The Queen’s Speech will be a defining moment for Theresa May. It will lay out the laws that government wishes to pass this parliament and must secure a parliamentary majority, if a government is to be formed.
Importantly, this parliament will last two years – the maximum possible time allowed, to give space for the government to secure Brexit related legislation. However, the contents of the speech are tricky ground. The Prime Minister has yet to secure a deal with the DUP to ensure her parliamentary majority. We can therefore expect loose wording around the areas still up for negotiation.
Normally a victorious moment following an election, Theresa May must strike a fine balance: recognising her failed election manifesto; appeasing the DUP crown-makers; avoiding amendment by Labour; and securing the instruments necessary to achieve Brexit. Above all, it must secure the backing of her wavering party. It's no coincidence that the Prime Minister has chosen tonight to host a rare drinks party at Number 10 for Conservative MPs.
These are Headland’s predictions for the Brexit Queen’s Speech:
Legislating for Brexit
- The Great Repeal Bill: Likely to be the highlight of the speech, the Bill is set to provide regulatory certainty by repealing the European Communities Act of 1972 and translating EU laws into UK laws – all at the precise moment of exit from the EU. “Sensible changes” to ensure the laws make sense outside of the EU (e.g. changing references to EU bodies) will be made by devolved powers to government – prompting criticism about a potential lack of scrutiny.
- Other Brexit bills: The Government had previously planned to also introduce separate bills on issues such as trade, immigration and customs to deal with the knock-on effects of Brexit. The jury's out on whether the Prime Minister will be brave enough to include them.
Business and Financial Services
- Corporate governance: Theresa May has taken a tough stance on corporate excess since her election. The Conservative Manifesto promised to legislate for tougher regulation of tax advisory firms and to make executive pay packages subject to annual votes by shareholders. Given the central ground these plans fall on, they’re unlikely to be opposed by Labour.
- Consumer rights: Government had previously promised to legislate for consumer enforcement bodies to be able to ask the courts to issue civil fines against companies which break consumer law. It also promised to legislate to make subscription small print clearer for consumers.
- Price cap: The Conservative Manifesto promised to implement a cap on household energy bills. However, the mixed reception this received from within the Conservative party makes it unlikely to pass. The Prime Minister may therefore look to introduce a watered-down version of plans to protect consumer rights, unless she decides that support from Labour could make up for the lost votes in her own party.
- Shale gas: The Manifesto had also promised to treat shale gas planning applications as permitted development, establish expert planning functions to support local councils; and make major shale gas planning applications the responsibility of the National Planning Regime. However, it is unlikely such a controversial measure will be attempted in this hung parliament.
- Terrorism: Following the recent attacks in London and Manchester, the Government is likely to include plans for new counter-terrorism measures.
Transport and Infrastructure
- Trains: The Conservative Manifesto promised legislation if train companies refuse to guarantee a minimum service during strikes. If attempted, expect Labour push back.
- HS2: Government is due to deliver a Hybrid Bill for HS2 Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe.
- Northern Ireland: The DUP are likely to insist on funding for Northern Irish infrastructure. Given the need to keep them sweet, expect Mrs May to throw a bone.
- Air Passenger Duty: Promised to be scrapped in the DUP Manifesto, such a move would be popular and provide the prospect of a good headline for the Chancellor.
- The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill: This ran out of time to pass in the last parliament, so may be brought back to deal with the infrastructure and insurance of electric and automated vehicles.
- Space Flight Bill: Another one which ran out of time – the Government had previously published draft legislation on making space flight safe and cost-effective.
- Housing White Paper: Included in the White Paper were recommendations to give councils power to prevent builders sitting on land without building and to ensure that longer tenancies are available to give stability to the burgeoning rental market.
- Building regulations: Following the tragic events of Grenfell Tower, it’s likely that the Government will want to legislate to ensure raised standards. Given the short amount of time that has passed, this may simply mean a vague reference before further plans are revealed later on.
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