Queen's Speech 2021: Government to bring forward proposals for social care reform, but offers scant detail - watch live

·42-min read

The Government has pledged to bring forward proposals to reform adult social care this year, amid growing pressure for Boris Johnson to act on his pledge from 2019.

As part of the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen confirmed that: "proposals on social care reform will be brought forward" - however further details remain scant at this stage. Boris Johnson's spokesman later confirmed that "we will set out proposals later this year."

This morning senior Tories attacked the Government for its inaction on social care reform, despite the Prime Minister promising he had a plan ready to enact when he took office in July 2019.

Damian Green, the former deputy prime minister, said: "I am frustrated that it has taken so long to get to this stage... This needs to be the year for action and decision rather than kicking the can down the road any further."

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, told Radio 4's Today programme: "It's an incredible worry for people. It's a lottery. You don't know, that could be you. I think in a civilised society we should find a way of taking away that worry."

Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, called on the Government to introduce a "German-style system of insurance", but told Sky News: "It is a very thorny issue and a tough one to bring forward because you will be criticised when you do."

​​Follow the latest updates below.

01:41 PM

Analysis: David Cameron's Greensill texts make for desperate reading

David Cameron's repeated efforts to lobby for Greensill make for desperate reading - but thus far reflect far worse on him than anyone else.

The former prime minister sent ministers and officials 45 emails, texts and WhatsApp messages relating to Greensill Capital in less than four months.

It is perhaps no surprise that the man famous for having ushered in a period of "chumocracy" at Downing Street would text ministers so free and easily. The tone of those messages - including him signing off with plenty of "love Dc" - will no doubt be picked up on by the opposition as proof that the cosy boy's club continues.

The fact that he contacted Michael Gove, with whom he spectacularly fell out over his support for Brexit, just underlines the extent of his efforts.

But, thus far, ministers and officials seem to be in the clear. They received his calls and messages. They explored the options. But ultimately, and firmly, Greensill was rejected.

Watch: Queen's Speech 2021: Key Points

01:23 PM

Voter ID plans 'straight out of Republican Party's playbook'

Labour frontbencher has accused the Government of trying to spread "baseless scare stories which threaten our democracy".

Louise Haigh, shadow Northern Ireland secretary, said the plans for voter ID "come straight out of the Republican Party playbook"

01:08 PM

In full: How many times David Cameron contacted ministers and officials about Greensill

David Cameron and his office staff sent ministers and officials 45 emails, texts and WhatsApp messages relating to Greensill Capital in less than four months.

The timeline of his contacts submitted by the former prime minister to the Treasury Committee ahead of his appearance before the committee on Thursday also included 11 telephone calls or conference calls.

Mr Cameron listed nine WhatsApp messages to Chancellor Rishi Sunak as well as one telephone call.

He also recorded 12 texts sent to the permanent secretary of the Treasury Sir Tom Scholar and one call and six emails to Bank of England deputy governor Sir Jon Cunliffe.

Mr Cameron also sent texts to the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and called Health Secretary Matt Hancock, and there were messages to ministers Jesse Norman, John Glen and Nadhim Zahawi.

The exchanges all took place between March 5 and June 26 last year.

01:06 PM

'It is getting urgent': David Cameron's increasingly desperate Greensill's texts

David Cameron's text messages about Greensill grew increasingly desperate over the course of several weeks, with the former prime minister at one point telling the most senior official at the Treasury "it is getting urgent".

Early on in the pandemic, he told Sir Tom Scholar he was "riding to the rescue with supply chain finance with my friend Lex Greensill".

Sometimes the exchanges were terse, with Mr Cameron telling the official he was "genuinely baffled" as his efforts were rebuffed.

He later sought "one more high level chat... to see if these objections about boundaries and precedents can't be overcome", roping in Rishi Sunak to press the case.

The Chancellor appears to have secured Sir Tom's presence on that call.

12:49 PM

'See you with Rishi's for an elbow bump or foot tap, love Dc'

David Cameron sent a string of cringe-worthy text messages to senior Treasury official Tom Scholar, as part of his attempts to lobby on behalf of Greensill Capital.

The former prime minister told the permanent secretary he was "thinking of you in these impossibly difficult times, " and that he was "glad you are at the helm."

He also sent a message saying: "See you with Rishi's for an elbow bump or foot tap, love Dc"

12:32 PM

'I'm v free': David Cameron pressed Michael Gove, Nadhim Zahawi and others on Greensill

Cameron told his former colleagues they were doing a 'great job' as he lobbied for Greensill - AFP
Cameron told his former colleagues they were doing a 'great job' as he lobbied for Greensill - AFP

David Cameron put aside his Brexit-triggered anger towards Michael Gove, as he sought to contact ministers including his former firned as he lobbied for Greensill Capital.

The former prime minister also sent messages to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, according to the correspondence released by the Commons Treasury Committee.

