Today's Queen's Speech comes in the wake of the general election which failed to deliver a majority government, adding to an already uncertain political and economic climate.
However, aside from the Repeal Bill, Bills referenced to in the speech drew clues on exciting advances and potentially positive changes in key areas, such as the automotive and finance industries. Our lawyers comment on Bills to arise (and not arise) from the Queen's Speech this year:
Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill
Robin Webb, commercial partner and head of automotive, commented: 'We see from the Queen's speech that the Government is, through the proposed Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, promoting the infrastructure to support the use of electric vehicles by the introduction of compulsory charging points up and down the country at motor way service stations - the lack of charging points being one of the major reasons for the holding back of the widespread adoption of electric vehicles within the UK. This move is clearly a welcome initiative for the automotive sector and one which should help boost the sales of hybrid and electric motor vehicles, especially as the range and appeal of electric vehicles ever improves. The reality is, however, that automotive manufacturers will sleep much more easily if the issue of tariff free trade is resolved as part of the Brexit negotiations!
Paul Kirkpatrick, dispute resolution and compliance partner, added: 'Hot on the heels of the Modern Transport Bill announced in the Queen's Speech this time last year, the commencement of trials of driverless cars, and the various consultations undertaken by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles regarding advanced driver assistance systems and automated vehicles, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill is the next step and further recognition of the UK being at the very forefront of the profound changes happening in the automotive sector at present. This latest Bill reflects the convergence and interplay between the technological, safety, legal and compliance issues that are thrown up as a result of the exciting advancement of transport in this new era. The challenges match the opportunities that Electric and Autonomous vehicles present and our Automotive Sector Group is at the cutting edge of those changes and we regularly advise our clients on the impact and effect of these developments.
Sarah Lovell, senior associate, employment commented: 'The government has announced its intention to introduce an Immigration Bill in response to Brexit. The Bill will set out plans to end free movement of workers from the European Union. It states that EU workers will be subject to national laws which in relation to immigration as it stands, would mean that only skilled workers and their families would be able to come to the UK to work.
'There is still no indication as to whether those EU workers who are currently in the UK will have the right to remain post-Brexit and this may well depend on the result of the negotiations with the EU which began on Monday.'
Space Industry Bill
Craig Armstrong, commercial partner, commented: 'The Queen's speech also announced a Space Industry Bill aimed at increasing the UK's space sector to 10 per cent of the global space economy by 2030. The UK plays an often overlooked but important role within the space sector, with the likes of SSTL (one of the leading commercial small satellite companies) demonstrating the potential within the UK to become the most attractive place in Europe for commercial space. The absence of a UK spaceport is a significant obstacle to this ambition and this bill will seek to turn previous feasibility research into the development of a UK spaceport. Already the regional media within Cornwall and Scotland (previous candidate locations for a spaceport) have seized on this bill as an opportunity for driving the space industry forward within their regions.
Data Protection Bill
Anastasia Fowle, commercial partner, comments: 'The United Kingdom's data protection rules are to be updated following the Queen's announcement of a new Data Protection Bill. The new bill will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and proposes to make the United Kingdom's data protection framework suitable for the new digital age and allowing individuals to have enhanced control over their data. The government has also said that the bill will implement the General Data Protection Regulation, the new European Union data protection rules due to come into force in 2018.
'The main benefits of the bill include allowing police and judicial authorities to continue to exchange information quickly and easily with international partners in the fight against terrorism and other serious crimes; giving individuals new rights to require major social media platforms to delete information held about them at the age of eighteen; and cementing the United Kingdom's position at the forefront of technological innovation, international data sharing and protection of personal data.
'In a nod to the Conservative Party manifesto prior to this month's general election, the Queen's Speech emulates the manifesto's proposals on data protection. The bill demonstrates a clear commitment to safeguarding both individual's and business' data protection rights and ensuring that the United Kingdom maintains its position as a distinguished leader in data protection.'
Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill
Paula Rome, employment partner, comments: 'An interesting announcement by today was the government's intention to introduce a new bill to increase diversity in the Army, Navy and Air Force. They are to introduce the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill which will amend the existing legislation to give returning parents and adopting parents greater flexibility upon returning to work.
'If the Bill introduces the changes presently being trialed by soldiers of varying ranks around the country it is likely changes may include members of the armed forces with young children being allowed to avoid deployment to conflict zones abroad when their children are young, giving service personnel the chance to reduce their liability to be deployed if there are exceptional circumstances. In addition more soldiers will also be able to work part-time by taking regular unpaid leave across the year along with flexible start and finish times. It is possible that the present situation where anyone who takes a break to have a family automatically misses out on promotion will be challenged.
'This is an attempt to make the more 'family-friendly' increasing retention, allowing the forces to compete for talent and increasing the number of female troops.'
Good Mortgages Bill
Mel Chell, asset finance partner, comments: 'We welcome and support the changes proposed in the Good Mortgages Bill. The current regime is governed by the Bills of Sale Amendment Act 1882 which imposes archaic and cumbersome documentary requirements for Bills of Sale.
'In this case, change is well overdue and has probably been prompted by various Log Book loan type companies who are using this archaic legislation for a purpose that was never intended. The Bill will refresh the current system of registration which requires registration against the borrower at the High Court and will replace with registration of the asset at a designated Asset Finance registry. 'The benefits to lenders are huge. This will help to prevent fraud as potential lenders can now check to ensure the asset they are looking to fund is not encumbered. Further, the Bill extends protection for third party purchasers by providing protection where an asset is purchased in good faith and without notice of the security. Finally, the Bill will extend protection for consumers preventing the asset from being recovered without a court order where the customers has paid over a third and extend a right to voluntarily terminate and return the asset with no further liability.'
High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill
Martin Fleetwood, transport partner, comments: 'The introduction of the new High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill to enable HS2 to be extended from north of the proposed Birmingham Interchange station to Crewe is to be welcomed. This adds to the initial section of the line and importantly links HS2 back into the classic main line network at Crewe. By allowing fast services to Birmingham and places such as Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow to be transferred off the West Coast Main Line (WCML) and onto HS2 more capacity can be provided on the WCML for other services including freight. One benefit will be the capacity for more freight to be taken off the most congested sections of the M1, M40 and M6 and put in the space made available on the WCML. The economic and environmental benefits to the road network of this shift in freight, particularly around Birmingham, should arguably be offset against the costs of constructing HS2.'
What's not included:
The Queens Speech was also notable by what it left out, rather than what it included from a pensions perspective, Paul Carney, pensions partner, said.
He comments: 'There is no meaningful announcement on pensions. In fact, the speech is more notable for what has been left out than for what has been put in. In short, the Queen's speech contained no reference to (i) a previous proposal to axe the winter fuel allowance for "well off pensioners", (ii) the scrapping of the so-called "triple lock" (the mechanism designed to protect pensioners from the eroding effects of inflation) or (iii) a ban on cold calling in relation to scams which seem to be particularly prevalent in the pension sector.
'The only reference of note for pensions was the statement that the proposed Financial Guidance and Claims Bill would establish "a new statutory body, accountable to Parliament, with responsibility for coordinating the provision of....pension guidance".'