With parliament in prorogation and the AI Summit taking up most of the domestic political chatter, we’ve decided to take a look ahead at what to expect in the King’s Speech next week (in addition to all your regular updates below). For a comprehensive overview of what we know so far, including bills being carried over, draft bills published in the last session, and those trailed by the Government, click here to download Navigate’s latest policy briefing sent to our clients earlier this week…
Welcome to the weekly roundup from Navigate Politics, bringing you all the top news, publications and movements from UK politics over the past seven days, ensuring you’re fully briefed on the top stories ahead of the weekend. If you know somebody who would find this briefing useful, please do forward it on so they can subscribe and get it direct to their inbox each Friday.
King's Speech Preview 👑
MPs and Peers return from prorogation on Tuesday for the State Opening of Parliament, which marks the formal start of the parliamentary year and sets out the Government’s agenda for the 2023-24 session. This year, King Charles will open Parliament for the first time as monarch, where he will read out a speech written by the Government outlining its policies and proposed legislation. A number of Bills will be carried over from the 2022-23 session, enabling them to restart at the stage they had reached in the preceding session, including the Renters (Reform) Bill, the Victims and Prisoners Bill and the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill.
Crime and energy are expected to be at the forefront of the King’s Speech, with potential Bills including:
Crime and Justice Bill – The Government is reportedly planning to legislate for a Bill that would impose mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders; require rapists and violent sexual offenders to serve their full sentence in prison; create a new power for judges to order offenders to attend sentencing hearings; allow the Government to rent prison cells overseas; and prevent sex offenders from changing their identities. New legislation to tackle the use of machetes and other bladed articles is also expected.
Energy Infrastructure Bill – Despite the Energy Bill receiving Royal Assent just last week, a new Bill relating to future oil and gas drilling in the North Sea could be on the horizon. Reports indicate that it will also contain new provisions to address the challenges facing the decarbonisation of the power section, such as accelerating grid connections and network infrastructure investment.
Leasehold Bill – Housing Minister Rachel Maclean has confirmed that ‘plans to phase out leasehold and restore true homeownership’ will be set out on Tuesday, with the Bill expected to ban leaseholds for new houses, but not new flats. She added that the Government will ‘end the reign of rip off freeholders + incompetent profiteering management companies’.
Investigatory Powers (Reform) Bill – In June, the Home Office said it was considering the recommendations of Lord Anderson’s review of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 to inform proposals for future legislation. New legislation is likely to strengthen the investigatory powers of the security and intelligence agencies, law enforcement and other public authorities.
Autonomous Vehicles Bill – The long-awaited Transport Bill, announced in the 2022 Queen’s Speech, was not brought forward in the last session. The Bill would have given powers to a new organisation called Great British Railways, but reports suggest that its creation is no longer viewed as a legislative priority for the 2023-24 session, with the Government expected to prioritise legislation for autonomous vehicles and pedicabs.
Tobacco Products Bill – The Government recently announced proposals to ban the sale of tobacco products to anybody born on or after 1 January 2009 through new legislation. The proposal would raise the smoking age by one year, every year, until it applies to the whole population.
Football Governance Bill – Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer is said to have pressed for legislation to create an independent football watchdog that would have powers to vet owners, scrutinise club finances and block English teams from joining breakaway competitions.
The Week in Stats 📉
5.25% – the Bank of England base interest rate, after the Monetary Policy Committee voted 6-3 to keep the rate unchanged.
51 minutes – the length of Rishi Sunak’s “interview” of Elon Musk, following the end of the AI Safety Summit.
115 – the number of pages that made up Dominic Cummings’ witness statement to the Covid Inquiry.
49% – of adults reported that their cost of living has increased compared with a month ago, down from 80% this time last year.
Over 70 – environment ministers have been meeting in Abu Dhabi, ahead of the UN’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai, starting 30 November.
Lots – the amount of times “risks and opportunities” were mentioned during the AI Safety Summit.
Other Political News 📰
Rishi Sunak hosted the world’s first AI Summit this week, with attendance from 28 countries, including the USA, EU and, controversially, China as well as tech bosses such as X/Twitter’s Elon Musk, who held a ‘live chat’ with the Prime Minister on Thursday evening. The nations’ representatives, who included US Vice President Kamala Harris, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, agreed to the 'safe and responsible development of frontier AI' in a 'landmark Bletchley Declaration'. As well as funding for skills and research, the PM announced the creation of a new AI Safety Institute and plans to support the publication of a new State of AI Science Report. As part of a forward process for international collaboration on frontier AI safety, South Korea will co-host a mini virtual summit on AI in the next 6 months, with France then set to host the next in-person summit in a year's time.