One text message to Mr Gove read: "I know you are manically busy - and doing a great job, by the way (this is bloody hard and I think the team is coping extremely well. But do you have a moment for a word? I am on this number and v free. All good wishes Dc."

12:22 PM

Protecting veterans requires 'attention to detail', says Johnny Mercer

Johnny Mercer has said there is a "landing zone for a policy" that protects veterans from vexatious claims without an all-out amnesty should new evidence emerge.

The former minister said his ex-colleagues should not be put off, despite the challenging circumstances.

"It requires real attention to detail and real application to understand... what you are trying to do here," he said.

"We can do things around [the challenges]... but we have to commit," he told Sky News.

12:17 PM

Johnny Mercer may vote against Queen's Speech over veterans snub

Johnny Mercer has rubbished assurances from the Government that legislation will be brought forward to address historical prosecutions against former soldiers.

Of the commitment offered today, the former veterans minister said: "Pretty much exactly the same wording has been used in the last two Queen's Speech and legislation has not been coming forward.

"The reality is that people are going through these trials at the moment... it is deeply unfair for our veterans, and it is time we looked after them properly."

He added that he had been given such assurances when he was veterans minister and "the work in background wasn't going on at all".

He told Sky News he would "get advice" and "have a think" about whether to vote for the Queen's Speech as a result.

12:04 PM

Johnny Mercer vents frustration over veterans inaction

Johnny Mercer - who is due to speak to MPs about why he was forced out of his role as veterans minister - has vented his frustration at the lack of any mention of legislation to stop prosecutions against former NI soldiers.

"At some stage, we must fulfil our promises to our veterans," he tweeted.

But the Prime Minister's official spokesman told journalists: "We will fulfil our commitments that we have set out and there will be legislation announced on this in the coming weeks.

"So, we will deliver on that commitment."

12:00 PM

Nicola Sturgeon 'emotional' as she confirms Scots can hug from Monday

People in Scotland will be able to hug their loved ones from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon has announced, bringing the nation in line with England.

"I actually feel a wee bit emotional saying this, from Monday, as long as you stay within permitted limits, you can hug your loved ones again," she said.

But the First Minister said it remains "vital to be cautious", saying that dropping social distancing will be reviewed for all situations in the coming weeks.

Ms Sturgeon also announced the Scottish Government would go further on easing restrictions, allowing six people from three households to meet indoors.

11:58 AM

Lobby latest: No 'dangerous loophole' on conversion therapy plans, says No 10

Downing Street has denied a suggestion it could create "a highly dangerous loophole" by focusing a ban on conversion therapy on ending "coercive practices", raised by former adviser Jayne Ozanne.

Boris Johnson's official spokesman said: "I disagree. We want to work with key stakeholders to inform proposals so we can put an end to this practice."

The Government is seeking "further views" on how best to "address abhorrent and coercive practices whilst protecting the medical profession, defending freedom of speech and upholding religious freedom".

He added: "We're not setting a specific time on it, we do want it to be short and prompt."

11:54 AM

Lobby latest: No 10 defends plans for voter ID

Downing Street has defended plans to force voters to use photographic ID to prove who they are when casting their ballot.

"We think showing identification to vote is a reasonable approach to combat the inexcusable potential for voter fraud," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

Asked what evidence there was of a problem actually existing, the spokesman said "there is a potential for fraud which is not acceptable".

"Everyone wants to maintain the integrity of our democracy," he added, noting that Canada, France, the Netherlands and Sweden "all require a form of identification to vote."

11:51 AM

Have your say: Should social care be Boris Johnson's top priority?

Boris Johnson is coming under pressure to fast-track reforms to social care, nearly two years after he promised he had a plan ready to go.

The Prime Minister has insisted that the pandemic has delayed proposals, but Tories are going public with their criticism of the Government that is failing to grasp the nettle.

The Queen's Speech has promised "proposals" will be brought forward this year - which suggests action may be some way off. But the Government has prioritised Covid recovery and other issues such as tightening sentencing laws and voter ID.

Should social care be higher up the list? Have your say in the poll below.

11:49 AM

Lobby latest: Workers' rights protections will be brought forward 'when time is right'

Workers' rights legislation will be introduced "when the time is right", Downing Street has said, citing the pandemic as the reason for the delay.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We're committed to bringing forward an Employment Bill to protect and enhance workers' rights... Through this legislation we are determined to build a high-skilled, high-productivity, high-wage economy that delivers on our ambition to make the UK best-placed in the world to work and grow a business.

"We will introduce the Employment Bill when the time is right given the profound effects the pandemic is having on the economy and the labour market."

11:46 AM

Lobby latest: Government drops plans for mandatory calorie labels on drinks

Plans for calorie labelling will focus on food and not on drinks, relieving pubs from the need to label the calories contained in pints, Downing Street has confirmed.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the plan set out in the Queen's speech will be "focusing on food".

