LONDON (Reuters) – King Charles set out the British government’s plans for legislation over the coming months on Tuesday with a highly political package of measures, including the promise of tougher sentences for serious criminals, before a national election expected next year.
The King’s Speech – given by the monarch but written by government ministers – opens the new session of parliament.
This is likely to be the last one before the election, which must be held by January 2025, and many policies were aimed at appealing to voters.
Below are some of the main proposed new laws:
LAW AND ORDER
The government plans to introduce five pieces of legislation intended to toughen sentences and deter crime in a sign that the governing Conservatives hope to make this a key election issue.
The Sentencing Bill will mean murderers who carry out sexually motivated or sadistic attacks will automatically face life in jail without the prospect of parole.
The Criminal Justice Bill will also mean that criminals will be made to appear in the court when they are sentenced so they can hear statements from victims.
This comes after a nurse who was found guilty of murdering seven babies and a man who shot a nine-year-old girl this year refused to attend their sentencing hearings.
The legislation will also give the police powers to enter a property without a warrant to seize goods if they have reasonable proof that a stolen item was at an address.
CIGARETTES AND VAPES
The Tobacco and Vapes Bill will deliver on Sunak’s promise made last month to phase out all tobacco sales in England.
Under the legislation, anyone who was born on or after Jan. 1, 2009, will never be allowed to legally buy cigarettes.
The government said it was also looking to bring in rules regulating the flavours and descriptions of vapes that critics say are targeted at children.
The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill will set up annual licensing rounds for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, in a move the government said would create certainty for the industry during a transition to greener energy.
The opposition Labour Party, which has a double-digit lead in opinion polls, has said it would stop issuing new oil and gas licences in the North Sea, though it will respect any that are granted before an election.
The government will introduce the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, which will give ministers new powers to tackle “drip pricing” where companies advertise a low price online before adding extra fees.
Consumers will also be given powers to make it easier to get out of subscription contracts, which the government said cost people around 1.6 billion pounds ($1.97 billion) a year.
The government will amend the system, described by the housing minister as “feudal”, which forces the owners of some properties to pay rent to a freeholder.
The Leasehold and Freehold Bill means all new houses in England and Wales will be exempt from having to pay these extra costs.
The Renters’ Reform Bill will push ahead with a plan to end no-fault evictions in England, four years after the legislation was first promised.
The government plans to set up an independent football regulator, who will be responsible for scrutinising club owners and their financial resources.
The new legislation will require owners to ensure fans are consulted on changes to club’s badges, names and shirt colours.
The regulator will have the power to stop clubs joining breakaway leagues, after six English clubs attempted in 2021 to join a new European Super League.
Britain will bring forward a bill to allow it to meet its obligations as it accedes to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Britain in March struck a deal to join the 11-country trans-Pacific trade pact, which includes Australia and Japan, and formally signed the treaty in July.
The bill gives CPTPP parties greater access to the government’s procurement market, enhances regulatory co-operation and expands copyright protections, as has been agreed under the terms of Britain’s accession to the agreement.
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(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Alistair Smout, editing by Elizabeth Piper, Alex Richardson and Barbara Lewis)