The Queen’s Speech on 21 June 2017 set out what the government plans to do over the next two years and in particular on Brexit.
Eight of the twenty four draft bills in the Speech relate to the UK’s exit from the EU.
Those eight Brexit bills include a Great Repeal Bill to overturn the 1972 European Communities Act, and separate bills on customs, trade, immigration, fisheries, agriculture, nuclear safeguards and the international sanctions regime. Much of this legislation is at the moment unknown, as the terms under which the UK will leave the EU have yet to be determined.
The legislative programme will also include three finance bills over the next two years to implement Budget announcements:
- A summer 2017 finance bill to mop up what was dropped from the 2017 Finance Act ahead of the general election
- A finance bill to follow the Autumn 2017 Budget
- A finance bill to follow the Autumn 2018 Budget
Many of the 2017 Finance Act proposals were dropped before the recent election and it remains to be seen how many of them will make their return in a new Finance Bill. In particular, proposals on Making Tax Digital, a reduced dividend tax allowance and changes to the non-domicile rules are expected to return, though possibly in a revised form to secure cross-party support.
NOTE: See our updated article on the second 2017 Finance Bill.
There will also be a new National Insurance contributions (NICs) bill to enact changes announced in the 2016 Budget and 2016 Autumn Statement. However, this does not, as yet, appear to cover the proposed increase in Class 4 NICs announced in the Spring Budget 2017.
A lot of what was promised in the Conservative manifesto did not get a mention in the Queen’s Speech, in particular there was nothing about the scrapping of universal free school lunches, means-testing of the winter fuel payment or an energy price cap.
On the unpopular social care tax proposals that aimed to set a £100,000 capital floor on savings and assets to cover care costs, the speech says ministers will “work to improve social care and bring forward proposals for consultation”. That sounds like the manifesto proposals have been heavily diluted.
The manifesto also promised to end the pensions “triple lock” to guarantee an annual rise of at least 2.5% in the state pension. Theresa May had said it would last only until 2020, after which a “double lock” would increase pensions in line with inflation or average earnings. However, the Speech did not mention this change, and it is known that the Democratic Unionist Party – on whom the government is relying for votes – supports the continuation of the triple lock.
Also appearing to have been scrapped was the proposal for new grammar schools. Documents released alongside the speech state the government will “look at all the options” for ensuring all children go to good or outstanding schools and will “work with Parliament to bring forward proposals that can command a majority”.
There was also no mention of the controversial proposal to significantly hike probate fees, which was dropped ahead of the general election.
- To repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and convert four decades of EU law into UK law
- The UK Parliament and devolved assemblies will be free to make any future changes to its laws
The bill will ensure:
- The UK has an autonomous UK customs regime on departure from the EU
- flexibility to accommodate future trade deals with the EU and others
- that changes can be made to the UK’s VAT & Excise regimes on exit from the EU, irrespective of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations
- the government can collect payments of customs duties, administer the customs regime and tackle duty evasion
- control over the import and export of goods
- To create a legal framework to allow the UK to agree free trade deals with countries around the world, while ensuring UK businesses are protected from unfair trading practices
- To allow the government to end the free movement of EU nationals into the UK, though it will allow the UK to attract “the brightest and the best”. This will be part of the on-going Brexit negotiations and could be a crucial issue. It is notable that there is no mention of a target for net migration.
- EU nationals and their families will be “subject to relevant UK law”
- Enable the UK to control access to its waters and set UK fishing quotas after Brexit
- This measure will ensure a system is in place to support UK farmers and protect the natural environment after Brexit, and thus the Common Agricultural Policy
Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill
- Extends compulsory motor vehicle insurance to cover the use of automated vehicles, and to ensure compensation claims continue to be paid quickly and fairly
- allows the government to require the installation of charge points for electric vehicles at motorway service areas and large fuel retailers.
Space Industry Bill
- New powers to license a range of new commercial spaceflight, including rockets, space planes, satellite operation, spaceports and other technologies
- promote public safety by providing a regulatory framework to cover operational insurance, indemnity and liability
High Speed 2 Phase 2A Bill
- Allows cities in the north of England and Scotland to benefit from the HS2 rail link by accelerating the building of a connection to Crewe
- powers to compulsorily acquire the land needed for the railway, its construction and operation
Smart Meter Bill
- To put consumers in control of their energy use, helping them understand their energy and bills, bringing an end to estimated billing and transforming the experience of pre-paying customers
- ensure smart meters will be offered to every household and business by the end of 2020
- introduce a Special Administrative Regime, which will provide insurance for the national smart meter infrastructure in the event that the company responsible for it becomes insolvent
National Insurance Contributions Bill
- Legislate for the National Insurance contribution (NICs) changes announced in the 2016 Budget and 2016 Autumn Statement. This includes the abolition of Class 2 NICs for the self employed, together with new access to state benefit entitlement through Class 3 and Class 4 NICs
- The Bill does not relate to the proposed Class 4 increases mentioned in the Spring Budget 2017, but maybe this will return in the 2017 Autumn Budget
- Among other things, this introduces digital services that will allow businesses to pursue their cases quickly, enabling them to recover debts more easily
Financial Guidance and Claims Bill
- To establish a new statutory body accountable to Parliament, with responsibility for coordinating the provision of debt advice, money guidance and pension guidance
- enables the body’s activities to be funded through existing levies on pension schemes and the financial services industry
- transfers the regulation of claims management services to the Financial Conduct Authority, and transfers complaints-handling responsibility to the Financial Ombudsman Service
- ensures the Financial Conduct Authority has the powers to implement a claims management regulatory regime. This will include a new power that will allow the FCA to cap the fees that claims management companies charge consumers, as well as ensuring a more robust authorisation process for new companies who wish to enter the market
Data Protection Bill
- Will allow people the right to force major social media platforms to delete information held about them at the age of 18
- updates the powers and sanctions available to the information commissioner
Draft Tenants’ Fees Bill (announced in 2016 Autumn Statement)
- Bans landlords and agents charging letting fees as a condition of their tenancy
- enforces the ban with provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees
- applies to England only – some minor amendments to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 may apply to England and Wales
Good Mortgages Bill
- A new Good Mortgages Act will enable individuals to use their existing goods (such as a vehicle) as security for a loan, while retaining possession of the goods
- increases protection for borrowers who get into financial difficulties, by introducing a new requirement for a lender to obtain a court order before seizing goods where a borrower has made significant repayments
- helps borrowers in financial difficulties by giving borrowers the right to voluntary termination by handing over their vehicle or other goods to the lender
- provides protection for innocent third parties who buy a vehicle subject to a logbook loan that may be at risk of repossession, and makes clearer that borrowers who knowingly sell goods with a logbook loan attached could be committing fraud
The full Queen’s Speech and documents
The full Speech and accompanying documents can be read here.
See our updated article on the second 2017 Finance Bill.