills containing a number of measures that petitioners have called for. However, one Bill of interest to many petitioners, the Employment Bill which the Government had promised, was absent.

LGBT ‘conversion therapy’

Petitions Committee member Elliot Colburn MP has welcomed the announcement in the Queen’s Speech of plans to bring forward legislation to outlaw so-called 'conversion therapy'.

The Government has said it will launch a consultation before details of the ban are finalised, and also intends to develop a package of support to ensure victims of conversion therapy are able to access the help they need.

On 8 March 2021, Elliot Colburn led a debate on a petition which called for LGBT conversion therapy to be made illegal, in which he backed the petitioners’ request. The petition received 256,392 signatures before closing in September 2020.

Elliot Colburn MP comments

“I am delighted the Government has committed to making the abhorrent and degrading practice of so-called conversion therapy a criminal offence, and to creating a support fund by this summer for LGBT people impacted by conversion therapy. These are hugely welcome steps forward for the LGBT+ community.

“I am delighted the Government has committed to making the abhorrent and degrading practice of so-called conversion therapy a criminal offence, and to creating a support fund by this summer for LGBT people impacted by conversion therapy. These are hugely welcome steps forward for the LGBT+ community.

“I called for a clear timeline for introducing a ban when I led a petitions debate on this issue in March, and I urge the Government to bring forward this legislation as soon as possible following the public consultation.”

Online Safety

Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP has welcomed the publication of a draft Online Safety Bill, which was also announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The Committee’s ongoing inquiry, “Tackling Online Abuse”, is looking into the experiences of people who have faced online abuse. So far, the Committee has heard from reality TV personality Bobby Norris, who spoke out after his petition on tackling online abuse generated more than 133,000 signatures. Katie Price, and her mother Amy Price, also gave evidence to the Committee on the subject.

The Committee will continue its work exploring what the Government is doing to tackle the specific issues raised by petitioners.

Catherine McKinnell MP comments

“I welcome the long overdue publication of a draft Online Safety Bill.

“Online abuse has been raised time and again by hundreds of thousands of petitioners, seeking action against anonymous trolls. As we've heard through our inquiries into the issue, social media companies have got away with warm words but too little action to protect their users from harmful abuse.

“Legislation on this issue is long overdue, and the Government must introduce the final Bill as soon as possible, to deliver on its commitment to address this hateful activity. We will be closely examining whether it meets the demands of petitioners like Katie Price and Bobby Norris, who have campaigned so hard on this issue.”

Employment protections for parents

Catherine McKinnell MP has expressed her disappointment at the absence of the promised Employment Bill from the Government's plans.

Last year the Committee conducted an inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave, following an e-petition, titled ‘Extend maternity leave by 3 months with pay in light of COVID-19’, which received 238,884 signatures. The Committee’s resulting report made 23 recommendations to the Government including extending redundancy protections for new and expectant mothers to cover the period after they return to work, and that plans to introduce neonatal leave and pay be brought forward.

In their response to the report, the Government had pledged to bring forward an Employment Bill which would deliver these changes. However, the proposed legislation was not amongst the Bills that have been announced.

Catherine McKinnell MP comments

“The absence of the long-overdue Employment Bill from the Queen's Speech leaves working families without the protections that petitioners have told us they need.

“The Government's failure to deliver on its commitment to introduce neonatal leave and pay, and to extend existing redundancy protections following parental leave, is deeply disappointing.

“Last year our report on the impact of covid-19 on maternity and parental leave highlighted the urgent need for enhanced employment rights and protections for new and expectant mothers, a group already vulnerable to discrimination.

“One year on, the Government has failed to make any progress. The Petitions Committee will be seeking answers from Ministers on when and how it will bring forward the changes it has long promised to make.”

Other announcements of interest to petitioners included:

Housing

Animals

Election Integrity

  • The Government announced legislation to ensure the integrity of elections which would include improving the absent ballot process by increasing protection on postal and proxy voting. The petition Scrap 'On-Demand' Postal Voting, & Create Strict Eligibility Criteria received 10,419 signatures before closing in September 2020
  • In addition, a main element of the Government’s proposals are a requirement for identification in order to vote in a polling station, as called for in a petition which received 17,370 signatures before it closed in September 2020

Immigration

  • The Government announced plans to ensure how somebody arrives in the UK will impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK, through its New Plan for Immigration. A petition calling for tougher action on immigration received 126,440 signatures before closing in January 2021.

What is the Queen’s Speech?

The Queen's Speech is the speech that the Queen reads out in the House of Lords Chamber on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament. 

It's written by the Government and sets out the programme of Bills - new laws, and changes to existing laws - that Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue in this new parliamentary session, which usually lasts around one year.

Further information

Image: Crown Copyright