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Commenting on the 2023 King’s Speech, Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of Bright Blue, said:  

“The King’s Speech is not sufficiently coherent or ambitious to transform the fortunes of both the Conservative Government and – most importantly – the UK economy. This is likely to be the last legislative programme for this Tory Government and it says very little about two of the biggest priorities for the public: improving private incomes and public services.

“Time is running out for the tired Tories. Much of what has been promised in this King’s Speech – especially on housing and crime – has been promised for several years now. The Tories need to offer and implement new policies, especially on tax, housing, health and education, and quickly.”

Below, Bright Blue has responded to the announcement of legislation that is particularly relevant to our current work. It therefore is not an exhaustive response to the 2023 King’s Speech.

 

HOUSING

Renters Reform Bill

  • Supports tenants with children or pets and universal credit claimants.
  • Establishes a new Ombudsman for the private rented sector.
  • Strengthens the ability of landlords to evict for anti-social behaviour.
  • Introduces a process for appealing against excessive rent increases.

Bartek Staniszewski, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“It is good that, after much worry in the preceding months, the Renters Reform Bill is finally here. Laudably, security of tenure for tenants will be improved, and a new Ombudsman for the private rental sector will be established to more ably crack down on abuses.

“That said, the most pivotal element of the Bill – the abolition of ‘no-fault’ evictions – has, frustratingly, been delayed. This is on the grounds that courts will require extra capacity to handle this change. But the average eviction court hearing takes less than ten minutes, while ‘no-fault’ evictions remain a key cause of homelessness, as well as discouraging tenants from complaining about poor conditions.”

Leasehold Reform Bill

  • Ban the  creation of new leasehold houses.
  • Facilitates the extension of lease and the purchase of freehold by leaseholders.
  • Reduces new ground rents to £0.

Bartek Staniszewski, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“Reform of leasehold is a welcome and much-awaited development. The focus on houses is a right one – although flats are the majority of leasehold properties, leasehold is a more apt form of tenure for flats than it is for houses. For both houses and flats, ground rents are set to be abolished, while extending the lease and purchasing the freehold have been made easier, which will bring leasehold closer to the fairness that other tenures afford.”

 

SOCIAL POLICY

Sentencing Bill and the Criminal Justice Bill

  • Ensures more severe sentences for murderers and sexual offenders.

Investigatory Powers Amendment Bill

  • Facilitates the access of personal data by UK intelligence agencies.

Terrorism Protection of Premises Bill

  • Introduces new requirements for venues to reduce terrorism risks.

Bartek Staniszewski, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“The King announced a range of Bills to address crime, anti-social behaviour and imprisonment. It is prudent of Sunak to push for this now – in a bid to attract centre-right voters, Starmer will likely find getting tough on crime agreeable, and so reforms to the justice system stand a good chance of leaving a lasting legacy.

“That said, the King has been very vague on the measures that will take place to tackle crime. Only giving greater powers to security services and ensuring tougher sentences for “the most serious offenders” has been clearly mentioned – there, the Government must ensure it strikes a balance between safety and affording people the privacy, respect and freedom they deserve.”

 

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill

  • Requires the North Sea Transition Authority to run an annual process inviting applications for new production licences in the UK’s offshore waters

Will Prescott, Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“While the Government’s pledge to attract record levels of investment in renewable energy sources is certainly welcome, it is unclear just how effective the Government plans to support annual licensing rounds for new oil and gas drilling in the North Sea will be. As well as making little difference to UK energy security or winter fuel bills, it will not really aid the UK’s transition to a clean-energy future.

“Coming in the wake of the Prime Minister’s recent decision to delay banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, it seems the Government is more interested in splitting the Opposition than showing leadership on climate change.”

 

ECONOMY

Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill

  • Bans public bodies from imposing their own boycotts, divestment or sanctions against foreign countries. 

Thomas Nurcombe, Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“It is reassuring that the Government is taking control of the issue of foreign policy involvement by public bodies, such as councils, particularly in regard to boycotts and sanctions. Boycotts and sanctions are a matter for centralised foreign policy, not the decision of councils and other public bodies.

“We have seen in recent weeks many public bodies targeting Israel with their actions. This does have an impact on the Jewish population in communities where they are meant to feel safe. It is right that the Government has sought to tackle this issue as part of a wider plan to tackle rising antisemitism – a stain on our society.”

 

TECHNOLOGY

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers (DMCC) Bill

  • Strengthening the powers of the Competition and Markets Authority to tackle anti-competitive activities, especially by large tech companies.

Sarah Kuszynski, Research Assistant at Bright Blue, commented:

“The focus on reigning in the market power of a few large technology firms in the King’s Speech is encouraging. It should allow for fairer competition, promote innovation by enabling smaller firms better market access and maintain the UK’s attractiveness as a place for investment in emerging technologies. These technologies will have transformative effects on our daily lives and their safe development is vital.”

Data Protection and Digital Information Bill 

  • Simplifies regulation around businesses and researchers accessing personal data.
  • Strengthens the UK’s data protection regulator: the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Sarah Kuszynski, Research Assistant at Bright Blue, commented:

“The simplification of data protection regulation should aid the safe commercial development of new technologies. In the aftermath of Brexit this UK version of the GDPR should instil confidence in how the UK handles personal data, whilst retaining high global standards and data adequacy – the ability for data to flow freely – with the EU.”

 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

To arrange an interview with a Bright Blue spokesperson or for further media enquiries, please contact Emily Taylor at emily@brightblue.org.uk or on 078414 19316.

  • Bright Blue is the independent think tank and pressure group for liberal conservatism.
  • Bright Blue’s Board includes Ryan Shorthouse (Executive Chair), Diane Banks, Philip Clarke, Alexandra Jezeph and Richard Mabey.
  • Our advisory council can be found here. We also have 218 parliamentary supporters. Members of our advisory council and our parliamentary supporters do not necessarily endorse all our policy recommendations, including those included in this press release.