With just over a month to the EU referendum, the Government’s legislative programme for the forthcoming parliamentary session will be outlined in the Queen’s Speech this Wednesday.
The Queen’s Speech could well be defining. After rumours of backbench rebellions on the horizon, the bad blood between the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ camps showing no sign of abating and the Government still damaged from the Budget and Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation, Number 10 will want the Queen’s Speech to pass without any controversy. This could potentially lead to a fairly unambitious set of announcements when compared to previous years.
What to expect from this Queen’s Speech
After delivering a majority Conservative Government and his reinstatement as Prime Minister, David Cameron outlined a desire to tackle Britain’s big societal challenges. This Queen’s Speech is expected to outline some proposals related to these – including reforms to the care system and extensive reform to the prison and rehabilitation system.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect politically will be how the Government introduces its plans to turn more schools into academies, especially following the recent climb down from forcing all to do so.
A Queen’s Speech for tech?
Wednesday’s speech promises to have much for the tech sector to get excited about. With the long-awaited Digital Economy Bill to feature and a raft of other announcements on cutting edge technologies also expected, this could turn out to be one of the most significant Queen’s speeches for tech in recent years.
The Digital Economy Bill has been rumoured for months now, with the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey MP, first referring to it in February. It is expected to cover a number of areas as broadband/connectivity maintains its place as one of the key issues for MPs, including:
- A new Electronic Communications Code – The reform of the Electronic Communications Code (which enables network providers to construct infrastructure on public land) has been discussed for many months, and the Government will work closely with Ofcom to develop the new Code.
- Spectrum – The Bill is expected to facilitate dynamic spectrum access so that unused spectrum can be flexibly reallocated to others.
- Information and switching – The Bill could grant Ofcom new powers to improve their information gathering powers and assist consumers to switch providers quickly.
- Broadband universal service obligation (USO) – Primary legislation will be introduced to clarify the Government’s powers on the USO (the Prime Minister stated that this would feature in the Queen’s Speech at PMQs last week).
Other issues which have been rumoured to be included are:
- Age verification for access to pornographic material online.
- Cyber security – This is likely to focus on cyber resilience and, with the Government’s Cyber Security Strategy to be published later this year, could form a key part of the legislative programme.
It is also expected that the Government will:
- Introduce legislation to allow driverless cars to be insured under ordinary policies.
- Confirm that a commercial spaceport will be constructed by the end of the current Parliament.
- Include measures to increase growth and innovation in drones.
Furthermore, with the Queen’s Speech also expected to include a Counter-Extremism Bill which would ban radical preachers from posting extremist content online, this Wednesday’s State opening of Parliament should not be missed.
Follow Political Intelligence’s live coverage of the Queen’s Speech via @PoliticalIntel