The Queen announced a bill paving the way for an in-out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union in her speech to parliament today.
She said the government would “renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and pursue the reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states”, and that the vote would take place by the end of 2017.
Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, urged the government to clarify its timetable for the EU referendum as soon as possible. “The prospect of an EU Referendum will bring a lot of uncertainty and, as we saw ahead of the Referendum in Scotland, this can cause a significant slowdown in investment activity”, she said.
The Queen also formally announced a Housing Bill, which will propose that Right to Buy should be extended to housing association tenants, and that 200,000 starter homes should be made available to under-40s at a 20% discount. Both of these plans were included in the Conservative election manifesto. The bill also includes plans to create a statutory register for brownfield land.
A Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill was also on the agenda, proposing more powers for UK cities, the creation of a “Northern Powerhouse” and the chance to vote for a directly elected mayor. The government will bring forward legislation to create “a strong and lasting constitutional settlement, devolving wide-ranging powers to Scotland and Wales”. A HS2 bill will also pave the way for the £50bn high-speed rail link
Business rates system improvements were also announced ahead of the 2017 revaluation, including the modernisation of the appeals system.
John Duckworth, UK board member at JLL, said: “Listening to this Queen’s Speech, proposals for how the government intends to increase UK productivity were missing. Think tanks, businesses and politicians of all colours are united in agreeing that this is the best way to bring down the deficit and promote economic growth. This needs to be addressed head on, now.”