Summary of the King’s Speech – November 2023
- 07 Nov 2023
- Danni de Nervaux
Less than a year from a general election and with the Conservative Party lagging behind Labour in the polls, today’s King’s Speech, the first in over 70 years, sharpened the electoral dividing lines between both major parties. With the election – and a potential change of government – looming, it is unlikely Sunak will be able to push all 21 bills through Parliament beforehand. Journalists had thus touted that the speech would act as a de facto manifesto, an attempt by Sunak and his government to frame him as the “change candidate” and reboot a deflated Party. The reality was a speech lacking any truly ground-breaking announcements.
The legislative programme nonetheless set the Government’s tone moving into the election. Previewing the speech earlier this week, Sunak suggested it would deliver a “brighter future for the country”, focused on “long term decisions” rather than “short term gimmicks”, echoing his broader narrative that he is the leader taking the sensible, tough decisions, including through rolling back net zero policy commitments. In that vein, the government placed criminal justice at the heart of the speech, promising harsher, longer sentences for criminals.
In a potential sign of what is to come in the Autumn Statement, the Government outlined its focus on tackling inflation, the cost of living, and low levels of economic growth. The speech gave little away about how the Government planned to achieve these ambitious goals broader than increasing trade and inward investment. The question is now whether the Autumn Statement will contain bolder policies and promises, further establishing the political tone moving into the general election.
All eyes were on King Charles III as he delivered the speech, with policies such as the decision to allow new North Sea oil and gas licensing rounds every year flagrantly at odds with His Majesty’s well-known support for action on climate change. While Sunak has previously pledged his commitment to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, these goals were not addressed through the legislative agenda, in line with his government’s new approach to the climate transition.
Ahead of the speech, Sir Keir Starmer tweeted that the Government would not “deliver” on ambitious aims such as getting Britain building, cutting energy bills and improving the NHS, but that Labour would. In a statement, he said that Britain was “crying out” for long-term change.
Please see below for a summary of the legislation that was set out in the speech today. An FTI Consulting Public Affairs Snapshot, which will follow later today, will provide further analysis of the King’s Speech and what it signals for Sunak’s premiership.
It is also relevant to note that despite being trailed in the media, there was no explicit mention of airlines and pricing in the King’s Speech, or the published briefing setting out further details of the Bill’s introduced during his speech. The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill listed below will be of most interest, as it aims to “empower consumers to help them get the deal that is right for them and increase their confidence in the products they buy and services they use.”
This summary was provided by our public affairs agency FTi.