7 November 2023
The King’s Speech has been delivered at the State Opening of Parliament. It is written in Number 10 to set the outlines of a programme for legislation which, on this occasion, will take the country up to the general election.
It should also be noted that the Speech does not necessarily include everything that the Government has in mind for the session ahead. For example, neither the recently adopted Illegal Migration Act 2023 nor the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 were included in last year’s Queen’s Speech.
So, what did the Government choose to include this time? Below we summarise the contents.
It repeated the commitment to introduce the Advanced British Standard in order to bring technical and academic routes into a single qualification. Students will be encouraged to avoid poor-quality degrees and there will be more high-quality apprenticeships.
The Government will reform welfare payments and encourage more people into work.
To reduce reliance on volatile international energy markets and hostile foreign regimes, it will allow the licensing of new oil and gas fields. At the same time, it will press forward with promoting renewable energy sources and reforming grid connection.
Balancing the Government’s commitment to continue extracting oil and gas, it will “continue to lead action on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss”.
Children aged 14 and under will never be able to buy cigarettes legally. The Government will “train the doctors and nurses the country needs” and ensure “minimum service levels to prevent strikes from undermining patient safety”.
Promising to stop punitive service charges, the Government will make it easier for leaseholders to purchase their freehold. There will be better security for tenants.
The Government will build on the Illegal Migration Act mentioned above to fight “dangerous and illegal” small boat crossings in the English Channel.
There will be legislation to allow police to prevent digital-enabled crime and child sexual abuse. In light of the Manchester Arena attack, laws will be introduced to protect public buildings. Serious offenders should expect "tougher sentences".
“Emerging industries” will be encouraged and the Government will establish new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of potentially revolutionary technologies.
Negotiating more trade agreements following Brexit will provide growth and boost the economy, the Government argues. It will continue to negotiate agreements with dynamic economies in the fastest-growing regions in the world.
The Government will establish new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of potentially revolutionary technologies including self-driving vehicles. It will invest in Network North to deliver faster and more reliable journeys for cities and towns in the North and Midlands focusing on the journeys that people make most often.
There were a total of 21 new legislative proposals, all of them well-trailed in advance (see the GOV.UK website). The Speech includes several passing mentions of proposals with little or no detail — eg plans to “regenerate towns”, to bring forward a new football regulator, to deal with “the scourge of unlicensed pedicabs in London” and an assertion that the Government is “committed to tackling antisemitism”.
It will continue to support the Bank of England to control rising prices by taking responsible decisions on spending and borrowing, according to the Speech, but for more details in that direction we must wait for the chancellor’s Autumn Statement due on 22 November.