The Queen's Speech 2012 in full

The future laws of England and Wales: Queen's Speech 2012
The future laws of England and Wales: Queen's Speech 2012

Bills announced in the Queen's Speech 9th May 2012

Banking Reform Bill

Further strengthens regulation of the financial services sector and implements the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Banking.

Main measures:


Gives the Treasury powers to make provision for ring-fencing by requiring that essential banking services are only provided in a ring-fenced bank and defining services that a ring-fenced bank may not provide. The retail ring-fence would separate vital banking services on which households and SMEs depend from wholesale and investment banking activities, insulating them from global financial shocks.

Requires the Prudential Regulatory Authority to ensure that a ring-fenced bank in a group is, as far as possible, independent of other entities in the group.

Provides that depositors are treated as preferred creditors, paid before unsecured creditors on insolvency, reducing the exposure of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and the taxpayer in insolvency.

Children and Families Bill

Improves provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs; supports children involved in family law cases; reforms court processes for children in care and strengthens the role of the Children’s Commissioner; and makes parental leave more flexible.

Main measures:

SEN: -

Replaces SEN statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments (for 16-25 year olds) with a single, simpler 0-25 assessment process and Education, Health and Care Plan from 2014.

Provides statutory protections comparable to those currently associated with a statement of SEN to up to 25 in further education – instead of being cut off at 16.

Requires that local authorities and health services jointly plan and commission the services that children, young people and families need.

Gives parents or young people the right to a personal budget for their support.

Adoption: -

Stops local authorities delaying an adoption to find the perfect match if there are suitable adopters available. The ethnicity of a child and prospective adopters will come second, in most cases, to the speed of placing a child in a permanent home.

Family Law: -

Creates a time limit of six months by which care cases must be completed.

Makes it explicit that case management decisions should be made only after impacts on the child, their needs and timetable have been considered.

Focuses the court on those issues which are essential to deciding whether to make a care order.

Gets rid of unnecessary processes in family proceedings by removing the requirement for interim care and supervision orders to be renewed every month by the judge and instead allowing the judge to set the length and renewal requirements of interim orders for a period which he or she considers appropriate, up to the expected time limit.

Requires courts to have regard to the impact of delay on the child when commissioning expert evidence and whether the court can obtain information from parties already involved.

Strengthens the law to ensure that, where it is safe, and in the child's best interests, children have a relationship with both their parents after family separation. The Government will consult on legal options shortly.

Flexible Parental Leave: -

Legislates to give parents access to flexible parental leave; so that where they want to, mothers and fathers can share caring responsibilities in a way which best fits their needs.

Office of the Children’s Commissioner: -

Strengthens the role and impact of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. It will have more powers to promote and protect children’s rights and take on functions carried out by the Children’s Rights Director, which is currently part of Ofsted. It will have more independence from ministers and the power to carry out assessments of the impact of policies and legislation on children.

Crime and Courts Bill

Establishes the National Crime Agency and reforms the courts and tribunals service to increase efficiency, transparency and judicial diversity.

Main measures:

Establishes the National Crime Agency to prevent and investigate serious, organised and complex crime, enhance border security, and tackle the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and cyber crime.

Establishes a Single County Court system and Single Family Court to allow greater flexibility for the handling of cases to increase efficiency of the civil and family court systems in England and Wales.

Reforms the judicial appointments process to introduce greater transparency in the judicial appointments process and improve judicial diversity.

Introduces flexible judicial deployment to allow judges to move between courts and tribunals more efficiently.

Increases the efficiency of fines by providing incentives for compliance, so that offenders incur the cost for delaying payment, not taxpayers.

Allows data to be shared between the courts and tribunals service and other agencies to allow fee exemption applications to be checked electronically.

Enables the introduction, in limited circumstances, of court broadcasting to help demystify the justice system.

Removes the full appeal right for Family Visa Visit cases and removes in-country appeal rights from individuals excluded from the UK by the Home Secretary.

Strengthens the powers of immigration officers to tackle serious and organised immigration-related crime.

