On 21 June 2017, The Queen set out the Government’s future legislative plans at the State Opening of Parliament. This speech outlines a list of the laws that the Government hopes to have approved by Parliament over the coming two years. This year’s event takes place in unique circumstances, following the snap General Election which resulted in a hung Parliament.
Firstly, it had been delayed by two days in order to provide the Conservative Party with time to agree a formal confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). At the time of the Speech, there has been no confirmed deal, but the DUP have indicated they will support the Speech. Nevertheless, the votes in the House of Commons on this Speech represent the first key test for the Prime Minister and her ability to form a Government. The final vote on the Speech takes place on 29 June, which needs to be passed in order for the Government to maintain its position.
Secondly, this year’s Speech outlines legislation for a two-year parliamentary session. The Government has taken the unusual step of cancelling next year’s Queen’s Speech in order to give Parliament time to pass substantial amounts of Brexit-related legislation. As expected, the programme is dominated by Brexit Bills – with eight of the 27 Bills dedicated to providing new laws focused on the UK leaving the European Union. The centrepiece is the ‘Repeal Bill’ which will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and transfer all existing European law into UK law and provide powers for these laws to be amended through secondary legislation.
In terms of domestic legislation, there are new bills on Data Protection, Automated and Electric Vehicles and the Space Industry – although it is notable that many of the keystone policy commitments in the Conservative manifesto are absent from the legislative programme (e.g. grammar schools and social care). This is because the Conservative Party does not have a parliamentary majority and any legislation would require a degree of cross-party support – ruling out many contentious areas of policy.
Summary of Bills
- The Government wants a “smooth and orderly transition as the UK leaves the EU”, ensuring “wherever practical, the same rules and laws apply after exit and therefore maximising certainty for individuals and businesses”. This will repeal the European Communities Act 1972.
- Secondary legislation will be introduced in Parliament to make corrections to the European acquis (the body of existing EU law) once incorporated into UK’s domestic law
- Common UK frameworks created by EU in UK will be replicated and the scope of devolved decision-making powers will be maintained immediately after exit – this is to be a transitional arrangement providing certainty and to allow consultation/discussion with the devolved administrations to agree future common frameworks.
- Currently, the EU customs code applies directly in the UK. A new Bill will aim to; (a) create a standalone UK customs regime; (b) create flexibility to accommodate future trade deals; and (c) create new VAT and excise regimes.
- To ensure the UK becomes a leading trading nation through relevant legislation, enabling an independent trade policy.
- New powers are to be established to address the immigration status of EEA nationals. This new Bill will; (a) allow for repeal of EU laws on immigration – in particular freedom of movement; and (b) migration of EU nationals and their families will become subject to relevant UK authorities once UK has left the EU.
- New legislation will see the UK exercise responsibility for access to fisheries and waters.
- The Government seeks to ‘provide stability’ to farmers and protect the natural environment.
Nuclear Safeguards Bill
- New nuclear safeguards will be required as the UK leaves Euratom. This Bill will give the Office for Nuclear Regulation the responsibility to meet international safeguards and nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
- The Government intends to support the UK’s role as a member of the UN Security Council through establishing a new sovereign UK framework to implement international sanctions on multilateral or unilateral bases. The Bill will (a) return decision-making powers on non-UN sanctions to the UK; and (b) enable continued compliance with international law post-Brexit.
Building a stronger economy
Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill and Space industry Bill
- As part of building a stronger UK economy, legislation will be introduced with the aim of ensuring that the country remains a leader in new industries, including electric cars. This is aimed at allowing innovation to flourish and for the next wave of self-driving technology to be developed and operated in the UK.
Space Industry Bill
- The Bill’s purpose is to ensure a boost to the economy, British businesses, engineering and science through focusing on the commercial satellite industry, aiming to make the UK the most attractive place in Europe for commercial spaceflight.
High Speed Rail (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill
- A new bill will be brought forward to help deliver the next phase of high-speed rail by providing the powers to build and operate the next stage of the HS2 network.
Smart Meter Bill
- This Bill will allow the Government to continue to support the rollout and completion of the smart meter programme, overseeing implementation and ensuring the successful realisation of the net benefits delivered by smart meters.
National Insurance Contributions Bill
- Legislation for the National Insurance Contribution changes announced in the 2016 Budget and the 2016 Autumn Statement will be introduced to make the system fairer and simpler.
Making our country fairer
Travel Protection Bill
- Protection for holidaymakers will be improved by updating the UK’s financial protection scheme for holidays.
Draft Tenants’ Fees Bill
- This Bill will ban charging tenants letting fees to improve transparency, affordability and competition in the private rental market.
Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill
- Legislation will be brought forward to protect the victims of domestic violence and abuse through a Bill which will aim to transform the Government’s approach to domestic violence and abuse to ensure that victims have the confidence to come forward and report their experiences.
Civil Liability Bill
- Legislation will be introduced to help reduce motor insurance premiums, ensuring there is a fair, transparent and proportionate system of compensation in place.
- The courts system will be modernised through legislation with the aim of improving access to justice, making better use of technology whilst also modernising working practices.
Financial Guidance and Claims Bill
- This Bill will be introduced with the aim of establishing a new “arm’s-length” Single Financial Guidance Body, which will replace three existing providers of publicly funded financial guidance. It will also aim to strengthen the regulation of Claims Management Companies through transferring the regulatory responsibility to the Financial Conduct Authority.
Goods Mortgages Bill
- To continue the Government’s work to deliver a consumer credit market that functions well and delivers a good deal for consumers, a Goods Mortgages Bill will be introduced, which will modernise outdated, “Victorian-era legislation”.
Making our country safer and more united
Armed Forces Bill
- To enable part-time service and limited geographic employment within the Regular Armed Forces; and to enable Service personnel returning from special leave including maternity, shared parental and adoption leave to support their transition back into duty. The Government has also reaffirmed its continuing commitment to spend 2% of GDP on the defence budget.
- Her Majesty also announced there will be a review of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. It will cover the powers available to fight extremism, the sentences that can be given to those convicted of terror offences and efforts to reduce the availability of extremist material online.
Data Protection Bill
- A bill will be unveiled to ensure the UK’s data protection framework is suitable for the digital age, and to position the UK at the forefront of technological innovation, international data sharing and protection of personal data. The Bill will empower and strengthen the rights of individuals to be forgotten when individuals no longer want their data to be processed. The proposed Bill will also modernise and update the Data Protection Act of 1998.
Patient Safety Bill
- The draft Patient Safety Bill will bring forward proposals to establish the Health Service Safety Investigation Body in statute, enabling it to conduct independent and impartial investigations into patient safety risks in the NHS in England.
Other measures announced include three Finance Bills to implement budget decisions and to tackle tax avoidance. A Technical Bill will also be unveiled to ratify several minor EU agreements, and further Bills to effect the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
If you would like to discuss this further, please contact:
Simon Gentry, Head of Public Affairs
DL: 020 3757 6772