The Queen has delivered her annual speech at the state opening of Parliament, outlining the Government’s legislative agenda for the upcoming year.
This year’s speech announced radical changes to prisons and the adoption and care systems, together with changes to the education and university systems.
However, there were some notable amendments to the Government’s plans, including revisions to the previously announced intention to convert all schools in England into academies, together with a lack of any detailed plans regarding the new British Bill of Rights, which is intended to replace the current Human Rights Act.
The Government’s much-debated Soft Drinks Industry Levy was announced, and is due to come into effect in April 2018. This measure will be included in the 2017 Finance Bill.
The Help to Save scheme and the Lifetime ISA measure, announced in the 2016 Budget, will also be established under the Lifetime Savings Bill, in a bid to encourage saving.
A number of other key legislative ventures were announced, including plans to make it easier for utility customers to switch providers under the Better Markets Bill, and the removal of barriers to accessing pension savings, covered by the Pension Bill.
The Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (GASDS) is also set to be changed following a public consultation, and every household in the UK will be entitled to a fast broadband connection.
Meanwhile, under the new Criminal Finances Bill, companies that fail to prevent employees from facilitating tax evasion will now be committing a criminal offence.
Commenting on the announcements, Dr Adam Marshall, Acting Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), stated: ‘Businesses will see the merit in many of the bills announced in the Queen’s Speech, particularly the commitment to high-speed broadband for all households and business premises.
‘Yet on most of the issues where business is impatient for action, what’s needed are big decisions – not new legislation. Businesses want decisive action to boost aviation capacity, help companies plug skills gaps, and stop the steady drip of new taxes and costs piled on their bottom lines at a time of significant uncertainty.’