The government has set out its fresh legislative agenda in the Queen’s Speech this morning as it looks to get back on the front foot after a bruising set of local elections and a spate of bad press over the ‘partygate’ scandal.
The Queen’s speech, which was read by Prince Charles for the first time, has set out 38 new bills for the next session of parliament on areas including levelling up, illicit finance and energy designed to win back voters amid soaring inflation and energy bills.
Some of the key bills announced by the government today include:
Among the bills set out by government today was an energy bill which will look to deliver on the energy security strategy set out by ministers last month.
In his speech, written by the government, the Prince of Wales said the energy bill would “build on the success of the Cop 26 summit in Glasgow last year”.
“Draft legislation to promote competition, strengthen consumer rights and protect households and businesses will be published,” he said.
While the bill is short on details of support, the government has revealed it is set to extend the energy price cap beyond 2023. The mechanism was first brought in three years ago to protect households from expensive tariffs if they did not switch contracts regularly.
Current laws allows for the price cap to be extended for one year at a time to the end of 2023 at the latest.
The price cap spiked last month 54 per cent to nearly £2,000 per year with expectations of a further hike this October.
Multiple energy bosses have called for the cap to be reformed, with the constraints of the mechanism contributing to nearly 30 suppliers crashing since last September – directly affecting over four million customers.
The Levelling up and Regeneration Bill
Prince Charles made reference to an upcoming Bill that will “drive local growth, empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas, and ensuring everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success.”
Previously outlined by ministers, the bill will give councils more power to force landlords to let out empty commercial units.
It will also make permanent pavement licences, a temporary provision granted to pubs and restaurants amid the pandemic, slashing red tape surrounding al fresco drinking and dining.
Illicit finance will also come under fresh scrutiny of ministers in the next session of parliament as government committed to introducing illicit finance legislation.
“A bill will be brought forward to further strengthen powers to tackle illicit finance, reduce economic crime, and help businesses grow,” Prince Charles said. Measures will also be introduced to support the security services and help them protect the United Kingdom.
A financial services bill laid out today is expected to offer ministers powers to scrap EU-era rules in a bid to refresh the UK’s regulatory regime.
The bill was touted as one of Johnson’s “super seven” Brexit bills in the run up to the Queen’s speech.
The government said it will prioritise improving transport across the United Kingdom, and deliver “safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovation,” Prince Charles told MPs, alluding to the creation of Great British Railways (GBR).
“Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers.”
Under today’s Transport Bill, the UK Government has created a new body, GBR, in a bid to simplify the UK railway’s network. The creation of the body was initially proposed in May last year and is expected to take over Network Rail and perform some of the functions of the Department for Transport (DfT).
The legalisation of private e-scooter use on public roads and the extension of HS2 from Crewe to Manchester were featured as part of the government’s Transport Bill.
The law is designed to allow the government push forward with the privatisation of Channel 4 (C4). The rationale is that it will allow C4 to “thrive and grow”, and remain competitive against US streaming giants.
The government is also set to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
The provision means that any newspaper or publisher who is not a member of an approved regulator at the time of a legal claim against them can be forced to pay both sides’ cost in a court case — even if they win.
Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill
This new law will require manufacturers, importers and distributors of smart devices to comply with minimum security standards.
In practice, this means protecting against threats, as well as accelerating the rollout of broadband to meet the government’s aim of a 85 per cent gigabit-capable coverage by 2025
The government threw its weight behind shoring up security in Northern Ireland in and strengthening the Good Friday agreement, after Liz Truss has reportedly committed to scrapping the Northern Ireland protocol amid a standoff with the EU.
“Her Majesty’s government will prioritise support for the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and its institutions including through legislation to address the legacy of the past. Her Majesty’s Government will ensure the Constitution is defended,” the government said in the speech today.
The UK Government announced during the speech the introduction of a seafarers’ minimum wage law, which will ban ferries from operating if their employees are not paid the equivalent when docking at UK ports.
The government also said it was working with neighbouring countries to establish “Minimum Wage Corridor.”
Announced today during the Queen’s Speech, the legislation was introduced after ferry operator P&O fired 800 seafarers in March and replaced them with cheaper foreign labour.“
We will protect all seafarers regularly sailing in and out of UK ports and ensure they are not priced out of a job,” said transport secretary Grant Shapps.
“Ferry operators which regularly call at UK ports will face consequences if they do not pay their workers fairly.”
The measures will be subjected to a four-week consultation which will examine which vessels can be included in addition to ferries and what kind of enforcement measures can be enforced. Surcharges, suspension of port access and fines feature among those currently under consideration
Data Reform Bill
Creating the UK’s own data protection regime, and moving away from the EU’s GDPR, the law is designed to take advantage of the benefits of a post-Brexit landscape, create a fresh data rights regime that is pro-growth.
The bill looks to reduce the burden on businesses, boost the economy, and help scientists to innovate and improves the lives of people in the UK.
Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill
The law aims to clamp down on “subscription traps” and fake reviews, which has run rife on e-commerce platforms.
Under the new legal framework, the Competition and Markets Authority will have the ability to decide when consumer law has been broken, and to issue penalties for those breaches.
Public Order Bill
Police will be granted fresh powers to “prevent a minority of protestors from using guerrilla tactics that cause misery to the hardworking public, disrupting businesses, costing millions in taxpayers’ money and putting lives at risk,” the government said.
However, campaigners and charities have warned these measures are anti-democratic.
Bill of Rights
A Bill of Rights is to replace the Human Rights Act, with the Queen’s Speech stating the legislation is set to “end the abuse of the human rights framework and restore some common sense to our justice system”.
However, critics have said it is not right how the legislation makes it easier to deport asylum seekers, as it excludes a defence for individuals convicted of imprisonable offences.
Current legislation matches up with the European Convention of Human Rights. However, new rules mean there is no necessity to follow Strasbourg case law and will state that UK courts “cannot interpret rights in a more expansive manner than the Strasbourg Court”.
This is being regularly updated