1. What bills were announced in previous speeches and not introduced?

1.1 Counter-State Threats Bill (espionage legislation)

In February 2022, Lord Greenhalgh, Minister for Building Safety and Fire, reaffirmed that the Government would bring forward new counter-state threats legislation to give “intelligence agencies and law enforcement the tools they need to tackle the diversifying and evolving threats we face”.

Espionage legislation had earlier been proposed in two previous Queen’s Speeches:

However, a bill containing these proposals was not introduced in either the 2019–21 or 2021–22 parliamentary sessions.

The Government has conducted preparatory work on the issue in recent years. In 2015, the Cabinet Office asked the Law Commission to conduct a review of the official secrets acts. The Law Commission’s final report, published in September 2020, made 33 recommendations designed to ensure that:

  • the laws governing both espionage and unauthorised disclosures addressed the nature and scale of the modern threat;
  • the criminal law could respond effectively to illegal activity (by removing unjustifiable barriers to prosecution); and
  • the criminal law provisions were proportionate and commensurate with human rights obligations.

The Government has yet to respond to the Law Commission’s recommendations. However, press reports have suggested that the Government would not introduce a public interest defence which was one of the commission’s recommendations.

More recently, the Government held a consultation on new legislation to counter state threats. This ran from May to July 2021 and sought views on three main proposals:

  • modernising existing counter espionage laws to reflect the modern threat and modern legislative standards;
  • creating new offences, tools and powers to detect, deter and disrupt hostile activity in, and targeted at, the UK; and
  • improving the UK’s ability to protect official data and ensure the associated offences reflect the greater ease with which significant harm can be done.

The first proposal would involve reform of the Official Secrets Acts 1911, 1920, 1939 and 1989 to modernise them, including changing definitions and maximum sentences as well as creating new offences. The second would include introducing a foreign agents registration scheme. The third would see the introduction of a civil orders regime to target individuals thought to be engaged in hostile activity if a prosecution could not be brought or immigration action could not be taken.

The Government has yet to respond to the consultation. In answer to a parliamentary question in March 2022, Minister of State at the Home Office Baroness Williams of Trafford said that the Government is “reviewing and considering all responses to the public consultation and will bring forward legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows”.

1.2 Other bills

The following bills were also announced in previous Queen’s Speeches and have yet to be introduced. This may create new offences. They are covered in the following House of Lords Library briefings for the 2022 Queen’s Speech:

2. What government plans may be subject to future legislation?

Government announcements have suggested that the following issues may become the subject of future legislation.

2.1 Economic Crime Bill

The Government has committed to introducing an economic crime bill in the upcoming parliamentary session. In March 2022, it fast-tracked the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 through Parliament in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. During the bill’s parliamentary passage, members of the Government said a further piece of legislation would follow. For example, Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, confirmed that the new bill would be introduced early in the new parliamentary session. Lord Callanan, Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility, said the bill would not be fast-tracked and would be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.

During the earlier bill’s second reading, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the future Economic Crime Bill would be a “very substantial piece of legislation”. She said it would include:

  • reform of Companies House and limited partnerships;
  • powers to seize crypto-assets; and
  • measures to enable information sharing on money laundering.

Also commenting on the proposed bill in response to a written question, in February 2022 Lord Callanan said:

The Government’s plans [to reform Companies House] will deliver significant improvements to the integrity of the UK’s register of companies and assist greatly in the fight against economic crime. These reforms will include the identity verification of directors, people with significant control and those filing on behalf of a company, and new powers for the registrar to query and check information.

It will also include the requirement that the accounts filed with the registrar must be the most detailed set of accounts that has been prepared for the company’s members.

We will bring forward legislation on these reforms when parliamentary time allows.

In addition, on 28 February 2022 the Government published a white paper on corporate transparency and register reform. The document set out the Government’s position on reforming Companies House and the Government’s response to three consultations on corporate transparency and register reform. These had been on the powers of the registrar; implementing the ban on corporate entities being appointed as directors; and improving the quality and value of financial information on the UK companies register. The Government also published two impact assessments alongside the white paper.

