How the Queen’s Speech of 2021 could impact future litigation
The Queen’s Speech took place on 11 May 2021 signifying the start of the 2021-2022 parliamentary session. The speech, as always, was written by the Government and contained an outline of the policies and proposed legislation for the new parliamentary session. Hausfeld takes a look at a few of the proposals that could be particularly important to litigators over the next year, and potentially years to come.
Judicial Review Bill
The Queen’s Speech included an announcement that there will be a Judicial Review Bill to restore a “balance of power between the executive, legislature and the courts”. This is perhaps unsurprising following the court’s interventions last year on the legality of the prorogation of Parliament. It follows a report of March 2021 by the Independent Review of Administrative Law (IRAL) to look at trends in Judicial Review and any recommendations for reform. The Ministry of Justice at the time stated that it agreed with certain of the proposals made by the IRAL, and the Bill will therefore include the introduction of suspended quashing orders as a remedy available for the Court. This would provide that a decision/exercise of a power will be quashed if, after a certain period of time, certain conditions set down by the court have not been met. The intention is to allow flexibility and time for the public decision maker to rectify an error.
Subsidy Control Bill
Following Brexit, and its agreement with the EU as set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the Subsidy Control Bill will introduce a UK subsidy control regime. This will act as a replacement to the EU State aid rules and will be in line with its commitments to the WTO Rules and other international agreements. The Bill is intended, amongst other things, to set out rules for public authorities to follow when giving subsidies under the watch of an independent body. On review of the Background Briefing Notes it is clear that the Government’s position is that this new system will allow further focus on investing in its priorities such as green initiatives and “levelling up”.
Online Safety Bill
The Government has also signalled its intention to enhance the safety of the internet. The objective is to balance the protection of freedom of speech and privacy whilst also making providers more accountable for the safety of their users. Ofcom will become the regulator and will be given powers to take enforcement action - fines may be given of up to £18 million or 10% of annual global turnover. There will be a requirement on those businesses affected to be clear on their sites as to how their users are being protected and to also ensure that there are user reporting mechanisms available to report content which is felt to be harmful or illegal.
To achieve certain of the Government’s stated aims – for example its 'levelling up' agenda and its target to reduce carbon emissions – the Subsidy Control and Online Safety Bills are arguably, as a trend, increasing levels of state intervention and control. The way in which the government exercises control over the areas discussed in this blog may well be subject to challenge should the Bills become legislation. After all, where there is new law enhancing Government control, it is likely that there are individuals and companies who are losing control or otherwise missing out as a result of the changes. It is foreseeable that such concerns may need to be resolved in the Courts.