Asked if that means pubs will not have to display calorie counts on drinks, he said: "Yes, like I said, this will be focused on food."

The spokesman said: "We've listened to the feedback from the consultation and we think this is the right approach to take forward now, and that's why we will set out more detail in a consultation response which is coming out later."

11:43 AM

Lobby latest: Social care proposals will be published 'later this year'

Proposals to fix the social care crisis will be produced "later this year", Downing Street has insisted after they were missing from the Queen's Speech.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has always been clear on his commitment to deal with this issue.

"He's pledged to fix the care crisis and we are committed to bring forward a long-term plan to reform the social care system and we will set out proposals later this year."

The spokesman was asked whether Mr Johnson had misled the country when he said two years ago that he had already prepared a "clear plan" to fix the system.

"No, as I said, we will be setting out our proposals later this year," the spokesman said.

11:39 AM

Analysis: Social care pledge is just the beginning of the beginning

Boris Johnson makes no secret of his admiration of Sir Winston Churchill, channeling his predecessor whenever the moment allows.

So, to misquote our wartime leader, the social care reforms promised today are not the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the beginning.

This afternoon's debate might put some more meat on the bones, but the supplementary material supplied by Number 10 fails to offer any clarity. If anything, it resembles the time officials appeared to have copied and pasted Wikipedia pages to explain details of the Brexit negotiations.

Yes, it is a thorny issue and one which will require careful attention, thorough scrutiny and possibly mind-numbing levels of debate. It is, after all, a generation-defining crisis.

But for a man who promised to have "a clear plan we have prepared" on the steps pf Downing Street in July 2019, today's brief mention falls well short of what is required.

11:30 AM

Analysis: How Boris has framed his Queen's Speech

Boris Johnson’s framing of the Queen’s Speech has two big overarching themes: How the country will bounce back from the pandemic and how he will strengthen the Union, writes Ben Riley-Smith.

A foreword from the Prime Minister is included in the 163-page briefing document that sets out many of the details sitting behind his two dozen proposed new laws. In the three-page blurb Mr Johnson acknowledges the “fearful toll” the Covid-19 pandemic has taken. Many of his flagship reforms are put in the context of rebuilding the country.

Mr Johnson writes at one point: “We will build back stronger, bringing the Union together, strengthening democracy and free speech.”

The underlying point is clear - the Prime Minister’s hopes for re-election will be significantly shaped by his success in leading the recovery from Covid and keeping the UK together.

11:16 AM

Shadow justice secretary accuses Government of 'voter suppression'

Opposition figures are up in arms about the Government's plans to introduce a new law requiring voter ID.

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy accused the Government of prioritising "voter suppression" with plans to make people show ID at elections.

He claimed the plans outlined in the Queen's speech also amounted to "reducing the powers of the courts" and "watering down judicial review and human rights".

11:09 AM

Queen's Speech: Government commits to targeted overseas aid

The Government has faced a backlash over the cut in aid spending, which is being reduced from 0.7 per cent of GDP to 0.5 per cent of GDP - seemingly without any votes in Parliament.

But the Queen told Parliament: "My Government will continue to provide aid where it has the greatest impact on reducing poverty and alleviating human suffering.

"My Government will uphold human rights and democracy across the world. It will take forward a global effort to get 40 million girls across the world into school. "

11:06 AM

Queen's Speech: Government to address 'archaic' spy laws

The Government is to strengthen Britain's "archaic" counter-espionage laws amid growing concern about the security threat from foreign spies operating in the UK.

The Queen's Speech includes a commitment to a Counter-State Threats Bill which will create a US-style register of foreign agents.

Under American law, individuals working on behalf of foreign governments, officials or political parties are required to register with the Department of Justice and file reports about their activities.

Ministers believe the scheme will help curb the activities of foreign espionage agents and other foreign interference in the UK.

This morning Labour's Lisa Nandy called for action on this topic (see below).

10:47 AM

Queen's Speech: Government to shake up sentencing and online safety

The Government will introduce measures to "increase the safety and security of its citizens", the Queen confirms.

That will involve the reintroduction of the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, to "increase sentences for the most serious and violent offenders and ensure the timely administration of justice".

Proposals will also be brought forward to address violence, including against women and girls, and to support victims, Her Majesty says.

Measures will be brought forward to establish "a fairer immigration system that strengthens the United Kingdom’s borders and deters criminals who facilitate dangerous and illegal journeys", she adds.

And the online safety bill will be introduced to ensure "internet safety for all, especially for children".

10:45 AM

Queen's Speech: Government to 'strengthen and renew democracy'

Dress-down Tuesday: The Queen delivered her speech in less formal attire
Dress-down Tuesday: The Queen delivered her speech in less formal attire

The Government will "strengthen and renew democracy and the constitution", the Queen says.

