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Queen's Speech: Employment Bill that gave staff 'default' right to work from home is dropped

Boris Johnson has pledged to tackle passport and driving license delays that have been blamed in part on a post-Covid work-from-home culture in the civil service.  (File image)

The death knell for working from home: the new law allowing staff to work remotely by default is abolished

  • Long-awaited Jobs Bill among measures missing from Queen’s Speech
  • Furious unions accused government of ‘turning its back on workers’
  • Boris Johnson has said his government will not tolerate a ‘manana’ working culture

Plans to give staff a ‘default’ right to work from home have been scrapped over fears it may become impossible to get them back to their desks.

The long-awaited Jobs Bill was among the measures missing from the Queen’s Speech yesterday, while others have been toned down as controversial legislation was scrapped ahead of the next election.

Boris Johnson has pledged to tackle passport and driving license delays that have been blamed in part on a post-Covid work-from-home culture in the civil service.

Unions reacted furiously to the decision to scrap the Jobs Bill, with TUC leader Frances O’Grady accusing the government of “turning its back on workers”.

But Mr Johnson said it was intolerable that families could not go on holiday due to passport processing delays and that lorry drivers could not have their licenses renewed.

“Let me send a very clear message,” the Prime Minister said. “This government will not tolerate a post-Covid culture of manana.”

Boris Johnson has pledged to tackle passport and driving license delays that have been blamed in part on a post-Covid work-from-home culture in the civil service.  (File image)

Boris Johnson has pledged to tackle passport and driving license delays that have been blamed in part on a post-Covid work-from-home culture in the civil service. (File image)

Mr Johnson (pictured) said his government would not tolerate a crop

Mr Johnson (pictured) said his government would not tolerate a ‘manana’ culture

He said the government’s top priorities were growing the economy, making the streets safer and clearing the NHS backlog.

Planning reforms have been watered down, with proposals for tough housing construction targets replaced by measures designed to incentivize communities to accept more new housing, with ‘street-by-street’ voting on future developments.

A ban on gay conversion therapy will now apply primarily to those under 18 and will not cover transgender issues.

And a planned ban on the sale of animal fur and foie gras was scrapped altogether after ministers said it was ‘fundamentally unconservative’.

The removal of previously promised measures follows a warning from the Prime Minister’s deputy chief of staff, David Canzini, that it was time to ‘get the barnacles out of the boat’ before the next election and focus on the concerns of voters.

Mr Canzini advised ministers to also focus on ‘corner issues’ where there were clear dividing lines with Labour, such as plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda and proposals to give the police the power to deal with environmental protesters.

But the legislative program has faced widespread criticism for failing to tackle the cost of living issue and top Tories have responded with calls for tax cuts this summer.

In other developments:

  • Government sources have suggested the Prime Minister could take unilateral action to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol within days.
  • Keir Starmer has been mocked by the Prime Minister and Tory MPs over his ‘Beergate’ misfortunes.
  • Plans have been unveiled for a bill of rights to protect free speech and facilitate the deportation of foreign criminals.
  • Mr Johnson said ministers would show ‘compassion’ to those struggling with rising bills but could not stamp out soaring inflation.
  • The energy price cap has been extended beyond 2023.
  • Ministers followed up with a controversial ‘amnesty’ on disorder prosecutions.
  • Prince Charles replaced the Queen as mobility issues forced her to miss the official opening of parliament.
  • A national security bill will create a list of foreign spies.
  • New ‘leveling up’ legislation will pave the way for devolution in England.
  • A new offense of pet theft will carry a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
  • Ferry companies will be forced to pay minimum wage to staff working in UK waters.
  • Mr Johnson has prepared to travel to Sweden and Finland today to strike a defense pact.

The Prime Minister said the Queen’s Speech, which contained 38 bills, would put Britain back on track after the pandemic.

He pledged to “finish the job of unlocking the benefits of Brexit” with measures to boost investment in infrastructure and allow the development of genetically modified crops. The Jobs Bill would have enacted a Conservative manifesto pledging to introduce flexible working rights.

He also reportedly kept his promise to make sure the reception staff received all his tips. A government source said ministers could still back MPs’ legislation on tipping this year but the right to work from home was “on the back burner”.

A second source said ministers were “rethinking” the issue in the wake of the pandemic, which has left the government struggling to get thousands of civil servants back into office.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, sits by the Imperial State Crown in the House of Lords during the historic opening of Parliament today

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, sits near the Imperial State Crown in the House of Lords during the official opening of Parliament on Tuesday

The flexible working pledge was made in the 2019 Conservative manifesto when it was a fringe issue. It would have provided for a default right to work from home unless employers can show “good reason” otherwise.

“The pandemic has changed the way many people work and we need to think again about whether giving people this kind of right in law is still the right approach,” a source said.

Separately, ministers have watered down the Conversion Therapy Bill over fears it will intrude on religious views.

They had already dropped plans to ban trans conversion therapy following warnings that they could criminalize conversations parents and teachers have with children about sexuality. A source said adults who consent to undergo therapy would be allowed to continue it, provided it does not cause them “serious harm”.

This means that the bill will now apply mainly to cases involving under-18s.

Reacting to the plans, former LGBT government adviser Jayne Ozanne said it was a ‘total disgrace’ for trans people to be ‘deliberately omitted’ from the ban and that it created a ‘consent loophole’ “.

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