Keir Starmer refused to waver from his position calling for a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza, in a speech at Chatham House this week. In the face of growing pressure from dozens of MPs across his party calling on him to support a ceasefire, he noted both that Israel had suffered from “terrorism on a scale and brutality that few countries have ever experienced”, and that there was also a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza, but stressed that a ceasefire was not the right solution. Instead he called for a pause in fighting for “clear and specific humanitarian purposes”. Meanwhile, Andy McDonald MP, who served as Shadow Transport Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, has been suspended from the Labour Party after he used the phrase “between the river and the sea” in a speech at a pro-Palestine protest. He has denied his use of the phrase was anti-Semitic and has launched legal proceedings against Chris Clarkson MP, after the Conservative backbencher posted on X that Andy McDonald used the phrase to justify the terrorist attack by Hamas.
XL Bully dogs will be banned in the UK from 1st February 2024, Defra announced this week. The ban will come into force in two stages, with a ban on breeding, selling, advertising, rehoming, abandoning and allowing an XL Bully dog to stray taking force from the end of this year, before a full ban on owning an XL Bully that is not registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs, at the beginning of February. Those who already own the dogs will be entitled to keep them if they are registered, but they must be muzzled and kept on a lead in public, as well as microchipped and neutered. Owners who wish to have their dog put to sleep will be able to apply for compensation.
Around the World 🌍
Bolivia has severed diplomatic ties with Israel over its offensive in Gaza, which Bolivia described as ‘aggressive and disproportionate’. It may not be the last country in Latin America to do so, as the left-wing governments of Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil have also stated their concern at Israel’s military actions. Bolivia only re-established ties with Israel in 2019, which had been cut in 2009 in protest at…Israel’s actions in Gaza.
The US House of Representatives passed a Bill with over $14bn in aid for Israel, but the Democrats promised to block it in the Senate. The Democrats had wanted the Bill to include aid for both Ukraine and Israel and are expected to use their wafer-thin Senate majority to kill the Bill off, although they could also expect support from Senate Republicans who are more steadfast in their support for Ukraine than their House colleagues.
Taiwan’s two main opposition parties have agreed to form a united front in the country’s upcoming general election, although further discussions will be held on running on a joint presidential ticket. Relations with China will define the January 13 election: Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) generally favours Taiwanese independence, while the KMT and TPP opposition parties wish to pursue dialogue with China. Opinion polls currently suggest the DPP is on track to win re-election.
Anthony Albanese will become the first Australian PM to visit China in seven years when he touches down in the country tomorrow. Relations have deteriorated significantly over the past few years, with Australian criticism of China resulting in a trade war that has reportedly cost Australian exporters up to 20 billion Australian dollars per year. However, following Albanese’s election last year both countries have taken steps to improve ties, and Albanese is expected to meet both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang during the visit.
Committee Corridor 📜
Risks remain around the potential cost to the taxpayer following the collapse of Bulb Energy, the Public Accounts Committee has concluded in the first of two reports out this week, adding there are uncertainties around the recovery of the £3.02 billion of taxpayer funds currently committed to funding Bulb.
The Government is not on track to meet objectives to increase rates of active travel by 2025, the Public Accounts Committee states in its second report, warning that funding cuts made this year by the Department for Transport could hold back objectives to increase active travel, and that the impact of £2.3bn in funding for active travel infrastructure remains unclear.
Key Movements 🔁
Mark McAllister was appointed Chair of Ofgem, replacing Martin Cave on Monday.
Mary Macleod was appointed Chair of the Women’s Business Council. Mcleod is currently CEO of Business in the Community.
Martin Boyd was appointed Chair of the Leasehold Advisory Service, taking over interim Chair Wanda Goldwag.
Jonathan Chapman was chosen as a new Non-Executive Director to the Government Internal Audit Agency.
Sir Ian Bauckham was named as interim Chief Regulator of Qualifications for England, for a 12 month term commencing 1 January.
Ash Regan MSP defected to the Alba Party despite running to be SNP leader just this year, citing the Party’s lost focus on independence as her reason for leaving.
Paul Bristow MP was sacked as a PPS at DSIT following his calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Andy McDonald MP had the Labour Whip suspended, following a speech he made at a Pro-Palestine rally.
