The King’s Speech took place during the state opening of Parliament on November 7, 2023, marking the beginning of the next Parliamentary session. For the first time as King, Charles III formally opened Parliament, laying out his Government’s proposed policies and legislation for the upcoming session to both Houses of Parliament, assembled in the House of Lords.
Notably, this first King’s Speech in 70 years will be this Parliament’s last—and possibly the final roll of the dice for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to make his legislative stamp on the nation.
King Charles III outlined 21 bills that will be introduced by the Government in the next parliamentary session, ranging from crime and justice to housing and health.
Here is a brief roundup of some of the legislation mentioned.
Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Draft Bill – Intends to ensure those responsible for publicly accessible venues take steps to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks from the public, in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena attack.
Rollout of Network North, Draft Rail Reform Bill and scrapping of HS2 legislation – In the aftermath of the announcement that the Government would be scrapping the next stages of HS2, the Department for Transport published its £36bn Network North plan. This policy paper noted that the Government will now “reflect on the existing package of legislation before Parliament, on which we will set out next steps to the House in the usual way”.
Criminal Justice Bill – The bill will bring in tougher sentences for grooming gang members and those who kill their partner at the end of a relationship. It will also allow police officers to be able to use reasonable force to ensure offenders appear at the dock to face sentencing, and if criminals refuse to turn up, they can face a two-year increase in their sentence.
Sentencing bill – To ensure serious sexual offenders are given whole-life orders and serve the entirety of their sentence.
Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill – A bill which will support the future licensing of new oil and gas fields
Tobacco and Vapes Bill – A new law to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after 1 January 2009.
Leasehold and Freehold Bill –The bill will ban leaseholds for new houses but not new flats, seek to cap all existing ground rates to a “peppercorn” rate, and change the standard contract lease extension from 90 years to 990 years.
Trade Bill – A bill will be introduced to promote trade and investment with economies in the fastest-growing region in the world, enabled by the UK’s accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill – This bill was carried over from the previous parliamentary session and intends to provide for the regulation of competition in digital markets to protect consumers through strengthening the enforcement of consumer protection law.
Renters (Reform) Bill – This bill was carried over from the previous parliamentary session. The purpose of the bill is to ensure private renters have access to a secure and decent home through imposing obligations on landlords and that landlords retain the confidence to repossess their properties where they have good reason to.
A number of other focus areas the Government will look to prioritise in the following parliamentary session were also mentioned. These may require secondary legislation, or be incorporated into existing legislation or bills announced in the speech. These included an NHS Workforce Plan, delivering on illegal immigration, the Advanced British Standard qualification, AI and a Long Term Regeneration Plan.