Queen's Speech 2022: planning, mental health care and social housing reform part of next legislative programme

Bills covering planning, devolution, social housing regulation and reforms to the Mental Health Act are among the key pieces of legislation announced in the Queen's Speech (10 May).

For the sector's reaction to these announcements click here.

The programme includes the following:

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill

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As part of the Government's efforts to "level up" the economy, the bill's purpose is to "grow the economy in the places that need it most and regenerate towns and cities". The Government also intends to improve the planning system to give communities a louder voice, making sure developments are accompanied by new infrastructure and affordable housing.

Its main elements are:

  • Creating a new model of combined authority: the 'County Deal', which will provide local leaders with powers to enhance local accountability, join up services and provide transparent decision making to rejuvenate their communities, increase their ability to reflect local preferences in arrangements including directly elected leaders' titles.
  • Unlocking new powers for local authorities to bring empty premises back into use and instigate rental auctions of vacant commercial properties in town centres and on high streets.
  • Giving residents more say over changing street names and ensuring everyone can continue to benefit from al fresco dining.
  • Strengthening neighbourhood planning and digitalising the system to make local plans easier to find, understand and engage with; by making it easier for local authorities to get local plans in place, speculative development will be limited.

Draft Mental Health Act Reform Bill

Its purpose is to ensure patients suffering from mental health conditions have greater control over their treatment. It is hoped that the bill will also make it easier for people with learning disabilities and autism to be discharged from hospital.

Its main elements are:

  • Amending the definition of mental disorder so that people can no longer be detained solely because they have a learning disability or because they are autistic.
  • Changing the criteria needed to detain people so that the Act is only used where strictly necessary: where the person is a genuine risk to their own safety or that of others, and where there is a clear therapeutic benefit.
  • Giving patients better support, including offering everyone the option of an independent mental health advocate and allowing patients to choose their own 'nominated person', rather than have a 'nearest relative' assigned for them.
  • Introducing a new form of supervised community discharge. This will allow the discharge of restricted patients into the community, with the necessary care and supervision to adequately and appropriately manage their risk.
  • Increasing the frequency with which patients can make appeals to Tribunals on their detention and provide Tribunals with a power to recommend that aftercare services are put in place.
  • Introducing a statutory care and treatment plan for all patients in detention. This will be written with the patient and will set out a clear pathway to discharge.

Social Housing Regulation Bill

The main purpose is to increase social housing tenants' rights to better homes and increase their ability to hold their landlords to account by boosting the powers of the Regulator of Social Housing.

Its main elements are:

  • Enabling the Regulator to intervene with landlords who are performing poorly on consumer issues, such as complaints handling and decency of homes, and to act in the interest of tenants to make sure issues are rectified.
  • Enabling the Regulator to inspect landlords to make sure they are providing tenants with the quality of accommodation and services that they deserve.
  • Creating new Tenant Satisfaction Measures which will allow tenants to see how their landlord is performing compared to other landlords and help the Regulator decide where to focus its attention.
  • Ensuring tenants of housing associations will be able to request information from their landlord in a similar way to how the Freedom of Information Act works for tenants of Local Authority landlords.
  • Guaranteeing that the Regulator will be able to act more quickly where it has concerns about the decency of a home. They will only be required to give 48 hours notice to a landlord before a survey is carried out.
  • Providing powers for the Regulator to arrange emergency repairs of tenants' homes following a survey and where there is evidence of systemic failure by the landlord. This will ensure that serious issues are resolved rapidly where a landlord is unable or unwilling to act.
  • Ensuring there will be no cap on the fines that the Regulator can issue to a landlord who fails to meet required standards.

Renters Reform Bill 

This bill is intended to fulfil the Government's manifesto commitment to abolish so-called 'no fault' evictions by removing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 evictions – which were up 168% last year, according to government data – and halve the number of 'non-decent' rented homes by 2030 and improve the fairness of the rental market for landlords and tenants.

