York Press column: End of a parliamentary session and an era
October 25, 2023
After eighteen months, the third session of the 58th (and final) Parliament on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II will come to a close this week as parliament is prorogued ahead of the King’s Speech.
This is a historic occasion for a number of reasons, namely that it marks the end of Queen Elizabeth’s legislative legacy and will be the first King’s Speech before Parliament in over seventy years – although the then-Prince of Wales did conduct ceremonial duties on behalf of Her Late Majesty at the last State Opening.
At the time of writing, thirty-eight Government Bills have received Royal Assent in this parliamentary session with many in their final stages being debated right up to prorogation.
Among them is the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Act, which is set to increase trade with New Zealand by almost 60 per cent and boost the economy by £800 million as well as guaranteeing UK businesses access to bid for an additional £10 billion worth of Australian public sector contracts per year.
The United Kingdom also joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership giving UK businesses tariff-free access on over 99 per cent of goods to a market of around 500 million customers partnering with Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand, and emerging markets such as Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Looking ahead to the new parliamentary session, I hope to see the United Kingdom strike more deals worldwide to support our export businesses.
Another Bill to receive Royal Assent in this session is the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill. I have been lobbying Ministers over many years to seize the opportunity of Brexit to create new tailored rules to govern precision breeding of plants and animals.
Precision breeding needs to be expanded because it allows for species to yield more food and be made more nutritious and resistant to disease. This means food supply can become larger, healthier, more affordable and more secure as more can be made in the UK rather than imported. This has never been more important with global supply disruption from the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Making species more disease-resistant also improves animal welfare, as they suffer less from medical conditions, and editing crops to be tougher benefits the environment by meaning they need fewer pesticides to protect them. Precision breeding also addresses climate change by making food production more green, with more produced using fewer resources, and can help farmers in poor developing countries by designing species to survive in hostile conditions like drought and flooding.
Not all Bills completed their legislative journey in this session and some will be carried over to the new session. One of these is the Renters (Reform) Bill, which will usher in major changes to the private rental sector. While many are welcome, changes were needed from the Bill’s first reading in parliament to better represent the rental sector in university cities in York.
Initially, the Bill intended to abolish all fixed-term contracts. While this would not be problematic in most instances, I learned this would create chaos in the student rental sector after a number of landlords visited me at my surgeries and I spoke to the local branch of the Residential Landlord Association. Landlords need the security of knowing that their property will be vacated ahead of the academic year and tenants deserve the confidence that they will have a home while at university without risk of eviction mid-term.
Working with other backbench Members of Parliament who represent university cities, a concession has been achieved with the student sector being given tailored regulation.
The Renters (Reform) Bill will be one of many to hopefully become law in the year ahead. Residents can learn more about our legislative agenda on November 7 at the State Opening of Parliament when King Charles III will deliver his first King’s Speech.