Oil, smoking and football: The 21 laws unveiled in King's Speech

Robert Peston and Anushka Asthana round-up the key points from King Charles' first King's Speech

Words by Lewis Denison, Westminster Producer

King Charles has delivered the UK's first King's Speech in 70 years, setting out Rishi Sunak's legislative plans for the upcoming year.

As part of the prime minister's pledge to make "long-term decisions for a brighter future", he set out plans to eventually ban cigarettes and new leaseholds, as well as to drill for fresh oil in the North Sea.

This King's Speech - likely the last before a general election - is perhaps the prime minister's biggest chance to win over voters before he and other party leaders publish their manifestos.

The King paid tribute to his mother, the late Queen's "legacy of service and devotion", as he conducted the state opening of Parliament for the first time as monarch.

He refers to "my government" and "my ministers", as is convention under his role as a constitutional monarch, however they are not his policies.

The PM's focus, according to the King, is on "increasing economic growth and safeguarding the health and security of the British people for generations to come".

He said the government will "continue to take action to bring down inflation, to ease the cost of living for families and help businesses fund new jobs and investment".

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the King's Speech, which was devoid of new policies, telling MPs in a Commons debate afterwards that Mr Sunak's legislative agenda is "a plan for more of the same".

"More sticking plasters, more division, more party first, country second gimmicks and no repudiation of the utterly discredited idea that economic growth is something the few hand down to the many.

"In fact, today we reached something of a new low because they are not even pretending to govern any more. They have given up on any sense of service.

"They see our country's problems as something to be exploited, not solved and in doing this, they underestimate the British people because what Britain wants is for them to stop messing around and get on with the job."

  • New oil and gas fields

Across the political spectrum, politicians wants to bring in policies which reduce the UK's reliance on foreign regimes for energy, following the war between Russia and Ukraine, which has driven up the cost of oil and gas.

In a bid to "strengthen the United Kingdom's energy security", the government will bring in the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which will support the licensing of drilling new oil and gas fields in the North Sea.

It may have hurt the King to announce this policy, given his outspoken support for reducing the human impact on the planet and reducing climate change.

Prime Minister Sunak says new oil and gas drilling will help the country transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, without adding "undue financial burdens on households".

This claim has been disputed by climate groups, including Greenpeace which draped the PM's house in black fabric in protest at the announcement of new oil and gas fields.

  • Rail reforms

After controversially scrapping the northern leg of high speed rail (HS2), meaning the line will no longer go beyond Birmingham, the PM announced 'Network North' as its replacement.

King Charles said the plan will "deliver faster and more reliable journeys between, and within, the cities and towns of the North and Midlands, prioritising improving the journeys that people make most often".

The prime minister has previously said £36 billion previously ring-fenced for HS2 from London to Manchester would instead be allocated to Network North.

He said that means "every region outside of London will receive the same or more government investment than they would have done under HS2".

  • Educations reforms

The PM has long talked of plans to force youngsters to study mathematics until they are 18, and he hopes to achieve that by overhauling the post-16 education system.

He will scrap A-levels and swap them with a new qualification called the Advanced British Standard (ABS).

The ABS will be a qualification "that takes the best of A-levels and T Levels and brings them together into a single qualification", the Department for Education (DfE) said, however it is not expected to be fully implemented for a decade.

Along with maths, pupils will be required to study four other subjects.

The King said it will "bring technical and academic routes into a single qualification, adding: "Proposals will be implemented to reduce the number of young people studying poor university degrees and increase the number undertaking high quality apprenticeships."

  • An eventual ban of cigarettes

The PM has previously announced plans to stop children who turn 14 this year - and those younger - from ever being able to legally buy cigarettes or tobacco in England.

Anyone born on or after January 1, 2009 – in effect anyone who is 14 or younger now – will not legally be able to buy cigarettes in England during their lives, as the smoking age is raised by one year every year, meaning they will never catch up.

Mr Sunak said the move would mean “a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette and that they and their generation can grow up smoke-free”.

The government hopes it will lead to up to 1.7 million fewer people smoking by 2075, and has the potential for smoking to be phased out completely among young people as early as 2040.

Smoking will not be criminalised and the phased approach means anyone who can legally buy cigarettes now will not be prevented from doing so.

However, older people may have to carry ID if they want to buy cigarettes in the future.

The Bill also aims to crack down on vaping among youngsters.

  • Football regulation

Plans for a new independent football regulator were confirmed in February, with the body set to have “targeted powers” to step in and resolve how money flows from the Premier League down the pyramid.

King Charles said the Football Governance Bill will "safeguard the future of football clubs for the benefit of communities and fans".

  • Housing reforms

The prime minister's housing reforms include plans to protect renters and to abolish new leaseholds on properties to benefit homeowners.

The Renters (reform) Bill includes a long-awaited ban on “no-fault” evictions, but only after stronger possession grounds for landlords and a new court process are in place. It also strengthens powers to evict anti-social tenants and ends a blanket ban on pets.

It also axes plans to require landlords to meet energy efficiency targets by from 2025, as part of the prime minister’s rollback of a string of green measures announced in September.

The PM also plans to “phase out” leaseholds, which are contracts restricting the amount of time a homeowner holds the property.

This will be achieved by banning new leasehold houses so all new houses are freehold from the outset.

The Leasehold and Freehold Bill brings will also cap ground rents and extend the length of leases from 90 to 990 years.

