The Government sets out a new legislative agenda with important implications for the UK tech sector
The State Opening of Parliament provides an opportunity for the Government to set out a new legislative agenda by introducing new Bills into Parliament. The new legislative agenda is delivered through a Speech by the Monarch. Unfortunately, due to episodic mobility issues the Queen was unable to deliver the Speech herself and so was deputised by Prince Charles.
The Speech is written by the Government and aims to set out the workplan and tone for a new session of Parliament. Parliamentary sessions tend to last for roughly a year, with the last session beginning on 11 May 2021. However they can be longer.
Through the Speech the Government is aiming to press the reset button on a turbulent period and set out an ambitious agenda to promote economic growth aimed at countering weak economic forecasts from the Bank of England and a growing cost of living crisis fueled by increased energy costs and inflation.
Among the 38 Bills that will be included in the new session of Parliament there were some major announcements for the tech sector including a Data Reform Bill, an Electronic Trade Documents Bill and a Bill to increase competition in digital markets.
Responding to the new legislative agenda set out at the State Opening of Parliament, Julian David techUK CEO said:
The focus placed in the speech on economic growth is welcome, with a suite of new bills aimed at gearing the UK’s legal and regulatory landscape to promote growth and innovation.
For the tech sector, the flagship announcement was the proposal to reform the UK’s data protection laws. Developing a clearer, more trusted, and innovation-enabling data governance system is one of the most obvious opportunities of Brexit.
New legislation should deliver changes to the law to clarify the legal basis for how data can be re-used for research and innovation, as well as introduce an exhaustive list of activities where data can be more easily accessed to help companies innovate. For example, making it easier for companies to prevent algorithmic bias and take more effective action to prevent fraud.
However, any changes need to maintain the high standards of UK data protection law. Achieving this will mean the UK can continue international data partnerships such as with the EU.
The new legislative agenda and the tech sector
See below a summary of some of the new bills introduced, what legislation has been carried over from the last session and what was missing from the speech.
Data Reform Bill: the Government will reform the UK’s data protection regime, which it had largely inherited from the European Union. Following an extensive consultation, Data: a new direction, which sets out almost 150 pages of proposals, the Government is expected to introduce a range of reforms that will better enable data-driven scientific research and innovation, reduce compliance burdens on businesses and boost the economy while retaining a high standard of data protection rights. The findings from the consultation will also be used to increase participation in Smart Data initiatives run under BEIS.
As Government pushes ahead with the proposals, striking the right balance between reform and high data protection standards will be vital for preserving the EU’s positive adequacy decision with the UK, which facilitates uninterrupted data flows between the two regions. techUK has created a resource hub with the latest news and views on the consultation which be found here. You can also view our suggestions for how the Government should reform the data protection system here.
Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill: the Government will present draft legislation to promote competition, strengthen consumer rights and protect households and businesses as well as introducing a new competition regime for digital markets. Legislation will be largely based on two consultation responses recently published by the Government. One on Reforming competition and consumer policy and the other on the creation of a new pro-competition regime for digital markets.
This Bill is expected to give a body within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), statutory powers to enforce a new regime that will effect the largest digital firms deemed to have Strategic Market Status in particular digital activity area, for example in digital advertising or app stores. The new regime led by the DMU will aim to promote increased competition through new codes of conduct that the largest firms will have to adhere by. You can find techUK’s analysis and view on these proposals here.
Electronic trade documents Bill: Building upon a memorandum of understanding with Singapore to work together on digital trade facilitation, the government has announced plans to introduce legislation that would put electronic trading documents on the same legal footing as paper documents. This is a welcome announcement which could have considerable positive impacts on the costs, duration and environmental impact of customs processes. techUK has worked closely with the Government on this and have encouraged Ministers to further support the digitalisation of trade by providing importers the option of meeting compliance requirements through e-labelling. You can find our more here.
Transport Bill: The Government has announced a new Bill which will create a new service model for the UK’s railways, Great British Railways (GBR). GBR will be given the powers it needs to act as a “single national leader” of the railways to promote innovation and open data to deliver better passenger services. We welcome this step and will be engaging with the GBR transition team to ensure the role of the private sector is continually emphasised and innovation placed at the forefront.
The government also intends to introduce new laws that enable self-driving and remotely operated vehicles. techUK along with a consortium of other organisations, signed a letter urging the government to include AV regulation within the Queen’s Speech and we now look forward to continuing to engage with the Department for Transport as legislation emerges. Parliament will also begin the affirmative procedure to deliver on the EV Infrastructure Strategy. We will continue to engage with government through the Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce to ensure the technical and commercial barriers to widespread changepoint roll out are recognised and overcome.
Media Bill: The Government has announced plans to introduce a Media Bill which is likely to implement measures described within the “Up next - the government’s vision for the broadcasting sector” policy paper published on 28th April 2022. We look forward to engaging the government on the contents of this White Paper to strike the right balance between supporting public service broadcasters while ensuring that any interventions are subject to a thorough impact assessment and do not create unnecessary costs and delays for consumers and the technology supply chain.