Legislation will be introduced to "ensure the integrity of elections, protect freedom of speech and restore the balance of power between the executive, legislature and the courts".

That will involve four separate pieces of legislation.

Measures will also be brought forward to strengthen devolved government in Northern Ireland and "address the legacy of the past."

10:44 AM

Queen's Speech: New laws for animal welfare and the environment

Boris Johnson, Black Rod Sarah Clarke, Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Keir Starmer, listen to the Queen's Speech - PA Pool
Boris Johnson, Black Rod Sarah Clarke, Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Keir Starmer, listen to the Queen's Speech - PA Pool

The Government will invest in new green industries to create jobs, while protecting the environment, the Queen says.

"The United Kingdom is committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and will continue to lead the way internationally by hosting the Cop26 Summit in Glasgow".

New laws will set binding environmental targets, Her Majesty adds.

In addition, a new bill will be brought forward to maintain "the highest standards of animal welfare".

10:42 AM

Queen's Speech: Government to address housing issues

The Queen says the Government will "ensure that the public finances are returned to a sustainable path once the economic recovery is secure".

Measures will be brought forward to ensure that children have the best start in life, "prioritising their early years", she adds. .

Ministers will "address lost learning during the pandemic", as well as helping "more people to own their own home whilst enhancing the rights of those who rent".

Her Majesty confirms plans for a shake-up of the planning system "so that more homes can be built" alongside ending "the practice of ground rents for new leasehold properties".

A new building safety regulator will be established "to ensure that the tragedies of the past are never repeated".

10:40 AM

Queen's Speech: Laws to improve business and infrastructure

Queen's Speech: The ceremony might be pared back, but the House of Lords is always glitzy - AFP
Queen's Speech: The ceremony might be pared back, but the House of Lords is always glitzy - AFP

The Queen says that ministers will "oversee the fastest ever increase in public funding for research and development and pass legislation to establish an advanced research agency".

She adds that "following the unprecedented support provided to businesses during the pandemic," proposals will be brought forward to create and support jobs and improve regulation.

The Government will "strengthen the economic ties across the union", investing in and improving national infrastructure.

And proposals will be taken forward to transform connectivity by rail and bus, as well as extendiong 5G mobile coverage and gigabit capable broadband.

10:38 AM

Queen's Speech: Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward

The Queen begins her speech, kicking off with the priority of post-Covid recovery through levelling up "and addressing the impact of the pandemic on public services".

Her Majesty says the Government will continue with the vaccination programme and additional funding for the NHS.

New legislation will be brought forward allowing the NHS to innovate, she says, and measures will be brought forward on obesity and mental health.

"Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward," she adds.

10:34 AM

Queen's Speech: MPs enter 'the other place' as ceremony begins

MPs walk from
MPs walk from "this place" to "the other place" - PA

The Queen has been helped to her throne by Prince Charles, and says "my Lords, pray be seated" - marking the start of the ceremony.

The crown is then placed next to Her Majesty.

There is a smattering of laughter - perhaps prompted by Covid measures - and Black Rod bangs on the door.

"Mr Speaker, the Queen commands this honourable House to attend Her Majesty in the House of Peers immediately," she says.

Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer and others then proceed from "this" place to "the other".

10:31 AM

Queens's Speech: Prince Charles to sit away from throne

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, wearing a face covering, travels to the State Opening of Parliament  - AFP
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, wearing a face covering, travels to the State Opening of Parliament - AFP

The Prince of Wales has previously sat on the consort's throne when accompanying the Queen.

But during Tuesday's Covid-secure ceremony, Charles will sit with the Duchess of Cornwall on chairs of state - placed to the side.

10:30 AM

House of Commons flag makes its debut

A new flag is flying at the main entrance to Parliament today – the flag of the House of Commons.

Designed by the UK’s National Flag Charity, the Flag Institute, this is the first time a specific flag for the House of Commons has been flown.

Featuring a gold portcullis on a green background, the flag has been raised for the first time to mark the State Opening of Parliament. It will then fly continuously between the Union flags every day.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: "I want people to feel the warmth of our hospitality from the moment they pass through Carriage Gates and into New Palace Yard.

"Flying of the House of Commons flag, next to the Union flag and other flags marking significant national events or Commonwealth national days, sends that important message of welcome."

10:23 AM

Big first day for new Lord Speaker

Lord McFall, who has succeeded Lord Fowler as Lord Speaker, is marking his first day "on duty" with the State Opening of Parliament.

10:20 AM

Introduce German-style system for social care, says senior Tory

A senior Conservative MP has called on the Government to implement a "German-style system of insurance" to fund adult social care.

Kevin Hollinrake has long called for a cross-party consensus to grapple with the situation - but so far his calls have not been heard.

"There is some cross party work on this," he told Sky News. "It is a very thorny issue and a tough one to bring forward because you will be criticised when you do."

