The Queen’s Speech next Monday will set out the Government’s
legislative programme for the next Parliamentary session. Given the
likelihood of a general election in the very near future the programme
is unlikely to change our statute book. Indeed the vast majority, if
not all, of the Bills announced by Her Majesty will probably not get
to their first parliamentary reading.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been accused
of using the Queen’s Speech as “party political broadcast”, while
Labour Leader, Jeremy
Corbyn has called it “a cynical stunt”. Queen Speeches have always
been political and certainly through the Blair, Brown and Cameron
years, when they went further than purely legislative measures and
were often used to rejuvenate short term political fortunes. Still it
feels different this time around, but we are currently living in a
political environment with the temperature dial turned right up.
So yes the Queen’s Speech will mark the starting point for the next
General Election if not literally, certainly in the mood music, which
currently feels more ‘Death metal’ than Mozart. And yes, it will not
lead to significant or even any changes in the law, for now at least.
Still the current Government has a number of significant legislative
proposals which it has committed to and knowing about them might give
some indication on the Conservative Party’s manifesto at the soon to
be expected election. So, here is a round up.
First, a number of pieces of legislation introduced in the last
session will be ‘carried over’ into the next session including
enabling the Commonwealth Games in 2022 (taking place in Birmingham),
enabling the West Midlands to Crewe section of HS2, legislation which
will consolidate sentencing law and the recent Domestic Abuse Bill.
They will resume at the parliamentary stage they reached at prorogation.
Whatever happens between now and the 31 October, and even beyond on
Brexit, there will still be legislative consequences and requirements:
deal or no deal.
A number of Brexit related Bills introduced in the last session on
international trade agreements, on financial services, and agriculture
and fisheries, failed to complete their progress through both houses
of parliament. And if a deal is struck with the EU then a further
Withdrawal Bill will be required to authorise and enable its
In October 2018, the then Prime Minister Theresa May announced
plans to ban restaurants making deductions from staff tips “at the
earliest opportunity”, following a consultation on the issue.
In July the government published
proposals and committed to legislation to provide legal
protections to Armed Forces personnel and veterans serving abroad,
against the threat of prosecution for alleged historic offences.
of Defence also intend to legislate for a new compensation
scheme for death or injuries sustained by service personnel in combat,
to avoid lengthy claims in the courts.
The Department for Education have been consulting
on proposed legislation governing home education including a new
register of children who are home educated and a new duty on local
authorities to support home educated families.
The Government is committed to ending the 15-year limit for British
citizens living overseas for voting in UK Parliamentary elections and
introduce ‘votes for life’. It was part of the 2017 Conservative Party
manifesto. The Government assisted a private
members bill, but it did not progress beyond its Commons’ stages
and stood adjourned in March.
Environment, food & agriculture
Bill enabling stability for farmers as the UK exits from the EU
Common Agriculture Policy failed to complete its passage through
Parliament before the end of session. The new Secretary of State has
that she hoped to reintroduce the Bill "soon" and to make
progress on it as soon as possible after Parliament returns.
Environment bill setting out a comprehensive legal framework for
environmental improvement including on air quality and the protection
and enhancement of landscapes was the subject of pre-legislative
parliamentary scrutiny earlier in the year. An update
from the Government in July says it is considering how to respond to
the recommendations made by two Parliamentary Select Committees
including by strengthening proposals for green governance, reinforcing
the independence and accountability of the Office for Environmental Protection.
Welfare (Sentencing) Bill introduced in June, but fell at
prorogation, sought to increase the maximum penalty for the most
serious animal cruelty offences. Supporters of the bill want to see it
reintroduced in the next session.
According to press
reports NHS bosses have been calling for a NHS Integrated Care
Bill in the next Parliamentary session to make it easier for different
parts of the health service to work together. This may require certain
parts of Andrew Lansley’s 2012 NHS reforms to be dismantled around
competitive tendering requirements. Certainly proposals
have been produced by the NHS however there are no statements from the
Department of Health confirming any legislative intentions.
What might be more concrete is that Health Minister Nadine Norris has
indicated that legislation
which will establish the Health Service Safety Investigatory Body as
an independent statutory body with legal powers to conduct
investigations, will be in the next Queens Speech. A draft
bill was published two years ago which was scrutinised by a joint
committee of the Commons and the Lords.
Housing and Planning
The Government is committed to a number of housing reforms which
require primary legislation on leasehold reform, regulating the
private rented sector, and broader consumer redress, and to address
the weaknesses exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire.
Leasehold and common hold reform to prohibit new residential long
leases and restrict ground rents in new established leases (to a
peppercorn value) and making buying a freehold or extending a lease
easier and cheaper. Both the Law Commission and the Government have
on changes to the law in this area, with the Government committing to
legislation as soon as possible.
