Earlier this week, Prince Charles delivered the Queen’s Speech, setting out the government’s agenda for the next parliamentary year. It is an agenda that the government needs to be transformative, not only for its own electoral prospects, after losing hundreds of seats in the local elections (including control of many rural councils) but also to repair its reputation amidst partygate and sleaze allegations as well as the burgeoning cost of living crisis.
Though the Queen’s Speech is typically scant on detail, it does indicate the direction of travel and a number of new bills were announced as well as the continuation of some from the previous parliament. Here we take you through some of the ones that are relevant to CLA members.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – this is the big one – levelling up is the government’s flagship agenda and it follows the white paper published earlier this year, as well as absorbing the rewritten Planning Bill which was ditched after facing opposition not only from a sea of Tory MPs but also organisations including the CLA. The Bill, published this week, seeks to level up the whole country and drive local growth. It includes devolution, setting targets by which to measure levelling up, and planning reform, such as giving residents more of a say in local developments. A lot is riding on this Bill - not only for the government but also for the country – reforming the planning system is long overdue, fixing the housing crisis is at a critical stage, and addressing regional inequalities and improving standards of living, are all bread-and-butter issues. However, the white paper made scant reference to rural areas and it’s vital that the Bill rights this wrong.
You can read more analysis here on the Bill from CLA’s Head of Planning Fenella Collins.
The CLA has recently been in conversation with No 10 Downing Street to discuss what planning and housing reform is needed in rural areas, and we will be monitoring the Bill at all stages and engaging with parliamentarians to make sure that rural areas are included in the levelling up agenda.
The government will be bringing forward a Renters Reform Bill. There are four landmark announcements which will reform the Private Rented Sector and will be of interest to our members. These are: the application of a Decent Homes Standard meaning that all rented homes must be free of serious hazards; landlords will be required to register with a new private rented property portal where property information will be available all in one place; abolishing section 21 evictions, also known as ‘no-fault evictions’ alongside introducing stronger grounds for possession where a tenant has not paid their rent for a long time or where they have been the perpetrator of anti-social behaviour; and the introduction of a Private Rented Sector Ombudsman. The CLA’s contact within the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has assured us that a white paper on these reforms will be published “shortly” so we await this and more detail and will update members accordingly. We will work hard to ensure the Bill maintains a fair and flexible private rented sector that continues to play an important role in rural communities. Additionally, the Social Housing Regulation Bill seeks to improve the regulation of social housing, tenants’ rights and ensure better quality and safer homes
New plans to unlock the powers of gene editing will be unveiled in the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, which will remove barriers previously imposed by the EU to enable development and marketing of precision bred plants and animals, helping both farmers and the environment as well as unlocking innovation in the UK. Meanwhile, the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill will ensure that the UK can comply with Free Trade Agreement obligations.
There will be a Brexit Freedoms Bill that aims to ease the regulatory burden to support economic growth, with regulations on businesses set to be repealed and reformed, and an Energy Security Bill to deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy, promote competition, and strengthen consumer rights and protect households, building on the government’s net zero commitments.
There are a few Bills that have been carried over from the previous Parliament, namely the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill which begins report stage in the House of Commons and will enhance protections for kept animals and introduce new powers for puppy smuggling and livestock worrying. The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill seeks to make changes to the Electronic Communications Code that will further undermine the rights of property owners. We are working with the NFU to table amendments when the Bill begins report stage in the Commons, at a date yet to be announced. Finally, the High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill will give outline planning permission to deliver the final stage of the HS2 network. This may involve compulsory purchase for some CLA members in the affected areas.