That meant ministers must take a "blend of different approaches", he suggested. "We do need a solution, the Government has recognised that and promised to bring something forward before the end of this year."

10:13 AM

Heavy is the head that wears the Crown

The Imperial State Crown is driven from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament - AFP
The Imperial State Crown is driven from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament - AFP

The priceless Imperial State Crown has left Buckingham Palace with other regalia on its way to the Palace of Westminster.

It is made of more than 3,000 gemstones and weighs two pounds and 13 ounces, and was carried to the state opening by car.

The Queen will not wear the heavy crown - the last time she did so was in 2016.

10:11 AM

Queen's Speech in pictures: Preparing in Parliament

Yeoman warders conduct the traditional ceremonial search in the Palace of Westminster during the start of the state opening of parliament - The Times Pool
Yeoman warders conduct the traditional ceremonial search in the Palace of Westminster during the start of the state opening of parliament - The Times Pool
Yeoman warders conduct the traditional ceremonial search in the Palace of Westminster during the start of the State Opening of Parliament - The Times Pool
Yeoman warders conduct the traditional ceremonial search in the Palace of Westminster during the start of the State Opening of Parliament - The Times Pool
An official passes a cleaner in Central Lobby during the State Opening of Parliament - AFP
An official passes a cleaner in Central Lobby during the State Opening of Parliament - AFP
Central Lobby ahead of the State Opening of Parliament - AFP
Central Lobby ahead of the State Opening of Parliament - AFP

It may be a pared down ceremony, but the Queen's Speech has not lost all the usual pomp and pageantry - as these pictures show.

09:56 AM

Queen's Speech in pictures: Jacob Rees-Mogg arrives in Parliament

Jacob Rees-Mogg in Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament  - PA
Jacob Rees-Mogg in Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament - PA

Just a select few MPs and ministers will be taking part in today's ceremony - Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, is among them.

As you might expect, he appears to be wearing an Old Etonian face mask.

09:51 AM

Queen's Speech will be 'dull as last week's dish water', claims SNP MP

Today's Queen's Speech will be "dull as last week's dish water", a senior SNP MP has said.

Pete Wishart, the MP for Perth and North Perthshire, told Sky News that what he had seen so far suggested "a lack of ambition and expectation" from the Government's legislative agenda.

There is one bill that he and his colleagues are looking for - legislation to pave the way for another independence referendum - but they will have to wait for that one.

"Of course, there is absolutely nothing for Scotland," he said.

09:48 AM

Queen's Speech: Thinned out ceremony will not be reflected in content

Peers have started entering the House of Lords ahead of the Queen's Speech - but with plenty of space between each person.

In usual times, the chamber is packed full with lords, ladies and onlookers: Carrie Symonds and Stanley Johnson looked on from the gallery for the last ceremony before the pandemic.

But the thinned out event does not mean there will be less to say.

The speech, which is expected to be delivered between 11:30am and 12:30pm, will contain around 25 new bills that will be introduced in the coming year.

09:43 AM

Care home residents death rates fifth higher than average

The number of care home residents who died during the coronavirus pandemic in England and Wales was a fifth higher than the average for the previous five years, figures show.

Some 173,974 deaths of care home residents were registered in England and Wales between March 14 and April 2, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This is a rise of 19.5% compared to the average for that period recorded over the previous five years - 145,560 deaths.

Coronavirus accounted for 42,341 care home resident deaths - almost a quarter (24.3%) of the total.

The figures cover deaths of care home residents in all settings, not just in care homes.

It will make for uncomfortable reading given the delay in reform of the sector.

09:25 AM

Boris Johnson on his way in for Queen's Speech

Boris Johnson leaves Number 10 on his way to Parliament for the Queen's Speech - Bloomberg
Boris Johnson leaves Number 10 on his way to Parliament for the Queen's Speech - Bloomberg

Boris Johnson is on his way into Parliament ahead of the Queen's Speech - which this year will look quite different due to Covid restrictions and a slimmed-down guest list.

As per tradition, the speech and ceremony will take place in the House of Lords Chamber, but only 74 people will be allowed to watch from the main Lords chamber. An additional 34 MPs and peers will also be watching from the Royal Gallery.

All those attending will be required to wear a mask and produce a negative Covid test in advance of the ceremony.

There will be no horse-drawn carriages this year - the Queen will instead travel to and from Parliament in a Bentley state limousine.

09:17 AM

One to watch: Johnny Mercer likely to make waves today

It is not just Lex Greensill's appearance before MPs today that has the potential to be embarrassing for the Government (see 8:10am).

Johnny Mercer, the former veterans minister, is speaking to the defence committee this afternoon about the job he was forced out of last month.

Mr Mercer, who travelled to Northern Ireland for a veterans trial that collapsed, has made it clear he thinks the Government is not doing enough to support former soldiers, so he is likely to make waves today.

