The government’s policies for the upcoming year will be unveiled during the King’s Speech on Tuesday, with a pledge to put criminal justice “at the heart” of its plans.
The speech – devised by the prime minister, but delivered by King Charles – will include details of a Sentencing Bill to ensure whole life orders are handed down to the “most horrific murderers”, and that rapists spend more time in jail.
There will also be a pledge for a Criminal Justice Bill to give tougher sentences to grooming gang members, and to make murdering a partner at the end of a relationship a statutory aggravating factor at sentencing.
And there will be a promise to continue work on the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which will include stopping parole for the worst offenders and preventing them from marrying in prison.
King’s Speech live: Watch our special programme on Sky News, hosted by Sophy Ridge, from 10.30am on Tuesday. You will also be able to follow the event live via the Politics Hub on the Sky News app and website.
Speaking ahead of his first King’s Speech since taking power – and possibly the last ahead of the general election – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I want everyone across the country to have the pride and peace of mind that comes with knowing your community, where you are raising your family and taking your children to school, is safe. That is my vision of what a better Britain looks like.
“Thanks to this government, crime is down, but we must always strive to do more, taking the right long-term decisions for the country and keeping the worst offenders locked up for longer.
“In the most despicable cases, these evil criminals must never be free on our streets again. Life needs to mean life.”
But Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Shabana Mahmood, accused the government of “using the most significant event in the parliamentary calendar to simply repackage ideas they’ve announced multiple times”.
She added: “There’s no use posturing on law and order when the criminal justice system is crumbling under the government’s feet after 13 years of mismanagement.”
The speech will be the central focus of Tuesday’s state opening of parliament – an almost annual event to launch the new parliamentary session that sees pomp and pageantry at every turn – setting out the government’s policy agenda for the coming year.
In the hours before, the government confirmed a raft of legislation to feature, including:
• Sentencing Bill – giving whole life orders to the worst murders, including any that involve sexual or sadistic conduct, with only a judge able to choose not to impose the sentence in exceptional circumstances, and making those who commit rape or other serious sexual offences spend their entire sentence in jail;
• Criminal Justice Bill – creating statutory aggravating factors (which can lead to longer sentences) for members of grooming gangs or those who murder their partner, making criminals attend their sentencings or face extra time in jail, and allowing the police to enter a premises without a warrant to seize stolen goods;
• Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill – to update existing powers for the UK’s intelligence agencies to tackle “evolving threats and technological advancements” used by criminals;
• Victims and Prisoners Bill – carried over from the last parliamentary session, aiming to improve support for victims of crime, along with reform of the parole system.
Other legislation expected to feature includes:
• New minimum service levels for rail, border security staff and ambulance workers – leading to fury from unions
• Plans to introduce an annual system to award new oil and gas licences as Mr Sunak continues to overhaul net zero policies – a move angering climate campaigners
• A bill to phase out leaseholds, with all new houses in England and Wales having to be sold as freehold properties;
• Plans raise the legal age for buying cigarettes in England by one year every year to phase out smoking, announced by Mr Sunak at the Conservative Party conference;
• In a statement released on Saturday night, the government also promised to put in “the right laws… to safeguard the future prosperity of the United Kingdom, seize economic opportunities and deliver a brighter future”;
But there are questions over the future of previous pledges from the government, including plans to ban conversion therapy.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer attacked the government ahead of their announcements, saying: “The Tories can’t fix the country because they’ve already failed.
“With a legacy of stagnant growth, sky-rocketing mortgages, soaring prices and crumbling schools and hospitals, Rishi Sunak admits the country needs to change; but this government cannot deliver it.”
Sir Keir added: “Labour has a plan to give Britain its future back. Whether this tired Conservative Party can match the scale of our ambitious reform is the test for them today.”