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Chris Walker

Chris Walker

Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Chris leads our public affairs work and is responsible for policy on charity law and campaigning

Policy and Public Affairs Manager

King’s Speech 2023: Takeaways for the voluntary sector

Chris Walker

Chris Walker

Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Chris leads our public affairs work and is responsible for policy on charity law and campaigning

Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Our policy and public affairs manager, Chris Walker, summarises the announcements from today’s speech that could impact charities and voluntary organisations.

Today the King delivered his first King’s Speech as monarch, outlining the government’s legislative programme ahead of the next general election.

The speech set out many measures that could impact charities and voluntary organisations. Here’s our round-up of the key announcements from today.

Martyn’s law

If passed, this bill will mean those responsible for certain publicly accessible locations – including community venues – must consider the threat from terrorism, and implement appropriate and proportionate mitigation measures.

Some voluntary organisations think the measures are disproportionate to the low level of risk that many community centres face. The home affairs committee, tasked with scrutinising the bill, has raised similar concerns.

Smoking age rise

As expected, the government plans to introduce a new law stopping children who turn 14 this year or onwards from ever legally being sold cigarettes in England.

This will make it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products – effectively raising the smoking age by a year each year until it applies to the whole population.

More oil and gas

The government will introduce a bill to encourage the production of more oil and gas in the North Sea.

The bill will require the North Sea Transition Authority to open applications for new oil and gas licenses once a year. But only if the UK is importing more oil and gas than it's exporting, and domestic production results in a lower carbon footprint than imported liquified natural gas.

Tougher sentencing

A new bill will give judges the power to order an offender to attend their hearings and sentencing, or face an additional two years behind bars.

The government also plans to introduce reforms so that prisoners who commit the most serious offences will receive a whole-life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Renting reform

The government will continue with the 2023 bill to reform the private rental sector. The bill aims to strengthen the rights of tenants and improve the standard of homes available to rent.

However, the government announced in October that the ban on ‘no fault’ evictions will now be delayed indefinitely until reforms to the court system have taken place. ‘No fault’ evictions, also known as Section 21 proceedings, allow landlords to evict tenants without an explicit reason for ending the tenancy.

Leasehold changes

Ministers have long promised to change the controversial leasehold system, which has seen expensive fees imposed on homeowners. The bill is expected to ban leaseholds for new houses, but not new flats. The government says this will allow more people to own their property outright.

The government will also change the standard contract lease extension from 90 years to 990 years and remove restrictions on the ability of residents to negotiate an extension.

Artificial intelligence (AI) regulation

There was little new on AI in the King’s Speech. In line with the AI White Paper published in March, the government will give responsibility for AI regulation to existing sector regulators rather than establish a new regulatory body.

This means the Charity Commission and Fundraising Regulator will have responsibility for regulating AI use in the voluntary sector.

Data protection updates

The government will continue with the 2023 bill that aims to set new data rights and standards for health and social care information and biometric data. The bill aims to simplify and update the UK’s data protection framework.

National Holocaust Memorial

The government will also continue with its bill to support the construction of a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens. This was a commitment in the Conservative 2019 general election manifesto.

Pause on mental health reform

Many voluntary organisations will be disappointed that the King’s Speech did not include a mental health bill. Mental health care reform was a key commitment in the last two Conservative general election manifestos, but it’s now unlikely this government will carry out such reforms.

The reforms were intended to deliver parity between mental and physical health services and centre the rights and views of patients in these services. They also aimed to tackle mental health inequalities such as the disproportionate detention of people from Global Majority communities and people with learning disabilities.

No plans to ban conversion therapy

Plans to ban the practice of conversion therapy were also not included in the King’s Speech, despite being included in the Queen’s Speech last year. Bills do not have to be included in the King's Speech to be brought forward, but it now seems unlikely that parliament will pass this legislation before the next election.

A challenging parliamentary timeframe

If you’re looking to influence legislation before the next election, it’s worth being aware that the government may struggle to pass bills over the next year, particularly on controversial issues.

Once the prime minister calls the next election, bills that haven’t completed all of their parliamentary stages will enter a process known as ‘wash-up’. During the wash up, if there’s broad agreement between the government and opposition parties, bills, or parts of bills, can be approved before the election. But if there isn’t agreement, the legislation will fall, and will have to restart in a future session.

You may therefore want to think about where you can secure that consensus as we approach the election.

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