Kennedys responds as Queen's Speech sets out Government's priorities

Following today's Queen's Speech, we have officially responded to some key domestic legislation relating to the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, and the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill.

In a week that is likely to be dominated by ongoing Brexit negotiations and timelines, we have today been provided with this Government’s priorities and legislative programme in the Queen’s Speech which took place this morning.

The content was largely as we expected; other than bringing in the requisite Brexit Bills, its second biggest objective was delivering on top-line General Election priorities.

In summary, some of the legislation announced in relation to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill was to:

  • Ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of the global life sciences industry after Brexit, giving patients faster access to innovative medicines and supporting the growth of our domestic sector.
  • Allow the UK to take a lead role in global research to find cures for rare diseases and improve treatments for patients around the world.

Responding to the introduction of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill in the Queen’s Speech today, Paula Margolis, senior associate at Kennedys, says: “This is a bill which continues the government’s strategy of promoting the UK’s life sciences industry, with the prospect of Brexit also in mind. It is focused on creating much greater collaboration within the industry, with the NHS being an active participant, to enable more home grown products to be developed in a post-Brexit world. Given the many scare stories we’ve heard over the past months regarding stockpiling of medicines and devices, this is a very welcome development. Nonetheless, after years of following European regimes, the proposed changes will take time to realise and implement and, as is recognised by the MHRA in their published ‘no deal’ guidance, we’re still likely to have to align ourselves with EU safety standards so that the UK’s output can be adopted in other countries. Insurers and manufacturers will need to carefully evaluate the risks any changes will bring.

“The bill’s aim to ‘…remove unnecessary bureaucracy for the lowest risk clinical trials, encouraging the rapid introduction of new medicines,’ is admirable, but it must be careful not to go too far. Whilst a high level of so-called bureaucracy may appear unnecessary to some, it does offer significant protection to both participants and pharmaceutical companies.”

Stuart Farlow, associate at Kennedys, commented on the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, which set out:

  • New Government powers to direct an airport or other relevant body to prepare and submit a proposal to the Civil Aviation Authority to change the design of airspace.
  • Modernising the licensing framework for air traffic control.
  • New police powers to tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft.

Stuart says: “Taking into account the number of reported near misses between unmanned aircraft and commercial airliners, coupled with both Heathrow and Gatwick suffering temporary closures in the last 12 months due to drone sightings, any increase in police powers to tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft has to be welcomed.

"Modernisation of UK airspace management will be an essential enabler for the continued development of the UK commercial drone industry, particularly for drones flying beyond visual line of sight. The effective integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in UK airspace, with all aircraft able to detect each other and, if necessary, take avoiding action, will improve safety and encourage the drone industry to continue the growth it has enjoyed in recent years in the UK. Care must be taken, however, to fully understand the impact of any changes upon other airspace users, such as the General Aviation sector – Operators of light aircraft and helicopters may be reluctant to implement expensive hardware upgrades intended to facilitate the wider use of drones in UK airspace.”

Top-line summary

  • The Government has announced it intends to introduce 26 Bills over the course of this Parliamentary session.
  • The heart of the legislative programme is Brexit, with the Government intending to bring forward a Financial Services Bill, Trade Bill, and Private International Law Bill. There were also substantial announcements on civil justice related Bills.
  • There will be now be up to six days of debate over different elements of the Speech in the House of Commons, after which MPs will vote on it. With a lack of a Parliamentary majority, the Government faces a difficult task in securing the necessary votes to pass it.
  • Losing a vote on the Queen’s Speech will not automatically trigger a General Election, but it adds further pressure on both sides of the House to support one.

What Brexit Bills have the Government announced?

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

  • Implement any Withdrawal Agreement which may be agreed between the UK and the EU in domestic law.

Financial Services Bill

  • Ensure that the UK maintains its world-leading regulatory standards and remains open to international markets after we leave the EU.
  • Simplify the process which allows overseas investment funds to be sold in the UK.
  • Implement the Basel standards to strengthen the regulation of global banks, in line with previous G20 commitments.
  • Deliver on the Government’s commitment for long-term market access to the UK for financial services firms in Gibraltar.

Trade Bill

  • Rolling over trade agreements with third parties.
  • Ensuring access to procurement opportunities under the Government Procurement Agreement, and protecting them from unfair trade practices or unforeseen surges in imports.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill

  • Will end free movement, and make EU citizens arriving after January 2021 subject to the same UK immigration controls as non-EU citizens.
  • Clarify the immigration status of Irish citizens once the free movement migration framework is repealed.
  • Enable the Government to deliver future changes to social security co-ordination policy.

Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill

  • Seek to make sure that individuals, families and businesses in the UK who become involved in international legal disputes have a clear framework for cross-border resolutions.

The week ahead

  • Tuesday 15 October:
    • Nicola Sturgeon to give speech at SNP Conference at 15.15.
  • Thursday 17 October:
    • European Council Summit takes place in Brussels.
  • Friday 18 October:
    • European Council Summit continues in Brussels.
  • Saturday 19 October:
    • Parliament to sit in order to debate and decide on Brexit next steps following the European Council Summit.