09:09 AM

Lord Mandelson hits out after Labour left urge Starmer to break ties

Mandelson:
Mandelson: "I do pray for the day when we stop receiving lectures on winning elections from the architects of our 2019 annihilation" - Bloomberg

Lord Mandelson has hit back at trade unions for suggesting Sir Keir Starmer severe ties with the "Prince of Darkness".

The architect of New Labour has been advising the current Labour leader, but as reported by yesterday's Politics Live, this has not gone down well with some on the left.

Sir Keir was sent a letter by Mick Whelan, the head of the Labour Unions group, to ask that he be put back in his box, while former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said his influence must be "curtailed".

But the peer told Playbook last night: “I neither want the union link axed nor all dissent crushed but I do pray for the day when we stop receiving lectures on winning elections from the architects of our 2019 annihilation and their Unite backers.”

08:53 AM

Weekly deaths below average for eighth week in a row

The total number of deaths registered in England and Wales was below the five-year average for the eighth consecutive week, the ONS has said.

Some 9,692 deaths were registered in the week to April 30 - 7.3 per cent below the average for the corresponding period in 2015-19. Before the eight most recent weeks, the last time deaths were below average was in the week to September 4 2020.

A total of 205 deaths registered in England and Wales mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate - the lowest number since the week ending September 18. The figure is down 21 per cent on the previous week.

08:48 AM

Boris Johnson to regain free hand on snap elections

Boris Johnson could call a snap election when he is riding high in the polls - NurPhoto
Boris Johnson could call a snap election when he is riding high in the polls - NurPhoto

It is not just voter ID that is getting Labour hot under the collar. The Queen's Speech also raises the prospect of Boris Johnson being able to call a snap election before December 2024.

The much-derided (if not hated) Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 - which was the cause of parliamentary paralysis in 2019 - will be repealed with a new bill to be confirmed by Her Majesty today.

That will free the Prime Minister to call a snap poll at any stage, allowing him to pick a day to strike when it is riding high in the polls.

08:42 AM

Have your say: Should social care be Boris Johnson's top priority?

Boris Johnson is coming under pressure to fast-track reforms to social care, nearly two years after he promised he had a plan ready to go.

The Prime Minister has insisted that the pandemic has delayed proposals, but Tories are going public with their criticism of the Government that is failing to grasp the nettle.

Damian Green said this year must see action - but is it the priority he and others argue? Or does it need to be parked until Covid recovery is dealt with.

Have your say in the poll below.

08:33 AM

Focus on voter ID instead of Russian interference 'bizarre', says Labour frontbencher

A Labour frontbencher has challenged the Government over its plans to introduce voter ID, saying the focus should be on preventing foreign interference in elections.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told Sky News: "We have got to defend our democracy robustly but I just think it's really bizarre coming from this Government that they have made it so much more difficult for people in this country to vote over recent years, but they have taken absolutely no action to defend our democracy from attacks overseas."

She noted it had been 18 months since the Russia report was published, but no recommendations had been implemented.

"In today's Queen's Speech what I will be looking for is not more action to make it more difficult for people in Britain to vote, but more action to make sure we don't allow other countries to interfere in our democracy."

08:19 AM

Why has fixing social care been so difficult?

Like taking out life insurance or paying into a pension in your 20s, social care has long been the issue that politicians know they must grapple with but don't.

Boris Johnson is only the latest in a long list of prime ministers to have kicked it into the long grass. Of course, the pandemic hasn't helped - but it would be naive to suggest this is the only reason for the delay.

Theresa May torpedoed her 2017 election campaign with the so-called dementia tax, which would have made people pay for their care if they have assets above £100,000.

But, as Ms May's long-time ally Damian Green has identified, is that someone - everyone - will have to pay. Tory sources actually concede that the 2017 proposals were not far from what is needed - but they were badly presented and the public had not been "pitch-rolled" for such a proposition.

The other problem is that for such a generation-defining concern, any government will need cross-party support. That seemed unlikely under the previous Labour leader, but Sir Keir Starmer has shown himself willing to work constructively on the bigger issues.

The only question is, after his drubbing in the polls, whether that mindset will continue.

08:05 AM

Government must use Queen's Speech for 'real action' on social care, says Lisa Nandy

The Government must use the Queen's Speech to start "real action" on social care, Labour's Lisa Nandy has said.

The shadow foreign shadow secretary told Sky News: "It was 22 months ago that the Prime Minister said he would fix social care. They have refused to speak to other political parties, they haven't brought forward any concrete changes.

"This Queen's Speech is the moment where they have to start delivering for Britain.

"They have had 11 years in Government, and what we have seen over that time in places like Wigan, where I live, we have seen money stripped out of our communities, we have seen councils put under enormous pressure, and that's had a huge knock-on implication for our older people, for issues like social care.

"We have got to see real action to fix it."

