The number of Bills which affect public sector clients is greater than usual – and the government have got straight off the starting blocks by publishing some of them already.
Each Bill is outlined in this Guidance note published by the Government. Here are some of the Bills we’ll be particularly keeping an eye on. We are keeping a close eye and will be writing about each of these in more detail as they get released:
Data Reform Bill – Plans to introduce a Data Reform Bill follows the consultation the Government carried out last year. Following Brexit, the UK may now move away from the GDPR which was originally introduced through EU legislation, and we will follow whether this impacts on the adequacy decision granted by the EU to the UK for data transfers. The guidance on the Bill also specifically calls out that it will enable public bodies to share data to improve service delivery, which will be welcome. Data sharing, and how to do so in a compliant way, is a key consideration for local public bodies and data protection requirements often need to be balanced against a desire to improve services for the public.
Energy Security Bill – The Government says the Bill will encourage the development of a homegrown energy system, with affordability and cleanliness being priorities. The Bill will contain elements to encourage the development of carbon capture and other low carbon technologies, improve the consumer market and regulation of electric heat pump networks, and provide mechanisms for investment and regulation in various renewable energy sources (including hydrogen, offshore, and nuclear generation). We are keeping a close eye on this in conjunction with our articles and analysis on Net Zero opportunities for our public sector clients, over on our Green Goals page and when the Bill is published our specialists in local heat networks and energy infrastructure delivery will be looking carefully at the proposals for extending Ofgem’s remit over heat networks.
Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – The Bill has already been published here. We will be focussing first on the planning elements and commenting soon. A significant part is Schedule 11 and the introduction of a new infrastructure levy. We’ll also be looking at compulsory purchase changes, empty high street premises, local plans, and the provisions for new Combined County Authorities.
Product Security and Telecoms Infrastructure Bill – This Bill was introduced in the last session of Parliament and will continue its passage in the House of Commons. We are following the infrastructure part of the Bill closely. It is set to encourage faster and more collaborative negotiations for the installation and maintenance of telecoms equipment on private land, encouraging the roll-out of digital infrastructure such as gigabit-broadband and 5G.
Procurement Bill – Following the Government’s response to its ‘Transforming Public Procurement’ consultation, the Procurement Bill has been announced as a way for the UK to take advantage of the benefits of Brexit, one of the bill’s key aims being to create a simpler and more transparent procurement system is UK-focused rather than EU-bound. The key snippets about the Procurement Bill published in the explanatory pack alongside the Queen’s Speech did not reveal any dramatic changes to the Government’s direction of travel published in its consultation response. Since then, the Bill was published on 12th May, with a second reading in the House of Lords provisionally scheduled for 25th May. We will publish our analysis on it shortly.
Bill of Rights – The Bill follows on from the consultation in December 2021 “Human Rights Act Reform: A Modern Bill of Rights” which set out a number of drafted up clauses for comment (not many – this Bill could be a short one). The government says in its briefing that the Bill will establish the primacy of UK case law over Strasbourg; ensure that UK courts can no longer alter legislation contrary to its ordinary meaning; and constrain the ability of the UK courts to impose ‘positive obligations’ on public services without proper democratic oversight by restricting the scope for judicial legislation and guarantee spurious cases do not undermine public confidence in human rights so that courts focus on genuine and credible human rights claims. Whilst the Guidance seems to focus on the particular issue of deportation of foreign national offenders, there will clearly be wider ramifications across a wide range of public bodies’ functions.
UK Infrastructure Bank Bill – This Bill has been published here and second reading in the House of Lords is provisionally scheduled for 24th May. It will put the UK Infrastructure Bank (already in existence) on a statutory footing, to ensure it has the full range of spending and lending powers to utilise its £22 billion financial capacity. The delivery of economic growth and net zero goals are stated to be the main objectives of the UKIB. The Bank intends to focus on low carbon investment and investing in under-invested areas. This will be of particular interest to our local authority clients who themselves have net zero and social value goals they are striving to achieve in procurements – the Bill will give the Bank power to lend directly to local authorities.
Brexit Freedoms Bill – the government says this Bill will legislate for increased UK parliamentary powers to amend, repeal or replace retained EU law by reducing the need to always use primary legislation to make such changes. It will also clarify the status of the existing body of retained EU law and remove the concept of retained EU law taking any precedence over UK law. The government says this will be relevant to the 1,400 or so pieces of EU-derived law which the Government has identified as having been retained into UK law at the end of the Brexit transition period. This should be distinguished from existing UK law, even where originally derived from EU Directives, for example the Public Contracts Regulations, which have always applied in the UK.
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