In the aftermath of last week’s bruising local election results and with questions remaining about his long-term future, today’s Queen's Speech presented yet another relaunch moment for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
With the next General Election potentially less than two years away, today was one of the last chances this Government has to deliver a substantial legislative programme, as he hopes to turn the page from ‘Partygate’.
How the Government deals with the cost-of-living crisis is likely to determine its long-term survival. The Prime Minister knows he has a number of serious questions to address, against a backdrop of soaring inflation which looks set to exceed 10 per cent by the end of 2022, energy bills increasing and tax rises beginning to hit people’s pay packets.
In response, today Johnson promised a raft of measures with the explicit aim of driving economic growth and easing the burden on families and businesses, but with the caveat of little new immediate support.
Whilst acknowledging the economic struggles caused by the fallout of the Covid pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Prime Minister also warned that he was unable to fully shield people from their impact.
Instead, he announced series of structural reforms around energy supply, education, planning rules and community improvement, with the aim of unlocking stronger and more geographically spread growth across the country.
A number of the announcements were pre-briefed, including legislation aimed at clamping down on foreign spies, reform of Britain’s railway oversight, the long-touted “leveling up” of deprived communities, the privatisation of Channel Four, toughening up of protest laws and speeding up the adoption of renewable energy.
However, there was also a raft of new policy announcements, including attempts to change planning rules, protect consumers from fake reviews online, reform business rates, handle legacy Northern Ireland soldier claims and ensure freedom of speech on university campuses.
Labour was quick to point out that today’s programme was bereft of ideas and full of empty rhetoric, representative of a Government lacking in direction and bereft of tangible action.
Downing Street will argue that decisions about tax and spend are for the autumn Budget later this year, fulfilling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s tax-cut ambitions closer to the election. But ministers will come under increased pressure to ease the everyday burden following today’s speech, with no short-term relief on offer.
Boris Johnson will therefore be hoping that the long-term reforms he has set out today will convince the country and its voters that in this Queen's Speech, he does have a plan to solve the economic issues facing the country.
And then he must prove he can deliver.
How should organisations engage with the new legislative agenda?
This could potentially be the last major legislating session of this parliamentary term. Whilst there are exceptions (e.g. urgent legislation in response to a crisis or popular campaign, secondary legislation), the measures the Government are proposing could represent the last opportunity of this Parliament to bring about legislative change.
For organisations looking to influence the passage of Bills there are a few pieces to note:
- The 38 bills will be brought to the House of Commons in different waves; most will need to be ready for the start of this session (next week), some for June and July and then some for the autumn and into 2023
- There is a greater opportunity to influence legislation before it is presented to the House of Commons than after. Now that the legislative agenda is known, organisations should be assessing which Bill’s might impact them in a positive or negative way, assessing over the coming weeks which are yet to be presented to Parliament, and then looking to build engagement and influence strategies around the sponsoring Department
- As any Bill progresses through both chambers of Parliament Ministers will be assessing which areas they might need to accept changes to, and how they would do this. Insight into Government thinking on these areas will be critical to knowing when to seek to influence the Bill during its passage, and with what message
- Now that the Bills and legislative agenda are known, building a coalition of supporters for an organisation’s position and a Bill can be helpful in accelerating its passage through Parliament
List of Bills (Overview)
- A Levelling up and Regeneration Bill to give councils new planning powers, such as compelling English landlords to put empty High Street shops out for rent.
- A Transport Bill, to establish Great British Railways, the new state-run agency to regulate railway services
- A Energy Security Bill with new powers to deliver the transition to renewable energy
- A Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill enabling British ports to refuse ferry services which do not renumerate their crews at the national minimum wage
- A Non-Domestic Rating Bill designed to change business rates
- A High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill, to enable the construction of the next stage of HS2
- A Public Order Bill providing the police with new powers over disruptive protests
- A National Security Bill providing the security services with new powers and changing laws affecting official secrets
- A Victims’ Bill will create additional rights for those who have been victims of crime
- A Brexit Freedoms Bill will enable ministers to more easily overhaul laws duplicated following our departure from the European Union
- A new Bill of Rights will replace provisions in the Human Rights Act, making it easier to deport foreign criminals
- A new Schools Bill will help tackle unregistered English schools
- The Higher Education Bill will make student loans available throughout the lives of potential attendees
- The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill will ensure English universities must protect free speech
- A Conversion Therapy Bill will ban conversion therapy for gay or bisexual people
- An Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill will heighten animal welfare standards, including by cracking down on puppy smuggling
- The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill will relax regulations surrounding genetically-modified crops
- A draft Mental Health Bill will seek to alter existing treatment of mental health patients in England and Wales
- A UK Infrastructure Bank Bill designed to support the push towards Net Zero
- A Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill will aim to prevent the future prosecution of British soldiers
- A Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill will enable the implementation of trade deals with our Antipodean cousins
- An Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill will increase the capabilities of Companies House
- The Procurement Bill will overtake EU rules on governmental purchasing from the private sector, in the interests of smaller British businesses
- A Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill will force manufacturers of smart devices, and those who import and distribute them, to adhere to particular safety standards.
- The Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Bill will prevent public bodies from indulging in their own boycotts of foreign countries
- The Online Safety Bill represents the government’s ongoing efforts to regulate the internet
- A new Media Bill will ensure the privatisation of Channel 4 can go ahead, as well as ensuring Ofcom’s remit extends to online streaming services
- A Data Reform Bill will overhaul EU laws on data protection
- A Social Housing Regulation Bill to strengthen tenants’ rights and provide better quality homes
- A draft Digital Markets, Competition, and Consumer Bill promoting competition in the digital realm
- An Electronic Trade Documents Bill will push for the further digitisation paperwork related to trade
- A Financial Services and Markets Bill with the aim to ensure the UK’s financial services industry delivers for the whole country
- A Modern Slavery Bill that will seek to increase support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery
- A Social Security (Special Rules for End of Life) Bill which will seek to enable those nearing death the opportunity to access three disability benefits: Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance.
- A draft Protect Duty Bill which will bring in new requirements for certain public locations for responding to terrorism.
- An Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill will foster the Ulster Scots tradition whilst protecting the Irish language
- A Renters Bill will aim to abolish so-called “no fault” evictions and also reform possession grounds for landlords
- A draft Audit Reform Bill will establish a new statutory regulator, the Audit, Reporting, and Governance Authority, designed to enforce the reporting duties of directors.