Queen’s Speech: Legislation from 2012-13

Both Houses of Parliament were prorogued on Thursday 25 April thereby ending Parliamentary Session 2012-13. The Queen’s Speech on 8th May 2013 marks the start of the 2013-2014 Session of the UK Parliament, since following Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, parliamentary sessions have run from spring to spring, Hansard HC 13 Sep 2010, col. 33WS. A detailed analysis of issues of concern to law and religion in the 2013 Queen’s Speech has been made in a subsequent post

On 23 April 2013, the House of Commons Library published the Standard Note: Queen’s Speech 2013, SN/PC/06580 which summarizes the legislation, both known and likely to be included in the 2013-2014 session of the UK Parliament.   This post focusses on relevant legislation that was considered during the 2012-13 Session,  which: i]  received Royal Assent; ii] has been carried over to the 2013-14 Session; and iii]  failed to progress.

The Library Note also:

 “gathers together announcements from ministers and speculation from commentators on the issues that might be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech. . . . . . The issues discussed reflect both commitments made in Parliament and elsewhere, and press reports of possible legislation. The list has been compiled with help of the subject specialists in the Library’s Research Service. It does not constitute an official list of the Government’s intentions.”

These speculative aspects of the Standard Note, (“foreshadowed legislation”) are not covered, as a post will be published following the Queen’s Speech.  As before, updates of the progress of the on-going legislation will be included in our “Forthcoming Events” posts, which are published at the start of each month.

The performance of the key Bills in the 2012 Queen’s Speech has been reviewed in The Guardian and elsewhere.

Royal Assent

The following Bills, aspects of which are relevant to law and religion, received Royal Assent during the Session 2012-13

  • Succession to the Crown Act 2013 An Act to make succession to the Crown not dependent on gender; to make provision about Royal Marriages; and for connected purposes.  Reviewed here
  • Crime and Courts Act 2013: An Act to establish, and make provision about, the National Crime Agency; to abolish the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Policing Improvement Agency; to make provision about the judiciary and the structure, administration, proceedings and powers of courts and tribunals; to make provision about border control; to make provision about drugs and driving; and for connected purposes.  “Connected purposes” included the part-implementation (with a Royal Charter) of the Leveson recommendations, a critical part of which is how blogs will be addressed, see our post here
  • Defamation Act 2013: An Act to amend the law of defamation, section 5 of which relates to the operation of websites, in respect of statements posted on websites. 
  • Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013: Section 97 provides that Section 9(5) of the Equality Act 2010 is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (4), so that “caste” becomes a further protected characteristic under the “race” criterion.  Whilst not a change, the government’s desire to remove the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s “general duty” under section 3 of the Equality Act 2006, for the promotion of equal opportunities and prevention of unfair discrimination, was defeated by the House of Lords.  This and the inclusion of “caste” represented the 41st and 42nd “U-turns” of the Coalition to date [1].

Bills carried over to the 2013-14 Session

  • Children and Families Bill: A Bill which seeks to reform legislation relating to inter alia: adoption and children in care; and aspects of the family justice system.  The Bill was the subject of a carry-over motion on 25 February 2013, which was agreed without division.
  • Energy Bill: A Bill “to make provision for or in connection with reforming the electricity market for purposes of encouraging low-carbon electricity generation or ensuring security of supply” – this is a current lobbying concern of the Church of England in relation to fuel poverty. Subject of a carry-over motion on 19 December 2012, agreed without division.
  • Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill: To make further provision about banking and other financial services, including provision about the Financial Services Compensation Scheme; to make provision for the amounts owed in respect of certain deposits to be treated as a preferential debt on insolvency; to make provision about the accounts of the Bank of England and its wholly owned subsidiaries; and for connected purposes. The Bill completed its committee stage on 18 April, and is subject of a carry-over motion on 11 March 2013, which was carried without division. A particular concern of the  Archbishop of Canterbury who is a member of all-party commission looking into banking standards.
  • Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill: A Bill “to make provision for the marriage of same-sex couples in England and Wales, about gender change by married persons and civil partners, about consular functions in relation to marriage, for the  marriage of armed forces personnel overseas”. The Bill completed its committee stage on 12 March and is subject of a carry-over motion on 5 February 2013, agreed to on a division: Ayes 464, Noes 38.

Bills which failed to progress before the end of the 2012-13 Session

As we expected, a number of Private Members and 10 Minute Rule, (SO No 23), Bills failed to complete their passage through Parliament before the end of the session, and will make no further progress.  More importantly, the House of Lords Reform Bill was abandonded, following Tory opposition.

  • Bishops (Consecration of Women) Bill: A private Members’ Bill (under the Ten Minute Rule, SO No 23) sponsored by Diana Johnson: A Bill to enable women to be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England; and for connected purposes.
  • Charities Act 2011 (Amendment) Bill:  Private Members’ Bill (under the Ten Minute Rule, SO No 23) sponsored Mr Peter Bone.  A Bill to amend the Charities Act 2011 to treat all religious institutions as charities; and for  connected purposes.
  • Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill: Private Member’s bill (Frank Field) “to amend the Equality Act 2010 to remove discrimination against women in relation to consecration of bishops in the Church of England; and for connected purposes”.
  • Equality of Marriage (Amendment) Bill: Introduced under the 10 minute rule, , SO No 23, (Edward Leigh), “to amend the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 to include a person’s conscientious beliefs about the definition of marriage”.
  • House of Lords Reform Bill: A draft Bill was published in May 2011, on which a Joint Committee reported in April 2012. The Bill establishes a House of Lords which is mostly, though not wholly, elected, with a three-stage transition to reform. Received its second reading in the Commons on 12 July 2012 but was abandoned by the Government on 6 August 2012 following opposition from within the Conservative Party.  It would have reduced the number of Lords Spiritual (from 26), for which strategic reorganization has been  considered by the bishops.
  • Lords Spiritual Bill: Private Member’s bill (Frank Field) “to make provision for filling vacancies among Lords Spiritual sitting and voting as Lords of Parliament”.
  • Marriage  (Approved Organisations) Bill [Lords]: A Private Peer’s bill “to amend the law on marriage to permit the Registrar General to permit certain charitable organisations to solemnise marriages”.