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May in Westminster: What's on the horizon

2 May 2017

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.

Education

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.

Financial Services

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.

Transport

The Prime Minster’s surprise announcement of a snap General Election has seen Parliament frantically rushing to pass any outstanding legislation. While MPs and peers found time to approve the Bus Services Bill, the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill was not so lucky, running out of time before the dissolution of Parliament on 3 May. The election announcement also means all ongoing committee inquiries will come to an end, including a number that launched recently, such as the Transport Committee inquiries into the Airports National Policy Statement and airspace management and the so-called Joint Committee Inquiry into Air Quality.
 
The Government's court application to delay the publication of the long-awaited Air Quality Plan until after the election has been rejected and it has been ordered to publish on 9 May. Ministers may appeal this decision, which could delay the publication until after the election anyway. The delay ongoing court battle is likely to ensure that air quality plays some role in the General Election campaign, with the Labour Party already pledging to introduce a Clean Air Act. The Government has denied press speculation that the Conservatives are considering a pause on HS2 for inclusion in the party's election manifesto. 
 
Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting from London politicians and businesses for the Government to commit to Crossrail 2. It is unlikely any of the major parties will commit to Crossrail 2 without making similar commitments to other transport infrastructure projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail.
 
Before the General Election, eaely May will see the first elections for six new Metro Mayors. With Transport being one of the main responsibilities of the new mayors, the topic is expected to to continue to play a prominent role in the elections right up to polling day on 4 May.

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The DeHavilland Monitoring Team

DeHavilland's Monitoring Consultants deliver a service tailored to our clients' individual needs, enabling them to cut through the noise, assess changes to the political landscape and conduct bespoke research tasks.