Earlier this week, in a rare moment, Prince Charles read the Queen’s Speech, which highlights the bills that the Government will be prioritising in the next 12 months in Parliament. This is one of the last real opportunities the government has to make an impact before the 2024 general election – and all eyes will be on what they manage to get through an increasingly rebellious House of Commons.
We’ve applied our Say-Do lens and pulled out those pieces of legislation most likely to impact how our clients do business.
Say: My Government’s priority is to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families.
- Energy Security Bill which will allow the energy price cap to be extended beyond next year and will focus on moving the UK away from a reliance on Russian energy and towards a cleaner energy supply including the first ever large-scale hydrogen heating trial
- Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill which is aimed at stimulating business in the UK, strengthening consumer rights and protecting business will also help to crack down on fake online reviews and prevent the hacking of smart TVs
- UK Infrastructure Bank Bill will help support the delivery of net-zero whilst stimulating the economy
- Financial Services and Markets Bill aims at cutting red tape in the Financial Services industry and unlocking the potential for more high-paying jobs in the UK
The Mirror claims this is where the government fails on the ‘do’ as apart from measures to support energy security there are no other immediate measures planned to tackle the cost of living. Many have also commented on the optics of Prince Charles discussing the cost of living from a gold throne.
Say: My Government will level up opportunity in all parts of the country and support more people into work.
- Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill which will devolve powers around planning and change how developers fund local infrastructure and to help drive growth across the UK as a whole.
- Social Housing Regulation Bill will introduce legislation to improve the regulation of social housing to strengthen the rights of tenants and ensure better quality, safer homes and will help tackle rogue landlords
- Seafarers Renumeration Bill has been added following on from the P&O Ferries scandal will allow UK ports to block ships that fail to pay seafarers the minimum wage
- Schools Bill will help to find “ghost children” who slipped through the cracks during the pandemic, will look at how schools are being funded, increase the school week to 32.5 hours and give Ofsted more power to clamp down on illegal schools
There is very little in the overview about how these measures will support more people into work. The measures will undoubtedly help close some loopholes and will help improve the quality of housing in the UK.
Say: Freedom to set our own direction post-Brexit
Do: The key pledge of the last General Election for the Conservatives was to “Get Brexit Done”, in the Queens’s Speech came significant moves towards the vision of a liberal, de-regulated Britain:
- Brexit Opportunities Bill which will allow Britain greater freedom to adapt legacy EU law to meet the needs of the UK
- Data Reform Bill which will have a range of measures including scrapping the cookie pop-up when browsing the internet. Blogger Guido Fawkes says this alone makes Brexit worth it.
- Procurement Bill that will simplify how SMEs are able to get contracts with government
- Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill: will implement the Free Trade Agreements which the UK has secured since leaving the EU
- Public Order Bill will clamp down on those seeking to traffic people across the English Channel
- Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill will prioritise support for the Good Friday agreement, which is particularly notable given the change in the make up of the Northern Ireland Assembly following last week’s election
- Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill will legalise the use of gene-editing technology for plants and animals to help promote sustainable and efficient farming and food production and will make the UK more liberal in its approach to precision breeding than the EU
How commentators and companies are reacting to this largely depends on how they voted in the EU referendum. Those who were on the ‘Leave’ side see this as an example of the government unleashing opportunity, those on the ‘Remain’ side see this as an example of our civil liberties being eroded as a result of a lack of EU protection.
Say: My Ministers will continue to … fund the National Health Service to reduce the COVID backlogs
- Mental Health Bill that will overhaul the current rules including ending a situation in which people with learning disabilities and autistic people can be detained under the act even if the patient does not suffer from any mental health conditions.
The Mental Health Bill is widely welcomed as fixing some of the wrongs currently on the statute books. However, issues such as a shortage of nurses and waiting times in A&E are untouched.
Wait and see… there is lots in the Queen’s Speech including a chunk of legislation designed to shore up seats which the Conservatives won for the first time in 2019 in the ‘Red Wall’. However some of the issues which rank most highly in every UK opinion poll such as NHS waiting times and rising inflation are not tackled in the speech.