Public Procurement Bill: A new Procurement Bill will aim to allow the Government to reform the UK’s public procurement regime to create a simpler and more transparent system.
The aim of the new regime will be to make public procurement more accessible for new entrants such as small businesses and voluntary, charitable and social enterprises, enabling them to compete for public contracts.
techUK has worked closely with the Government as it has sought to reform the procurement system including hosting Cabinet Office Minister Jacob Rees Mogg MP and industry representatives for the launch for the UK Government’s Digital, Data and Technology Sourcing Playbook. You can also find here a blog from techUK on how we expect public procurement to change in 2023.
Mental Health Act Reform Bill: The Government will introduce new legislation to reform the existing Mental Health Act, ensuring citizens suffering from mental health conditions are treated with dignity and to meet wider ambitions for person-centred care and health disparities. techUK will work with the Government to ensure that industry is consulted on the reforms which seek bring about improvements in data collection and introduce new digital approaches to service delivery for mental health conditions, as outlined following the consultation in Summer 2021. We also welcome wider ambitions set out in the speech to deliver advances in digitalising frontline NHS and enabling better digital interactions for patients.
Higher Education Bill: This Bill will introuce the Government’s plan for a Lifelong Loan Entitlement to allow people to fund further education at any point in their adult life. Read techUK's analysis on this bill here.
As well as the Bill above the Speech also included proposals for an Economic Crime Bill, Levelling up and Regeneration Bill, Brexit Freedoms Bill, National Security and Energy Security Bill as well as many more. More information on the 38 Bills that were presented can be found here.
What was carried over from the last session
Bills which were not finished by the end of the last Parliamentary session risk being dropped if the Government does not decide to carry them over to the new session. Two important pieces of tech legislation have been carried over and will join the above new Bill’s as part of the programme for the new session of Parliament. These Bill’s include the Online Safety Bill and Product Security and Telecommunications Bill (PTSI).
You can find out more information about the Online Safety Bill here and PTSI Bill through our Telecoms Infrastructure and Deployment Working Group.
What was missing:
The major missing piece of legislation from the Queen’s Speech was an Employment Bill. First announced in the 2019 Queen’s Speech this much delayed legislation would provide an opportunity to update working practices to allow the greater use of flexible working, implement the Taylor Review as well as reviewing the status of remote workers and transitory workers.
techUK submitted a response to the Government consultation on Making Flexible Working the Default, supporting the proposal that the Right to Request Flexible Working should be available to all employees from their first day of employment in situations where this is appropriate to the job in question. You can read our response here.
While the Government has produced an ambitious agenda for the new session, Parliamentary time will be tight as will the Government’s capacity to draft the legislation itself. Given the tight timetable and capacity issues it is highly unlikely that every bill announced in the Speech will be reached by the end of this Parliamentary session.
Therefore, how the Government choses to prioritise Bills will be of huge importance as to whether it is implemented. With a general election due in 2024 progress on legislation now will be vital to ensuring that any key pieces of legislation for the tech sector make it to the statute book.
As Associate Director for Policy Neil leads techUK's domestic policy development in the UK. In this role he regularly engages with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and members of the UK’s Parliaments with the aim of supporting government and industry to work together to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop technology companies. Neil also acts as a spokersperson for techUK on UK policy in the media and at Parliamentary Committees.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s input and engagement with Government on the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations, as well as leading on economic policy. He has a background in the UK Parliament and in social research and holds a masters degree in Comparative Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh and an undergraduate degree in International Politics from City, University of London.
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Julian David is the CEO of techUK, the leading technology trade association that aims to realise the positive outcomes of what digital technology can achieve through innovation and collaboration, and serves on its board of directors.
Julian led the transformation of techUK from its predecessor Intellect in 2015, putting an increased focus on the growth and jobs the technology industry offers in a global economy. He has since led its impressive expansion driving forward the tech agenda in key areas such as skills, digital ID and public sector transformation, now leading techUK’s 70-strong team and representing over 850 member companies, comprising of global and national champions and more than 500 SMEs. In 2020, techUK joined forces with TechSkills, the employer-led organisation that aims to improve the talent flow of talent into the digital workforce.
Julian represents techUK on a number of external bodies including the Digital Economy Council, the Cyber Growth Partnership and the Department of International Trade’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. He also sits on the Executive Board of DIGITALEUROPE and is a member of the Board of the Health Innovation Network the South London Academic Health Science Network.
Julian has over thirty years of experience in the technology industry. Prior to joining techUK, he had a long career at IBM culminating as Vice President for Small and Medium Business and then Public Sector. After leaving IBM he worked as a consultant helping tech SMEs establish successful operations in the U.K. His personal interests include Football (West Ham and Real Madrid) and Art.
Margherita is Communications Manager at techuk, working across all communications and marketing activities and acting as point of contact for media enquiries.