Introduces a new offence of driving, or being in a charge of, a motor vehicle with concentrations of specified controlled substances in excess of specified levels.

Reforms community sentences to ensure offenders are properly punished and effectively rehabilitated

Croatia Accession Bill

Provides for Parliamentary approval of the anticipated accession of Croatia to the European Union.

Main measures:

Provides for Parliamentary approval of the Croatia Accession Treaty; Protocols to the Lisbon Treaty put forward by the Czech and Irish Governments; and the proposed decision to maintain the number of EU Commissioners to one per Member State.

Defamation Bill

Reforms the law of defamation to ensure that a fair balance is struck between the right to freedom of expression and the protection of reputation.

Main measures:

Introduces a requirement that a statement must have caused serious harm for it to be defamatory in order to discourage trivial claims.

Creates a new statutory defence of responsible publication on matters of public interest (essentially to codify the common law “Reynolds” defence).

Creates statutory defences of truth and honest opinion to replace the common law defences of justification and fair comment.

Updates and extends the circumstances in which the defences of absolute and qualified privilege are available, including extending qualified privilege to peer-reviewed material in scientific and academic journals.

Introduces a single publication rule to prevent an action being brought in relation to publication of the same material by the same publisher after a one year limitation period has passed.

Addresses libel tourism by tightening the test to be applied by the courts in relation to actions brought against people who are not domiciled in the UK or EU Member State.

Removes the presumption in favour of jury trial, leaving the judge a discretion to order jury trial where it is in the interests of justice.

Introduces a new process governing responsibility for publication on the internet, to give greater protection to operators of websites hosting user-generated content provided they comply with a procedure to enable the complainant to resolve any dispute direct with the author of the material concerned.

Offers greater protection to secondary publishers such as booksellers by taking away the court’s jurisdiction to hear an action for defamation brought against them except where it is not reasonably practicable for the claimant to bring the action against the author, editor or commercial publisher.

Makes the power of the court under the existing summary disposal procedure to order publication of a summary of its judgment available in defamation proceedings generally.

Draft Care and Support Bill

Modernises adult care and support in England.

Main measures:

Modernises the legal framework for care and support, to support the vision of the forthcoming Government White Paper on care and support.

Responds to the recommendations of the Law Commission, which conducted a three-year review into social care law.

Establishes Health Education England as a non-departmental public body.

Establishes the Health Research Authority as a non-departmental public body.

Creates a London Health Improvement Board.

Carries out engagement and pre-legislative scrutiny on the draft Bill, as many in the social care sector have called for, to enable Government to listen to people with experience and expertise, to make the most of this unique opportunity to reform the law.

Draft Communications Data Bill

Maintains the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public, subject to scrutiny of draft clauses.

Main measures:

Establishes an updated framework for the collection and retention of communications data by communication service providers (CSPs) to ensure communications data remains available to law enforcement and other authorised public authorities.

Establishes an updated framework to facilitate the lawful, efficient and effective obtaining of communications data by authorised public authorities including law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Establishes strict safeguards including: a 12 month limit of the length of time for which communications data may be retained by CSPs and measures to protect the data from unauthorised access or disclosure. (It will continue to be the role of the Information Commissioner to keep under review the operation of the provisions relating to the security of retained communications data and their destruction at the end of the 12 month retention period)

Provides for appropriate independent oversight including: extending the role of the Interception of Communications Commissioner to oversee the collection of communications data by communications service providers; providing a communications service provider with the ability to consult an independent Government / Industry body (the Technical Advisory Board) to consider the impact of obligations placed upon them; extending the role of the independent Investigatory Powers Tribunal (made up of senior judicial figures) to ensure that individuals have a proper avenue of complaint and independent investigation if they think the powers have been used unlawfully.

Removes other statutory powers with weaker safeguards to acquire communications data.

Draft Local Audit Bill

Closes the Audit Commission and establishes new arrangements for the audit of local public bodies.

Main measures:

Abolishes the Audit Commission.

Requires local bodies to appoint their own auditors on the advice of an independent auditor panel.

Sets up a new regulatory regime for local public audit, more closely aligned with the regulatory framework for audit in the private sector, with the Financial Reporting Council as the overall regulator.

