The King has announced the UK government’s legislative programme for the next year.  Whilst some of the legislation has been carried over from the previous legislative period (the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill and the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill) and the draft Media Bill is now being introduced following parliamentary committee scrutiny, there are new proposals for the current parliamentary session.
Automated Vehicles Bill
This Bill follows a Law Commission project and aims to ensure the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles as follows:

  • It will provide that only vehicles that can drive themselves safely and follow all road traffic rules without the need for a human to monitor or control the vehicle to maintain that level of safety will be classified as self-driving and so permitted on roads in Great Britain. The Department for Transport and its agencies will have new powers to authorise self-driving vehicles and ensure in-use compliance with required safety standards.
  • Companies will be subject to sanctions and penalties if they do not comply with the new rules.  These include fines, requirements to take corrective action, and suspension of operation. Criminal offences will apply in serious cases. 
  • Local authorities will be required to send the orders they make (for example, to set speed limits) to a central publication platform. This data will be used to create a digital map of the road network to support the safe operation of self-driving vehicles. 
  • Authorised self-driving organisations will have ongoing obligations to keep their vehicles safe and ensure that they continue to drive in accordance in compliance with the law. They will be required to report certain safety related data to the authorisation authority and the in-use regulator and to comply with other relevant laws, including data protection and environmental protection legislation.
  •  The Bill will provide for people to have immunity from prosecution when a self-driving vehicle is driving itself. However, they will still retain non-driving responsibilities such as maintaining appropriate insurance for the vehicle.
  •  The Bill will also prohibit misleading marketing meaning only vehicles that meet the safety threshold can be marketed as self-driving.

Tobacco and Vapes Bill
The Tobacco and Vapes Bill will:

  • Provide that children born on or after 1 January 2009 will never be able to be legally sold cigarettes. This will mean effectively raising the age of sale by one year each year for this generation.
  • Reduce youth vaping by restricting the flavours and descriptions of vapes so they are no longer targeted at children; regulating point of sale displays so that vapes are kept out of sight of children; regulating vape packaging and product presentation, ensuring that neither are targeted to children and closing loopholes in the law which allow children to get free samples and buy non-nicotine vapes.
  • Strengthen enforcement activity with new powers to fine, on the spot, retailers who sell tobacco products or vapes to people who are under age. It will also enhance online age verification.

The government is also considering measures to restrict the sale and supply of disposable vapes (including considering prohibiting their sale) and action on the affordability of vapes, including exploring a new tax duty on vapes.

Football Governance Bill
In 2019, the government carried out a fan-led review of football which recommended the establishment of an Independent Football Regulator. This legislation aims to strengthen the governance and financial resilience of football clubs by:

  • Establishing a new independent regulator for English football clubs to address issues of financial sustainability and ensure fans' voices are listened to. 
  • Creating a new, strengthened owners’ and directors’ test to ensure they are suitable.
  • Setting a minimum standard of fan engagement which clubs will need to meet and requiring the support of a majority of fans for any changes to the club’s badge, name, home shirt colours. 
  • Requiring clubs to seek the Regulator’s approval for any sale or relocation of the stadium and demonstrate how they have consulted their fans as part of this. 
  • Preventing clubs from joining breakaway or unlicensed leagues, such as the proposal to create a European Super League in 2021. 
  • Intervening as a last resort to ensure financial sustainability through the redistribution of broadcast revenue. 
  • Establishing a compulsory Football Club Corporate Governance Code.

For more information, see here. The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has said: “Now the Government is committed to establishing the independent football regulator, it should get on with setting it up in shadow form by the end of the year”.  

Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill
The Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill will update the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.  It will:

  • Make changes to the bulk personal dataset regime to ensure the UK’s intelligence agencies can more effectively make use of less sensitive data which is already widely available to the public, subject to appropriate safeguards.
  • Expand the oversight regime to support the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to effectively carry out their role, including putting a number of their functions on a statutory basis. 
  • Reform the notices regime to help the UK anticipate the risk to public safety posed by the rolling out of technology by multinational companies that precludes lawful access to data. This will reduce the risk of the most serious offences, such as child sexual exploitation and abuse or terrorism. 
  • Update the conditions for use of Internet Connections Records to ensure that these can be used effectively to detect the most serious types of criminal activity and national security threats, underpinned by an independent oversight regime.
  • Increase the resilience of the warrant authorisation processes to ensure the security and intelligence agencies, as well as the National Crime Agency, can always get lawful access to information in a timely way.

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill 
This aims to ensure the UK can meet international commitments under the CPTPP when the UK accedes. It will:

  • Give CPTPP parties greater access to the UK’s government procurement market. In return, the UK will gain new market access.
  • Enhance regulatory cooperation between the UK and CPTPP parties on conformity assessments, aiming to reduce costs for UK businesses while protecting UK standards.
  • Bring the UK’s approach to geographical indications (GIs) into line with the CPTPP to help the UK better protect its GIs abroad and support its agricultural sector. 
  • Expand copyright protections so performers from CPTPP partners are covered, mirroring the protections that UK performers will receive when operating abroad.

Arbitration Bill
The Arbitration Bill implements recommendations from the Law Commission’s review of the Arbitration Act 1996.

Lots of new proposals – we’ll see how many of them make it through the next parliamentary session. Watch this space for more detail as the various Bills are introduced to, and progressed through, parliament.