Parliament returns in January after a tumultuous year in which every seeming political certainty was overturned. Politicians hoping for some peace and quiet in the new year will be disappointed, with a raft of new policy preoccupations adding to the pressure as the Government's self-imposed Article 50 deadline looms.
Here, DeHavilland's expert Monitoring Consultants outline the issues to watch in each sector.
The education sector takes centre stage this January, with the Technical and Further Education and Higher Education and Research Bills scheduled for debate immediately after Parliament's return from Recess. During the break, rumours abounded in the press that Labour, Liberal Democrat and Crossbench peers would look to revolt against the Government's higher education reforms amid concerns over the perceived "marketisation" of the sector.
The uncertainty around Brexit has unfortunately become a dominant point of discussion for universities. Not only are concerns around research funding being voiced, but more personal concerns around the status of EU nationals working in the UK and academic staff working abroad have yet to be addressed sufficiently. As the Government moves towards its self-imposed deadline for commencing the material Brexit process via Article 50, we can expect these complaints to become yet more pressing.
With an impact across a range of sectors but a special focus on energy supply. the Better Markets Bill is likely to be published soon. Meanwhile, the Government will complete consultations on a range of issues including smart energy, heat, coal generation, Contracts for Difference and the Capacity Market.
The Government’s industrial strategy proposals are also expected this month. Meanwhile, Labour has launched a consultation on its own industrial strategy, which includes sustainability as a main objective to reach a “prosperous” and “competitive” low-carbon economy.
On environment policy, Defra is due to release its framework for the 25-year Environment Plan, in the first stage towards developing its new strategy.
Furthermore, as the Article 50 trigger date approaches, the Government is likely to drop more hints about its future plans for the energy sector.
December saw the publication of the much-awaited consultation on measures to strengthen corporate governance. As 2017 begins, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is now seeking views on strengthening worker and customer voices in the boardroom, reforming executive pay and building a stronger corporate governance framework for large, privately-held companies.
Discussions of the ramifications of Brexit for the financial services sector are likely to continue in January, with media reports already suggesting that a number of major banks are preparing to make announcements within a few months concerning whether they will move staff.
In addition, the Criminal Finances Bill is likely to receive its Third Reading and move to the House of Lords.
Pharma and Health
Winter difficulties in the health service predictably took centre stage in December, with hospital trusts recording record levels of pressure - a story that looks likely to continue as press reports raise dramatic descriptions of long waiting times and staff disillusionment. Looking ahead, January will see the Public Accounts Committee continue its inquiry into NHS sustainability.
The Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill has reached Committee Stage in the House of Lords, with debate due to take place on 23 January.
On the Brexit front, the European Medicines Agency's future in London remains in doubt, and there have been renewed calls from the life sciences sector for Britain to retain Single Market access.
Tech and Telecoms
Whilst the tech and telecoms industries await the Lords Committee Stage of the Digital Economy Bill, Labour has launched a consultation on its plans for a “people-centric” industrial strategy, which it hopes will support workers in an era of rapid technological change. Launched by Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis, the consultation invites contributions with a focus on how productivity may be achieved through improved technology rather than workforce exploitation.
Meanwhile, another important consultation will be closing soon, concerning if and how the Government should implement further press regulation following Leveson. Discussion on what - if any - role the Government should play is likely to continue into Spring before any decisions are made.
The New Year will see the Government publish its Airports draft National Policy Statement and consultation on proposals for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. This will begin the long process to expand Heathrow, with a vote in Parliament not expected until the winter of 2017-18.
In December, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced a number of changes to the running of the rail network that will see Network Rail work more closely with train companies. Mr Grayling also announced the creation of a new organisation called East West Rail, separate from Network Rail, which will design, construct and operate a new railway between Oxford and Cambridge. East West Rail is due to be established in early 2017.
The Bus Services Bill is due to have its Second Reading in the House of Commons shortly. The Government will seek to overturn a number of defeats in the House of Lords on bus franchising and the creation of municipal bus companies.
Finally, while May is a way off yet, the month will see the first metro mayor elections, with political parties expected to select their final candidates in the coming months. A large part of the new metro mayors’ responsibilities will concern transport, so expect sector issues to feature heavily in the various campaigns.
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