A super-sized Queen’s Speech
12 May 2022
On the 10th May, Prince Charles announced a super-sized ‘Queen’s’ Speech containing 38 Bills. In this blog, DRD Partner, Pete Bowyer, looks at what this will mean for Government this year.
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Prince Charles delivering the Queen’s Speech was not the only surprise about this year’s offering.
Pre-briefing from government sources had suggested we would see a slimmed-down Queen’s Speech as too much legislation was “un-Conservative”. In the event, we got a super-sized Speech containing 38 Bills (typically they contain just 20-25 Government Bills) which led the Thatcherite think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies to describe it as “a recipe for ever more government intervention.”
Getting Brexit done, at last
The Government, however, concluded that rather than adopting a laissez-faire approach to legislation, it needed to become more activist in fulfilling its 2019 manifesto commitments. Hence, there were a total of seven Brexit-related Bills, including the flagship Brexit Freedoms Bill which allows for EU rules to be removed easily – the so-called “burning of EU red tape” – and a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act.
The Red Wall vs the Blue Wall
On the domestic front, pride of place went to Michael Gove’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, aimed at turning an election slogan into legislation. It was designed to demonstrate to ‘Red Wall’ voters that the Government had not abandoned them and remained committed to “ensuring all parts of the country share equally in our nation’s success.”
Curiously, the Bill also contains provisions to allow neighbours to vote on whether planning permission should be given for developments on their own street. Such NIMBY measures appear at odds with the Government’s previous pledge to permit developments in certain areas over local objections in an attempt to deal with the housing crisis and regenerate communities. Critics suggested this old policy had contributed to by-election losses in former Conservative “Blue Wall” seats – including Chesham and Amersham – fears that were exacerbated by last week’s local election defeats to the Liberal Democrats, so hence the change in tack.
The Queen’s Speech includes a raft of Bills relevant to the business community. Four are worthy of particular attention:
- The Financial Services and Markets Bill aims to enhance the UK’s standing as a global leader in financial services post-Brexit. It also supports the safe adoption of cryptocurrencies whilst the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill creates powers to quickly seize and recover crypto assets.
- The UK Infrastructure Bank Bill establishes in law the UK Infrastructure Bank, allowing it to utilise its £22 billion capacity to support regional and local economic growth and deliver net zero.
- The Procurement Bill, introduced into the House of Lords for its first reading yesterday, is intended to simplify public procurement – worth over £300bn per annum – making it easier for SMEs to bid for public sector contracts. It intends to reduce the number of direct awards by government, opening the market up to greater competition, and to consider wider social value impacts.
- The Energy Bill will deliver commitments to build a more secure, cleaner and affordable homegrown energy system. This includes allowing the building of up to eight new nuclear power stations, increasing wind power and solar energy, and investment to develop Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage.
The Government concluded that rather than adopting a laissez-faire approach to legislation, it needed to become more activist in fulfilling its 2019 manifesto commitments.
Pete Bowyer, DRD Partner
DCMS stretched to capacity?
DCMS, one of the smallest departments of state, typically gets to look after just one or two Bills each session. However, this year Nadine Dorries’ department will be overseeing the passage of no less than six Bills, including the Data Reform Bill, the Media Bill (which allows the controversial privatisation of Channel 4), the Online Safety Bill (carried over from the previous session) and the draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill (jointly with BEIS – which will give enforcement powers to the CMA’s Digital Markets Unit to act against Big Tech). All this as well as a commitment to establish an independent football regulator, as recommended by the Crouch Review. It’s little wonder that the publication of much anticipated Gambling Review White Paper keeps slipping.
Left out of the frame
Other keynote Bills included in this year’s Queen’s Speech are Priti Patel’s Public Order Bill which aims to prevent highly disruptive tactics used by protest groups; Grant Shapps’ Transport Bill creating a new body, Great British Railways, to replace Network Rail and act as the single national leader of the railways; and Nadhim Zahawi’s Schools Bill to crack down on truancy. However, there has been one notable casualty: the long-trailed Employment Bill, promised as far back as Johnson’s first Queen’s Speech in 2019. That Bill, based on 2017’s Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, was intended to improve workers’ rights in the gig economy, introduce flexible working rights, provide protection against pregnancy discrimination, and give rights for staff to keep all tips. Its omission was strongly criticised by Labour MPs and trade union leaders.
Help with the bills?
With the exception of the MiA Employment Bill, this year’s Queen’s Speech was all about delivering previous commitments and laying the foundations for a more electorally appealing legislative agenda next year in the run-up to a Spring 2024 General Election. The first line of this year’s Speech promised that the Government’s priority was “to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families.” However, despite the gargantuan number of Bills contained within it there was, arguably, little immediate action to address the cost of living crisis. Instead, we may have to wait to the Autumn’s Finance Bill, which enacts the Budget, for a Bill that helps with the bills.
How DRD can help
DRD Partnership has updated its briefing paper summarising each of the 38 Bills in the Queen’s Speech, as well as taking a deeper dive into the more business-oriented Bills. Our experts are already advising clients on the impact they are likely to have on their businesses and what can be done about it. Contact us for more information about how we might be able to help you by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.