But the proposals have been watered down, with leaseholds banned for new houses – but not new flats.

  • Law and order

The government, King Charles said, will introduce policies which "keep communities safe from crime, anti-social behaviour, terrorism and illegal migration".

Already-announced proposals will mean killers convicted of the most horrific murders should expect whole life orders, meaning they will never be released, while rapists and other serious sexual offenders will not be let out early from prison sentences.

Other measures include giving police the power to enter a property without a warrant to seize stolen goods, such as phones, when they have reasonable proof that a specific stolen item is inside.

The new Criminal Justice Bill will include widely trailed measures to ensure reasonable force can be used to make offenders appear in the dock to face their victims for sentencing, or risk having up to two years added to their jail term.

King Charles III and Queen Camilla depart Buckingham Palace, London, ahead of the State Opening of Parliament. Credit: PA

It will also make being in a grooming gang an aggravating feature for sentencing, meaning tougher punishments for ringleaders and members.

The Sentencing Bill will mean a whole life order will be handed down in the worst cases of murder, with judges having discretion to impose a shorter tariff only in exceptional circumstances.

The legislation will also ensure that rapists and serious sexual offenders serve the whole of their sentence behind bars, without being released early on licence.

A Victims and Prisoners Bill will give ministers the power to block parole for the worst offenders and ban them from marrying in prison.

All 21 laws announced in the King's Speech

  • Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill

Enables the UK’s formal accession to a major Indo-Pacific trade bloc of 11 nations after it signed an agreement to do so earlier this year.

  • Automated Vehicles Bill

Paves the way for the introduction of self-driving cars and buses on UK roads by putting in place a legal framework centred on safety and user protection, as part of the Prime Minister’s plans to make the UK a world leader in emerging technologies.

  • Digital Markets, Competition, and Consumers Bill

This Bill, which has been carried over from the last session, aims to make it harder for firms to trap people in unwanted subscription contracts, take action against fake reviews and drip pricing, and increase competition between big tech firms.

  • Data Protection and Digital Information Bill

Also making a return, this aims to update the UK’s data protection laws post-Brexit and strengthen the regulator.

  • Media Bill

This will repeal a law requiring media outlets to pay all legal costs in libel cases, regardless of who won. It will also reduce regulatory burdens on commercial radio stations.

  • Arbitration Bill

Modernises the law on arbitration, including allowing arbitrators to kick out baseless claims quickly and strengthening the courts’ supporting powers.

  • Draft Rail Reform Bill

Aims to modernise rail including by setting up the new Great British Railways public body – something that was not expected in the speech as it was seen as a priority for Boris Johnson but not for Mr Sunak. As a draft, it is unlikely to make it onto the statute books in this session.

  • Pedicabs (London) Bill

Enables Transport for London to introduce fare controls and a licensing regime for pedicabs – the only form of unregulated transport on the capital’s roads – and bar them from congested areas.

  • Holocaust Memorial Bill

This hybrid bill is also being brought back to support the building of a national Holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens next to Parliament. It updates a 1900 law that prevented the project from going ahead and allows the Government to use public funding to build and operate the centre.

  • Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill

Permanently bans the live export of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses for slaughter and fattening from England. Does not include measures to outlaw the importation of hunting trophies as promised in the 2019 Tory manifesto.

  • Economic Activities of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill

Another bill making a return in the next session, it prevents public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, divestment or sanctions campaigns against other countries.

  • Sentencing Bill

Mandates courts to hand down a whole-life order in the worst cases of murder, with judges having discretion to impose a shorter tariff only in exceptional circumstances.

The legislation will also ensure that rapists and serious sexual offenders serve the whole of their sentence behind bars, without being released early on licence.

  • Criminal Justice Bill

Forces criminals to attend their sentencing hearings, after killer nurse Lucy Letby refused to leave her cell. Gives police powers to enter a property without a court warrant to seize stolen goods such as phones tracked through GPS location tracking technology.

Also criminalises the sharing of intimate images and allows the transfer of prisoners in and out of England and Wales to serve their sentence abroad.

  • Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill

Provides a legal framework for intelligence agencies to access information they need to tackle threats.

  • Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill

Also known as Martyn’s Law, the bill requires venues to take steps to be better prepared to respond if there is a terrorist attack.

  • Victims and Prisoners Bill

Continuing its progress in the Commons, the bill gives ministers the power to block parole for the worst offenders and ban them from marrying in prison.

  • Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill

  • Tobacco and Vapes Bill

  • Leasehold and Freehold Bill

  • Renters (Reform) Bill

  • Football Governance Bill

What is a King's Speech and the state opening of Parliament?

A King's Speech takes place during the state opening of Parliament, which restarts the parliamentary session and allows the government to set out plans for the year ahead.

It traditionally happens once a year however this is not always the case as the government will not prorogue Parliament (end the session) if important legislation is progressing through the Commons.

The impasse over how to leave the EU led to the longest Parliamentary session since 1640.

Despite being read by the King, the speech is drafted by the government and the monarch has no involvement.

When the King leaves, a new parliamentary session starts and Parliament gets back to work.

The contents of the speech are then debated by Members of both Houses and an ‘Address in Reply to His Majesty's Gracious Speech is agreed.

Over the following days, the planned legislative programme is debated and then the Commons vote on the monarch’s speech.