The Prince of Wales has delivered the Queen’s Speech on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, outlining 38 new bills.

The Prince of Wales highlighted that Her Majesty’s Government would aim to “grow and strengthen the economy and ease the cost of living for families”, while ensuring all corners of the country would have the opportunity to level up.

Key announcements included:

  • A Bill to drive local growth and empower local leaders to regenerate their areas
  • Legislation reforming the planning system to give local residents more involvement in developments in their area
  • A Transport Bill to deliver safer, cleaner services and enable more innovation, as well as the modernisation of rail services to improve reliability for passengers
  • An Energy Bill to deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy
  • Draft legislation to promote competition, strengthen consumer rights, and protect households and businesses
  • Legislation to implement new competition rules for digital markets and the largest digital firms
  • Legislation to introduce reforms to education to raise standards and improve the quality of schools and Higher Education
  • The establishment of the UK Infrastructure Bank in legislation to support economic growth and the delivery of net zero
  • A Bill to enable European Union law to be more easily amended, and regulations on businesses to be repealed and reformed
  • Legislation to simplify public sector procurement to provide opportunities for smaller businesses
  • Legislation to strengthen financial services industry
  • Reforms to the existing data protection regime
  • Legislation to enable implementation of UK’s first new Free Trade Agreement since leaving the EU
  • Legislation to unlock the potential of new technologies for sustainable farming and food production, to encourage agricultural and scientific innovation
  • A Bill to further strengthen powers to tackle illicit finance, reduce economic crime and help businesses grow
  • Legislation to improve the regulation of social housing and strengthen the rights of tenants

INDUSTRY RESPONSES

 

LGA statement on Queen’s Speech: Renters Reform Bill/Social Housing Regulation Bill

Responding to the Queen’s Speech, Cllr Darren Rodwell, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said:

“Proposals to strengthen both the role of the Housing Ombudsman and the Regulator in the Social Housing Regulation Bill are positive, to increase the rights of tenants and enable tenants to better hold their landlord to account.

“Councils want their tenants to have the security of a safe and well-maintained home with any issues quickly and satisfactorily addressed, and we are keen to continue working with councils, the Regulator and the Ombudsman to support the implementation of the reforms.

“We are pleased that the Government has committed to introducing legislation through the Renters Reform Bill to strengthen protections for private renters and abolish ‘no-fault evictions’. This is something the LGA and councils have been calling for the Government to introduce since it was included in its 2019 manifesto.

“A dramatic recent rise in the number of ‘no fault evictions’ from the private rented sector is putting additional pressure on homelessness services, so we are glad that a plan to strengthen safeguards for private renters is finally in place, allowing renters to challenge poor practice and unfair rent increases without fear of eviction.”

Mike Foster, CEO of EUA, said:

 

“We welcome an Energy Bill designed to promote Carbon Capture and Storage and help deliver large scale hydrogen heating trials. This puts consumers at the heart of decarbonising homes in the UK, giving people the choice between the relevant technologies – heat pumps, heat networks and hydrogen gas boilers. The latter will involve no additional upfront costs to the consumer and minimal levels of disruption and creates a secure energy supply free from the blood-stained hands of President Putin.

“We need to hear details of the business model that will deliver UK domestic production of this zero-carbon wonder-fuel, and practical action to make sure every home that wants cheap, zero carbon gas for their boilers, cookers and fires gets it.

“We need to urgently shift away from fossil fuel gas to hydrogen, using the world-class gas networks already underground to supply our homes and businesses. Now is not the time to consider re-wiring Britain; ripping out boilers to be replaced with £10 grand a time heat pumps would be a folly when clean gas is just around the corner.

“From our recent research of 2000 UK consumers, the majority of Brits agree. Over three quarters (77.7%) of respondents saying they would support the UK generating and distributing alternative, low-carbon gas through the existing grid to replace the imports of natural gas from countries such as Qatar and Russia. An overwhelming 82% also believed the government should prioritise affordability in the development of renewable technologies for heating homes in the UK. There is a clear message that costly alternatives like heat pumps will not be favoured by households in this cost-of-living crisis.

