The King’s Speech

  • 22/11/2023

The King’s Speech

King Charles III officially opened a new session of Parliament with the delivery of the King’s Speech on 7 November 2023. The King set out the government’s legislative agenda for the final session before the next general election. The speech, drafted by the government, unveiled a total of 21 Bills, 6 of which were carried over from the previous session of Parliament. The full speech and government briefing can be found here.

Prior to the speech it had been speculated that crime and justice would play a leading role in the government’s plans- which proved correct. The King spoke about “safeguarding the health and security of the British people” and that the Government would legislate for tougher sentences and greater police power. Several Bills were announced in this area including the Criminal Justice Bill, which will cover a wide range of measures from compelling defendants to attend court hearings to strengthening criminal action against the sharing of intimate images; the Sentencing Bill, which will legislate tougher centres for those committing the most heinous of crimes and ensure those convicted remain in custody for the entire duration of their sentence; and the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill which will look to amend powers in the previous Bill around things like end-to-end encryption.

The Law Society welcomes the return of the Victims and Prisoners Bill, especially measures to provide an Independent Advocate for victims following major incidents, and to enhance victims’ access to justice by putting the Victims’ Code on a statutory footing. However, proposed changes within this Bill to the Parole Board are likely to add complexity and delay to its decisions, while provisions to give the Secretary of State powers to usurp its decision-making will override the common law principle that decisions about liberty are for the judiciary.

Those Bills of relevance to the Law Society and our members that fall outside the realm of crime and justice include the Leasehold and Freehold Bill and the Renters (Reform) Bill. On the former, the Law Society broadly supports efforts to reform leasehold conditions and ensure fairness in the housing market. Primary concerns surround the conditions under which a leasehold can occur, redress for leaseholders and transparency in listing. For the latter, again, the Law Society broadly supports the ambitions of the Bill to reform the rental market, however, without investment in housing legal aid and the courts, the Bill will not achieve its aims and may lead to an increase in backlogs. This would leave landlords and tenants alike unable to enforce their legal rights.