19 May 2016

The State Opening of Parliament is undoubtedly a wonderful spectacle with Black Rod summoning the Commons to the House of Peers to hear the Queen deliver the Queen's Speech.

Her Majesty's in name only of course: this is the programme for the next session of Parliament; written by the Government and approved by the Cabinet.

In a year in which the forthcoming EU referendum has rather sucked the life out of other political debate, however, the Speech was focused much more on social policy and "life chances" than on the economy.

High-speed broadband access to be a right for all households, more investment in self-driving and electric vehicles, yet another commitment to build more new homes and a nod to a seven-day NHS — all interesting, but not likely to impact on most businesses unless they are involved in money laundering and tax evasion (both of which are to be tackled).

Other measures include helping low-income families to save, safeguarding national security, the already-publicised lifetime ISA and Northern Powerhouse, and better prisons helping to rehabilitate rather than just punish the convicted.

The sugary drinks tax was confirmed (to be included in the 2017 Finance Bill) and all the recent fuss about forced academisation reduced to "laying foundations for educational excellence in all schools".

A promise of upholding parliamentary sovereignty and proposals for a British Bill of Rights were the only nod to the current EU debate which is sharply dividing the Queen's audience, and that was it — all over in about eight minutes.

More than 20 Bills to be debated but most of them relate to social policies that will have little direct impact on businesses.

The key Bills

The Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill (England and Wales) will include a new statutory framework for paying compensation, based on market value of land and, not for the first time, will aim to make the planning process more efficient.

The Intellectual Property Bill should make it easier for companies to settle intellectual property disputes out of court.

The Modern Transport Bill will, as well as the already mentioned driverless cars, feature support for the space industry.

The Digital Economy Bill will include the right to automatic compensation when broadband service goes down and aim to toughen restrictions on spam emails.

The Criminal Finances Bill provides for a new criminal offence making companies liable for stopping their staff facilitating tax evasion.

The Local Growth and Jobs Bill will enable local authorities to retain 100% of business rates levied and give combined authority mayors powers to levy business rate supplement to fund infrastructure projects.

The Pensions Bill will include improved protection for people paying into multi-employer pension schemes (known as Master Trusts).

The Education for All Bill will provide powers to convert under-performing schools in "unviable" local authorities into academies.