“Meanwhile, let’s also hear what the Government plan to do to keep bills down this winter. Massive investment in economically-viable energy efficiency schemes would be an entirely sensible step while the Energy Bill progresses through Parliament, creating the hydrogen future the Prime Minister and others have spoken about.”

 

Jonathan Hale, Head of Government Affairs at RICS, said:

“RICS and its professionals, are supportive of the levelling up of UK regions, and are working hard to unlock jobs and opportunities by supporting our high streets and communities.

“We understand the wish to bring empty property back to life, but those opening for business on high streets will need to meet the needs of the wider community. Government highlighted community led levelling up and planning in the speech, but forcing landlords in such a blunt way, may not fit with this vision.  Landlords do not want empty properties, but fit outs, planning permission, and insurance need to be considered as high streets necessarily evolve.

“We are pleased, that the Levelling Up Bill will be led by community driven planning, something we recently called for in relation to CRE*, and housing, and the bill must be used to drive ambitious changes.  However, we are disappointed that planning has been side lined – we have supported root and branch planning reforms and now look forward to seeing where government’s level of ambition for a reformed planning system is.

“We also call on Government to include financial incentives and government policies that support the renovation and upgrading of commercial assets within the levelling up actions, importantly including to hit net zero ambitions.  Well-managed commercial real estate boosts less developed areas, and promotes economic growth and social value*. Building communities, backed up by locally led commercial real estate is central to achieving levelling-up.”

 

Stephen Beechey, Group Public Sector Director at Wates Group.

 

“We welcome the Queen’s Speech today including the announcement of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which will give local leaders the power to breathe new life into high streets. As a national business working on projects for both the public and private sector, we have extensive experience in delivering regeneration projects, from building net zero schools to developing energy efficient, affordable homes. We welcome this Bill as it will enhance our ability to deliver Levelling Up across the UK and regenerate communities.

“We are also pleased to the see the Government is continuing to push forward with the Procurement Bill. As a lead contributor to the Construction Playbook, this is a positive step ensuring procurement across the public sector is aligned to the highest standards.

“While we support much of this legislative programme, we would like the Government to go further and give urgent consideration to a nationwide domestic energy efficiency programme – something that would play a significant role in addressing current concerns around energy security, energy bills and the climate crisis.”

 

Paresh Raja, CEO, Market Financial Solutions

“Will they, won’t they – that was the big question surrounding the Planning Bill ahead of today’s Queen’s Speech. It is certainly positive to hear it mentioned, with the policy seemingly dragged back out of the proverbial long grass, into which it was kicked last year. As ever, the devil will be in the detail, but stating that “the planning system will be reformed” is a start at least.

“Let’s start with the obvious fact: the UK needs more housing, and fast. To achieve this, we need to make it easier to build more new homes and, crucially, also convert disused commercial properties into residential ones. Tabling the Planning Bill is a vital first step in hopefully addressing the red tape that prevents the delivery of new homes.

“Question marks hang over the purported decision to give local leaders more power to revitalise high streets, which was hinted at. It sounds promising, but the policy could miss the mark a little. Landlords seldom want their properties to sit empty – really the question whether there is viable demand from businesses to rent shops and offices, and at a price that ensures landlords can cover their costs.

“The continued efforts to raise standards in the private rental sector and protect tenants’ right is welcomed. It will be interesting to see how this takes shape.”

Jamie Johnson, CEO, FJP Investment

“It’s encouraging that today’s Queen’s Speech has signalled a renewed effort in favour of tackling geographic inequality across the UK as part of the forthcoming levelling-up and regeneration bill.

“In the face of the current pressing economic, social and environmental challenges, now more than ever, it is crucial that housing is put at the forefront of the government’s agenda and while a root and branch shake-up of the planning system is still required, the reforms referenced today are a step in the right direction towards increasing the number of homes that this country so desperately needs.”