Statutory regulation of letting and managing agents, enforced by an
independent regulator, requiring all landlords to be members of a
redress scheme and the abolition of ‘no fault’ evictions (subject to a
A Government commissioned working group advising on new regulatory
framework for property agents reported
In addition, the government is also committed (and consulted
on) to bring forward consumer redress on a broader front, for example
compelling freeholders of leasehold properties to join a redress
scheme, and developers of new-build homes to belong to a New Homes
Ombudsman and the possible creation of a dedicated housing court.
Legislation to strengthen the existing mobile (park) homes
legislation has been longed-promised. A Government response
to external review sets out proposals to strengthen the existing
legislation including improving residents’ rights and giving local
authorities more enforcement powers to tackle rogue site owners.
Legislation is certainly expected in the next session for regulating
the safety of high rise buildings in response to the weaknesses
exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire. The Government consulted
on a range of measures earlier in the summer including on the scope of
a new regime and the roles and responsibilities of different parties,
enforcement, sanctions and compliance measures which is likely to
include a new national building safety regulator. Policy decisions
are expected sometime in the autumn with Ministers saying
that they will legislate at the earliest opportunity.
We may also see new legislation to speed-up change of use of retail
properties to other uses, notably housing and office accommodation in
order to keep high streets vibrant. The same consultation also
proposed making permanent two-time limited permitted development
rights enabling change of use from storage or distribution to
residential use and larger single storey rear extensions to houses.
in March that they intend to legislate on these proposals.
Primary legislation intending to repeal free movement of EEA
nationals and associated rights has recently been confirmed
(as part of no deal Brexit planning) after some doubts had been
expressed over the summer whether legislation will be taken forward.
An earlier piece of legislation stalled after committee stage in March
The Home Office is preparing legislation to replace the arrangements
for the European
Arrest Warrant and for an Espionage
Bill which might include reforming the law of treason.
We can expect legislation on sentencing reform to implement the
that would require serious offenders to serve two-thirds of their
sentence in prison and subject rather than the current automatic
half-way release. It is unclear whether this will require primary
legislation. If it does, a justice bill may also contain measures for
a statutory professional regulatory framework across the probation
system, which was announced
provisions to facilitate greater use of electronic court and
tribunal proceedings just failed (not for the first time) to complete
its legislative progress in the last session and was not subject to a
carry-over motion, meaning that if these or similar proposals are to
be resurrected, a Bill will have to begin afresh.
Another bill which did not complete its passage in the last session
was the Divorce,
Dissolution and Separation Bill which sought to introduce ‘no
fault’ divorce to reduce unnecessary conflict between couples.
We may see legislation to support the review of local government
funding (the 'fair funding review') and the move which will see local
authorities retain three-quarters of their business rate income. These
developments have been postponed to 2021-22, but to keep to this
timetable, legislation will be needed in the next session.
Two pieces of local government legislation fell as a result of
prorogation, first bringing forward the next
business rate revaluation in England to April 2021 and the
second fulfilling a commitment to exempt
public toilets from business rates could reappear in the coming session.
Further legislation will be needed in the next session to provide the
financial authorisations and appropriations to enable the budgets for
Northern Ireland departments to be set in the absence of a
fully-functioning Executive and Assembly.
Given a recent ministerial
statement we could see legislation on historical abuse cases in
Almost three years ago a draft
bill was published which proposed to merge the Parliamentary and
Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman into a
single Public Service Ombudsman. This was the subjected to a
pre-scrutiny session by the MHCLG Select Committee in March 2017. The
Government said in May
2018 that the draft Bill “will be progressed as and when a
legislative opportunity arises.”
There are potentially a range of transport legislative measures
including the powers required for the West
Midlands to Crewe section of HS2 legislation which is being
carried over from the last session. The Oakervee Review of the HS2
project due to report in the autumn may impact on that legislation.
Rail Review which will report this autumn may lead to
legislation following on from a White Paper setting out its long-term
aspirations for reform of the sector, particularly if new statutory
bodies are to be created or involve changes in responsibilities.
We may see legislation on taxis and private hire. A 2018 Government
review proposed wholesale reform. The previous Transport Secretary indicated
that the Government would not go that far but told the Transport
Select Committee in July that legislation is being prepared to tackle
cross-border hiring and other specific issues.
The current Transport Secretary told
the House of Commons that he was looking to legislate in the next
session to make changes to insolvency rules for airlines in light of
the collapse of Thomas Cook and Monarch Airlines. This would allow UK
airlines to trade in administration so that passengers can be
repatriated using the airline’s own aircraft, people and systems.
Work and pensions
The Government said
last year that it would legislate to give the pensions regulator
powers, including criminal sanctions, to punish those who deliberately
put their pension schemes at risk. If legislation is brought forward
it could also contain other measures to provide for a digital
interface (a ‘pensions’
dashboard’) enabling people to see all their pension savings and
their state pension in one place, to define and regulate Collected
defined Contribution pensions and to reform
Royal Mail personnel pensions.
It was announced
in July that the Government intends to legislate to prevent the misuse
of Non Disclosure Agreements and confidentiality clauses in the
situation of workplace harassment or discrimination.
Mark Upton, is a freelance consultant on public policy and public affairs.