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Commenting on the 2022 Queen’s Speech, Ryan Shorthouse, Chief Executive of Bright Blue, said:

“Boris has one last chance to be bold. The extensive legislative agenda for the coming parliamentary year provides opportunity to introduce transformative policies, especially on improving the affordability and quality of housing, boosting the economic and social infrastructure of so-called left-behind areas, and decarbonising the supply of and demand for energy. 

“But the contents of the legislation will reveal just how ambitious this Conservative Government wants to be. Either it will focus on using its uniquely impressive majority to make lasting and distinctive change to level up and decarbonise this country, or it will squander it through politicking pretending to be policymaking in advance of the next election.”

The Government has adopted the following Bright Blue policies through its 2022-2023 legislation:

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 2022 Queen’s Speech.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill

Sam Robinson, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue, commented:

“The Government has taken some steps to add meat to the bones of the levelling up agenda, mainly through new targets to reduce regional divides by 2030, and a new accountability ecosystem. But these measures are still not transformational or distinctive enough to create a meaningful legacy. In particular, as well as reform to the planning system, bold tax reforms to address the skewed regional impacts of Council Tax and Business Rates should be a priority.” 

Renters Reform Bill

Anvar Sarygulov, Head of Research at Bright Blue, commented:

“It is good that the Government intends to take significant action to improve the rights of private renters: this bill is long overdue. The abolition of ‘no fault’ evictions will significantly increase the security of private renters, a new ombudsman should increase accountability of landlords, and the extension of the Decent Homes Standard will improve the quality of housing in the sector.”

Social Housing Regulation Bill

Anvar Sarygulov, Head of Research at Bright Blue, commented:

“Strengthening both the rights of social renters, and their enforcement, is a welcome step to improving the standards in the social housing sector. But focusing on quality is not enough: the Government must also go much further on increasing the quantity of social housing to meet the needs of vulnerable low income households who are otherwise forced to rent privately.”

Higher Education Bill 

Ryan Shorthouse, Chief Executive of Bright Blue, commented:

“Flexible lifetime learning loan accounts, as Bright Blue has recommended, would be an effective way of ensuring that people at any point in their working lives are able to access funding for any type of training to upskill or reskill. 

“The details still need finalising, but the entitlement should be generous enough to support the completion of multiple courses above and beyond an undergraduate degree, but limited to the extent that it might cause greater price competition in university fees because students want to bank enough in their accounts for future courses beyond their first degree.

“Setting minimum entry requirements for access to English higher education penalises students and social mobility. This is the wrong approach to ensuring the student finances system is fiscally sustainable. A better approach is to charge a levy on universities that will have a disproportionately high proportion of their graduate cohorts that will have their student loans written off by the government.”

Bill of Rights

Ryan Shorthouse, Chief Executive at Bright Blue, commented: 

“The Government says its plan to introduce a British Bill of Rights to replace provisions in the Human Rights Act will make it easier to deport foreign criminals. But regardless of the Human Rights Act, UK courts have to take into account different international conventions and treaties in judgements. In fact, the Immigration Act 2014 has given guidance to the courts as to where the public interest lies in deportation and immigration cases, and is being enforced by the courts.”

Conversion Therapy Bill

Ryan Shorthouse, Chief Executive of Bright Blue, commented: 

“Initially promised under Theresa May in 2018, a comprehensive ban on the cruel practice of ‘conversion therapy’ for both sexuality and gender identity, across all settings, is long overdue. 

“If the Government made a distinction in legislation and guidance between harmful and bogus conversion therapy, and respected and helpful talking therapy, then consenus ought to be achieved on banning conversion therapy for gender identity.”

Employment Bill

Phoebe Arslanagic-Wakefield, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue, commented:

“It’s extremely disappointing that the Government has delayed the Employment Bill for yet another year. This was expected not only to include important new safeguards for those on insecure zero-hours contracts, but also better protections against sexual harassment in the workplace and pregnancy discrimination, as well as a new right to request flexible working from day one.

“Coming in the wake of the P&O scandal which demonstrates the urgent need for this legislation, the Government’s decision to delay the Bill is a missed opportunity to make the UK a better place to work.”

Energy Security Bill

Joshua Marks, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented: 

“It is reassuring that the Energy Security Bill will build on both the Energy Security Strategy released last month and the success of COP26 last year. However, further investment for renewable energy is still needed for projects such as offshore wind in order for the Government to reach its target of 95% low carbon electricity generation by 2030. 

“Additionally, further support for the expansion of the heat pump market and incentivising consumers to switch away from gas boilers will be necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign gas imports and reach net zero by 2050.”

Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill

Joshua Marks, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented: 

“The Genetic Technology Bill will relax the regulation of gene-edited crops, allowing for their more widespread use across the UK. This will greatly reduce the cost and red tape surrounding gene edited crop testing in the UK, promoting research and development into the technology. Indeed, innovations should not be crippled by excessively tough regulations based on outdated knowledge and misplaced fear. 

“However, care must be taken to ensure consumers are not left in the dark with clear labelling of food which has been gene edited. Public awareness of the differences between gene edited and genetically modified crops is low and work is needed to increase understanding of the public in order for these crops to be financially viable.”

ENDS

To arrange an interview with a Bright Blue spokesperson or for further media enquiries, please contact Max Anderson at max@brightblue.org.uk or on 07850 684 474.

[Image: UK Parliament]