Following the Queen’s Speech today, PLMR have provided an analysis of each of the 38 Bills announced today, and how they fit into the Government’s current priorities.
Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
This Bill will be brought forward to drive local growth through empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas, including powers to force landlords in England to let out empty shops to revive high streets. The speech emphasised that reform of the planning system will give residents more involvement in development. Notably, these reforms will be part of the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill, rather than for a separate planning reform bill which was dropped after significant Tory backlash.
This Bill will help ‘every child fulfil their potential’ through raising standards and improving the quality of schools and higher education. It will include a crackdown on attendance in schools, through the introduction of compulsory registers, and further powers will be given to Ofsted to clamp down on unregistered schools operating illegally. It also 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.
The Higher Education Bill
The speech obliquely mentioned plans to ensure ‘quality in higher education.’ Primarily, The Higher Education Bill will look to achieve this through the introduction of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement. This will provide people with a loan equivalent to four years of education (£37,000 in today’s fees) that they can use over their lifetime for a range of studies including shorter and technical courses. Earlier this week research by Public First/Phoenix Insights found that the public were broadly in favour of the core aim of LLE: to introduce greater flexibility into post-16 study; but were strongly concerned by the loan and entitlement, perhaps unsurprising given the current unpopularity of the existing student loans scheme. Given the Department for Education’s consultation on LLE closed just last week, it is expected the confirmed detail and primary legislation for the new scheme will not be laid before Parliament for some time. It is hoped that the new legislation will provide greater detail into how the scheme will operate and offer evidence into how the proposed changes will have an impact on jobs and the economy.
Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill
This proposal aims to restrict universities from banning certain speakers and provide the right to compensation for speakers from universities who decide to break these restrictions. This bill was carried over from the previous parliamentary session.
This legislation proposal will establish the Great British Railways, a new body that will manage the rail network. As highlighted in the Speech, the new rail management will focus on modernising the service and improving reliability for passengers. The Bill will also legalise self-driving and remotely operated vehicles and provide support for a wider roll-out of electric vehicle charging points.
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, including gives the Government powers to compulsorily acquire the land needed for the railway. It also provides critical infrastructure to allow the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail and new Manchester Metrolink routes.
Energy Security Bill
Building on the priorities of the Government’s Energy Security Strategy, the first piece of energy legislation in over a decade focuses on policy for the generation market and network operation – with the extension of the energy price cap beyond 2023 to protect consumers from unfair pricing being the focus of retail market intervention. The Government plans to introduce new business models for nascent technologies, such as carbon capture, usage and storage and low carbon hydrogen, and will establish the Future System Operator, enable the country’s first large-scale hydrogen heating trial and create a regulatory environment to facilitate the development of fusion energy. The UK’s legacy nuclear sites will benefit from a safe and cost-effective clean-up to ensure the responsible management of nuclear use in the UK.
National Security Bill
The National Security Bill seeks to reform and update espionage law to ensure it is fit for purpose for the 21st Century threats especially the current concerns around Russian and Chinese state actors. Specifically, the bill will reform the (Official Secrets Acts 1911, 1920 and 1939) and bring in new criminal offences to tackle state-backed sabotage, foreign interference, the theft of trade secrets and assisting a foreign intelligence service. Following challenges to deliver criminal prosecution in previous cases, the bill will introducing new civil measures to use as a ‘tool of last resort where prosecution of a hostile actor is not possible.’ The proposed new measures would include the ability to restrict a state threat actor from access to certain places, or where they can work and study. The bill forms part of several measures proposed in the Queen’s Speech to strengthen the government’s response to Russia following the war in Ukraine.
Renters Reform Bill
The Renter’s Reform Bill is a long awaited piece of legislation which the government said will ‘deliver a better deal for renters through reforms that will provide 4.4 million households with more secure and higher quality homes.’ The bill will fulfil a manifesto commitment to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions by removing Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act, alongside reforming possession grounds for landlords, introducing new and stronger grounds for repeated incidences of rent arrears, and reducing notice periods for anti-social behaviour. The government will also apply the legally binding Decent Homes Standard in the Private Rented Sector and introduce a new Ombudsman for private landlords so that disputes can easily be resolved without the need to go to court. Finally, the bill will establish a new ‘property portal’ for landlords to understand their obligations and for tenants to check performance information, supporting the work of local authorities. The bill will apply to England only and the publication of the full bill is expected to be accompanied by a White Paper which will set out government proposals for ‘landmark reform in the private rented sector.’
