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Perspectives - The King's Speech

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A campaigning agenda

This was the first King’s Speech to be delivered in 70 years and the last before the next General Election, now widely expected to be held in autumn 2024.

The most striking aspect of the list of Bills the Government has announced today is how light it is. Indeed, fewer pieces of legislation were announced in today’s King’s Speech than during any Queen’s Speech for almost a decade (with 2014 the last time fewer than 21 Bills were announced).

The content of the speech will also be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to the Government’s areas of focus in recent months, which have prefigured the shape of the forthcoming election campaign:

Getting inflation down over new public investment and spending remains at the core of the Government’s economic agenda. Meanwhile an ‘Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill’ will open the way for further oil and gas exploration in the North Sea. This is an area in which Rishi Sunak is determined to make a dividing line with Labour’s ambitious net zero policies, which he argues will hit household finances.

On social issues, the speech confirmed plans to toughen sentences for the most violent offenders, set out plans to prevent today’s 14-year-olds from ever being able to legally purchase cigarettes, and doubled down on the Government’s determination to deliver on the existing Illegal Migration Act (ahead of the hotly anticipated Rwanda scheme Supreme Court ruling expected before the end of the year).

Several of the Bills announced today are also ‘carry over’ pieces of legislation already introduced to Parliament, such as the Renters (Reform) Bill, the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, and the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

If this were a full legislative plan for the next 12 months then it would (rightly) be seen as thin gruel, but the purpose of today’s King’s Speech was as much about setting the shape of the general election campaign and Conservative manifesto to come as anything else.

To understand more, read our full analysis of the key bills announced and legislation absent from the King's Speech agenda.