THIS year alone, it became illegal to protest noisily in the UK, Boris Johnson cemented the Government’s authority over the supposedly independent body for regulating elections and plans to send refugees to Rwanda were finalised.
Despite being held up by the coronavirus pandemic – and partying – for much of this session, the Prime Minister has been able to reshape British society in substantial ways this session.
Parliament has now been prorogued, meaning the session which began on May 11, 2021 has now ended.
While the Government will now be looking forward to the Bills it hopes to introduce in the Queen’s Speech on May 10, we’re taking a look at what the Government has done since this time last year.
Universal Credit cut
The UK Government took the extraordinary measure to increase Universal Credit in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and even retained the policy up to the end of September 2021.
But despite widespread calls to keep the £20 per week boost, which lifted an estimated 400,000 children out of poverty, the policy expired and plunged hundreds of thousands of people back below the breadline.
Nationality and Borders Act
Giving the Government the powers to strip Britons of their UK citizens without warning and the ability to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, the Nationality and Borders Act may be in the running for the most hated piece of legislation this session.
It has been criticised as racist and unlawful under global commitments to the rights of refugees and authoritarian.
Legal experts predict the act will be met with a number of legal challenges and one is already being prepared.
It also gives the Government the ability to turn back dinghies carrying refugees – including women and children – back across the Channel and makes it easier for immigrants to be deported from Britain if they are deemed to be here illegally.
Identification will now be required to cast a ballot in UK General Elections in a historic move that has been widely described as an attack on democracy by putting up barriers to voting.
But other parts of the law undermine democracy in more insidious ways, such as provisions to give the Government a say in the running and priorities of the Electoral Commission – a formerly independent elections watchdog – which critics say would effectively allow the Tories to dodge scrutiny over campaign spending and strategy.
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act
If you’ve spotted stickers decrying “Kill The Bill” on lamp posts and electricity boxes in recent months, it is to this piece of legislation they refer.
Introduced in response to recent highly disruptive protests by Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, the Act gives sweeping public order powers to crack down on peaceful protest.
Protesters shine torches in the face of police officers at a vigil for Sarah Everard who was murdered by Met cop Wayne Couzens
Perhaps most notoriously, it includes a provision to criminalise “noisy” protests that people find annoying. Campaigners and politicians say it seriously undermines one of the most fundamental democratic rights.
In response to the toppling of the statue of slaver Edward Colston in Bristol, the bill also provides for the criminal prosecution of those found to have damaged statues.
It also makes trespass a criminal offence, which Gypsy/Traveller campaigners say runs the risk of criminalising their centuries-old way of life.
Shared Prosperity Fund
The Shared Prosperity Fund replaces European Union cash but has been criticised for falling far short of the amount of money delivered pre-Brexit. Scotland will lose out on at least £151 million, the Scottish Government has said, adding the country was initially promised £183m.
The cash comes from Michael Gove’s Levelling Up department and is linked to other budgets which cut across the devolution settlement by allowing the UK Government to give money directly to Scottish councils, which should go through Scottish ministers firstly.