Its main elements are:

  • Abolishing 'no fault' evictions by removing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, "providing security for tenants in the private rented sector and empowering them to challenge poor practice and unfair rent increases without fear of retaliatory eviction".
  • Reforming possession grounds for landlords, introducing new and stronger grounds for repeated incidences of rent arrears and reducing notice periods for anti-social behaviour, ensuring that they can regain their property efficiently when needed.
  • Applying the legally binding Decent Homes Standard in the Private Rented Sector for the first time ever, giving tenants safer, better quality and better value homes.
  • Introduce a new Ombudsman for private landlords so that disputes can easily be resolved without the need to go to court, which is often costly and lengthy, and ensure that when residents make a complaint, landlords take action to put things right.
  • Introducing a new property portal to help landlords understand their obligations, give tenants performance information to hold their landlord to account as well as aiding local authorities.

Bill of Rights 

The Government aims to ensure the human rights framework "meets the needs of the society it serves and commands public confidence". The bill's purpose is also "to end the abuse of the human rights framework and restore some common sense to our justice system".

Its main elements are:

  • Establishing the primacy of UK case law, clarifying there is no requirement to follow the Strasbourg case law and that UK Courts cannot interpret rights in a more expansive manner than the Strasbourg Court.
  • Ensuring that UK courts can no longer alter legislation contrary to its ordinary meaning and constraining the ability of the UK courts to impose 'positive obligations' on public services without proper democratic oversight by restricting the scope for judicial legislation.
  • Guaranteeing "spurious cases do not undermine public confidence in human rights so that courts focus on genuine and credible human rights claims". The responsibility to demonstrate a significant disadvantage before a human rights claim can be heard in court will be placed on the claimant.
  • Recognising that "responsibilities exist alongside rights" by changing the way that damages can be awarded in human rights claims, for example by ensuring that the courts consider the behaviour of the claimant when considering making an award.

Data Reform Bill 

Its purpose is to introduce a new data protection regime for the United Kingdom, reforming practices to "reduce burdens on businesses," and modernise the Information Commissioner's Office, the Government said.

Its main elements are:

  • Ensuring that UK citizens' personal data is protected to a gold standard while enabling public bodies to share data to improve the delivery of services.
  • Using data and reforming regulations to improve the everyday lives of people in the UK, for example, by enabling data to be shared more efficiently between public bodies, so that delivery of services can be improved for people.
  • Designing a more flexible, outcomes-focused approach to data protection that helps create a culture of data protection, rather than "tick box" exercises.

The Government said that reforms to the Information Commissioner's Office under the bill would make sure it has the capabilities and powers to "take stronger action against organisations who breach data rules" while requiring it to be more accountable to Parliament and the public but did not detail the specific changes planned.

Procurement Bill 

It is intended that the bill will simplify and increase the transparency of public sector procurement in order to provide new opportunities for small businesses.

The Government said it will bring a ‘boost’ to businesses and voluntary, charitable and social enterprises, who will be able to compete for public contracts.

Its main elements are:

  • Cutting 'red tape' in regards to rules that govern how public money is spent. "For example, by establishing a single digital platform for supplier registration, businesses will only have to submit their data once to qualify for any public sector procurement."
  • Giving public sector buyers more freedom and flexibility by allowing them to better negotiate with suppliers and to design the buying process to meet the needs of their specific procurement.
  • Making it easier, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, to bid for public sector contracts.
  • Enabling smaller contracts to be restricted to UK suppliers, as permitted by World Trade Organization rules, and ensuring that procurement activities aid jobs and innovation.
  • Helping buyers to disqualify suppliers who are unfit to bid for public contracts because of past misconduct, corruption or poor performance.
  • Saving time for public bodies, as a result of new streamlined procedures, "meaning better commercial outcomes that deliver greater value for money for taxpayers".

Transport Bill

Its purpose is to simplify the railways and help deliver reforms to decarbonise transport, by improving electric vehicle infrastructure. It will also better connect communities and ensure reliable services for passengers, the Government said.

