Policy Connect on the King's Speech

Amidst the history of King Charles delivering the first King’s Speech in 70 years, today’s seemingly cautious address may yet prove a significant moment in determining the direction and outcome of an impending general election. 

Here we reflect on whether the Government grasped one of Britain’s great ceremonial occasions to pitch its electoral priorities and deliver its legislative agenda before the dissolution of Parliament.  

The intricacies of carrying laws through Parliament during its final session ensure Sunak’s government have prioritised implementable policies that can drive the passage of its wider agenda. Hinting at their potential significance in an election campaign, there is a focus on delivering long-term solutions within sustainability, health, and education and skills.  

Attempts to display fault lines with the opposition are evident in plans to advance the expansion of North Sea oil and gas by requiring ministers to run annual applications for new licences. Whilst a process that already occurs, the legislation is likely to prove challenging for Labour after pledging to block new exploration licences. 

Proposals to phase out smoking are bold measures that can secure a positive legacy for Sunak’s government, yet its decision not to immediately reform the Mental Health Act contradicts demands from industry. 

As Health Policy Manager Jasmin Adebisi notes, “failure to reform the Mental Health Act in this Parliament is likely to come at a significant human cost. The number of individuals detained under the Act is increasing, with a troubling disproportionate impact on Black men.” 

“At Policy Connect, we have been collaborating with Manchester Metropolitan University on the ‘Improve E-ACT' project that examines the experiences of Black men who have been detained under the Act. We anticipate sharing our policy recommendations at an upcoming parliamentary roundtable early next year and hope that these contributions will contribute to the much -needed reform of the Mental Health Act.” 

After implementing the Higher Education Bill and the Lifelong Learning Bill during this parliamentary session, the Government has taken further positive steps to advance its agenda for skills, training, and vocational education.  

The Careers Education Bill sets important targets that reiterate the Government’s commitment to upskilling the workforce. The measures reflect recommendations in Policy Connect and the Manufacturing Commission’s recent ‘Upskilling Industry’ report to appoint a manufacturing ‘Champion’ to help raise awareness of the manufacturing sector in schools.   

The first and final King’s Speech of this Parliament reflected the constraints of parliamentary convention during a final session and the reality of an impending general election.  

Rishi Sunak’s government has ultimately endeavoured to deliver implementable policies that create dividing lines with the opposition and reflect the policy priorities of its traditional electorate. It will hope that today's address establishes a legislative agenda capable of placing the Government on the path towards electoral success.