13 min read
The Government promised to “grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families” in this year’s Queen’s Speech, but announced no new measures to tackle the crisis.
The Queen, 96, had planned to deliver today’s speech marking the state opening of parliament, but pulled out of the ceremonial occasion on Monday evening citing “episodic mobility problems”.
The responsibility of outlining Boris Johnson’s legislative programme for the forthcoming parliamentary session has instead been delegated to the Prince of Wales for the first time.
It includes 38 new bills, including seven measures related to Brexit and scrapping existing EU regulation, but did not include any specific new measures to tackle the cost of living crisis.
The Government said it “understands how the rising cost of living is making life harder for people”, and pointed to an existing support package of £22billion in 2022-23 to help families.
It added that it will “continue to keep the situation under review”, and is “ready to take further steps, if needed” to support households.
“My Government’s priority is to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families,” Charles began in his address to the House of Lords.
“My Government will ‘level up’ opportunity in all parts of the country and support more people into work.
“My Ministers will continue to support the police to make the streets safer, and fund the National Health Service to reduce the Covid backlogs.
“In these challenging times, my Government will play a leading role in defending democracy and freedom across the world, including continuing to support the people of Ukraine.”
The Prime Minister said the speech was part of a wider programme to get the country “back on track” after the pandemic, adding the government is “focused like a laser” on the issues that matter most to the public.
As well as helping to boost the economy, the agenda includes a hardened line on “guerrilla protests” with jail sentences of up to six months and unlimited fines for those who glue themselves to roads or “lock on” to public transport infrastructure.
The home secretary Priti Patel said the measures were necessary to prevent environmental protest groups like Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion from demonstrations that she believed could bring the country to “a grinding halt”.
The government has tried to bring in legislation on this subject before but has been blocked by the House of Lords, however officials said the new bill could be introduced in Parliament as early as Wednesday.
The government’s plan for the economy “will be underpinned by a responsible approach to the public finances, reducing debt while reforming and cutting taxes”, as well supporting the Bank of England to return inflation to its target.
Here are all 38 pieces of draft legislation announced in today’s Queen’s speech:
Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
The government says it will “drive local growth, empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas, and ensuring everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success”.
It will see the planning system reformed to give residents more involvement in local development and make sure they “are beautiful, green and accompanied by new infrastructure and affordable housing”.
This aims to strengthen the regulatory framework for academy trusts, support more schools to become academies, enable better support for “the children and families who need it most across England”, as well as reform funding so that each mainstream school will be allocated cash on the same basis, wherever it is in the country. Every child will be given the same opportunities, based on a consistent assessment of their needs.
It will also tackle truancy by establishing ‘children not in school’ registers, as well as creating a duty on local authorities to provide support to home educating families. It aims to improve safeguarding by expanding registration requirements for independent educational institutions.
The legislation will “modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers” with the creation of the body Great British Railways.
The government also wants to keep the UK “at the forefront of transport innovation”, and will include new laws that safely enable self-driving and remotely operated vehicles, as well as support the roll-out of electric vehicle charge points.
Energy Security Bill
This aims to “deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy” and build on the success of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year by delivering the commitments in the British Energy Security Strategy and the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.
It will help the UK maintain a safe and secure energy supply and help to protect consumers against global price fluctuations, supporting a low-carbon energy system and reducing our dependence on gas over the long term.
Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill
The purpose of the digital markets, competition and consumer bill is to “protect consumers’ hard-earned cash from scams and rip-offs and boost consumers’ rights”, as well as reform the UK’s competition regime and prevent fake reviews.
UK Infrastructure Bank Bill
This will establish the UK Infrastructure Bank in legislation, with “clear objectives to support regional and local economic growth and deliver net zero, and ensure it has the full range of spending and lending powers”.
Non-Domestic Rating Bill
This aims to deliver on the Conservative manifesto commitment “to review and create a fairer, more accurate business rates system”.
It will modernise the existing system with more frequent revaluations based on more accurate data, and incentivise business ratepayers to invest in their properties and decarbonise with new reliefs backed by the Government.