Public Order Bill
Despite being blocked by the House of Lords earlier this year, this Bill will be brought forward to introduce new police powers to put a stop to the use of guerrilla tactics in protests, used by Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain protestors. It will ensure that a new offence for “interfering with key infrastructure” will result in a maximum sentence of 12 months.
Financial Services and Markets Bill
This will deliver post-Brexit financial services to strengthen the UK’s financial services industry to ensure it acts ‘in the interest of all people and communities’. It will regulate UK capital markets to promote investment, enhancing the UK’s position as a global leader.
This Bill will be celebrated by Brexiteers as a benefit of leaving the EU, as it seeks to simplify public sector procurement to provide new opportunities for small businesses, allowing them to seamlessly bid for public sector contracts. The bill will also change how the government buys services from the private sector, by replacing existing EU rules.
Despite recent controversy around the potential sale of Channel 4, this Bill will be moving forward with the privatisation of Channel 4, in order to “unleash the potential of the UK’s creative sector”. Ofcom will also be given the power to regulate on-demand streaming services.
Social Housing Regulation Bill
This will improve the regulation of social housing to ensure safer homes, through strengthening the Social Housing Regulator. The Bill will include measures to allow the Social Housing Regulator to carry out inspections, renters to see how their landlords are performing, housing associations to request information about their landlords and remove no cap fines for landlords.
Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill
First revealed last month, proposals in this Bill will boost competition between social media firms, through increasing the powers of the Digital Markets Unit, and tackle fake consumer reviews.
Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill
This Bill, dubbed the P&O Bill following the controversial decision of P&O to fire 800 workers, will ensure that ferry employees are paid the national minimum wage by introducing powers to British ports to refuse ferries that do not comply. The consultation on the measures opens today for four weeks.
Conversion Therapy Bill
This Bill will ban conversion therapy intended to change sexual orientation, but controversially not therapy targeted at transgender people, despite mental health bodies calling last month for the Government to include a ban on transgender therapy.
Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill
Building on the Animal Health and Welfare Bills receiving royal assent last month, it was confirmed that this Bill will introduce new animal welfare standards, including new powers to tackle puppy smuggling, reducing the number of pets that can travel under the pet travel rules, introducing an offence for pet abduction and banning the exports of livestock for fattening and slaughter.
Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill
This Bill will ensure that smart devices are protected from cyber-attacks by forcing those who manufacture, import and distribute these devices ‘comply with minimum security standards’.
Modern Slavery Bill
This Bill aims to crackdown on modern slavery through enforcing protections for human trafficking victims and other victims of modern slavery. As part of this Bill, companies will be required to publish an annual slavery statement, identifying the steps they have taken to eradicate modern slavery.
Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Bill
Building on the 2019 Conservative Party Manifesto, this Bill will ban public bodies, such as councils, from boycotting other countries to ensure foreign policy is ‘cohesive’ across the UK. This Bill is particularly aimed at targeting policies that boycott Israel.
Social Security (Special Rules for End of Life) Bill
This Bill will allow those nearing death, with 12 months or less to live rather than the current six, to be fast-tracked access for disability benefits.
Draft Protect Duty Bill
This Bill aims to enhance national security through the requirement for public locations and venues to draw up anti-terrorism measures.
Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy & Reconciliation) Bill
This Bill is aimed at making sure former soldiers are given immunity from criminal prosecution. It will also establish a new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery to help family members seek and receive information about Troubles-related deaths and serious injuries and produce an historical record of what is known in relation to every death that occurred during the Troubles. Reaction has been mixed, with Bereaved relatives who lost loved ones during the three decades of violence making clear their opposition to an “blanket” amnesty however, Republic of Ireland’s deputy premier welcomed the announcement that immunity for Troubles-related offences will depend on individuals co-operating with the information-retrieval body.
Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill
This Bill will provide measures to enable the Irish language to be protected and enhanced by introducing a new Irish Language Commissioner, which is a key demand from the new administration in Northern Ireland. In addition, a new commissioner will be introduced to strengthen arts and literature of the Ulster Scots and Ulster British tradition in the province.
Brexit Freedoms Bill
This Bill will make it easier and quicker to amend laws inherited from leaving the EU. The Speech emphasised that the legislation will ‘seize the opportunities’ of leaving the EU, including cutting £1bn of red tape for businesses. However, it is currently unclear what specific parts of regulations will be cut.
Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill
This Bill aims to provide key tools for tackling criminals and kleptocrats who abuse the UK’s financial system, including extensive tools for driving money laundering out of the UK. Considering the UK’s reputation for being a money laundering hub for the Kremlin pre-invasion, this legislative proposal may therefore help to re-brand the UK as a country for legitimate business.
Bill of Rights
This will reform the current existing legal human rights framework, which will include ‘reducing reliance’ on the European Court of Human Rights. As mentioned in the Speech, The Bill core purpose is to ‘restore the balance of power between the legislature and the courts’. As part of this, it aims make it easier for the government to deport asylum seekers as it will limit the human rights considerations. It will also aim to end or reduce damages in human rights claims.
Data Reform Bill
This Bill aims to introduce a ‘world-class data rights regime’, modernise the Information Commissioner’s Office to more effectively tackle data breaches, and promote ‘smart data schemes’ that help citizens and small businesses take better control of their data. More broadly, the Bill is also part of the wider legislative proposals that aim to highlight the benefits of ‘taking back control’ of legislation formerly delegated to the EU.
Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill
This will implement the UK’s first two post-Brexit free trade agreements built ‘from scratch’.
UK Infrastructure Bank Bill
This will place the final legal piece in creating the UK Infrastructure Bank, which will ensure it has the full range of spending and lending powers. This new institution aims to support regional and local economic growth, and as emphasised in the Speech, deliver the UK’s net zero strategy.
Draft Mental Health Act Reform Bill
This Bill aims to provide patients suffering from mental health conditions with greater control over their treatment, which will include modernising services and offering a more personalised level of care. As part of the overhaul, the Government hopes to reduce the number of people being detained by removing learning disabilities and autism as mental health disorders. Further, ‘greater control’ will also mean that patients will be allowed to refuse specific treatment or propose a suitable alternative should one be available. It is worth noting that this will be the first major change to the current Mental Health Act in 40 years.
Online Safety Bill
This Bill aims to prevent online fraud, tackle illegal content such as child sexual exploitation, update laws on tackling threatening communications, criminalise cyberflashing and restrict tech companies from arbitrarily removing content. The Bill is carried over from the previous parliamentary session, and if given Royal Assent, it will make the UK a global leader in terms of internet safety laws.
Non-Domestic Rating Bill
This will attempt to modernise the UK’s business rates system by providing more frequent revaluations based on more accurate data which will aim to increase fairness for businesses on the amount of business rates they pay.
Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill
This Bill will reform regulation related to genetically modified organisms to test the potential of gene-edited products in farming. Similarly to the Data Bill, this is another proposal aimed at demonstrating specific legislative opportunities presented by the UK’s departure from the EU.
Draft Victims Bill
This Bill will enshrine the Victims’ Code in law and will aim to improve the support given to victims both in and beyond the criminal justice system, including victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. In addition, it will aim to further scrutinise the support provided by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Electronic Trade Documents Bill
This Bill will place electronic trade documents on the same legal position as paper documents, which is an attempt to further limit bureaucracy and assist businesses. This proposal could be interpreted as a small-scale solution to the increased red tape for businesses trading with EU countries caused by the UK’s withdrawal.
Draft Audit Reform Bill
This Bill will aim to provide additional protective measures for investors by introducing a new regulator – the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority. Additionally, it will aim to provide stronger safeguards against risks to jobs, pensions, and suppliers from unexpected company collapses by improving scrutiny of the largest non-listed companies.