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Article United Kingdom: King's Speech Sets Out Government's Legislative Agenda

On November 7, 2023, King Charles III delivered the King’s Speech at the state opening of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (U.K.), marking the formal start of the parliamentary year. The King’s Speech is prepared by the government and sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the upcoming parliamentary session. It outlines the proposed policies and bills that the government intends to introduce.

Content of the Speech

Inflation has increased to high levels across the U.K., with the Consumer Prices Index rising by 6.7% over the past 12 months, and tackling this is high on the government’s legislative agenda. King Charles stated that the government’s focus this parliamentary session is “increasing economic growth and safeguarding the health and security of the British people.” Specifically, to help counter inflation the government intends to introduce legislation to strength the U.K.’s energy security and reduce reliance on international energy markets. The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill would enable the future licensing of new oil and gas fields and include provisions to help ensure the U.K. continues toward the target of reaching net zero emissions by the year 2050.

The Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill aims to ensure the U.K. is compliant with the obligations provided for in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement when it accedes to the treaty.

The Automated Vehicles Bill would create a new legislative framework to support the commercial development and deployment of self-driving vehicles across Great Britain. The bill would implement the recommendations made following a four-year review by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission. The bill provides that the driver in charge of the vehicle would be immune from liability for any serious road traffic offenses or criminal offenses that arise as a result of the use of the self-driving functions.

The Renters (Reform) Bill aims to improve the standards of rental properties and increase the protections available to renters by removing no-fault evictions and providing simpler periodic tenancies. The bill would also provide that tenants have the right to request a pet in their property and landlords cannot unreasonably refuse the request. The bill would create an ombudsman to provide fair, impartial, and binding resolutions to disputes that are faster and less expensive than resolutions through the court system.

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill would provide the Competition and Markets Authority with new powers and duties to regulate competition in digital markets with the aim of increasing competition between big firms, tackling fake reviews, and extending to consumers protections against subscription traps and prepayments to savings plans, among other items.

The Media Bill would protect public-interest journalism by making substantive changes to the framework of public service broadcasting services to help facilitate the delivery of these services across all platforms and ensure that they are easily available to consumers.

In terms of criminal justice, the Victims and Prisoners Bill would provide tougher sentences for serious offenders and prevent those sentenced to whole life orders from marrying or entering into civil partnerships while in prison. The bill aims to strengthen services for victims of crime. The government also intends to introduce a bill to protect public premises from terrorism.

In line with the government’s existing policy, the legislative agenda does not include a bill to regulate artificial intelligence, though the King’s Speech acknowledges that the government will continue international discussions to ensure the safe development of this technology.

Clare Feikert-Ahalt, Law Library of Congress
December 1, 2023

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