It was all change in Westminster this April after Prime Minister Theresa May shocked politicians and the public alike by suddenly calling a snap General Election.
After the drama of Article 50, UK politics faces another major upheaval as the nation goes to the polls a full three years earlier than originally expected. The sudden change of plan has already made big waves in the world of legislation, with Bills cancelled or rushed through to make the new prodecural deadline. But what other knock-on effects will the 2017 election produce?
Here, DeHavilland's Monitoring team highlights the biggest implications of this dramatic democratic development for each sector.
With the Prime Minister’s surprise announcement of a snap General Election, Parliament has raced to approve a number of piece of legislation ahead of the dissolution of Parliament. MPs and Lords were able to find time to approve both the Technical and Further Education Bill and the Higher Education and Research Bill.
Meanwhile, an open consultation on issues relating to assessment in primary schools will continue through May and conclude on 22 June. Despite concerns that the consultation would be cancelled because of the General Election, the Department for Education confirmed to DeHavilland that the consultation would last for the 12-week period originally planned.
Debates over the Government’s school funding formula and controversial plans for selective education are likely to feature heavily during the run up to the General Election, with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn consistently raising these policy issues in his initial speeches and campaign advertisements.
Energy and Environment
Energy looks set to feature prominently in this year's election campaign, with Prime Minister Theresa May announcing that the Government will use the Conservative Manifesto to cap energy bills for the seven out of ten UK households paying standard variable tariffs. Work and Pensions Secretary Damien Green has confirmed that the policy is expected to be one of the centrepiece policies of the manifesto. Ms May will instruct Ofgem to set a maximum price that energy companies can charge, representing a significant increase in power for the energy regulator.
A similar cap was introduced this month for those who use pre-payment meters following a report by the Competition and Markets Authority. The Conservatives insist that it therefore differs from a price freeze that was proposed by Labour under Ed Miliband. The announcement has already drawn criticism from large energy companies. This controversial policy will be at the centre of the national debate and represents the biggest intervention in the energy market for decades. It is likely to be part of a wider move by the Conservatives to strengthen consumer rights.
The consultation on charging arrangements for embedded generation closes in May, and Ofgem is likely to announce its decision soon. The energy regulator has proposed reducing levels of payments, or “embedded benefits” received by small generators – typically gas and diesel – which avoid the national transmission system and connect directly to local power distribution networks. This decision will have wider effects on the market and prices.
The announcement of the snap General Election caused ministers to rush through outstanding legislation before Parliament closed for business in April. Key measures in the Finance Bill including the contentious Making Tax Digital plans were scrapped to ensure the Bill passed, while Parliament also found time to approve the Criminal Finances Bill.
There has been much speculation over what will be included in party manifestos, with the Conservative and Labour manifestos expected to be released on 8 and 15 May respectively. The Conservatives have hinted there could be increases in tax for the self-employed, and are tipped to keep the "Triple Lock" on pensions despite earlier speculation that the policy would be downgraded or scrapped. Meanwhile, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised to maintain the Triple Lock if elected, and pledged to increase Corporation Tax in order to fund NHS pay.
Pharma and Health
MPs considered Lords amendments to the Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill this month. The Government moved a motion to disagree with a Lords amendment to apply a duty on the Government to ensure patients had access to new medicines while taking into account the needs of the life sciences sector. The Government then tabled an amendment to change the NHS Act 2006 to include specific factors for consultation prior to the implementation of any new statutory price control scheme for medicines. Having been accepted, the amended Bill went on to receive Royal Assent.
With Health set to play a major role in the election, attention now turns to party manifestos. Labour has already offered some major policy announcements, promising pay rises for NHS staff who have faced 1% pay freezes for seven years now. The Conservatives have come out against the proposals and will be announcing their own policies over the coming month.
Tech and Telecoms
The beginning of May is likely to be filled with speculation on the contents of the main parties' election manifestos, and whether factors of relevance to the tech industry will be significant. Whilst the snap election provides an opportunity for industry to influence potential future legislation and policy, a number of significant committee reports will now no longer be published. The Culture, Media and Sport Commiittee's inquiry into "The impact of Brexit on the creative industries, tourism and the Digital Single Market" may well be picked up again in the next Parliament, as could the inquiry into fake news.
Snap Election aside and outside of Parliament, techUK is scheduled to host a number of events throughout May on topics from block chain technology to cyber security, women in tech and data analytics.
Meanwhile. the Digital Economy Bill has passed by the skin of its teeth at the very tail end of this Parliamentary session, with analysis due to follow through the month.
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