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14 OCT 2019

RICS Response: Queen's Speech 2019

This Queen's speech comes during one of the most divisive political periods since the 2016 vote on EU membership. With a chance that the speech - and therefore the Government's legislative programme - might not pass through the House, the information delivered today is unlikely to create any political calm.

The speech was - as expected - heavily tilted toward preparing the UK for leaving the EU, but with no clarity of what a post EU UK looks like in terms of a deal, it was merely moving chairs around.

However RICS welcomed the continued Brexit commitment to eco-system services and natural capital contained within the Agriculture Bill as a replacement for the Common Agricultural Policy. We have long campaigned for this and it was our key post vote recommendation for Government as they started to prepare for Brexit three years ago.

Given this Queen's speech gives the bones of what a Johnson-led Conservative election manifesto will deliver, the omission of housing legislation and business rates legislation is surprising, and does not seem to reflect a Government with these priorities at their core.

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RICS have delivered a response on the Queen's speech, addressing built environment, business, and climate concerns

Built environment

There were two announcements around the built environment contained in today's speech: Building Safety Standards and a National Infrastructure Strategy.

As a member of the Hackitt review into building safety, we welcome the government's commitment today to implement the recommendations. As a regulator and standards organisation, we appreciate any changes that will seek to improve conditions within the industry. Within the speech detail the Government states they will in some areas go further than the Hackitt review; we would urge them to go further in ensuring that they reduce the height needed for sprinklers to 11 meters as suggested by a cross industry group including RICS.

The government also refers to legislating for a new homes ombudsman, yet are still to publish their response to the consultation on this issue which concluded in June. They must publish their reply before progressing any legislation on the matter, and also must ensure legislation is developed in close collaboration with industry, to make sure it delivers a system that works for consumers and industry.

We await detail of the National Infrastructure Strategy which will be published in the autumn, however note that the Queen's speech text was merely a reiteration of previous administration's ambitions and policy with nothing new outlined or introduced.

RICS is disappointed that a Government that spoke highly of housing decided not to include key housing measures that had been started within the previous administration. RICS sat on the Regulation of Property Agents working group and supported the recommendations emerging out of it. Government should have used the Queen's speech to start embedding regulation into the lettings industry. A regulated private rented sector would enhance the landlord-tenant relationship, as well as build institutional investor confidence in a growth sector that offers housing solutions to increasing numbers of households.

There were many speeches and comments around the ambitions for modern methods of construction (MMC) at Conservative party conference, but again this priority did not follow through to their legislative agenda. MMC as a compliment to traditional build methods is needed if England is to deliver the homes its needs. We would encourage Government to address the issues and opportunities around finance, social value, skills, and technology as highlighted in the RICS policy statement released in July this year.

Apartment housing RICS
RICS expressed disappointment in the lack of progress concerning key housing measures

Business and communities

There were many announcements within the speech about raising the conditions of workers, especially those working in the service industry with protection of their tips. However, there was very little about business itself.

Over the years, this government under previous administrations made multiple announcements around bringing forward the end of the current business rates period to 2021, but failed to pass through the legislation to ensure this. On multiple occasions they als emphasised their commitment to shorter rating periods, but again failed to pass through the necessary legislation. Both pieces of legislation were in the Lord's before prorogation, but they did not implement carry-over motions for them. This means that both bills would need to be reintroduced and go through the whole of the legislative process once again before they can be enacted.

Today was an opportune moment to put these back on the agenda, given the funding already spent by the Valuation Office Agency in starting to revalue for the 2021 period and in preparing for a three-year valuation period thereafter. RICS has been strong in their view that frequent revaluations are the best course of action to making business rates fairer, decreasing appeals and helping business owners. Government must not abandon our high streets, especially as businesses try to compete once outside the EU.

We wait in anticipation for the white paper around English devolution and unleashing regional potential. All five Metro Mayors in a cross-party statement asked for more local powers and increased local decision making carried out by local people, and RICS supported this call. We hope that within the white paper are changes to the planning system - including more funding support for local planning departments. This will ensure that local communities can start master-planning to enable a strategic and rounded look at homes, employment, and social aspects, in order to create a community – and that these are then reflected in their development plans.

We would encourage Government to address the issues and opportunities around finance, social value, skills and technology

Climate Change

RICS welcomes the determination of this Government to not just introduce environmental policy, but to support it with a regulator and legally binding targets. Creating a sustainable environment is a key goal for RICS, and as an industry regulator and standard setter we intend to lead by example.

In the coming weeks we will be setting out how industry can do better to meet UN sustainability goals, and providing a tool to approximately assess optimum cost, and drive more whole life-cycle sustainable and resilient infrastructure. We already have multiple papers around how the agricultural industry can value eco-system services, showing our historical commitment to maximizing sustainable environmental practice.

Details of all of the measures announced in the Queen's speech can be found here.