King’s Speech 2023: When is it and what to expect

Seven pieces of legislation will be carried over into the next parliamentary session – but key reforms such as a long-awaited ban on conversion therapy may be dropped

Andy Gregory
Tuesday 07 November 2023 06:27 GMT
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Parliament is set to hear the annual King’s Speech on Tuesday, as the monarch sets out Rishi Sunak’s government’s policy agenda for the year ahead.

It will be the first such speech King Charles III has made since assuming the throne last year. It will also be the first of Mr Sunak’s tenure in No 10 – and most likely the last prior to an expected general election next year.

It falls on the annual state opening of parliament, a day of pomp and ceremony involving traditions such as searching the Palace of Westminster for gunpowder, Black Rod banging on the door of the Commons, and the taking of one MP “hostage” to secure the safe return of the monarch.

Here, The Independent takes a look at the proposals which are expected to be included in the King’s Speech, at around 11.30am on Tuesday, and those which may be left out.

Those set for inclusion are:

Expansion of whole-life orders

The government is expected to expand the use of whole-life prison sentences to include any murder involving sexual or sadistic conduct.

Mr Sunak first announced in August that he planned to change the law so that judges are required to impose whole-life orders on such killers, except in extremely limited circumstances.

Forcing criminals to attend sentencing hearings

Following several high-profile murder cases in which those convicted refuse to attend their sentencing hearings, the government has promised to update the law in a bid to force them to do so.

While some experts have warned that forcing killers into the dock could lead to disruption and allow them to spread propaganda during sentencing hearings, ministers are expected to announce new measures to force killers to hear firsthand the impact of their crimes.

Ending no-fault evictions

The long-awaited Renters Reform Bill entered its passage through parliament last month and is expected to be mentioned in the King’s Speech as it is carried over into the parliamentary session for the year ahead.

King Charles will deliver his first King’s Speech as monarch on Tuesday

The legislation includes measures to ban “no-fault evictions”, as promised in the Conservative manifesto, but ministers have warned that reforms to the courts need to be implemented before a ban could take effect.

Leasehold reform

Housing minister Rachel Maclean has previously confirmed that much-delayed plans to “phase out” leaseholds will be included in the King’s Speech, but there have been signs that the proposals may be less ambitious than initially pitched by ministers.

The reforms come following mounting concerns about practices in the leasehold sector, including over the levying of hefty charges and a lack of transparency. However the plans to ban new leasehold houses may not extend to flats.

A phased smoking ban

Mr Sunak first unveiled plans in his Tory conference speech in September to ban all those born after a certain year from ever buying cigarettes, in a move to eradicate smoking in the UK.

While such a move has divided the Tory party, Mr Sunak has proposed raising the smoking age each year so that “a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette and that they and their generation can grow up smoke free”.

Rishi Sunak announced plans to phase out smoking at the Tory conference

Echoing similar moves in New Zealand, the policy was also floated by the Labour Party in January, and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said Labour will back Mr Sunak’s plans.

Minimum staffing levels for strikes

Laws designed to provide a minimum level of staff cover during strikes are set to be extended to ambulance staff, rail workers and Border Force employees, in legislation to be laid before the Commons on Tuesday.

Unions reacted furiously to legislation passed earlier this year which gave the government the power to impose minimum staffing levels over certain sectors, and Mr Sunak said on Monday that he expected the new legislation to be in force by Christmas.

Oil and gas licensing

The government is expected to include legislation forcing ministers to conduct an annual oil and gas licensing round.

Sir Keir Starmer has promised not to grant new oil and gas licenses

While this typically occurs even without specific legislation in place, the move could cause a headache for Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, which has pledged to block new oil and gas licenses if it wins the general election.

Creating an independent football regulator

Plans for a new independent football regulator were confirmed in February, with the body set to have “targeted powers” to step in and resolve how money flows from the Premier League down the pyramid.

Legislation would be required to bring this into effect, so it may emerge in the King’s Speech.

What is not expected in the King’s Speech?

Legislation to ban conversion therapy is now not expected to be included, in a blow to campaigners. It has also prompted alarm among some Tory MPs, including senior figures Alicia Kearns and former minister Dehenna Davison.

The government has previously committed to ban the practice – which seeks to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity – but there have since been years of delays and U-turns on aspects of the plan.

Legislation on the construction of the HS2 rail line between Crewe and Manchester will also not materialise, after Mr Sunak cancelled the project’s northern leg during the Conservative Party conference.

Additional reporting by PA

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