Queen’s Speech 2021: what does it mean for UK business?

Key economic bills include planning system reform and a lifetime skills guarantee

House building
Government says sweeping reforms will ‘cut red tape, not standards’
(Image credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images )

In her ten-minute speech today in the House of Lords, the Queen has set out the government’s agenda for the next year of parliament.

More than 25 bills will form the legislative backbone of Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit, post-pandemic plan, including a “major shake-up” of the planning system and a proposal to boost life-long skills and training, the FT reports.

The government has pledged to “level up opportunities across all parts of the UK” and deliver a national recovery from the pandemic to support jobs, businesses and economic growth.

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Here we pick out the key economic bills proposed in the Queen’s Speech.

1. Planning and building safety

A major shake-up of the planning system in England will remove the power of local authorities to turn down housing developments which meet set standards and “herald the return” of 1980s-style development corporations, The Daily Telegraph says. The Planning Bill is seen as “key to shoring up Tory support by boosting home ownership”.

The government says the bill will “create a simpler, faster and more modern planning system to replace the current one that dates back to 1947”. But the measures are controversial, the FT reports. They will enable 300,000 new homes to be built a year, “which will be strongly contested by Conservative MPs who fear it will lead to a free-for-all on greenfield sites”.

The Building Safety Bill will also establish in law a new regulator to “ensure that the tragedies of the past are never repeated”.

Build, build, build: UK planning laws to get ‘radical shake-up’

2. Skills and education

The prime minister said new education laws will provide “rocket fuel” to the nation’s recovery and ministers have promised a “lifetime skills guarantee” to get people into well-paid jobs after the “hammer blow” from the coronavirus crisis, the Daily Mail reports.

Being introduced on 18 May, the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill will “revolutionise skills and training opportunities”, the government said. Legislative measures include “enabling a new student finance system to transform the current student loans system, which will give every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, useable at any point in their lives”.

3. High speed rail

HS2 Ltd

(Image credit: HS2 Ltd)

The government aims to “strengthen the economic ties across the union” and will invest in and improve national infrastructure. The High Speed Rail Bill will transform connectivity by road and rail and give the go ahead to the parts of HS2 from Crewe to Manchester, The Telegraph said.

Construction of the much-delayed HS2 rail project finally started in September. The line linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds is expected to cost £106bn and take up to 20 years to complete. Johnson said the project will create 22,000 jobs and “fire up economic growth”.

HS2: work starts on controversial £100bn high-speed rail line

4. National Insurance contributions

Tax breaks for employers based at eight new freeports in England will be included in a National Insurance Contributions Bill, the BBC reports. Located around shipping ports, or airports, the new freeports announced at the March 2021 Budget include: East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber region, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames, and Teesside.

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