Last reviewed 10 May 2022
Tradition dictates that it is the Queen’s Speech although, of course, it is written by the Government, setting out the legislative programme for the parliamentary session ahead, and this year it was read to MPs by the Prince of Wales because of the Queen’s mobility problems.
So, bearing in mind that the Speech does not include details of the proposed legislative programme, what changes does it suggest that we will be seeing in the months ahead?
Prince Charles began the Speech with a general overview of the Government’s intentions for the forthcoming session. As well as levelling up, it plans to “grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families”.
The Government will also work to make streets safer and to reduce NHS backlogs after the Covid-19 pandemic while playing a leading role in defending democracy and freedom across the world.
Bill of rights
Aiming to ensure that the constitution is defended, Ministers will aim to restore the balance of power between the legislature and the courts by introducing a Bill of Rights. Legislation will “prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion”.
Intending to give itself powers to reform and repeal regulations on businesses which are contained in retained EU legislation, the Government will “continue to seize the opportunities of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union”.
A new Brexit Freedoms Bill will enable law inherited from the EU to be more easily amended and, under a further new Bill, “public sector procurement will be simplified to provide new opportunities for small businesses”.
Draft legislation will be introduced to strengthen consumer rights and protect households.
The Government will protect the integrity of the UK’s borders by taking action to prevent dangerous and illegal Channel crossings and tackle the criminal gangs who profit from facilitating them. A Bill will be brought forward to “further strengthen powers to tackle illicit finance, reduce economic crime and help businesses grow” while another will give police “powers to make the streets safe”.
Ministers will drive “growth to improve living standards and fund sustainable investment in public services”, Prince Charles continued. There will be a responsible approach to the public finances, reducing debt while reforming and cutting taxes while supporting the Bank of England to return inflation to its 2% target.
Aiming to help every child fulfil their potential wherever they live, the Government will introduce reforms to education which will be intended to raise standards and improve the quality of schools and higher education.
An Energy Bill will be brought forward to deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy, the Prince said.
A new Bill will be introduced to drive local growth, empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas and “ensuring everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success”. The planning system will be reformed to give residents more involvement in local development in a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
The Government will publish draft legislation to reform the Mental Health Act.
With problems apparent in Northern Ireland following the recent elections and the continuing arguments over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the comment in the Speech that the Government “will prioritise support for the Belfast Agreement and its institutions, including through legislation to address the legacy of the past”, left most options open.
Promising to continue to champion international trade, the Government will, according to the Speech, deliver jobs across the country and grow the economy. Legislation will be introduced to enable the implementation of the UKs first new Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) since leaving the EU.
"Her Majesty's Government will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovation,” Prince Charles said. “Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers in a Transport Bill”.
The immediate reactions to the Speech have suggested that, while there were no great surprises, one item was notable by its absence. There was no mention of the long-promised Employment Bill which the Government has previously suggested would strengthen employee rights.