This Week’s Polls 📊
Labour and the SNP are tied for support in Scotland, according to Redfield and Wilton’s latest Scottish Westminster Voting Intention poll. Both Parties would receive 32% if a General Election was held tomorrow, with the Conservatives in third place on 23%. In 2019, the SNP win 45% of the vote, while the Conservatives and Labour won 25% and 19% respectively.
Labour councillors are not happy with the Labour leadership’s position on Israel-Palestine, finds a survey of 618 Labour councillors from Savanta. 25% said they were ‘very dissatisfied’, with a further 18% ‘somewhat dissatisfied’.
However, in potentially better news for Labour leader Keir Starmer, he is more trusted by the public on the issue than his predecessor, finds YouGov’s research into the issue. 26% of those surveyed said they trusted Starmer, while 18% responded that they trusted Jeremy Corbyn would have made the right decisions.
Reform could be the hardest word for the Prime Minister, according to YouGov’s poll into the right-wing party. Just 31% of those currently intending to vote Reform at the next General Election say they would vote Conservative if there was not a Reform candidate standing in their constituency, while just 21% have a favourable view of the Conservatives, compared to 59% (of Brexit Party supporters) in 2019.
Reform published a paper based on interviews from 50 current and former civil servants which looks at their frustration with Whitehall during Brexit, the pandemic, and the political turbulence over the past few years.
The Institute of Economic Affairs published a paper which claims that hate speech laws could be used to ‘shut down democratic debates’.
The Resolution Foundation published a briefing that examines the distribution of wealth across Britain in the context of surging interest rates, exploring the implications for policy, with a particular focus on potential reforms to council tax.
The Progressive Policy Think Tank published a report on progressive actions the Government could take in response to the Channel crossings, advocating for safe and accessible routes, renewed cooperation with neighbouring nations, and reform to the UK asylum system.
The Adam Smith Institute published a paper analysing the Social Value Act 2012, which argues that it adds waste to the procurement system.
The Institute for Government published their 2023 performance tracker for public services, revealing that 8 out of 9 services were performing worse compared to their performance in 2019/20. The report indicated that, although COVID no longer seems to have a significant impact, there are lingering effects on employee activity and backlog.
You’ve Got to Laugh 😂
Labour’s DWP may have hinted at some new policy ideas last week, as Shadow Future of Work Minister Justin Madders submitted a seemingly innocent WPQ regarding the number of people receiving pension credit. The only problem is, as Pensions Minister Laura Trott pointed out, the question referred to the percentage of people receiving credit born on or after 1 April 2016, leading to a blunt but fair response from the Minister, explaining carefully that the percentage of people receiving pension credit born on or after this date is zero, as ‘they are, at most, seven years old’. It’s not often a WPQ goes viral on X, but this gem has amassed over 1 million views on the social media platform since Tuesday. It may be back to the drawing board for Justin’s policy team, to learn that for a successful Future of Work, 7 year olds will not retire for another 60 years.
PROFANITY WARNING – It’s been a bad week for foul language, and an even worse week for…. You guessed it…. Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Whilst it does seem like this section of the Weekly Roundup has become the You’ve Got to Laugh at Matt Hancock section, regrettably this week is too good to miss. The week started badly for the former Health Sec as the most recent episode of SAS Who Dares Wins aired, featuring a brilliant scene which referred to the aforementioned as: “a sarcastic little f**cker”; “Mr f**cking know-it-all” and the internet’s favourite a “weasel-faced c**t”, leaving Hancock looking pretty sheepish to say the least. Things then went from bad to worse for him, as Dominic Cummings gave evidence at this week’s COVID Inquiry leaving a pretty damning review of Hancock’s time as Health Sec, saying he is a “proven liar, who nobody believes", followed swiftly by…you guessed it…calling him a “c**t”. To be fair to the guy, any publicity is good publicity, right? The Covid inquiry will see you next Monday where it continues next week, including an appearance from Priti Patel on Thursday.
And finally, the COVID inquiry wasn’t all effing and blinding, although we’re not sure whether this constitutes a You’ve Got to Laugh, or a You’ve Got to Cry. Seemingly the gift that keeps on giving, Dominic Cummings also revealed in his evidence session that during the pandemic Boris Johnson shared a video to advisors Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty, essentially asking if blowing a special type of hair dryer up your nose would cure COVID. Maybe its continuing to undertake this type of meticulous research that attracted him to GB News.