New laws to ensure the UK ‘builds back better’ from pandemic unveiled in Queen’s Speech

UK Parliament


UK Parliament

The Queen has outlined the government’s future plans, as she officially reopened Parliament for the year ahead.

In Her Majesty’s ten-minute speech in the House of Lords yesterday, she highlighted more than 30 laws that MPs intend to pass in the coming year, as the UK looks to a post-pandemic economy.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has today welcomed this week’s Queen’s Speech, which reinforced the UK’s commitments to becoming a global science superpower, taking advantage of the UK’s departure from the European Union, and strengthening our energy security as we transition to a net zero future.

The speech set out the government’s legislative agenda for this parliamentary session and affirmed the government’s commitment to deliver on the people’s priorities as the UK builds back better from the pandemic.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “After such a difficult year, our immediate priority is to continue standing by workers and businesses as we have done throughout the pandemic, backed by an unprecedented £352 billion package of support. But as we reopen our economy and look ahead to the future with a renewed optimism, the Queen’s Speech shows this government has an ambitious legislative agenda to deliver on the people’s priorities – seizing the opportunities as an independent trading nation, cementing our status as a science superpower, and ensuring we build back better from the pandemic.”

Strengthening our position as a global science superpower

The Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) Bill is going through Parliament following its introduction in March. Backed by £800 million of funding, ARIA will support cutting-edge research, turning ideas into new technologies that transform people’s lives, and cement the UK’s position as a global science superpower.

Investment in research and development will be critical to the economic and social recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, enabling us to build back better for a greener, healthier and more resilient UK.

The government is investing £14.9 billion in research and development in 2021/22. This means government R&D spending is now at its highest level in 4 decades.

Seizing opportunities as an independent trading nation

The Professional Qualifications Bill will mean skilled professionals from around the world can seek recognition to practise in the UK in areas where their skills are in need.

Supporting the UK’s key regulated professions to deliver the vital services on which we rely is a priority for the government. Regulators are the experts in their field and must have the autonomy to set the standard required to practise in the UK, ensuring quality and safety.

Previously, when part of the European Union, regulators of professions were required to have routes to recognising professionals from other EU countries. Now the UK Government, devolved administrations and regulators are being equipped with the tools to put in place recognition routes that meet the demands of individual professions in different parts of the UK.

As the UK is no longer bound by the EU’s bureaucratic and prescriptive state aid rules, the government’s Subsidy Control Bill will create a new, tailored UK-wide subsidy control framework for providing more tailored financial support to businesses – including innovative, R&D focused industries to encourage job creation and growth across all parts of the UK.

The new framework will reflect the UK’s strategic interests, strengthen the Union, and help to drive economic growth and level up opportunity and prosperity across the whole of the UK as we build back better from the pandemic.

The Business Secretary has reaffirmed that the UK will not return to the failed 1970s approach of the government trying to run the economy, ‘picking winners’ or bailing out unsustainable companies.

Strengthening our energy security as we transition to net zero

The UK aims to be a world-leader in tackling climate change. Renewable electricity generation has more than quadrupled since 2010, coal’s share of generation has fallen from 40% in 2012 to under 3% in 2019, and the UK has the world’s largest offshore wind capacity.

In 2019, the UK went even further by becoming the first major economy in the world to make a legally binding commitment to end its contribution to global warming by 2050 by reaching net zero emissions.

This parliamentary session will see a Downstream Oil Resilience Bill published in draft form to support a secure transition away from fossil fuels to renewables as we go further to tackle climate change. It will provide the government with a strengthened ability to protect fuel supply resilience and prevent supply disruptions from occurring.

This follows the publication last year of the Energy White Paper, setting out the transformation of the UK’s energy system. This will create new industries, unleash private capital in green innovation and support up to 220,000 jobs by 2030.

The UK will host the vital COP26 climate negotiations in November this year and the UK government intends to use this role to catalyse ambitious global action to cut emissions further, help communities adapt and increase resilience, and harness growing momentum to take us closer to delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Other business-related announcements

In her speech, the Queen also outlined several other new laws that will affect the business community in the year ahead. Including, a Subsidy Control Bill will set out post-Brexit regulations on how the government can support private companies. The Procurement Bill, will replace EU rules on how the government buys services from the private sector

Also, a new Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill is set to extend 5G mobile coverage and introduce new safety standards for digital devices across the country.

There will be a series of tax breaks for employers based in eight freeports to be set up in England later this year as a part of the National Insurance Contributions Bill.

Industry reaction

Paul Geddes, CEO, QA, said: “The government’s ‘lifetime skills guarantee’ could provide a once in a generation opportunity to reverse the UK’s growing digital skills gap – repositioning UK PLC in the global digital economy, and providing individuals of all ages right across the country with the skills needed to fill technology jobs This represents an opportunity for both individuals, with tech starting salaries of £30k and upwards, and the economy.

“Recent research from the Learning & Work Institute shows that less than half of UK employers (48%) believe that young people are leaving full-time education with sufficient advanced digital skills. The measures announced in today’s Queen’s Speech have the potential to start moving the dial on the digital skills gap, making tech training accessible to all age groups right across the country. Tech training can also offer individuals a pathway to some of the best paid jobs, with starting salaries in many cases averaging £30,000 and above.

“While we welcome today’s announcement, we believe the government should go further to address the digital skills gap. Firstly, we would encourage them to think more radically beyond universities and colleges. By opening up the new lifetime skills guarantee to providers from other accredited organisations, such as those providing apprenticeships, or private providers offering industry recognised qualifications, we can reach and upskill more people. These tried and tested professional accreditations can offer individuals the most work-ready routes into entry level technology jobs.

“However, we also need to address the perception that technology careers are only open to people who already have digital skills. As the largest provider of technology apprenticeships in the UK, and as one of the providers of Digital Bootcamps to regional authorities, QA has seen first-hand people from all backgrounds and all walks of life thrive in technology roles and go on to have successful careers. The Government needs to continue to focus on reaching and incentivising people from all backgrounds, encouraging them to embark on careers in technology.

“Together, we have a unique opportunity to create a digital economy that delivers jobs now and for the future but we must think beyond traditional routes into tech to achieve this vision.”

Mark Skelton, VP and CTO, CANCOM UK&I said: “There is a significant shortage of IT and tech skills in the UK, so it is fantastic to hear of this new support for higher education so people can develop skills that are fit for the future. The tech industry enables a wealth of opportunities for people to have rewarding and challenging careers that span a range of sectors, and financial support for higher education and training is an essential step in breaking down the perceived barriers to the industry and ushering in diverse talent. Of course, plugging the IT skills gap is not just about preparing for future growth; it’s also about mitigating the pressures that have been exacerbated by both Brexit and COVID, which a bigger talent pool can help relieve.”