This aims to reform decades-old laws to boost our public service broadcasters and enable a change of ownership of Channel 4 to “give it the tools it needs to succeed in the future”.
It will also protect viewers using video-on-demand services through a new ‘Video-on-Demand Code’, to be drafted and enforced by Ofcom, as well as repealing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which if enacted would have forced new publishers to pay the costs of any court judgement if they were not a member of the approved regulator, regardless of the outcome of the court judgement.
Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill
The bill aims to “improve cyber resilience and digital connectivity for individuals and businesses across the UK”, ensure smart consumer tech products are more secure against cyber-attacks, and accelerate and improve the roll out of mobile and broadband networks.
Electronic Trade Documents Bill
This will put electronic trade documents on the same legal footing as paper documents, thereby “removing the need for wasteful paperwork and needless bureaucracy”.
High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill
This bill provides the powers to build and operate the next stage of the High Speed Two (HS2) rail network between Crewe and Manchester.
Draft Audit Reform Bill
This bill aims to “rebuild trust in the UK’s audit, corporate reporting and corporate governance system and the insolvency regulatory framework” by ensuring more accountability and by increasing resilience and choice in the statutory audit market.
Brexit Freedoms Bill
This aims to help the government to “seize the opportunities of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union” by repealing and reforming regulations on businesses.
The bill will modernise the UK’s approach to making regulations and create a regulatory environment that “encourages prosperity, innovation, entrepreneurship and the cutting of £1 billion of burdensome EU red tape for businesses”.
This bill aims to reform the UK’s public procurement regime to create a simpler and more transparent system that better meets the country’s needs, “rather than being based on transposed EU directives”.
Financial Services and Markets Bill
This legislation will “strengthen the United Kingdom’s financial services industry, ensuring that it continues to act in the interest of all people and communities”.
Its purpose is to promote a competitive marketplace and “seize the benefits of Brexit” by cutting red tape in the financial sector while making sure that high standards are maintained.
Data Reform Bill
Another Brexit-related bill aims to “create a world class data rights regime that will allow us to create a new pro-growth and trusted UK data protection framework that reduces burdens on businesses, boosts the economy, helps scientists to innovate and improves the lives of people in the UK”.
The legislation will modernise the Information Commissioner’s Office and require it to be more accountable to Parliament and the public, as well as increase industry participation in Smart Data Schemes.
Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill
Legislation will be introduced to enable the implementation of the UK’s first new Free Trade Agreements since leaving the European Union with both Australia and New Zealand when they come into force by making the necessary changes to domestic procurement regulations.
Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill
This aims to “unlock the potential of new technologies to promote sustainable and efficient farming and food production” by removing barriers inherited from the EU to enable the development and marketing of precision bred plants and animals.
Higher Education Bill
The bill will enable the introduction of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement, which will provide individuals with the equivalent to four years of post-18 education (£37,000 in today’s fees) that they can use over their lifetime for a wider range of studies, including shorter and technical courses.
It also aims to tackle “uncontrolled growth of low-quality courses” by setting the number of students entering higher education at specific providers in England, as well as setting minimum qualification requirements to get student finance support to enter higher education, subject to the conclusion of the higher education reform consultation.
Social Housing Regulation Bill
The legislation aims to “improve the regulation of social housing to strengthen the rights of tenants and ensure better quality, safer homes” by increasing tenants’ rights and addressing concerns the Grenfell Tower tragedy raised.
The bill will give the Regulator of Social Housing stronger powers to issue fines, intervene in mismanagement, and force landlords to complete emergency repairs, as well as provide greater transparency for tenants on how their landlord is performing.
Renters Reform Bill
This will fulfil the manifesto commitment to abolish so-called ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions and strengthen landlords’ rights of possession, as well as giving local councils effective tools to crack down on noncompliant landlords and poor practice.
Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill
Following the P&O scandal, this bill will protect seafarers working aboard vessels visiting UK ports by “ensuring the ports have powers ultimately to refuse access to ferry services that do not pay an equivalent to the National Minimum Wage to seafarers while in UK waters”.
