The Queen’s speech

This ask for evidence story was written by Prateek Buch, policy director of Evidence Matters.

After the Queen set out the government’s programme for the new session of Parliament, we had some questions about proposals to prevent illegal immigrants from working, ban legal highs, and get unemployed young people into work – so we decided to ask for evidence.

Chelsea,  a member of the VoYS network, asked the Home Office for evidence that measures in the immigration bill would reduce net migration to below 100,000 per year, and whether introducing a new criminal offence of ‘illegal working’ and seizing workers’ wages will act as a deterrent to people working illegally.

It looks like the Home Office will be one of the busiest departments, with at least five pieces of legislation included in the Queen’s speech.* I asked the Home Secretary for evidence that a blanket ban on new psychoactive substances – so-called “legal highs” – will reduce the harm caused by these drugs.

I also noted that unemployed young people will be required to do community service from day one of claiming for benefits, even though the Departments for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) own evaluation of a small pilot scheme showed that a similar programme didn’t help participants find work. Also, the Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will provide more help for people with multiple social problems through their Troubled Families programme, which the previous government declared a huge success that saved taxpayers £1.2bn – something economists involved in evaluating the programme say is far too early to conclude. Expanding both of these programmes doesn’t appear to be well-supported by evidence.

Ministers may have sound evidence to back these measures, but it isn’t easy to find, so I’ve asked them to set out their reasoning. At the election, all the major party manifestos contained misleading promises to cut crime, and we’ll only know if voters are having the wool pulled over our eyes on immigration, drugs policy, welfare and other areas if you ask for evidence.


* According to the Queen’s speech, The Home Office will propose legislation on immigration, extremism, investigatory powers for the security forces, a policing and criminal justice bill and psychoactive substances.

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