Yesterday, her Majesty delivered the Queen’s Speech for the 64th time at the state opening of the new parliament. As expected, Brexit was the centrepiece of the speech.

The speech sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the upcoming parliamentary session, which unusually has been doubled to two years to allow the government and MPs more time to focus on Brexit legislation.

The speech was expected to be atypically pared back due to the hung parliament and the lack of a formal deal between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Unlike the general election result, the speech went as expected.

The Queen said the government is committed to securing “the best possible deal” as the UK leaves the EU. This will be done through a series of Brexit bills. The first one, the Repeal Bill (previously referred to as the Great Repeal Deal), will revoke the European Communities Act and transpose EU laws into UK law. The Repeal Bill will be followed by seven other Brexit bills, including:

  • Customs Bill: To provide new domestic legislation to replace EU customs legislation
  • Trade Bill: To help implement an independent trade policy
  • Immigration Bill: To end the EU’s rules on free movement of EU nationals in the UK and make the migration of EU nationals subject to relevant UK law

The government’s plans for these bills will become clear once the first drafts are tabled in parliament. In the background briefing to the Speech, Theresa May said that “this will be a government that consults and listens” – hinting at future consultations with industry and the public.

In addition to the Brexit bills, the Speech outlined some non-Brexit bills of interest to the life sciences:

  • Data Protection Bill: To ensure the UK’s data protection framework is fit for the digital age. The bill will seek to regulate data processing and sharing vital to the life sciences, the development of medicines, and innovate research. For this reason, it is expected that the bill in part implement the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is due to enter into force in May 2018
  • Draft Patient Safety Bill: To improve patient safety in the NHS and healthcare services, for example by establishing an independent Health Service Safety Investigation Body
  • Industrial Strategy will continue to be a central part of the government’s plan to boost the economy. We expect the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, which has been led by Sir John Bell, to be published later this year.

Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords will now debate the different policy areas of the Speech over six days. MPs can table amendments to the Speech and each debate concludes with votes on the amendments. The final vote will take place in the Commons next Thursday, June 29.

The Conservatives will need the support of the DUP to push their legislative agenda through the Commons. Although no deal between the two parties has been announced, it is unlikely that the DUP would vote down the Speech to pave the way for Labour to form a minority or coalition government.

While our sector was not specifically mentioned in the Speech, Chancellor Philip Hammond said “emerging areas like biotech” will benefit the economy in his recent Mansion House Speech, highlighting the government’s support of the life sciences throughout the Brexit process. The BIA will continue to engage with the government and MPs from across the spectrum to ensure the life sciences stay high on the political agenda.