5 government plans to watch in 2022
The Queen's Speech in 2022 was presented by Prince Charles and marked the formal opening of the new parliamentary year. It contained 38 Bills proposed by the Conservative party, and revealed a government that's more interested in chasing imaginary problems than tackling the cost of living and climate crises we're currently facing.
According to Parliament UK, a Bill is "a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law." A Bill can be proposed by the government, a group of MPs or a private individual or organisation.
Bills are first presented to either the House of Commons or the House of Lords to debate. If both houses come to an agreement on the contents of the Bill, it's presented to the monarch who then grants it Royal Assent (approval).
The Bill then becomes an Act of Parliament and is made law.
Find out which Bills worry us most.
1. Levelling Up Bill
The government’s flagship election promise finally has a Bill to back it up. The Bill aims to "level up the UK, grow the economy in the places that need it most and regenerate our towns and cities". It also aims to "improve the planning system to give communities a louder voice, making sure developments are beautiful, green and accompanied by new infrastructure and affordable housing".
This Bill as it stands is a disaster for the environment, rolling back laws protecting birds and habitats and removing the need for developers to carry out requirement to undertake Environmental Impact Assessments on new developments.
It also doesn't do enough address inequalities across the country, as our Sustainability Analyst Sandra Bell explains in her latest article.
It's also bad news for local democracy, as the Bill suggests downgrading the importance of Local Plans (formal plans set out by councils to improve your area) and bypass planning regulations by introducing "street votes".
We are actively campaigning for these amendments. Rest assured, we'll soon be providing opportunities for our supporters and local groups to get involved in securing a fairer, more ambitious Levelling Up Bill, including pushing the government to use this Bill to unlock the potential of onshore wind and stop coal projects once and for all.
2. Public Order Bill
This Bill is a follow-up to the already notorious Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act (previously known as the Police Bill), which marked the biggest expansion of powers to restrict protest in a generation.
Not content with the oppressive measures contained within the Police Act, the government now says that the Public Order Bill is needed to "ensure the police have the powers to make our streets safe 'against ‘guerrilla protestors'". It's an attempt by government to push through a series of highly repressive measures that the House of Lords successfully removed when the Police Act was under debate, and a renewed push by the Conservatives to be seen as the party of "law and order".
Measures that the Bill proposes include:
- making it an offence for protestors to "lock on" (with the clause worded so vaguely that it could even include two people linking arms);
- extending stop and search powers to protestors;
- introducing Serious Disruption Prevention Orders which would ban specific individuals from attending future protests.
We’re just starting our campaign work around this Bill and will be planning opportunities for our supporters and grassroots network to have their say as the Bill progresses through parliament.
3. Energy Security Bill
The government's Energy Security Bill aims to "deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy", with a raft of measures including supporting investment in carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and heat pumps.
Friends of the Earth certainly supports the rollout of technologies like heat pumps and hydrogen, which would help us reduce our emissions. However, the level of ambition in this Bill needs to be set far higher to meet the scale of the climate and ecological crises. Among other things, the Bill should include policies to:
- set targets for decarbonising our power grid
- introduce tougher rules for home insulation, and
- unlock more investment in onshore wind and other renewable energy sources.
4. Bill of Rights and the BDS Bill
According to the government, the Bill of Rights aims to repeal and replace the Human Rights Act, defend free speech and reduce "unnecessary" human rights-related legal action. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Bill would prevent public bodies from running campaigns which use those tactics.
These 2 Bills are seriously worrying. The Bill of Rights could drastically curtail our existing set of rights, as well as our ability to hold the government and others to account for alleged abuses of the rights that we do still possess. What's more, the BDS Bill would prevent public bodies from divesting from fossil fuel, as well as diverting their money away from inadvertently funding human rights abuses abroad, such as modern slavery in corporate supply chains.
Friends of the Earth, alongside other NGOs, will be pressuring the government to shelve these Bills entirely.
5. Brexit Bills
The government has said it will "seize the opportunities of Brexit to support economic growth" via the Brexit Freedoms Bill, by rolling back regulations on businesses and making it easier to change legislation stemming from the UK’s EU membership.
Two other bills, the Free Trade Agreement Bill and the Genetic Technology Bill are also grounded in deregulating current laws.
The problem with deregulation is that it often produces short-term, profit-driven thinking, to the detriment of safety and sustainability. For example, decades of deregulation have led to weaker safety measures on building developments and meant hundreds of buildings are made from the sort of combustible cladding that contributed to the Grenfell Tower disaster.
We’ll be campaigning to make sure that new deregulatory measures don’t pose a risk to people and planet, and that government doesn’t sneak through changes to important environmental protections without proper debate in parliament.
The wider picture
The 5 Bills listed are just a snapshot of what government has in store for the next year or so. Other Bills, such as the Northern Ireland Backstop Bill and the Renters Reform Bill, are rightly causing our friends across civil society concern for different reasons.
While the outlook may seem challenging, we know that campaigning and making our voices heard does lead to real change. From the Climate Change Act to stopping Heathrow's third runway, Friends of the Earth has decades of experience in fighting successfully to protect people and planet. And with your help, the successes will keep coming.