Crime, health and local authorities top agenda in Queen’s Speech

Reform of the criminal justice system, the health service, and
local government were outlined today as the government’s top
priorities for the next 12 months, writes Lauren

Making her annual statement to the House of Commons earlier
today (Wednesday), the Queen said bills would be published
throughout the following year to tackle anti-social behaviour,
delayed discharges, sexual offences, sentencing of offenders,
foundation hospitals, a new health and social care inspection body,
and new freedoms for local authorities.

She also committed the government to a bill on reforming health
services in Wales, and a draft bill on housing.

However, there was no mention of a mental health bill to follow
up the widely-criticised draft mental health bill published earlier
this year.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Bill, trailed as the centrepiece of
the government’s plans for 2002-3, will see the introduction
of new measures to tackle anti-social behaviour by young people and
to evict anti-social tenants, the extension of fixed penalties, and
an improved implementation of anti-social behaviour orders.

Meanwhile, the Sexual Offences Bill will provide better
protection for the most vulnerable, introduce new measures to deal
with paedophilia on the internet, and broaden the offences that
trigger registration on the sex offenders register.

Both the Sexual Offences Bill and the Criminal Justice Bill are
intended to rebalance the system in favour of victims, witnesses
and communities. The Criminal Justice Bill will also lead to a
reform of the sentencing framework, including the introduction of
new community sentences, new custodial sentences with periods of
supervision in the community, and provisions to address
drug-related and youth offending.

The much-criticised plans to fine local authorities where the
discharge of patients from hospital is delayed because the
appropriate social services are not in place, will be brought
forward by the Community Care (Delayed Discharges) Bill, intended
to provide older people with seamless care.

The bill is supposed to provide local authorities with a
“financial incentive” to assess individuals in hospital and make
provision in the community as quickly as possible, freeing up
hospital beds on the way. The bill will also see the removal of
local authorities’ powers to charge for certain community
equipment services and intermediate care.

The Health and Social Care Bill is being heralded as the next
step in NHS reform, making way for the creation of foundation
hospitals free from Whitehall control. It will also lead to the
establishment of the new Commissions for Social Care Inspection and
for Healthcare Audit and Inspection.

Foundation status will initially only be available to the
highest-performing NHS trusts. Equally, the new freedoms due to be
outlined in the Local Government Bill – including the cutting
of red tape and introduction of greater financial freedoms –
will only be available to top-performing councils.

Finally, the Queen committed the government to creating “a
welfare state based on giving people rights and responsibilities”,
promising that plans to focus on the importance of work as part of
the social security system would be developed, as well as new
proposals to tackle truancy.

To read a full text of the Queen’s Speech
click here


Anti-Social Behaviour Bill

Community Care (Delayed Discharges) Bill

Criminal Justice Bill

Health and Social Care Bill

Local Government Bill

Sexual Offences Bill

Draft Housing Bill

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