At the State Opening of Parliament today, the Queen delivered a speech to set out the new Government’s legislative agenda for the parliamentary year ahead. Today’s Queen’s speech broadly stuck to the topics that have been discussed in the media over the last few days, including bills on devolution and the EU referendum (although notably, plans to scrap the Human Rights Act have been delayed until after the government has brought forward proposals for their British Bill of Rights).

A detailed briefing – including the Prime Minister’s speech, the Queen’s speech and background information on the bills and other provisions – is available here. The legislative announcements were fairly broad, but we’ve picked out the contents most likely to be relevant to the life sciences industry below.

  • Health – Although not in the form of a legislative bill, the speech mentioned that in England the Government will implement the NHS’s five year plan (NHS England Chief Executive Simon Steven’s Five Year Forward View, published last October). According to the detail in the briefing pack, the Government commits to increasing ‘investment into the NHS by £8 billion a year by 2020’, and transforming services to include ‘faster access to new drugs and treatments’. This will no doubt relate to the outcomes of Life Sciences Minister George Freeman’s Accelerated Access Review (if you’d like to get involved with the BIA’s input to the Review, get in touch).
  • Enterprise – The aims of the Enterprise Bill are to reduce regulatory burden on small businesses (building on prior efforts to cut red tape) and to ‘reward entrepreneurship, generate jobs and higher wages for all’. There’s also a somewhat ambiguous mention of ‘other measures to help strengthen the UK’s competitiveness and back businesses to create jobs’ – we’ll be watching this space.
  • Local and national devolution – On a local level, the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill will introduce legislation to provide for the devolution of powers to cities and other regions. Putting into place the legislative framework necessary to deliver the Greater Manchester pilot and other future deals, this will help to build the government’s vision of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ which was mentioned in the last Budget (see our Budget commentary for more detail on regional measures). The Bill will allow cities to bid for an elected mayor, and will devolve budgets and powers over planning, transport, policing and possibly health in order to boost local growth and raise UK productivity.
  • Unsurprisingly, devolution was a key theme in today’s speech and is the focus of four of the 25 new bills. In recognition that the UK ‘has changed, and that we need a union for the 21st century’, the Scotland Bill, the Wales Bill and the Northern Ireland Bill will aim to ensure ‘wherever you live in the United Kingdom, that you have a government that is on your side and representing your interests’. In the same vein, the Government will implement changes in the House of Commons to ensure decisions affecting England, or England and Wales, can only be taken with the consent of the majority of MPs representing constituencies in those areas (so-called ‘English votes for English laws’).
  • European Union Referendum Bill – Of course the speech also covered the Government’s commitment to ‘renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all Member States’. The European Union Referendum Bill will legislate for an in-out referendum on British membership of the EU before the end of 2017. As set out in our UK Life Sciences Manifesto 2015-2020, the BIA maintains that the Government needs to set out a clear plan of the expected disruption to UK life science businesses, including how it would expect to handle the European Medicines Agency leaving London, how medicines would be approved and regulated, and the likely impact on investment.
  • Other: employment and transport – Skills and transport are also on the Government’s agenda, with other measures including a target to start three million more apprenticeships in the next five years and provisions to allow Government to build and operate the HS2 high speed rail link between London and the West Midlands.

Now that Parliament is officially re-open for business, MPs will debate the content of the speech over several days. In the coming weeks, as further departmental appointments will be made and select committees will begin to have Chairs assigned and members elected, BIA will continue to communicate developments of interest to the sector, and look forward to our annual Parliament Day with senior biotech representatives and policymakers on 25 June. For more information, contact us.