The Queen has today delivered her speech to mark the formal start of the parliamentary year.
Moneywise has rounded-up the key elements that will affect your finances.
But glaring omissions are the lack of confirmation as to whether an energy price cap will take force or whether the triple lock protecting state pensions will be scrapped.
A Civil Liability Bill will crack down on fraudulent whiplash claims and is expected to reduce motor insurance premiums by about £35 per year. The Bill will ban offers to settle claims without the support of medical evidence and introduce a new fixed tariff of compensation for whiplash injuries.
Simon McCulloch, director at Comparethemarket.com, says: “Tackling the so-called ‘compensation culture’ and its impact on insurance prices has been on the political agenda for a long time and the Civil Liabilities Bill is a real statement of intent and, if implemented effectively, should make a financial difference to consumers.”
Steve Treloar, general insurance managing director at LV=, adds: “The UK is the world capital for whiplash claims and with fraudulent claims adding around £40 to the average car insurance policy, we have to clamp down on the compensation culture that is rife in this country.
“The original proposals from Government on tackling whiplash didn’t go as far as we felt was necessary so we’re pleased that it is now committing to making the changes that we’ve long been asking for. Ultimately, we need a fair system that works for everyone and in light of these new plans we’re hopeful of getting that.”
When it comes to energy the government says in its Queen’s Speech accompanying document: “We have committed to extending the price protection currently in place for some vulnerable energy consumers to more of those on the poorest value tariffs.
“We are considering the best way to do this – whether through action by the regulator or legislation.”
Currently, energy prices are capped until 2020 for those on prepayment meters – a move that took force earlier this year. However, the Queen’s Speech makes no mention of whether non-metered energy prices will also be capped – something the Conservatives promised in their pre- general election manifesto.
Stephen Murray, energy expert at MoneySuperMarket, comments: “It appears the government has moved away from plans for an absolute price cap, which is good news for consumers. We also welcome the commitment to tackle any unfair practices in the energy market, especially those that bring down bills for more vulnerable customers in these uncertain times.”
The Queen’s Speech also states that powers to make changes to smart meter regulations will be extended by five years to “make sure the rollout is delivered effectively”, while a scheme will be set up to provide insurance in the “unlikely event that the company responsible were to become insolvent”. The government still plans for every household and business to be offered smart meters by the end of 2020. Nearly 7 million smart meters had been installed by the end of March 2017.
As announced in the 2017 Budget, the government confirmed it will publish a green paper that will look at:
How to help consumers avoid being caught out by unfair terms and subscription traps
How to enforce their rights, including through more widespread use of alternative dispute resolution.
How to help consumers get a better deal in “essential markets”, such as telecoms, where billing will be made easier to understand.
When it comes to renting, buying and building homes, the Queen’s Speech held no surprises, with plans to put into action points that were raised in its Housing White Paper, published in February. Here are the main points:
Ban tenant fees
The government has pledged to bring forward the ban on tenants being charged letting fees as part of a Draft Tenants’ Fees Bill. The aim is to make fees more transparent for tenants who are currently charged widely differing fees for services that are not clearly explained.
The aim of the Bill will be:
- To increase competition in the private rental sector, resulting in lower costs and a higher quality of service for renters.
- To reduce upfront costs for tenants.
- To “shortly ban letting agent fees” and make renting fairer
As part of the Bill, tenants may also able to recover unlawfully charged fees. The ban would apply to England only. However, some minor amendments to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 may apply to England and Wales.
Build more homes
The government has pledged to “fix the dysfunctional housing market” by building more homes, highlighting the need to bring more properties on the market and to “tackle the increasing lack of affordability” so that ordinary working families can buy an affordable home and cut the cost of renting.
It suggests that between 225,000 and 275,000 new homes need to be built each year to tackle this problem.
Following on from its Housing White Paper, published in February, it aims to:
- Release more land for homes where people want to live
- Build the homes we need faster.
- Get more people building homes.
- Support people who need help now.
Commenting on the housing aspect of the Queen’s Speech, Russell Quirk, chief executive of eMoov.co.uk, says: “Where housing is concerned at least, these events have become little else than soothing platitudes for the masses, akin to a Marie Antoinette-type approach. But the cake never comes. Promises to address unfair tenant fees and promote fairness, transparency and prosperity in the housing market while building more homes, are worthy intentions indeed but ones that are all too familiar yet remain unresolved.”
Fairer terms for leaseholders
The government says it will launch a consultation “in due course” with stakeholders, with the aim of taking action to promote transparency and fairness for leaseholders. Its focus will be on the sale of leasehold houses and onerous ground rents.
HS2 rail network
A new bill will be brought forward to deliver the next phase of the High Speed Two (HS2) network between the West Midlands and Crewe.
The Queen’s Speech suggests that the High Speed Two (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill will allow cities in the north of England and Scotland to benefit from improved connections.
This will involve powers to compulsorily acquire the land needed for the railway, impacting on those living close to the proposed route but opening up the possibility of more people being able to commute to major cities.
Mr Quirk adds: “The announcement on the HS2 railway is a significant one where the UK property market is concerned. It will negatively impact house prices in the path of the route itself. However, the areas due to benefit as destinations will see positive growth as it opens up accessibility to more of the country in terms of commuting to major cities from more affordable areas.”
In the workplace
The Queen’s Speech stated that the National Living Wage will rise to 60% of median earnings by 2020. After 2020, it will continue to increase so that workers “benefit from the same improvements in earnings as the average worker”. It currently stands at £7.50 an hour for employees over the age of 25.
Pensions and social care
The government’s document accompanying the Queen’s Speech states: “We will work to address the challenges of social care for our ageing population, bringing forward proposals for consultation to build widespread support.
“The consultation will set out options to improve the social care system and to put it on a more secure financial footing, supporting people, families and communities to prepare for old age, and address issues related to the quality of care and variation in practice.”
However, no mention of a social care cap was made. The Conservatives had pledged to take the value of a person’s home into account when they are receiving care at home – but following widespread criticism Theresa May later confirmed that the Conservatives would also consult on a social care cap.
Pensions were also left out of the Queen’s speech. It was expected that the state pension triple lock would be reformed into a 'double lock' under a Conservative premiership.
But, having failed to secure an outright majority, plans for reducing the triple lock are in limbo.
Maike Currie, investment director at Fidelity International, says: “It’s fair to say that today’s Queen Speech was more notable for what it didn’t include, than what it did. There was no conclusive decision on the Conservative party’s controversial social care plans - dubbed the ‘dementia tax’ by the opposition. Instead, the Queen pledged that her ministers will work to improve social care and bring forward proposals for consultation. Also glaringly absent were plans around the triple lock on pensions.”
Darren Philp, director of policy and market engagement at The People’s Pension, adds: “This was a Queen’s Speech that steered clear of pensions policy almost entirely with issues such as the state pension triple lock seemingly kicked into the long grass.”
See State pension triple lock: is a stay of execution on the cards? for more information on this.