The annual State Opening of Parliament may be steeped in pomp and ceremony – the State Coach, the Imperial Crown, Black Rod’s famous summoning of MPs into the House of Lords – yet after a year of unprecedented state intervention across every aspect of our daily lives, there have been few times in modern history where a government’s legislative agenda mattered so much, and to so many.
The goal for Number 10 couldn’t be clearer – to deliver on the promises from of 2019 manifesto which propelled the Prime Minister to the largest Conservative majority in over 30 years. So far, Grayling analysis shows that 27% of 2019 manifesto commitments have been completed whilst progress has been made on a further 54%. Given this is the first Queen’s Speech since Britain left the European Union, the Prime Minister will also be keen to define Britain’s new place on the global stage by highlighting the “Global Britain” agenda and the UK’s leadership role through the G7 summit in Cornwall next month, as well as COP26 in November. However, the task of delivering these objectives is now dogged by the new challenges of rebuilding a nation from crisis and navigating the changes in society, business, and culture which the pandemic served to accelerate.
The Prime Minister is said to have approved a raft of new Bills and measures, ranging from social care reform to online safety. And although the Queen’s Speech will not have detailed policy proposals for every new piece of legislation announced – the Government will be keen to show its post-pandemic vision.
As part of the promise to “build back better” and to deliver on the “levelling up” agenda, new measures to boost regional economies are expected to be front and center, with bills to reform the planning sector to speed up construction and development a near certainty. In addition, new legislation around freeports is also expected, in an attempt to energise industries and geographies suffering from the double whammy of pandemic and post-Brexit fallout.
Meanwhile, a new Health and Care Bill will deliver significant reform to NHS management, with Ministers looking to take back control of key decisions and processes – reversing the practice of giving more autonomy to local healthcare trusts under David Cameron and Theresa May. What is more, social care reform is also rumoured to make an appearance, with the Prime Minister keen to make inroads on a difficult issue that has plagued his predecessors for years. It remains unclear however how much detail is expected around this political football, which may again be kicked into the long grass in the months to come.
New measures to reinforce the UK’s security in the face of international threats has also been floated by Foreign Office insiders, with a new National Security Bill tipped to be included – following on from the recently published Security, Defence, Development, and Foreign Policy review. A new Online Safety Bill will empower Ofcom to regulate tech platforms, whilst Number 10 has also heavily briefed that a post-Brexit State Aid Bill will reform the way the government can intervene in the labour market.
In addition to the introduction of new legislation, the new session will also include a number of old bills which fell foul of the parliamentary timetable and failed to make it through the last Parliament. These include measures to reform the telecommunications and environment sectors, as well as the Police and Armed Forces.
As ever, the Queen’s Speech is the government’s ability to wipe the slate clean, to start afresh, to reenergise their base and deliver on their promises. Governments have looked to the Queen’s Speech to draw a line under their previous failings, or bury the ghosts of broken promises. Positive local and mayoral election results for the Conservatives will only serve to assist in creating a political narrative about a re-set for the Government.
On 11th May there is a genuine opportunity to shape the direction of this country for a generation, to reform sectors once thought of as too big to fail or too politically sensitive to tackle, and to heal the hurt left in the aftermath of the pandemic. Number 10 are well aware of the opportunities and pitfalls that lie ahead.
If you would like to receive Grayling’s post-Queen’s Speech analysis, or discuss what it could mean for your business, please do get in touch with the public affairs team.
Head of Public Affairs
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