Opinion and Editorial from the Policy Exchange team.
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There are very few national crises where there is a political incentive for them to be both solved and sustained – but housing, unfortunately is one. The reasons for wishing to solve the housing crisis are obvious: lack of housing supply and chronic unaffordability in London and the south east, oversupply and depressed construction activity in the North, a generation of young people locked out of the housing market, spiralling rents and mortgages claiming a disproportionate portion of household incomes and contracting consumer spending and all the damaging social and electoral consequences therein.
Ministers have an opportunity to cut taxes, drive supply side reform – and help reduce the cost of living
“My Government’s priority is to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families.” These opening two lines of the Queen’s Speech provided a powerful message.
Further action is needed to address the cost of living crisis. Also, those affected are not just families, but the vast bulk of households that are being squeezed. If the Government doesn’t appreciate this, then it may have its work cut out.
The deteriorating politics of Northern Ireland has left the Government with no option other than to act on the Protocol
The Northern Ireland Protocol once again threatens to derail the UK-EU relationship. After months of talks between London and Brussels failed to reach mutually acceptable solutions, the Government has reached the conclusion it has no alternative but to start the process of introducing domestic legislation to alter the Protocol.
The Queen’s Speech and Public Protest: The Government is not clamping down on the right to protest but rather on the deliberate disruption of the public square by small groups of privileged activists
The UK has a small but determined environmentalist movement characterised by its appetite for popular protest – and the diversity of its tactics. In the last twelve months these have ranged from the Tyre Extinguishers group letting down the tyres of private motor vehicles, Insulate Britain attempting to close the M25, Extinction Rebellion blockading Oxford Circus with a giant pink table, to Just Stop Oil protestors tying themselves to the goalposts during Premier League football matches.
The Bill covers a huge range of policy space, similar to the Levelling Up White Paper tabled in February. In fact, many of the proposals are those put forward in the White Paper. For example, there will be a requirement for the Government to release annual reports on the Levelling Up “missions”, creating a framework to devolve power through ‘devolution deals’ in every part of the country by 2030, and greater local input in planning. The Government will also use the bill to reform how local infrastructure is funded by a new “infrastructure levy” which will give local communities more input in how the money is spent, compared to the existing Section 106 process.
The Queen’s Speech and Deregulation: Who will regulate the regulators? Time for more parliamentary scrutiny
The Government confirmed it will introduce a Brexit Freedoms Bill, first announced by the Prime Minister in January 2022. Plans for the Bill were set out in The benefits of Brexit white paper, which outlined the Government’s broad ambition to make the UK the “best regulated economy in the world”. The Bill will remove the supremacy of EU law and make it easier for Ministers to amend, repeal, or replace retained EU law.
The Queen’s Speech and Health & Social Care Reform: What was not announced may be more significant than what was announced
The passage of the centrepiece Health and Care Act during the previous session of this Parliament meant that this year’s Queen Speech had a smaller offering for health and social care. A number of priority commitments set out in March as part of the Annual Mandate (which sets out the Government’s priorities for the NHS) were repeated. The priorities are well understood: bring down the elective waiting list; deliver additional diagnostic capacity, including 100 community diagnostic centres; and make progress on the hospital building programme.
The headline measure is the proposed British Bill of Rights, which would supersede the Human Rights Act. A perennial proposal most recently floated under David Cameron, the Bill’s stated aim is to restore “the balance of power between the legislature and the courts”. Among its main provisions are the establishment of the primacy of UK case law over that of the European Court of Human Rights, new limitations on courts’ ability to “read in” provisions that are not present in legislation, and a new burden on the claimant to prove they have suffered “significant disadvantage” before they can bring a human rights claim, with the aim of discouraging frivolous litigation.
Housing has rarely enjoyed as high a political profile as it does today. A combination of the housing crisis, the abandoned planning bill, the government’s flagship levelling-up programme and it being led by one of the highest profile Cabinet Ministers Michael Gove as well as a slew of recent Tory electoral punishments in which housing was thought to have played a central role have all ensured that housing is now a major part of the government’s legislative infrastructure. So it assumed a pivotal role in this week’s Queen’s Speech, ironically delivered for the first time by a Prince of Wales who himself has had a profound impact on the UK’s architecture and urban development landscape over the past forty years.
The Conservatives look set to have their worst result in London in London since its current boroughs were created in 1964, and it is now the first time the Conservatives have only controlled one council in central London. What had once been a major urban area relatively immune to complete Labour dominance looks set to join Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle in having little, or no, Conservative representation.