Here's how the proposals King's Speech will impact women

king charles reads the queen's speech in 2022
How laws in the King's Speech will affect womenWPA Pool / Pool - Getty Images

It’s a monumental day for King Charles, who has delivered the first King’s Speech in 70 years.

The speech outlines the government’s proposed bills ahead of the general election in 2024.

rishi sunak gives a speech

Tougher sentencing for sexual offenders is among some of the new legislation which was announced today (7 November).

Rules around leaseholding properties are also set to be overhauled, as well as tougher restrictions on buying tobacco.

Here is what was announced – and what these proposed bills mean for women.

Crime and Justice Bill

The bill is set to announce far tougher measures for those convicted of a sexual offence. Whole life orders – where those convicted are expected to remain in prison without parole – are expected to be introduced for murderers whose crimes involve a sadistic or sexual element, while convicted rapists will now have to spend their entire sentence in prison rather than be eligible for parole at the halfway point.

Taking naked photos without someone’s consent will also become a specific offence, with those convicted facing up to two years in prison. While the Online Safety Act criminalised the sending of intimate images in certain circumstances, the new laws will look to smooth over any loopholes in regard to actually taking photos without consent. This will cover the creation of pornographic ‘deepfakes’, which sees someone’s image superimposed on explicit sexual images or footage.

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King Charles has announced police will have more powers to search a premises without a warrant to seize stolen goods, such as mobile phones, when they have reasonable proof that a stolen item is inside the property, such as GPS tracking or ‘Find My iPhone’.

The legislation will also bring new powers for judges to force defendants to attend their sentencing hearings and ‘face their victims in court’ – this comes after Lucy Letby, a convicted child killer, refused to attend her own hearing.

Tobacco Products Bill

Previously proposed at the Conservative Party conference, the new bill sets to phase out tobacco sales in England. Under the proposed ban, anyone who was born on or after 1 January, 2009, making them 14 now, will never be allowed to buy cigarettes.

Tougher laws will be rolled out to stop vapes potentially being targeted at children, with flavours and descriptions of products now set to be regulated. A ban on disposable vapes has been previously proposed, and could be introduced should the bill become law.

Renters Reform Bill

While this has previously been proposed, the bill has faced several delays and rebellions which has stopped it from receiving royal assent.

In the King’s Speech, Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s plans to overhaul England’s ‘feudal’ leasehold system are expected to be announced, which will change the way we purchase houses.

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It will cap ground rents for new and existing properties and set the default length of leases at 990 years, rather than 99, with leaseholds banned on the construction of new houses – but not on new flats, which are thought to make up 70% of all leasehold properties.

For those not in the know, freehold means you own the building, and the land it stands on, indefinitely. Leasehold means you own the building, not the land, and only for the length of your lease agreement with the freeholder.

Freehold is considered the vastly more preferable option: you don't have to pay ground rent, or deal with a freeholder failing to maintain the outside of the building.

Leaseholders generally have to pay significantly more, including maintenance fees, annual service charges and a share of the buildings insurance, as well as ground rent. A building with a short lease is also considerably more difficult to sell.

Offensive Weapons Bill

Part of the government’s wider strategy to tackle crime, the bill will create an offence for possessing a prohibited blade with intent to harm, as well as giving police greater powers to confiscate and destroy knives that they believe may be used for criminal purposes.

Victims and Prisoners Bill

Jade's Law was confirmed - this creates an automatic suspension of parental responsibility from a person who is convicted of the murder (or voluntary manslaughter) of a person who they share parental responsibility with.

It will also mean the bereaved will no longer have to go through the current process of applying to restrict parental responsibility through family courts.

Political boycotts

Amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, in addition to the rise of antisemitism, new laws are expected to be introduced to prevent local councils from imposing 'their own politically motivated boycotts of foreign countries', including boycotts against Israel.

There has been over 1000 reported hate incidents against British Jews after the Hamas attacks last month, according to The Community Security Trust.

Meanwhile, there have been worldwide demonstrations against Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which have killed thousands of Palestinians.

Tens of thousands of protesters have joined rallies and sit-ins in dozens of towns and cities across the UK to call for an end to Israeli attacks in Gaza.

Climate and the environment

The King, who has famously advocated for the environment his whole life, announced the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which allows for licenses for oil and gas projects in the North Sea to be awarded annually.

It's a sharp division from Labour, who pledged to end new oil and gas licensing rounds should they come into power after the general election.

The news comes after Sunak announced a U-Turn on his Net Zero policy. Last month, in one of his biggest policy changes since taking office, Sunak confirmed the UK would push back the deadline for selling new petrol and diesel cars and the phasing out of gas boilers, which prompted widespread backlash.

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