Rishi Sunak places tackling crime at the heart of Government agenda
Yesterday King Charles detailed the Government’s priorities as he led his first state opening of Parliament as monarch, with policies across the criminal justice system setting the battle-ground with Labour at the next election.
The package of some 21 potential bills to be put before Parliament saw 6 covering reforms to law and order.
These included blocking some of the worst offenders from marrying while in prison and forcing criminals to attend sentencing hearings.
Both the Conservatives and Labour have been jostling for supremacy over who is best placed to tackle crime when in government in recent months, with the Prime Minister keen to set himself apart from previous administrations that had been brought low by scandal and infighting.
Other bills included reforms to railways, football governance, vaping and automated vehicles.
Updating the country on his often-cited five priorities, Mr Sunak said: “We have turned the corner over the last year and put the country on a better path.”
The Prime Minister insisted that there were “clear” results, despite dubious progress made on growing the economy, stopping the boats and cutting NHS waiting lists, covering more than half the priorities he asked the nation to measure him by.
“But these immediate priorities are not the limit of our ambition,” he added.
“They are just the foundations of our plan to build a better future for our children and grandchildren, and deliver the change the country needs.”
Despite having a more stable grasp on party and cabinet discipline than his predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, Mr Sunak has seen tensions rise within his party over the direction of his Home Secretary, Suella Braverman.
Over the weekend Ms Braverman attracted derision from charities and fellow MPs over her proposals to restrict the use of tents by homeless people after she described it as a “lifestyle choice”.
The proposal was notably absent from the King’s Speech, but reports have suggested that the Home Secretary is still pressing for the policy to be included as part of a range of measures to tackle begging in the Government’s new Criminal Justice Bill.
Ms Braverman, who is on the right of the Conservative Party, is seen as one of the main contenders for the leadership if Mr Sunak were to lose the next election.
Mr Sunak’s party currently trails Labour by around 20 points in opinion polls, with an election expected as late as January 2025.
Last month’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester was unable to significantly improve the party’s standing among the public with policies overshadowed by a calamitous announcement that the northern legs of the HS2 rail link would be scrapped.
However, his proposal to phase in a complete ban on smoking has proved one of the more policies announced at the conference.
It comes as possession of nitrous oxide, known as “laughing gas” is illegal from today, with dealers facing as much as 14 years in prison.
Crime and Policing Minister Chris Philp said: “Today we are sending a clear signal to people, especially young people, that not only is abuse of nitrous oxide dangerous to their health, but it is also illegal and those caught possessing it will face consequences.
“For too long the use of this drug in public spaces has contributed to anti-social behaviour which is a blight on communities. We will not accept it. This law gives the police the powers they need to take a zero-tolerance approach to this crime.”