Its main elements are:

  • Introducing new laws that safely enable self-driving and remotely operated vehicles and vessels, support the roll-out of electric vehicle charge points and enabling the licensing of London pedicabs.
  • Providing a new body, Great British Railways, with the powers it needs to act as the single national leader of the railways.

Non-Domestic Rating Bill

The aim of this bill is to review and create a fairer and more accurate business rates system.

Its main elements are:

  • Shortening the business rates revaluation cycle from five to three years from 2023.
  • Improving the valuation accuracy and timeliness in a shorter revaluation cycle through new duties on ratepayers, with measures to support compliance.
  • Tightening appeals against rates on the basis of changing circumstances – building on recent legislation and £1.5 billion pandemic support fund by future-proofing business rates against further shocks.
  • Introducing new 12-month rates relief on increases to rateable value arising from improvements made to a property, and a new 100 per cent rates relief for low-carbon heat networks that are assessed as separate entities for business rates.

Schools Bill

The purpose of this bill is to 'level up' opportunity by delivering "a stronger and more highly performing school system that works for every child, regardless of where they live".

Its main elements are:

  • Strengthening the regulatory framework for academy trusts and establishing new statutory standards to drive clarity and consistency of expectations for academy trusts, underpinned by intervention powers to ensure action can be taken to tackle serious failure if it occurs.
  • Supporting more schools to become academies in strong trusts by removing barriers to conversion for faith schools and grammar schools and bringing schools into the academy sector where this is requested by local authorities.
  • Enabling better, more targeted, and more consistent multi-agency support to the children and families who need it most across England by making necessary reforms to the attendance legal framework.
  • Implementing a direct National Funding Formula so that each mainstream school will be allocated funding on the same basis, wherever it is in the country.
  • Establishing 'children not in school' registers, as well as creating a duty on local authorities to provide support to home educating families. This will provide accurate data to help identify children who are not receiving a safe or suitable full-time education and to enable support to be offered to interested parents of registered children.
  • Improving safeguarding by expanding registration requirements for independent educational institutions, enhancing enforcement, and working with Ofsted to expand investigatory powers.
  • Strengthening the current teacher misconduct regime to include more educational institutions and increasing powers to investigate individuals who commit misconduct and enact appropriate regulatory discipline procedures.

UK Infrastructure Bank Bill

The purpose of this bill is to finalise the creation of the UK Infrastructure Bank by establishing it in law with clear objectives to support regional and local economic growth and deliver net-zero, and ensure it has the full range of spending and lending powers.

Its main elements are:

  • Providing the Bank with the necessary powers to lend directly to local authorities and the Northern Ireland Executive, enabling the Bank to play a key role in delivering public sector infrastructure projects.
  • Enshrining the Bank's objectives and functions in legislation to ensure that it will be a long-lasting institution with a clear policy mandate to support economic growth, including at a regional and local level, and the delivery of net-zero.

Draft Protect Duty Bill

The Government aims for the bill to keep people safe by introducing new security requirements for certain public locations and venues to ensure preparedness for protection from terrorist attacks.

Its main elements are:

  • Establishing a new requirements framework which requires those in control of certain public locations and venues to consider the threat from terrorism and implement appropriate and proportionate mitigation measures.
  • Delivering an inspection and enforcement regime, which will seek to educate, advise, and ensure compliance with the Duty.

Brexit Freedoms Bill

Its purpose is to end the supremacy of European law and ensure regulation fits the needs of the UK.

Its main elements are:

  • Ensuring that retained EU law can be amended, repealed or replaced with legislation which better suits the UK, "without this taking decades of parliamentary time to achieve".
  • Modernising the UK's approach to making regulations, improving the nimbleness and competitiveness of the UK economy whilst maintaining high standards.
  • Enabling the UK to be the ‘best regulated economy in the world’ and creating a regulatory environment that encourages prosperity, innovation, entrepreneurship and the cutting of £1 billion of burdensome EU red tape for businesses.
  • Asserting the sovereignty of Parliament by removing the supremacy of retained EU law over UK law in our legal system.

The background briefing notes for the Queen's Speech can be viewed here.

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