07:53 AM

Batley and Spen by-election will be tough for Labour, outgoing MP admits

Labour's newly-elected West Yorkshire Mayor has insisted the party can hold the Batley and Spen seat, after her victory triggered a by-election.

"Of course it will be tough, but I am very confident we will keep the seat. Obviously we will be fighting for every single vote.

"[2019] was very much a Brexit election... but I do feel that the people of Batley and Spen do know that a Labour MP does deliver for them."

She said she was "not sure about the fautline" after pro-Remain candidate Paul Williams lost in Hartlepool, saying there was a "great collection - a great choice" for possible names.

07:41 AM

Boris Johnson must not 'kick can down the road' on social care, says senior Tory

Boris Johnson must not "kick the can down the road any further" and deliver a plan for social care this year, a senior Tory has said.

Damian Green, who commissioned a Government green paper on social care in 2017, told Sky News: "I am frustrated that it has taken so long to get to this stage.

"I didn't expect the full details in the Queen's Speech, the Government produced a white paper on integrating health and social care a couple of months ago and said they would do it this year, which I took as a sign they were going to do it with the comprehensive spending review that we get in the autumn. There's a certain sense in that.

"I am absolutely insistent that this needs to be the year for action and decision rather than kicking the can down the road any further."

07:36 AM

A cap on social care costs is just the start of required reform, says former minister

Having a cap on care costs is one way to stop people having to sell their homes to pay for social care - but the sector requires more reforms, a senior Tory has said.

Damian Green told Sky News: "The Prime Minister was exactly correct when he said the one thing he wants to stop is people having to sell their homes.

"One of the things you have to do is to say there is some kind of cap on the costs so you won't have to sell your family home and give up all your wealth."

The former deputy prime minister added: "While it's about money, it's not just about money, we have got to do something for the workforce, we have got to give them a proper career structure.

"We have got to change the way we house elderly people, we have got build houses that they can live in for longer, we have got to use technology to be able to allow them to stay at home for longer."

07:34 AM

We are all going to have to pay more for social care, says former minister

A former Cabinet minister has said the country has to accept that everyone will need to pay more towards social care.

Damian Green, the deputy prime minister under Theresa May, told Sky News: "The root of all this is we all agree you have to spend more money on social care, we have got a slightly threadbare system now.

"Where that money comes from is why it has proved so politically difficult over the decades.

"People have to accept we are all going to have to pay more money, how you do that is the key."

07:27 AM

Government will 'deliver' on social care promises, says Matt Hancock

The social care plan has been delayed because of the pandemic, but the Government "will deliver on it," Matt Hancock has said.

The Health Secretary said: "We will deliver on this commitment, just as we will deliver on our other commitment."

But challenged over why there has been no action in the decade of Conserative rule, he said: "We got Brexit done, protected the NHS, delivering the vaccine roll out and committed to delivering a long term plan for social care.

"We deliver - this Government does deliver, that is what we do."

07:22 AM

Biggest risk to 'normality' are new variants, Matt Hancock says

People will respond well to the "more liberal" approach to social distancing and other Covid restrictions, Matt Hancock has said.

Yesterday Boris Johnson confirmed that hugging would be allowed once again - but urged common sense.

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme this morning, the Health Secretary said the roadmap "is going well" and the hope was that the country "could get back to normal" from June 21.

"Currently we are on track but the biggest risk.. are the new variants."

07:16 AM

Experts 'more confident' about vaccine effectiveness against variants, says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has said authorities have "more confidence" that vaccines work "very, very effectively" against the Kent variant and the original Covid.

That combined with the "astonishing" level of uptake is "really good protection", he adds.

The experts have "some degree of confidence" that it works against the Indian variant, but there is some concern about the South African variant, he adds.

Asked about the long-term prospect of efficacy he said it was "a reasonable assumption" that they would continue to protect people, "but it isn't certain", hence the travel traffic lights.

"A new variant could come that has complete vaccine escape - well of course, but a new disease could come as it did 18 months ago."

07:12 AM

More resources required to address 'significant injustices' in social care, says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has said more resources are needed to address the "significant injustices" in the social care system.

The Health Secretary told BBC Breakfast: "There are a number of significant injustices in the way that social care is organised right now. One is that some people - about one in 10 - have these very, very high costs.

"It is very hard to know in advance who that is. Making sure that together as a society we can help people with those costs is important."

He added: "We put more money into the system each year. We put an extra billion pounds in last year but I think, as a society, we should really look after people in their older age and it is something that we need to put more and more resources into."

07:10 AM

More Greensill lobbying papers to be published today

The Treasury select committee will be looking to understand if officials and the Chancellor responded "appropriately to the lobbying they were subjected to" amid the Greensill scandal.

Mel Stride, chair of the committee and a former Treasury minister himself, told Radio 4's Today programme: "We want to satisfy ourselves on that point."

