MPs return to the Commons today (Monday) following the Conservative’s seismic election victory with a number of the country’s key institutions in the new government’s firing line for reform or facing the scrap altogether.
While Boris Johnson will welcome 109 new Tory MPs, the prime minister is set to make the most of his 80 strong majority with a big shake-up of the civil service, BBC and several government departments expected.
Johnson’s special advisor and chief architect of the election win, Dominic Cummings is a longstanding critic of the civil service, the national broadcaster and many government departments, regarding them as bloated, wasteful or biased institutions requiring significant change.
PM targets ‘BBC bias’ and set to scrap ‘one of Britain’s prime assets’
The funding of the BBC became a late election issue and reports over the weekend suggest the government is considering decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee which could cost the broadcaster £200 million per year. The government also announced they will boycott Radio 4’s flagship Today programme over “anti-Tory bias”, while Labour has also accused the BBC of “playing a part” in their election defeat with biased coverage damaging their campaign.
Among the early and controversial targets will be the Department for International Development (DfID) – described as “one of Britain’s prime assets” yet set to be scrapped with its responsibilities taken over by the Foreign Office.
The Brexit Department shares a similar fate and will be disbanded with the top staff and talent moving to the Cabinet Office which is expected to take the lead in negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, under the stewardship of Michael Gove.
MoD faces major review
The Guardian reports Cummings is particularly concerned about the Ministry of Defence and is seeking a major review of its spending and strategy to halt the “squander of billions of pounds” following a decision to spend £6.2 billion on two new aircraft carriers.
Further shake-ups across government and the civil service will see the Business Department lose responsibility for climate change policy whilst assuming accountability for International Trade; while the Home Office will lose its borders and immigration roles to a separate department.
Cummings is also keen to introduce experts and staff from outside the ranks of the civil service, a change seen as shift towards a more US-style of government.
Johnson has a reported £78 billion to spend on infrastructure projects which will include major upgrades to road and rail in the north and midlands.
New government, new Queen’s Speech, same Brexit WAB
The monarch will return to Parliament on Thursday to deliver a new Queen’s Speech which will include all the legislation announced in her last speech, plus, what the Telegraph describes as a “symbolic pledge to make the extra NHS spending legally binding”.
Critics say the extra money for the NHS will only help “stop the rot” and that far wider policies to address the fundamental problems with social care and the funding of local government services – drastically cut during the Tory decade of austerity – is urgently needed.
Far more controversial will be the inclusion of plans to introduce a new law that will make rail companies deliver a minimum service during strikes for commuters.
There are also plans to offer renters better protection with a new law to ban no-fault evictions for private tenants being considered.
The day after the Queen’s Speech, will see the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) – – depending on the acquiescence of the new Speaker and the other parties which means it could be early next week. Whatever day it is, the bill’s progress through parliament not be completed before Christmas, but passing the second reading will be a huge step towards the UK’s departure from the EU by January 31.