There are 27 Bills in the Queen’s Speech – here’s our brief guide to their contents and functions (the official briefing pack explaining them can be found here). There are also two semi-announcements which don’t propose legislation (yet) but do touch on prominent pledges. They are English Votes on English Laws and a British Bill of Rights, on both of which the Government announces its intentions in broad terms but intends to hold off on actual legislation for the moment.
Here are the formal Bills to be brought forward:
Enterprise Bill – reduce red tape on business, create a Small Business Conciliation Service to handle business disputes and reform the appeal process for Business Rates.
Finance Bill – the Personal Tax Allowance will be pegged to the equivalent of 30 hours of work at the National Minimum Wage, removing those workers permanently from Income Tax; a ceiling will be placed on Income Tax, VAT and National Insurance, preventing any rises in those taxes (this will be done with this Bill and a National Insurance Contributions Bill)
Childcare Bill – provide 30 hours a week of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds during the school year, for families where both parents are working.
Housing Bill – extend Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants; require councils to sell vacant, high value council houses; reform planning to improve neighbourhood plans and require councils to support self-builders; introduce a statutory register of brownfield land; and deliver the discount Starter Homes scheme.
Energy Bill – create an Oil and Gas Authority, with the mission of regulating the industry and “maximising the economic recovery of oil and gas from UK waters”; devolve decision-making over onshore wind farms entirely to local level; seek to improve the UK’s energy security.
Immigration Bill – implement the Prime Minister’s speech of last week, by criminalising illegal working, creating a new agency to prevent exploitation of migrant workers, extend “deport first, appeal later” to all immigration cases, and tax businesses importing skilled labour to fund apprenticeships and training in the UK.
Trade Unions Bill – require a 50 per cent turnout for strike ballots, and further require that in essential public services at least 40 per cent of those eligible to vote must support a strike for it to proceed.
Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill – freeze a variety of working-age benefits, tax credits and Child Benefit, and reduce the welfare cap.
Education and Adoption Bill – increase powers to intervene in failing schools, and for “coasting” schools to be turned into academies. Create Regional Adoption Agencies to ensure children can be swiftly adopted across local authority boundaries.
Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill – enact DevoManc, and introduce a framework for other cities to benefit from the same devolution process; allow other powers and finances to be devolved to towns and counties; additionally, through a Buses Bill, allow directly elected mayors to control bus franchising.
HS2 Bill – does what it says on the tin, proceeding with the building of Phase 1 of HS2.
Scotland Bill – implement both “the pledge” and the Smith Commission, by devolving various tax and spending powers to Holyrood. This includes retaining but somewhat reducing the Barnett Formula.
Wales Bill – devolve some regulatory powers (including ports, speed limits, sewerage) to Cardiff, and allow the Assembly to decide its own electoral system and voting age.
Northern Ireland Bill – create two new bodies intended to assist with the investigation of unsolved deaths from the Troubles.
EU Referendum Bill – does what it says on the tin, legislating for an in/out referendum on our membership of the EU by the end of 2017.
Extremism Bill – a raft of new powers against extremism in the UK, including: allowing the Home Secretary to ban extremist groups; empowering law enforcement to disrupt extremist activities; allowing police and councils to close down premises being used for extremist purposes; strengthening Ofcom’s powers to punish broadcasters who disseminate extremist content; and allowing employers to check if job applicants are extremists and then forbid them from working with children.
Investigatory Powers Bill – new police and intelligence agency “tools to keep you and your family safe”. (The lack of detail in the accompanying notes to the Queen’s Speech suggests that a) this is what is popularly known as the Snooper’s Charter and b) that the details are set to be debated and hammered out within the Government.)
Policing and Criminal Justice Bill – a radical set of reforms to improve policing and police accountability, including: time limits on police bail; improving the handling of people suffering mental health problems; strengthening Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary; reforming police complaints and disciplinary proceedings, including greater powers for PCCs; extending police misconduct cases to former officers; subjecting the Police Federation to the Freedom of Information Act; and introduce sanctions for professionals who fail to act on child abuse.
Psychoactive Substance Bill – ban the production, importation and supply of so-called “legal highs”.
Armed Forces Bill – this is a Bill which must be renewed every five years to continue the existence of the Armed Forces.
Bank of England Bill – the details are as yet unspecified, but this will involve some changes to the governance of the Bank.
Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill – strengthen the regulation of charities, including making it easier to ban people from running charities or for the Charities Commission to close charities down. The Bill will also make it easier for charities to undertake social investment.
Votes for Life Bill – abolish the rule that British citizens lose their right to vote after 15 years living abroad.
European Union (Finance) Bill – approve the EU budget agreed in 2013.
Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill – merge the “Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Health Ombudsman, the Local Government Ombudsman and potentially The Housing Ombudsman” into one service.