Boris Johnson has approved a legislative programme of more than 25 bills that will implement planning reform and a new state aid regime, as he seeks to flesh out his strategy for post-pandemic economic recovery.
He wants the programme, to be outlined in the Queen’s Speech on May 11 at Westminster, to deliver the meat of the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto and signal the start of a return to “normality” after Covid-19, according to people briefed on the plans.
Rishi Sunak, whose March Budget included plans to raise Britain’s tax burden to the highest level since the 1960s to help pay for the coronavirus crisis, is reluctant to commit to yet more public spending as he tries to control government borrowing.
Among the measures will be legislation to boost economic growth and narrow regional inequalities — Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda — including a planning bill to clear obstacles to house building and broader development.
All councils in England would have to designate land either for development or preservation, as the government aims to hit a target of building more than 300,000 homes a year.
The post-Brexit state aid regime is intended to enable the government to be more “nimble” in supporting jobs. The business department has been seeking views on how the arrangements could allow the government to make strategic interventions in industry.
There will also be bills to create free-ports: low-tax zones featuring simpler planning rules that ministers have said will serve as hubs for high-value manufacturing and innovation. Sceptics cite research suggesting they tend to shift jobs and investment around the country, rather than generate new business.
A health and care bill will carry out NHS reforms to strengthen the health service after the pandemic. The bill will reverse key aspects of a 2012 shake-up of the NHS that gave it greater operational independence and sharply increased the role of competition.