Boris Johnson’s government on Tuesday announced its legislative programme for the coming year, with the prime minister promising measures to support the UK economy and tackle regional inequalities.
He insisted he was taking steps to address the cost of living crisis, although he warned that the government could not fully shield Britons from the impact of soaring inflation.
Johnson was also keen to demonstrate that, after two years spent dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, he has not forgotten about his 2019 election pledge to “level up” left-behind areas by reducing regional inequalities.
The Queen’s Speech containing the government’s 38 bills for the next parliamentary session was delivered by Prince Charles, heir to the throne. The Queen decided against attending the state opening of parliament because of what Buckingham Palace said were “episodic mobility problems”.
The Queen’s Speech said the government’s priority was to grow the economy and address the cost of living crisis. But the prime minister said “no country is immune” from huge disruptions to the global economy caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson highlighted how the government had already assembled a £22bn package of support for households to address the rising cost of living, but added that “no government can realistically shield everyone from the impact”.
In his House of Commons speech later on Tuesday, Johnson will say the government “cannot simply spend our way out of the country’s problems” and needs to focus on encouraging economic growth instead.
Among the flagship measures in the government’s legislative programme is a financial services bill aimed at cutting red tape in the City of London, supporting the safe adoption of cryptocurrencies and protecting consumers from scams.
A levelling-up and regeneration bill will expand devolution in England through the creation of more directly elected mayors, some modest planning reforms to support housebuilding, and provisions giving local councils additional powers to bring empty commercial premises back into use.
There is also a Brexit freedoms bill allowing the government to change laws inherited from the EU more easily.
The government is also expected to signal that it is ready to unilaterally overhaul Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements should talks with the EU about potential changes fail to yield acceptable results for UK ministers.
Ministers will push forward with a bill designed to modernise the business rates system after complaints from companies that the property-based tax is too expensive.
An energy security bill will help accelerate the UK’s shift towards its net zero emissions goal by 2050, partly through funding mechanisms for hydrogen-based power and for carbon and capture storage technology.
The Queen’s Speech also included legislation to create a new body to oversee the railways, called Great British Railways.
There are bills to put the state-backed UK Infrastructure Bank on a statutory footing and to pave the way for a sale of Channel 4.
But reforms to improve auditing and corporate governance and to put a new technology regulator on a statutory footing appear only as “draft” bills, which means they will not become law until the 2023-24 parliamentary session at the earliest.