The government has made several pledges relating to infrastructure in the Queen’s Speech, including broadband, air traffic, the railway, science, space and a national infrastructure strategy. The High Speed Rail 2 (Midlands–Crewe) Bill (HS2 Bill) was subject to a carry-over motion prior to prorogation, and is currently sitting in the committee stage in the House of Lords. Richard Flenley, senior associate at Charles Russell Speechlys comments on the national infrastructure strategy, saying the proposed strategy lacks ‘any real meat on the bones’.

National infrastructure strategy

The government announced a national infrastructure strategy will be published in autumn 2019, which contain the government’s long-term ambitions across ‘all areas of economic infrastructure, including transport, local growth, decarbonisation, digital infrastructure, infrastructure finance and delivery’.

The strategy has two key aims:

  • to help close the productivity gap between London and other parts of the country, so all places are able to benefit from vital infrastructure and better living standards
  • address the critical challenges posed by climate change and build the UK’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050

Flenley says the proposals under the national infrastructure strategy ‘all seem very aspirational without any real meat on the bones. There is very little in the information released so far to commit the government to actually doing anything (apart from devising the strategy) and the greatest commitment seems to be that the government will “look to” introduce legislation to deliver the plans set out in the strategy “in due course”’.

Broadband

The government announced that new legislation will be introduced to ‘accelerate the delivery of fast, reliable and secure broadband networks’, with an aim to:

  • roll out gigabit compatible broadband on a nationwide scale as soon as possible
  • make it easier for telecoms companies to install broadband infrastructure in blocks of flats
  • ensure all new homes are built with reliable and fast internet speeds

In addition to the forthcoming legislation, the government has also pledged a number of other measures, including:

  • a £5bn funding package to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband in the 20% of the country that is hardest to reach
  • an investment of £650m in the two years up until 2021 to stimulate the market to deploy gigabit capable connections in urban and rural areas

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill

The government has announced a Bill to ‘maintain the UK’s position as a world-leader in aviation’ and to ensure the police are equipped to tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft. Key elements of the Bill include:

  • new government powers to direct an airport or other relevant body to prepare and submit a proposal to the Civil Aviation Authority to change the design of airspace
  • modernising the licensing framework for air traffic control
  • new police powers to tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft, including the ability to require a person to land an unmanned aircraft and increased stop and search powers where particular unmanned aircraft related offences have taken place

Science, space and infrastructure

  • The government has made a number of proposals in order to establish the UK as ‘a world leader in scientific capability and space technology’, including:establishing a National Space Council and launch a comprehensive UK Space Strategy
  • introduce a more accessible visa system to attract global scientific and research talent
  • back a new approach to fund emerging fields of research and technology
  • reduce bureaucracy in research funding

High Speed Rail 2 (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill

The Bill was carried over at prorogation. Key elements of the Bill include:

  • powers to compulsory acquire the land needed for the railway, construct the railway and operate it
  • deemed planning permission to deliver the scheme
  • setting out the way railway regulation will apply to HS2
  • modification, or disapplication of existing legislation that would apply to the construction of the scheme, to reflect the fact that the scheme has been approved by parliament

Source: Queen's Speech 2019: background briefing notes

Originally published on LexisLibrary and LexisPSL