King’s Speech: What policies made it in and what’s been removed?

Rishi Sunak has revealed plans to make law and order a key election battleground with a series of measures promising tougher sentences for killers and rapists in the King’s Speech.

The prime minister also used the monarch’s annual address to parliament to create a dividing line with Labour on climate change, with a new law bringing in annual oil and gas licensing in the North Sea.

The King’s Speech also confirmed plans to ban young people from smoking – with the PM aiming to stop children who turn 14 this year and those younger from ever legally buying cigarettes in England.

Mr Sunak has also introduced new legislation to expand the use of self-driving vehicles – which clear the way for buses and lorries to operate autonomously by the end of the decade.

Other King’s Speech legislative plans for the year ahead include:

  • A ban on no-fault evictions – but not until “new court processes” are in place

  • A ban on leaseholds in new houses – but not in new flats

  • Creation of an independent football regulator in bid to regulate finances

  • Commitment to set up Great British Railways to oversee reform

  • A bill to create a national Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens

However, home secretary Suella Braverman’s plan to restrict charities from giving out tents to homeless people was junked from the King’s Speech by No 10.

There was outrage from LGBT+ campaigners as Mr Sunak dropped plans to ban on conversion therapy – despite a warning that Tory MPs could rebel by trying to force a ban on attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Mr Sunak also angered senior Tories by failing to offer any reform of the Mental Health Act – despite calls for legislative changes to stop the detention of autistic people and those with learning disabilities.

King Charles on way to parliament to make King’s Speech (REUTERS)
King Charles on way to parliament to make King’s Speech (REUTERS)

In remarks accompanying the speech, Mr Sunak insisted his government had “turned the corner” to put the country on a better path – claiming “we are stopping the boats” and insisting that he had “made progress” on cutting NHS waiting list.

The Independent took a closer look at what’s in the King’s Speech, and what has been left out, as Mr Sunak attempts to revive his government a year before the election expected in the autumn of 2024.

Annual oil and gas licences

The government wants to mandate annual oil and gas licensing in the North Sea. Pitched as necessary for energy security, it would require the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) to invite applications for new production licences every year.

The heavily-trailed move has already sparked outrage from climate campaigners and has already been met with scepticism from Labour – which has committed to not allowing any more exploration licences in oil and gas.

The energy secretary Claire Coutinho has admitted that the plans may not bring down household energy bills.

Tougher prison sentences

The plan will deliver on already-announced proposals for killers convicted of the most horrific murders to expect whole life orders – meaning they will never be released – while rapists and other serious sexual offenders will not be let out early from prison sentences.

Other measures in the speech include giving police the power to enter a property without a warrant to seize stolen goods, such as phones, when they have reasonable proof that a specific stolen item is inside.

Tuesday’s announcements also include plans to force convicted criminals to be in court for their sentencing. And the criminal justice bill will also establish powers to transfer some prisoners abroad. It comes amid longstanding concerns about overcrowding.

King Charles welcoming Rishi Sunak during an audience at Buckingham Palace (PA)
King Charles welcoming Rishi Sunak during an audience at Buckingham Palace (PA)

Self-driving vehicles expansion

The government is promising to set the threshold for self-driving vehicles in law – promising to unlock “huge growth potential” in the sector. The Automated Vehicles Bill will reportedly clear the way for buses and lorries to operate autonomously by the end of the decade.

The bill will aim to ensure there is clear legal liability over who or which organisation is responsible during any crashes. The government says this will stop users being held accountable in situations where that would not be fair.

Meanwhile, a new pedicabs bill will be introduced to deal with the “scourge” of unlicensed pedicabs – three-wheeled rickshaw-type vehicles – on the streets of London.

Smoking ban

Mr Sunak has used the King’s Speech to bring in a law that would stop children who turn 14 this year and those younger from ever legally buying cigarettes or tobacco in England.

The plan was announced in a Tory party conference speech a few weeks ago. A personal passion for the PM, it was hailed by health campaigners as a critical step towards creating a smoke-free generation.