Transfers responsibility for developing and publishing the Code of Audit Practice for local public audit to the National Audit Office (subject to Parliamentary approval).

Transfers the Audit Commission’s data matching powers to another body (which Department this will be is yet to be confirmed).

Continues the power for the Secretary of State to commission an inspection of a ‘best value’ local authority where there are significant concerns about its performance.

Draft Water Bill

Reforms the water industry in England and Wales allowing business and public sector bodies to obtain more competitive prices and improve their efficiency, as set out in the Water White Paper.

Main measures:

Implements the Government's package of water and sewerage market reforms.

Allows every business and public sector body to switch its water and sewerage supplier.

Improves Ofwat’s ability to regulate water companies as competition develops in the market.

Allows the scope of the environmental permitting regulations to be extended from prevention of pollution to include abstraction and impounding of water. This extension will also cover flood defence and fish pass consents.

Electoral Registration and Administration Bill

Introduces individual registration of electors to reduce electoral fraud and modernises the electoral registration system.

Main measures:

Introduces a major change to the system of electoral registration – Individual Electoral Registration (IER) - requiring electors to register individually rather than by household. In doing so, an individual must provide information which would be used to verify their application.

IER would be a requirement for any new registrations and for anyone who wants to vote by post or proxy from 2014. After 1 December 2015 everyone on the electoral register would be registered under the new system.

Provides for the use of data matching to verify applications and to confirm existing entries in registers to help maintain completeness during the transition to IER.

Modernises the electoral registration system, making it easier for people to register to vote, for example by opening up the way for digital applications.

Energy Bill

Reforms the electricity market to enable large-scale investment in low-carbon generation capacity in the UK and deliver security of supply, in a cost-effective way.

Main measures:

Introduces a system of low-carbon generation revenue support (a feed-in tariff with Contracts for Difference (FiT-CfD), to provide more certainty of revenues for low-carbon generation and make investment in clean energy more attractive.

Introduces an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) to provide a regulatory backstop to prevent construction of new coal plants which emit more than 450g/kWh i.e. the most carbon-intensive form of electricity generation.

Introduces a capacity mechanism to ensure security of supply, ensuring there is sufficient reliable and diverse capacity to meet demand.

Creates an independent, industry financed statutory regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

Enables the sale of a Ministry of Defence asset, the Government Pipeline and Storage System (GPSS).

Introduces a Strategy and Policy Statement which would set out the Government’s strategic priorities for the energy sector in Great Britain, describe the roles and responsibilities of bodies who implement or are affected by GB energy policy and describe policy outcomes which are to be achieved by the regulator and the Secretary of State when regulating the sector.

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

Strengthens the business environment, reduces regulatory burdens and improves business and consumer confidence to create the right conditions for economic recovery.

Main measures:

Reforms competition law to promote enterprise and fair markets; creates a single Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) by bringing together the Competition Commission (CC) and the competition functions of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Establishes a Green Investment Bank operating independently of Government to accelerate private sector investment in the transition to a green economy.

Overhauls the employment tribunal system and provides options outside the tribunal process to encourage early resolution to workplace disputes.

Strengthens the framework for setting directors’ pay and shareholder power so they can hold companies to account.

Reduces inspection burdens on business by extending the Primary Authority scheme, and strengthens the legal framework for sunset clauses on regulation.

Repeals unnecessary legislation to help save businesses time and money.

European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill

Provides for Parliament approval relating to the agreed financial stability mechanism within the euro area.

Main measures:

Provides for Parliamentary approval of the change of Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), confirming that Euro area Member States may establish a permanent stability mechanism – the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill

Establishes an independent adjudicator to ensure supermarkets deal fairly and lawfully with suppliers.

Main measures:

Creates an Adjudicator, as set out in the draft Bill, to ensure adherence to the Groceries Code put in place by the Competition Commission.

Provides for the Adjudicator to arbitrate disputes between retailers and suppliers, investigating anonymous complaints and taking sanctions against retailers who break the rules.

Ensures that large retailers can be held to account if they break the Code.