 

Martin Tugwell, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, has welcomed today’s Queen’s Speech, which included references to improving transport and delivering on the levelling up agenda. 

He said: “It is reassuring to hear clear mentions of the need for rail reform in today’s Queen’s Speech, something that we and our region’s political and business leaders have been calling for and contributing to. Combined with a focus on innovation and decarbonisation, and underpinned by the ongoing commitment to levelling up, this is a welcome commitment to enhancing connectivity.

“We now need greater detail on the role of Sub-national Transport Bodies within the new Transport Bill, setting out how we can offer our regional insights and expertise to help deliver a new rail regulatory framework that puts passengers first. Transport for the North is ready and waiting to be at the forefront of the Government’s plans to make levelling up a reality and create a sustainable transport network across the North of England.”

 

Press Response: 

Cara Jenkinson, Cities Manager at climate charity Ashden said:

“The government missed an opportunity today to tackle soaring energy prices that are plunging hard working families into crisis mode.

“What we needed from the government to fix this, was a commitment to launch a funded national retrofit strategy that would turn icy houses into insulated homes, and lower emissions and energy bills at the same time.

“In addition, we wanted to see a reform of the apprenticeship system so that the UK can build a skilled green workforce, ready to take up the thousands of well-paid green jobs that would stem from an ambitious nation-wide retrofit strategy. Today we needed a rallying cry,  instead we heard a whimper.”

 

Richard Smith, partner at Sandstone Law, about the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill:

“The government’s wide-ranging Planning reform White Paper was published in August 2020 and was heavily criticised.  It has since vanished into thin air. A  Levelling Up White Paper was published in February 2022 and now forms part of the legislative intentions for the 2022-23 session of Parliament in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

A number of planning changes are proposed under the ‘levelling up’ umbrella.   Changes to Permitted Development rights are hoped to enable expansions of public infrastructure. However the long term impact on high streets and town centres is a concern.   Currently shops can stand empty for years, blighting the high street and wasting opportunities for new jobs. New legislation could force landlords to rent out commercial properties.

The government has also stated its wish to reform developer contributions by the introduction of a new Infrastructure Levy. However, there is a danger that this could become overly complex, holding back development in some locations and undermining the promise of levelling up in key places.

The paper also includes continued commitments to brownfield land restoration that should go some way to levelling the playing field between green and brownfield development.  Unless brownfield development can be made to work better for all kinds of developers, there will inevitably be more urban sprawl.  It looks like the ‘levelling up’ agenda has subsumed ideas for wider planning reform.   The new Bill should present an opportunity to create a planning system that delivers the right homes in the right places, whilst allowing nature’s recovery.”

 

Andrew Eldred, ECA Director of Workforce and Public Affairs, said:

“Today’s speech showed a commitment to delivering Net Zero along with a recognition of the vital importance of better technical education and skills.

“We hope to see this promise realised in a tranche of new funding and support for industry-endorsed training to deliver the EV charge points, solar panels, heat pumps and battery storage systems that will place the UK in pole position in the race to Net Zero carbon.”

ECA Director of Legal and Business Rob Driscoll said:

“In leading Cabinet Office’s SME Advisory Group on payment, ECA has worked hard with Government to design a post-Brexit environment allowing for simplified procurement.

“The announcement in today’s speech should lay the ground for establishing UK procurement processes which embrace and unlock the potential of SME contractors as Government seeks to build back better.”

Mike Smith, ECA Technical Director, said:

“ECA and our industry partners have fought hard (and sometimes uphill) to improve the safety of people’s homes. While the recent Building Safety Act has brought us closer to our goal, today’s announcement should help provide a more uniform approach to electrical safety in social housing, including high rise residential buildings like Grenfell Tower.

“We expect further legislation to highlight competency as a key factor in making homes safer for residents, and we will be keeping a very close eye on developments to make sure that is the case.”

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