Social Security (Special Rules for End of Life) Bill
This will allow more people nearing the end of their life to get fast-tracked access to three key disability benefits, without needing a face-to-face assessment or waiting period.
Public Order Bill
In response to recent protests by environmental groups this legislation will prevent the use of “guerrilla tactics that cause misery to the hard-working public, disrupt businesses, interfere with emergency services, cost millions in taxpayers’ money and put lives at risk”.
It will introduce new criminal offences of locking-on and going equipped to lock-on, making it illegal to obstruct major transport works. It will create a new criminal offence for interfering with key national infrastructure, extend stop and search powers for police to search for and seize articles related to protest-related offences, and introduce Serious Disruption Prevention Orders, a new preventative court order targeting protestors who are determined to repeatedly inflict disruption on the public.
National Security Bill
The purpose of the bill is to “further protect our national security” by undertaking the “biggest overhaul of state threats legislation for a generation”, and will prevent the “exploitation of our civil legal aid and civil damage payments by convicted terrorists”.
Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill
This aims to “further strengthen powers to tackle illicit finance, reduce economic crime and help businesses grow” with a “crack down on the kleptocrats, criminals and terrorists who abuse our open economy, ensuring we drive out dirty money from the UK”.
Modern Slavery Bill
This will strengthen the “protection and support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery” through increased transparency from businesses and public bodies, enshrining in domestic law the government’s international obligations, and ensuring law enforcement agencies have stronger tools to prevent modern slavery occurring and bring perpetrators to justice.
Online Safety Bill
This will deliver the manifesto commitment to “make the UK the safest place in the world to be online” by improving protections whilst also protecting freedom of expression.
It will require large social media platforms and search engines to prevent the hosting or publication of fraudulent paid-for advertising, as well as tackling the most serious illegal content, including child sexual exploitation and abuse and criminalising cyberflashing.
Draft Victims Bill
This aims to put “victims at the heart of the criminal justice system” and restore public confidence that their voices will be properly heard and that perpetrators will be brought to justice.
Draft Protect Duty Bill
This aims to introduce new security requirements for certain public locations and venues to ensure preparedness for, and protection from, terrorist attacks.
Draft Mental Health Act Reform Bill
The purpose is to ensure patients suffering from mental health conditions have greater control over their treatment, and to make it easier for people with learning disabilities and autism to be discharged from hospital. It will help address the existing disparities in the use of the act for people from ethnic minority backgrounds – especially for detentions and for the use of Community Treatment Orders.
Bill of Rights
This legislation aims to “ensure our human rights framework meets the needs of the society it serves”, end the abuse of the human rights framework and defend freedom of speech by promoting greater confidence in society to express views freely, thereby enhancing public debate.
Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill
Another bill based on a manifesto commitment this aims to address the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past by reforming the current system for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles and “moving away from a focus on criminal justice outcomes”.
Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill
The purpose of the bill is to deliver a “carefully balanced package of identity and language measures as negotiated by the Northern Ireland parties under the New Decade, New Approach Deal”.
A sensitive subject which has derailed the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive previously, the legislation will “recognise and celebrate Northern Ireland’s national and cultural identities and accommodate cultural differences”, as well recognise and protect the Irish language.
Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill
The bill will ban live exports, tackle puppy smuggling and ban the keeping of primates as pets without a licence.
It will also improve the lives of farm animals, pets and kept wild animals by ending unnecessary journeys for slaughter and fattening and addressing the serious issue of dog attacks on livestock, and create a specific new offence for pet abduction.
Conversion Therapy Bill
The government is once again pledging to ban conversion therapy after repeated promises to do so that have been derailed, most recently in a row over trans conversion last month.
Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill
This aims to strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities by ensuring that “for the first time, students’ unions will have to take steps to secure lawful freedom of speech for their members and others, including visiting speakers”, as well as ensuring academic staff feel safe to question and test received wisdom and put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without risking their careers.
Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Bill
This legislation will prevent public bodies “engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion”, and stop them adopting their own approach to international relations with public money.
The government said ‘there are concerns that such boycotts may legitimise and drive antisemitism as these types of campaigns overwhelmingly target Israel”.
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