The Queen’s speech 2022: what was in it and what it means

Analysis: The bills included on the government’s agenda for the year and what their aims are

The Queen’s speech, which set out the government’s legislative agenda for the next parliamentary year, was a mix of new plans, long-made pledges and a handful of held-over bills. Here is what it set out – and what it all means, politically.

Brexit

What is planned: There are six proposed bills intended to make the UK more competitive or otherwise free and liberal in the wake of Brexit, or tailored to post-Brexit trade deals. The flagship is the Brexit freedoms bill, which allows EU rules to be easily removed. Also planned are the procurement bill, financial services and markets bill, data reform bill, genetic technology (precision breeding) bill and trade (Australia and New Zealand) bill.

Why it’s there: In part this is the sheer logistical necessity of changing regulations in the aftermath of Brexit. But the Brexit freedoms bill in particular is intended to remind voters that Boris Johnson got departure from the EU over the line, seen by the Conservatives as a key success.

Culture wars

What is planned: There are seven bills arguably aimed, in part or whole, at stirring up the Tory base, creating headlines in friendly papers and annoying opponents. A public order bill will specifically target disruptive environmental protesters; a media bill will allow Channel 4 to be privatised; public bodies will not be allowed to boycott certain countries. Arguably the key bill would replace the Human Rights Act with a UK bill of rights. The higher education (freedom of speech) bill makes a return from the last parliament. The levelling up bill promises local people “more of a say over changing street names”. Finally, the conversion therapy bill will ban practices aimed at changing sexuality, but not gender identity.

Why it’s there: This is all part of a wider No 10-led strategy to focus on such divisive issues in the hope of shoring up support among socially conservative voters. Whether there are enough of these to win another election, if more liberal Britons become alienated, remains to be seen.

Energy, cost of living and levelling up

What is planned: Two things – a bill setting out Downing Street’s energy security policy, and the much-touted bill to put into law the strategy for levelling up. The latter is described in fairly broad terms, with commitments including the pledge for more devolution in England and, perhaps more appealing to some voters, giving local people powers to shape planning decisions.

Why it’s there: The planning element is fairly clearly aimed at wooing disillusioned Tory voters, especially in the south of England. Elsewhere, it is more of a question, some might argue, of why there is not more focus on the cost of living, even if in part this is because this is an issue which concerns day-to-day policy rather than legislation.

Environment

What is planned: In legislative terms, only one thing: creating a UK infrastructure bank to “support regional and local economic growth and deliver net zero”.

Why it’s there: As with the cost of living, critics might point to the lack of much else. The 140-page Queen’s speech briefing document has brief mentions of the climate emergency in terms of foreign aid, but that is otherwise it. The only mention of “insulate” is a promise to jail Insulate Britain protesters.

Education

What is planned: A higher education bill and a schools bill, setting out loans for post-18 education and a funding settlement for English schools.

Why it’s there: Education is a perennial feature of Queen’s speeches. The schools funding settlement has been contentious for some time, and could bring debate.

Housing and planning

What is planned: Once again, given the housing crisis, it is a case, perhaps, of what is not said. There are planned bills to create a regulator of social housing, and a renters’ reform bill to abolish “no fault” evictions. More significant are the “blue wall”-friendly measures to allow more local input into planning.

Why it’s there: There appears no consensus in government about how to build more homes, so improving the lot of renters at least does something. And planning has been a political minefield for many years.

Crime and security

What is planned: Yet another permanent fixture of the Queen’s speech. A national security bill – a delayed espionage bill from the previous session – tightens up official secrets law and will require lobbyists and PRs to register work for foreign states. An economic crime bill, revived after the invasion of Ukraine, proposes giving more powers to Companies House, insisting on better identity verification for those who manage, own or control British companies.

Why it’s there: Most of the crime bills are legislative tidying up; the flagship crime-based bill is the public order bill, seeking to further restrict protest. Critics will note there is nothing aimed at easing the backlog of cases in the judicial system.

Everything else

What is planned: A mixed bag of more than a dozen bills taking in areas including transport, including a plan for Great British Railways to simplify the privatised rail system and a law specifically aimed at P&O Ferries, mandating minimum employment standards for seafarers. Two bills concern Northern Ireland, and others are even more specific, such as the planned electronic trade documents bill, which puts electronic documents on the same legal basis as their paper equivalents.

Why it’s there: It depends on the bill. Some, such as the rail bill, are the hobby horse of a particular minister (in this case, Grant Shapps). Others simply adapt legislation for a changing world. A few, such as a bill on modern slavery and people trafficking, have been discussed and delayed for some years.

Contributor

Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
What made it into the Queen’s speech, and what was left out
UK government’s to-do list includes planning reforms, voter ID and limits on right to protest, but sidesteps social care and rental reform

Peter Walker Political correspondent

11, May, 2021 @1:52 PM

Article image
Tories aim to distract from Brexit with crime-focused Queen's speech
Heavier sentences for violent criminals among policies aimed at wooing Labour voters

Owen Bowcott and Heather Stewart

13, Oct, 2019 @9:00 PM

Article image
Charles’s Queen’s speech surpassed in dullness by Starmer-Johnson show
Beergate-afflicted Labour leader stuck in second gear while bored PM raced to a garbled finish

John Crace

10, May, 2022 @6:26 PM

Article image
Queen’s speech: Boris Johnson ‘bereft of ideas’ to tackle cost of living crisis
Despite 38 new bills, opposition accuses government of failing to act to protect people amid soaring inflation

Heather Stewart Political editor

10, May, 2022 @7:34 PM

Article image
Anger over failure in Queen’s speech to set out social care plans
Industry warnings come as figures reveal more care home residents died during Covid second wave than the first

Patrick Butler Social policy editor and Pamela Duncan

11, May, 2021 @5:57 PM

Article image
Queen's speech: PM points to harder Brexit and 10-year rule
Johnson government outlines tougher laws on sentencing and constitutional reform

Rowena Mason, Kate Proctor and Frances Perraudin

19, Dec, 2019 @8:16 PM

Article image
Boris Johnson to force through new anti-protest curbs in Queen’s speech
Government to announce new offences to stop protesters from ‘locking on’ to infrastructure

Rajeev Syal

09, May, 2022 @9:30 PM

Article image
Queen's speech: what is in Boris Johnson's 2020 programme?
Key bills include law to formally take UK out of EU, an immigration bill and law to guarantee level of NHS spending

Kate Proctor and Sam Merriman

19, Dec, 2019 @12:02 PM

Article image
Queen’s speech proposals show Johnson ‘bereft of ideas or purpose’, says Starmer – as it happened
The PM’s legislative agenda for the year ahead was set out earlier in the Queen’s speech, which was delivered by Prince Charles

Andrew Sparrow

10, May, 2022 @5:40 PM

Article image
Queen’s speech preview shows a government scrabbling around for ideas
Analysis: List of expected bills appears shot with contradictions, trying to keep red wall and blue wall onside

Heather Stewart Political editor

09, May, 2022 @12:15 PM