Queen’s Speech: Government Targets Skills, Advanced Research, Online Safety

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Evil parliament (c) pisaphotography, Shutterstock 2014

Government unveils ambitious raft of changes including a lifetime skills guarantee, an advanced research agency, online safety, and many more

The British government has on Tuesday set out its legislative agenda for the new parliamentary session, after her majesty the Queen outlined proposed government bills going forward.

The Queen’s speech outlining her government’s priorities, includes the creation of an advanced British research agency, a focus on online safety, as well as a focus on education and training for older teenagers and adults to “revolutionise” the adult education and training system.

The last Queen’s speech took place in December 2019 soon after Boris Johnson and the Conservatives swept aside Labour in the 2019 general election. The previous speech had a heavy focus on Brexit, as the UK was preparing to leave the EU in a few weeks’ time.

Skills, education

Now that has happened, the government has set forward an ambitious plan to gear up the United Kingdom in a post Brexit and post Coronavirus world.

One of the government bills in the year ahead will concern education and training for older teenagers and adults.

The government is essentially seeking to deliver a ‘lifetime skills guarantee’, and legislation will focus on changing the student loan system to give every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college.

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will also be given greater powers to intervene in colleges seen as failing to meet local needs.

The government has also said it will commit to address “lost learning” during the pandemic, when many of the UK’s children had to be ‘home schooled’ via remote learning programs.

The government also announced the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill, with the government is promising the “fastest ever increase” in public spending for research and development.

An advanced research agency will be established if the bill is voted through, and it will focus on plans to create and support jobs, as well as improve regulation.

Strategic interventions

And the government signaled that it could intervene further to safeguard its strategy assets.

It should be remembered that the British government (and Bharti) last year invested in UK satellite internet firm OneWeb, saving it from bankruptcy.

Last month the government also intervened in the sale of British chip designer ARM Holdings to American GPU giant Nvidia on national security grounds.

Going forward, domestic UK subsidy controls will be introduced under the ‘Subsidy Control Bill’ to reflect the UK’s ‘strategic interests’ and to drive economic growth.

A Procurement Bill will be introduced to ‘simplify procurement in the public sector’ by streamlining the more than 350 EU-derived regulations, the government said.

The government also announced that an additional £880 million of dormant assets will be released for social and environmental initiatives under the Dormant Assets Bill.

Online safety

Another tech worthy government plan is a draft Online Safety Bill, that is expected to be introduced to make the internet safer, especially for children, while protecting freedom of expression.

And the UK government is also serious about beefing up its cyber defences, with a Counter-State Threats Bill to be introduced to give the security services and law enforcement agencies the tools to tackle hostile activity by foreign states.

A Telecommunications (Security) Bill meanwhile will ensure the ‘long-term security and resilience’ of the UK’s telecoms networks and minimise the threat of ‘high-risk vendors.’

It will also seek to extend 5G mobile coverage and gigabit capable broadband.

Another noteworthy element in the speech was the government plan to tackle voting fraud, with the Electoral Integrity Bill.

This will require require identification to vote in a polling station and would remove the 15 year limit on the voting rights of British expats.

At the moment, people only have to walk into a polling station and give their name and address to vote.

Labour criticised the move, but it comes after some university students publicly boasted they were voting twice in the 2017 general election for the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbin, using their home and university addresses.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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