The State Opening of Parliament is always a momentous occasion and one which is a privilege to witness up close. It is an honour to be able to see the doors of the House of Commons slammed shut on Black Rod, symbolising the independence of the elected chamber.
This year marked King Charles III delivering the Gracious Speech as monarch for the first time, the contents of which are written entirely by the government of the day.
Key legislation includes the Sentencing Bill, which will ensure rapists and other serious sexual offenders are kept behind bars for the whole of their custodial terms and make Whole Life Orders available for murderers who kill with sexual or sadistic conduct: life must really mean life.
The Bill builds on measures introduced in recent years to see that the law responds more effectively in cases of murder and manslaughter.
This includes Harper’s Law, which imposes a mandatory life sentence where the victim of manslaughter is an emergency worker, and the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Act which added the pre-meditated murder of a child to the range of circumstances which enable a Whole Life Order as a starting sentence.
Through the Criminal Justice Bill the police will be provided with the tools they need to prevent offences including digital-enabled crime, child sexual abuse and child grooming.
Additional safeguarding protections will be brought in for our children alongside new measures against those who would harm them. The police will have more powers to seize and destroy knives and criminals may face reasonable force if they refuse to appear in the dock.
The Victims & Prisoners Bill will go to enhance the confidence of victims of crime that the criminal justice system will work for them as it is supposed to, with ministers being able to block parole of the worst offenders as well as preventing those on Whole Life Orders from getting married in prison.
One issue which many of us in Crawley have been calling for is a ban on live animal exports; I therefore welcome confirmation of the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill.
This will deliver a manifesto commitment to use our new Brexit freedoms to end live exports of animals for slaughter and fattening, providing a further boost to animal welfare standards.
Since Britain’s departure from the European Union there have been no live animal exports: this Bill goes to ensure that this position now becomes permanent, enshrining the ban in law.
Following the State Opening of Parliament, there are five days of House of Commons debate on the King’s Speech, where I have asked the Speaker to call on me to contribute to ensure Crawley’s voice is heard.
Henry Smith MP