This Tuesday marked the official State Opening of Parliament, with the Queen’s Speech setting out the Government’s agenda for the 2022-23 session, outlining key policies and proposed legislation. This year, for the first time, the speech was delivered by the Prince of Wales in the Monarch’s absence. During the address, the Prince declared that Government’s priorities are to “grow and strengthen the economy, and help ease the cost of living for families”, as well as to “level up opportunity in all parts of the country, and support more people into work”.
In total, thirty-eight Bills were announced, including legislation to drive sustainable investment in public services and empower local economic growth through regeneration. Five existing Bills were also carried over from the 2021-22 parliamentary session, such as the High-Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill.
CIOB (the Chartered Institute of Building) welcomes the Government’s focus on the built environment in the legislative programme for 2022-23, most notably the alignment of net zero and sustainability priorities, with the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The Bill is wide-ranging and contains devolution measures, a government duty to report annually on the twelve levelling up missions, metrics of inequality across the UK and elements from the Planning Bill, which stalled following internal disagreements within the Conservative Party on proposed reforms to the planning system in England.
CIOB is also pleased to see enhanced focus on cultivating the development of greener and smarter placemaking, whilst simultaneously seeking to address quality, sustainability and safety in the sector. The new Energy; Leaseholder Reform; and Transport Bills all afford opportunities for the construction sector to lead the way in safety and quality, while hitting the UK’s net zero ambitions and housing needs.
Responding to the announcement, Caroline Gumble, Chief Executive of CIOB, said:
“CIOB is pleased that the built environment is a focal point for the Government’s legislation agenda and will play a pivotal role in addressing the UK’s social, economic and environmental ambitions.
The aims of the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, particularly through increased community involvement in planning proposals and redevelopment projects are sound, but the absence of an Employment Bill to support these initiatives could be a missed opportunity. The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly exacerbated persistent labour and skills shortages across the construction sector which has implications for those employed and seeking employment. Without a future pool of talent coming into the sector, any ambitions to build the necessary homes and infrastructure as part of the Government’s levelling up agenda will cost more and potentially reach a hard stop within a short space of time.
Separately, questions remain on changes to permitted development rights (PDR), which – if implemented without significant safeguards – could lock in unacceptable standards of development, going against the fundamental desire to improve building quality and safety as set out in the recent Building Safety Act. The Government must therefore be explicit about links to existing and proposed legislation.
We also welcome the announcement of a Procurement Bill, aimed at making it simpler for smaller businesses – who often struggle to secure local authority projects – to bid for public sector contracts. As part of this, Government should recognise the role of qualified professionals in ensuring professionalism, quality and value in public sector projects and programmes, and work with the sector to embed value-based outcomes as part of qualifying for public sector contracts. CIOB continues to champion these mechanisms for enhancing social value and how it can be used as a lever for improving quality, enhancing energy efficiency, promoting business best practice and improving access to the profession.” To read the transcript of the Queen’s speech, click here.