2.2 Modern slavery

The Government has announced plans, including new legislation, to address the problem of modern slavery. In March 2022, the Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Earl Howe, said that the Government recognised that further work was needed across government to address modern slavery. He said that the Government was looking at introducing measures through the upcoming Procurement Bill as well as “new legislation to strengthen further and future-proof the transparency and supply chains provisions of the Modern Slavery Act [2015]”. Lord Howe also highlighted that the Government had announced a review of the 2014 Modern Slavery Strategy, alongside a package of other measures. A new strategy is due to be published in spring 2022.

Focusing on the Government’s plans to reform section 54 (on transparency in supply chains) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, Minister for Safeguarding Rachel Maclean said:

[…] in January 2021 the Foreign Secretary announced that financial penalties will be introduced for organisations who fail to meet their statutory obligations to publish annual modern slavery statements. These measures require primary legislation and will be introduced when parliamentary time allows. The Government will publish guidance to help organisations prepare for the new reporting requirements when timings of legislation are clear.

In May 2019, the Government published the final report of an independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The Government issued its response in July 2019. It accepted most of the review’s recommendations.

Following this, in July 2019 the Government launched a consultation on proposed changes to the Modern Slavery Act 2015’s transparency in supply chains provisions (section 54). The Government published its response to the consultation in September 2020. In a foreword, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Government would be taking action to strengthen and future proof the act. She said:

We will extend the reporting requirement to public bodies to leverage public procurement and address risks in public sector supply chains. We will also mandate the specific topics statements must cover, set a single deadline for reporting and require organisations to publish directly to the new government reporting service, to empower investors, consumers and civil society to scrutinise the action taken across both the private and public sector.

The Government also set out a summary of its commitments in annex D of its response, stating that “for all measures which require legislative change, the Home Office’s intention is to introduce this when parliamentary time allows”.

2.3 Counter-terrorism ‘protect duty’ and Prevent review

The Government has said that it is considering legislation which would introduce a new ‘protect duty’. This would create a legal requirement for public places to ensure preparedness for and protection from terrorist attacks. It follows a commitment in the Conservative party’s 2019 general election manifesto to “improve the safety and security of public venues” following previous terrorist attacks, such as the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017 in which a suicide bomber killed 22 people and physically injured over 100 others. Several victim’s groups have campaigned for the change, including the Martyn’s law campaign which was established by Figen Murray who lost her son Martyn in the Manchester Arena attack.

In February 2021, the Government announced that it would be consulting on proposals for a new protect duty. It published its response to the consultation in January 2022, stating that it had received 2,755 responses. It said that most respondents supported “the Government’s proposals to introduce stronger measures, including a legal requirement for some public places to ensure preparedness for and protection from terrorist attacks”. In a written statement on the Government’s response to the consultation, Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

The Government is carefully considering policy proposals in light of the views raised in the consultation, in particular, how a legislative requirement could further improve public security, whilst not placing an undue burden on organisations which are smaller in size or staffed by volunteers, such as places of worship. Legislative proposals will be taken forward when parliamentary time allows.

In addition, in 2019 the Government committed to an independent review of Prevent. ‘Prevent’ refers to a statutory duty placed on certain bodies in England, Wales and Scotland to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This duty is set out in section 26 of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015.

The terms of reference for the review explained that it would consider the past and present delivery and impact of Prevent and make recommendations for future improvements. This review is ongoing, with press reports saying it had missed a December 2021 deadline and would be published in February 2022 at the earliest. The Government has confirmed that it will publish the review and its response to it when the review has been completed.

2.4 Consolidation of immigration legislation

The Government has announced that the Law Commission has started a project to consolidate immigration legislation. The commission is expected to complete this work in 2023. Commenting on the project, the commission said that it is “a technical process, the main aim of which is to reproduce the existing law in an up-to-date and user-friendly form”. Further information on the project is available on the Law Commission’s website.

2.5 Domestic abuse plan

In March 2022, the Government published its Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan. This outlined the Government’s approach to tackling domestic abuse, which it summarised as “prioritising prevention, supporting victims, pursuing perpetrators, and building a stronger system”.

The Government said that the plan was informed by responses to the tackling violence against women and girls call for evidence. It also noted that it delivers on the Government’s statutory duty to have a strategy for the prosecution and management of domestic abuse perpetrators.

Cover image by King’s Church International from Unsplash.