House of Lords Reform Bill

Reforms the composition of the House of Lords so that most members are elected by the people.

Main measures:

Creates a mainly elected chamber.

Elected members of the House of Lords to be voted in by a different electoral system to the House of Commons, on a proportional basis (a single transferable vote system).

Elections to be staggered, with one-third of the elected seats coming up for renewal at a time. This means that experience would be retained over elections.

Current members of the House of Lords to leave in stages, to ensure knowledge and expertise is retained and transferred to the reformed House.

Elections to coincide with elections to the House of Commons, but with much larger regional multi-member “constituencies”.

The size of the House to be reduced substantially. At over 800 members, the present House of Lords is amongst the largest legislative chambers in the world.

Members to serve a single, non-renewable term of 15 years. This means they would not be able to seek re-election, enhancing their independence from day-to-day party politics.

Membership of the House of Lords no longer linked to the acceptance of a peerage. Peerages would revert simply to being an honour, rather than also granting a seat in the legislature.

Enables the House of Lords to make standing orders allowing it to suspend or expel any member. At the moment, members of the House of Lords cannot be expelled, even for a serious criminal offence, and can only be suspended for the remainder of a Parliament.

The Bill would not change the powers and functions of the House of Lords.

Justice and Security Bill

Strengthens oversight of the security and intelligence agencies and allows courts, through the limited use of closed proceedings, to hear a greater range of evidence in national security cases.”

Main measures:

Allows Courts to consider all material relating to a case - even where national security prevents that information from being made public;

Ensures that where an individual challenges an action taken by the Government, that such claims can be properly investigated and scrutinized by the courts.

Enables the courts to access all information relevant to the (civil) case, in a manner which does not risk harm to national security, and ultimately the Government’s ability to protect the general public.

Enables the courts to fully consider all relevant information in civil claims made against the Government, preventing the situation of the Government being forced to settle cases which it believes have no merit.

Modernises Parliamentary oversight of the Security and Intelligence Agencies.

Pensions Bill

Modernises the pension system and reforms the state pension, to create a fair, simple and sustainable foundation for private saving.

Main measures:

Replaces the current, complex state pension system with a new single tier pension, as set out in the Budget, set above the level of the basic pension credit means test (currently estimated to be set at around £140 per week), so that those of working age can save for their retirement with confidence.

Brings forward the increase in the state pension age to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

Commits to ensuring that the state pension age is increased in future to take into account increases in longevity

Public Service Pensions Bill

Reforms public service pensions in line with the recommendations of the independent commission on public service pensions.

Main measures:

Begins implementation of the Final Proposed Agreements reached with trades unions for the three largest schemes, based on the recommendations of the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission.

Introduces a fairer basis for calculating public service pensions, based on the average earnings of a member over their career rather than their salary at, or near to, retirement.

Delivers the Government’s commitment that those closest to retirement will not see any change in when they can retire, or any decrease in the amount of pension they receive at their Normal Retirement Age.

Asks people to retire later - with pension benefits normally paid at State Pension Age (earlier for members of the police, armed forces and firefighters’ schemes). Nobody will be made to work longer, but a fair adjustment will be made to their pension if they chose to retire earlier or later.

Introduces cost controls so that future unforeseen changes in the cost of pensions are shared by members and employers.

Introduces more commonality to the powers and processes across public service pension schemes.

Small Donations Bill

Reduces the administrative burden of charities and boosts the income received on small charitable donations.

Main measures:

Provides a top-up payment similar to Gift Aid to charities that receive small cash donations of £20 or less, enabling them to claim 25p for every £1 collected in the UK, on up to £5,000 of small donations.

Ensures that the scheme is fair so that small local charities carrying out charitable activities in local communities would be entitled to similar levels of top-up payments as larger national charities undertaking similar activities.

Protects the scheme from excessive claims by limiting payments to charities that are connected with one another and which operate broadly as a single entity.

Protects the scheme against fraud by requiring charities to have a three-year track record of successfully claiming Gift Aid and to continue making Gift Aid claims to benefit from the scheme.
 

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