The Queen’s Speech stated that the government’s main priority is to deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the UK ‘stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before’
The government is currently tackling the highest public borrowing since the end of the Second World War. In the State Opening of Parliament the Queen said: ‘My government will ensure that the public finances are returned to a sustainable path once the economic recovery is secure.’ This measure was not backed up with tax or funding announcements.
The Queen said that ‘following the unprecedented support provided to businesses during the pandemic proposals will be brought forward to create and support jobs and improve regulation.’ The Queen said that measures would be introduced to ensure that support for businesses reflects the United Kingdom's strategic interests and drives economic growth through the Subsidy Control Bill.
The government also wants to introduce legislation to ‘simplify procurement in the public sector’ by streamlining more than 350 EU-derived regulations. It said the bill will make procurement quicker and easier and allow more freedom for suppliers and the public sector to work with the private sector. Proposals will also be taken forward to provide 5G mobile coverage and gigabit capable broadband to homes and businesses in areas that need it.
The Queen confirmed plans announced at the Budget in March that the UK would build eight new freeports which aims to create hubs for trade and to regenerate communities. Employers in these freeports will also receive National Insurance Contributions (NICs) relief.
The relief would also be introduced for employers of veterans in their first year of civilian employment, it would exempt employers from paying employer NICs on the veteran’s salary, up to the upper earnings limit. A draft legislation ran from 11 January to 8 March 2021 and HMRC have confirmed the relief will be available from April 2021. For 2021/22 employers have been advised to pay the associated secondary Class 1 NICs as normal, and then claim it back and from April 2022 businesses will be able to apply for the relief in real time.
The NICs relief will also stretch and cover those who are self-employed and receive NHS Test and Trace payments.
The government will also ‘strengthen the economic ties across the union' investing in and improving national infrastructure across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Measures will be brought forward to strengthen the devolved government in Northern Ireland and address the legacy of the past with the Northern Ireland Bill. It will also end investigations into the past as part of the government's commitment to veterans. After an overwhelming win for the Scottish National Party (SNP) last week, Scottish independence was not mentioned.
The Environment Bill was explained with its environmental targets of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 ahead of hosting COP26 in Glasgow this year. The bill is set out to restore nature and biodiversity, tackle air pollution, cut plastic use and ‘revolutionise how we recycle.’ Also an additional £880m of dormant assets will be released for social and environmental initiatives.
Other elements mentioned in the speech were increased measures of safety and security for UK citizens with legislation set to increase sentences for the most serious and violent offenders and ensure the timely administration of justice with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The government also wants to modernise the planning system so more homes can be built, and more people can own their own home, they will also enhance rights to renters. A new Building Safety Regulator law will be established to ensure tragedies like Grenfell ‘are never repeated.’ More safety standards for construction products will also be introduced.
NHS funding will be provided for the covid-19 vaccination programme to continue with legislation to be introduced to ‘empower the NHS to innovate and embrace technology’ so that patients will receive more tailored and preventative care.
Finally, Boris Johnson will go ahead with plans to restore the power of the prime minister to choose the timing of general elections and ministers will also introduce measures to require photo proof of identity when voting.