Housing secretary Michael Gove has watered down no-fault eviction ban (PA Wire)
Housing secretary Michael Gove has watered down no-fault eviction ban (PA Wire)

Ban on no-fault evictions – but with conditions

The government has again promised to protect renters with a ban on “no fault” evictions by landlords as part on the long-delayed Renters Reform Bill.

However, as levelling up secretary Michael Gove said last month, the government will not abolish section 21 evictions until “new court process” can speed up decisions – a move sparking outrage among campaigners who fear it kicks the vital change into the long grass.

Leasehold reform – but no ban for flats

The plans include banning new leasehold houses, so that all new houses are freehold from the outset. But there is no commitment to deliver a ban for new flats, with ministers are believed to be planning to deliver a reformed commonhold system.

Among the other moves to “phase out” leaseholds, a new bill will increase the standard lease extension term from 90 years to 990 years for both houses and flats, with ground rents reduced to zero by extension. A requirement for leaseholders to have owned for two years before extending will be removed.

Creation of football regulator

A football governance bill will see the creation of a new independent football regulator. The body is expected to have “targeted powers” to step in and resolve how money flows from the Premier League down the pyramid. The government has said it will “address issues of financial sustainability” and ensure “fans’ voices are listened to”.

Suella Braverman plans to restrict tents for homeless people dropped from  King’s Speech by No 10 (PA Wire)
Suella Braverman plans to restrict tents for homeless people dropped from King’s Speech by No 10 (PA Wire)

National Holocaust Memorial

The government has brought back the Holocaust Memorial Bill. Plans to build a memorial centre in Victoria Tower Gardens – situated next to parliament – ran into difficulties over a 1900 law requiring the land to be used as a public park.

Meanwhile, the government will introduce a bill banning public bodies such as local authorities from boycotting Israel. The timing of the Economic Activities of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill has proved controversial – with some Tories warning it could exacerbate tensions during Israel-Hamas conflict.

Bill to create Great British Railways – despite fears it would be axed

A draft bill to create a new public sector body called Great British Railways (GBR) to overhaul Britain’s railways was included in the King’s Speech after speculation that the plan would be dropped.

The government says its draft Rail Reform Bill will enable GBR to be formed, to carry out functions such as awarding operating contracts to train companies and managing rail infrastructure.

What else is in the government programme?

The King’s Speech also revealed a plan to subject the online streaming giants like Netflix to a new video-on-demand code drafted and enforced by Ofcom that will apply similar standards to those enforced on television.

The Media Bill will remove a threat that publishers will pay all legal costs if they win or lose a court case, by repealing a key section of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. And the Sunak government also plans to permanently ban the live export of livestock for slaughter and fattening.

What is not in the King’s Speech?

Legislation to ban conversion therapy was not included in the programme. Ditching the promise has prompted anger among some Tory MPs, including Alicia Kearns and ex-minister Dehenna Davison – with backbenchers plotting to bring it to parliament anyway.

Ms Braverman had proposed establishing a civil offence to deter charities from giving out tents to rough sleepers. But the home secretary’s plans are now undergoing closer scrutiny in No 10 after being ditched from the legislative slate.

No 10 has declined to say whether action to tackle tents for homeless people could eventually be included in the Criminal Justice Bill. Asked whether this could still be added, the PM’s official spokesman said: “It’s not for me to get into setting out the details of what will or will not be included.”

There were no measures to counter what the so-called “war on motorists” – despite reports that the government wanted to try to limit the power of councils to bring 20mph zones or Ulez-type schemes.

There was no ban on trophy hunting imports – a pet subject of Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie – in a disappointment for animal welfare campaigners.

And Mr Sunak will make no effort to bring back a push to water down river nutrient pollution rules in a bid to boost house building, after a revolt by Tory environmentalists and nimbys.

While there was no mention of tax cuts – expected to be addressed in chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his autumn statement later this month – the King’s Speech emphasised the importance of “taking responsible decisions on spending and borrowing”.