The State Opening of Parliament will take place on 10 May 2022, with the Queen’s Speech setting out the Government’s agenda and economic plans for the next session.
We take a look at what new laws could be announced and what measures from last year’s Queen’s Speech are confirmed as being carried over. It is typical for around 25 new Bills to be announced. However, given that some of the Bills being carried over are broad in scope, and that this is likely to be the last legislative session before the next general election, the programme will no doubt be an ambitious one.
Bills to be carried over into the next session
Online Safety Bill
- A long time in the making, the Bill was finally introduced to Parliament in March 2022.
- Seen as one of the most far-reaching attempts to date to regulate online content. Aims to deliver the UK Government’s manifesto commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online while also defending freedom of speech.
- Expected to have a lengthy passage through Parliament.
Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill (PSTI)
- Aims to protect consumer connectable devices from cyber-attacks.
- A key development in the UK’s commitment to improving the cybersecurity of products, as detailed in its response to its calls for views on a proposed domestic legislation focusing on the cybersecurity of products.
- Also forms part of a series of proposed legislation in the UK and EU, such as the proposed EU’s revised General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) regulations.
Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill
- Includes a range of measures aimed at strengthening existing legislation on freedom of speech and academic freedom in higher education.
- Still making its way through the Commons and has been delayed since September 2021, following the departure of Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary.
Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill
- One of three bills the UK Government announced as part of its Action Plan for Animal Welfare.
- Introduces high standards of animal welfare including new powers to tackle puppy smuggling, protect livestock from dangerous and out of control dogs, and improves zoo regulations.
High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill
- Gives Government the powers needed to construct and operate the section of HS2 between Crewe and Manchester.
- A hybrid bill, as are typically used for major infrastructure projects, and will take longer to progress through Parliament as a result.
Financial Services Bill
- One of the most highly anticipated bills, which has been referenced by Government for several months. It is expected to act as the legislative vehicle for multiple reforms across the financial services sector. New powers for regulators will be provided across a number of areas including Solvency II, crypto assets and wholesale markets.
- The Bill is likely to address the outcome of one or more of the other Government reviews of UK financial regulation including the Solvency II Consultation, which is currently considering improvements to the prudential regime for UK insurers and reinsurers.
- The Bill will also set out a new regime on access to cash.
Counter State Threats Bill
- The Queen’s Speech in May 2021 announced a new Bill to provide security services with the tools they need to tackle the threat from hostile activity by states. However, following a consultation last year, progress has since stalled.
- The UK Government has said it will modernise existing counter espionage laws and create new offences, tools and powers to detect, deter and disrupt hostile activity in and targeted at the UK.
- The Bill is now reportedly being reworked to account for the Russian invasion of Ukraine and growing concerns regarding foreign influence in Parliament.
Economic Crime Bill
- A second Economic Crime Bill is expected to follow the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 which was fast-tracked through Parliament, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- This proposed Bill is likely to contain new powers to seize crypto assets from criminals and bring them within scope of civil forfeiture powers. Home Secretary Priti Patel has commented this will be a “very substantial piece of legislation”.
- Strengthened anti-money laundering powers will be key, including targeting the use of limited partnerships as vehicles for facilitating international money laundering and illegal arms movements.
- The Bill is also expected to address Companies House reform.
Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
- A Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill giving the 12 core levelling up “missions” status in law, as set out in the Government’s flagship White Paper, is also likely to be on the legislative agenda.
- At the previous Queen’s Speech in May 2021, it was announced that a Planning Bill would be brought forward. It is now being reported that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michal Gove, has decided not to proceed with the legislation and instead will look to incorporate more limited changes to the planning rules in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
Competition and Consumers Bill
- A Competition and Consumers Bill is expected following an announcement by Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets Paul Scully, earlier this month.
- The Bill will expand the powers of the Competition and Markets Authority to promote effective competition and protect consumers in digital markets.
Brexit Freedoms Bill
- The Brexit Freedoms Bill will seek to end to the special status of EU law and ensure that it can be more easily amended or removed.
- This will form part of a cross-government drive to cut £1 billion of red tape for businesses and improve regulation.
Bill of Rights
- Following the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on ‘Human Rights Act Reform: a Modern Bill of Rights’, a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 is expected.
- The Bill is likely to include measures to amend or remove the duties on courts to take account of case law from the European Court of Human Rights and to interpret legislation compatibly with Convention rights.
Victims Bill (draft)
- At the last Queen’s Speech in 2021, a Draft Victims Bill was announced to address violence, including against women and girls, and support for victims in the criminal justice system.
- Following a consultation earlier this year, legislation is likely to be published in draft form and be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny.
Free Trade Agreement Bill(s)
- The Government has previously committed to bringing forward bespoke bills relating to each of the UK’s Free Trade Agreements that require primary legislation.
The Queen’s Speech will provide Prime Minister Boris Johnson an opportunity to reset his domestic agenda and unite MPs in a formal vote of confidence in him and his political programme. However, with the last two years spent focusing on the impact of and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, valuable bandwidth has been taken away from this Government in fulfilling its manifesto and broader agenda.
Levelling up has been at the heart of the UK Government’s mantra since the 2019 election, but since the White Paper was published in February 2022, it has taken a backseat. We therefore expect to see it revived in the 2022 Queen’s Speech, along with other key topics and themes including making the UK a safer place (from online safety to public safety) and growth for the UK economy.
We will be monitoring the Queen’s Speech and will provide further updates thereafter.