For the first time in over 70 years, the United Kingdom witnessed a King’s Speech. At the House of Lords, King Charles III highlighted the bills that the Government will prioritise over the next year in Parliament. With a general election looming, this was more than just a King’s Speech, it was a drawing of lines for the issues which the next general election will be fought on. Which makes it interesting that there was not more concrete action on how they will achieve the ambition to cut waiting lists and support NHS workers.
We’ve applied our Say-Do lens to the key issues impacting how our clients do business.
Say: My government will continue to lead action on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, support developing countries with their energy transition, and hold other countries to their environmental commitments.
- Licenses for oil and gas projects in the North Sea to be awarded annually, under the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill. These new licenses are subject to key tests being met, but the aim is to strengthen the UK’s energy security, reduce reliance on volatile international energy markets, and help the transition to net zero by 2050. At present, oil and gas are forecast to remain part of the country’s energy mix beyond 2050, raising doubts around the effectiveness of the bill. Given the King’s commitment to the environment, we’re not sure this bill closes his Say-Do gap.
- An Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will ban the export of cattle from Great Britain for fattening and slaughter
- A ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars aims to aid the transition towards electric vehicles (EVs), reducing the requirement for fossil fuels to power our cars. This will also support the introduction of new jobs across the country – hopefully a win for stimulating the economy too.
- A ban on new fossil fuel heating for off-gas-grid homes will also ease the transition away from non-renewal resources and help the transition towards a green economy
- A ban on the sale of new gas boilers from 2035, with an exemption for poorer households to further support the transition towards a green country, and a green economy, while ensuring those worse off aren’t put under financial pressure to keep up at the same speed
Say: My ministers will introduce new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of emerging industries, such as self-driving vehicles, introduce new competition rules for digital markets, and encourage innovation in technologies such as machine learning.
- Greater investment in emerging industries will allow the UK to lead the way on innovation in technology, especially given the rising influence of Artificial Intelligence. Last week’s AI Safety Summit also highlighted the government’s focus on ensuring the safe use of emerging technologies.
- An Automated Vehicles Bill will set a legal framework in Great Britain for self-driving cars
- Pledges to strengthen consumer rights online and tackle fake reviews are contained in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill
- The existing Data Protection and Digital Information Bill will replace the data protection regime the UK inherited from the EU
- The Media Bill, published in draft form earlier this year, will scrap a never-enacted rule forcing media companies to pay the legal bills of people who sue them, even if they win. The speech set out plans to abolish a key piece of press regulation law, which will result in the rolling back of a law that left newspapers liable for the legal costs of both sides in libel cases, regardless of the result.
Say: My government will continue to take action to bring down inflation, to ease the cost of living for families and help businesses fund new jobs and investment. My ministers will support the bank of England to return inflation to target, by taking responsible decision on spending and borrowing. These decisions will help household finances, reduce public sector debt, and safeguard the financial security of the country.
The only mention of cost of living was in the Prime Minister’s introduction and there was no indication of how the government will continue to take action to bring down inflation. This was however balanced with measures to bring new, green, jobs to the UK.
- Britain to host Global Investment Summit, the European Political Community and the Energy conference
- The Arbitration Bill is an introduction of new rules for individuals and businesses to resolve disputes without going to court. Changes include giving arbitrators powers to speed up decisions on issues with no hope of success, requiring them to disclose impartiality concerns, and extending arbitrator immunity against liability in some circumstances
- The Economic Activities of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill seeks to prevent public bodies, such as councils and universities, from boycotting or divesting from a particular country or territory based on political or moral disapproval.
Say: My ministers will take steps to make the economy more competitive, taking advantage of freedoms afforded by the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU.
- The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Bill comes after the UK formally agreed to join the 11 nation CPTPP trade pact trade pacts, consisting of several countries in Asia and the Pacific in July this year, becoming the first European member of the trade pact. Under the new agreement, more than 99% of goods exported to these countries, such as whisky and cars, will face zero tariffs. This is one of the UK’s first major trade partnerships post-Brexit.
Say: My government will introduce legislation to create a smoke-free generation by restricting the sale of tobacco so that children currently aged 14 or younger can never be sold cigarettes and restricting the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children.
- A Tobacco and Vapes Bill will deliver plans for a phased ban on smoking, applying to everyone born on or after January 1, 2009. This policy is supported by the Labour Party in opposition, despite criticisms of state overreach from think tanks.
Unfortunately, patience is of the essence with the likelihood of an election in 2024 and the campaigning that precedes it. While King Charles also tackled wider issues, such as Brexit, and global political instability, the speech lacked the introduction of fresh policy and instead reiterated existing government agenda. This could be due to the uncertainty around Rishi Sunak’s party’s future in power, which may lead to a significant shift in government agenda during 2024.