He noted that he would publish correspondence from Rishi Sunak, David Cameron, and institutions such as the Bank of England and the FCA "about the nature and timing and content of the lobbying".

He added: "We will be able to share a lot more about the extent and nature of lobbying, and the way those different bodies reacted to it."

07:05 AM

MPs to grill Lex Greensill on lobbying scandal

MPs will today grill scandal-hit financier Lex Greensill over the collapse of his firm and the lobbying controversy that has engulfed David Cameron.

The Treasury Committee will quiz the boss on Tuesday afternoon on the demise of Greensill Capital, which jeopardised 5,000 steelmaking jobs in the UK.

Ahead of his appearance, the MPs are expected to publish correspondence received from the subjects of the inquiry after they were issued with a series of questions.

Mr Cameron, who was employed as an adviser to Greensill after leaving Government, will appear before the Commons committee on Thursday.

07:03 AM

Voter ID needed to 'make sure the country is a fairer place', says Matt Hancock

Laws to introduce voter ID, which is likely to prove a political hot potato because of the risks of disenfranchisement, are necessary "to make sure the country is a fairer place," Matt Hancock has insisted.

When it was put to him that there were only six cases in the 2019 general election, he told Sky News: "That is six cases too many."

He added: "We have a clear commitment to make sure that when people vote, we don't have fraudulent voting... It’s about fairness, it is about making sure that people do something as important as voting they are who they said they are.

"It is just one measure to make sure the country is a fairer place."

07:00 AM

Use Queen's Speech to introduce cap on care costs, Jeremy Hunt says

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he hopes a cap on care costs will be announced in the Queen's Speech.

The Government have been keeping their cards close to their chest, and it is not clear whether the long-standing crisis will be addressed at all today.

The health committee chairman told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "I'm hoping to hear that we will introduce a cap on people's care costs because around one in 10 of us will have catastrophically high care costs.

"It's an incredible worry for people. It's a lottery. You don't know, that could be you," he explained. "I think in a civilised society we should find a way of taking away that worry.

"I think there's a big misconception here that this is sort of helping people with expensive houses in the southeast pass on their inheritance."

06:59 AM

Boris Johnson's levelling up agenda is 'lots of talk but very little action'

There has been "lots of talk but very little action" about Boris Johnson's' levelling-up agenda, Labour's Lisa Nandy has said.

The shadow foreign secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's great to hear that they want people to be able to retrain, but where are the jobs that people need, the good-quality jobs, not just the jobs, but the good-quality jobs that allow people to earn decent money to look after their families, and to be able to spend in their local communities and on their high streets that sustain all of the things that we really care about.

"That's what we need to hear from the Government today.

"I hope that they come forward with a plan. So far we've had very, very little in detail about whether they have a plan or not."

06:58 AM

Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner make a great team, says Labour frontbencher

Starmer and Rayner: After the laughter, comes...  team work - Getty
Starmer and Rayner: After the laughter, comes... team work - Getty

Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner make a great double team, a Labour frontbencher has said, following a botched reshuffle that looks to have driven a wedge between the leader and his deputy.

Lisa Nandy told Radio 4's Today programme there was "a lot of good feeling" at the first shadow cabinet meeting after the election and reshuffle, which Sir Keir had tried - and failed - to eject Ms Rayner.

"There was a lot of good feeling towards him, towards Angela," the shadow foreign secretary said.

"The two of them together are a really important leadership for us in the Labour party because they come from different backgrounds, they speak to different parts of the electorate, and they care about the people of this country," she added.

06:54 AM

'Personal responsibility' to be emphasised in return to freedom

People must exercise "personal responsibility" as lockdown restrictions in England are eased next week, Matt Hancock has said.

The Health Secretary told Sky News that "personal contact" such as hugging would depend on individual circumstances, such as whether they have been vaccinated.

"We will be changing the rules to be far more about people taking personal responsibility, exercising common sense according to their circumstances," he said.

"People understand the risks - we know that - and we'll make that very, very plain and then people can exercise their own personal responsibility."

He added: "Grandparents, sometimes for the first time in over a year, will be able to be close to their grandchildren, but taking into account the individual risk of catching this disease which differs according to circumstances."

06:47 AM

Queen' Speech to scrap fixed term parliaments act

Boris Johnson will use the Queen's Speech on Tuesday to press ahead with scrapping fixed five-year terms between elections, freeing him up to call an earlier poll.

The Prime Minister will regain the initiative to spring a snap contest on Labour, raising the prospect of the next general election taking place before December 2024.

It is one of around 25 Bills that will be pledged for introduction in Parliament in the coming year, including flagship reforms to the NHS, an overhaul of the planning system and a crackdown on crime.

Mr Johnson will also use a package of legislation to give substance to his vow to "level up" the country.

Watch: Lex Greensill asked if he's 'a fraudster' in MPs' evidence session

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