The Queen’s Speech 2021: what tech lawyers need to know

May 10, 2021

The UK government has launched its new legislative programme with the Queen’s Speech on 11 May 2021. Here is a summary of the developments of interest to tech lawyers, some of which were already known about, as the Online Safety Bill, or carried over from the previous parliamentary session.

Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill

With this Bill, the government plans to develop the Life Sciences sector so it attracts people and business from across the world. It also plans to increase public expenditure on research and development to £22 billion; and create the Advanced Research and Invention Agency focused on funding high-risk, high-reward research and development.

Online Safety Bill

The much-trailed Online Safety Bill aims to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online, improving protections for users, especially children, whilst protecting freedom of expression, making companies responsible for their users’ safety online, and supporting a thriving and fast growing digital sector. The Bill follows a White Paper and government response to it.

Telecommunications (Security) Bill

The Telecommunications (Security) Bill has the aim of ensuring the long-term security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks and infrastructure and minimising the threat of high risk vendors. It will give the government new powers to boost the security standards of the UK’s telecoms networks and establish a strong regime for telecoms security. It will also strengthen the security and oversight of technology used in telecoms networks including the electronic equipment and software used across the network which handle internet traffic and telephone calls. Finally, it aims to ensure that the government can respond to national security threats within the UK’s networks as technologies evolve and new threats emerge.  

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that smart consumer products, including smartphones and televisions, are more secure against cyber attacks, protecting individual privacy and security. It also aims to accelerate and improve the deployment and use of digital communications networks. This will support the installation, maintenance, upgrading and sharing of apparatus that enables better telecommunications coverage and connectivity. The Bill follows a recent consultation.

Health and Care Bill – online advertising aspects

The government plans to restrict the promotions of high fat, salt and sugar food and drinks in retailers from April 2022. The Health and Care Bill will include measures to ban junk food adverts pre-9pm watershed on TV and for a total ban online. 

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – tech aspects

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will include measures to improve the efficiency of courts, creating resilience, and modernising processes. The government wants to build on Covid measures and extend the powers of criminal courts to serve documents more efficiently, including by electronic means, and simplify proceedings through greater use of written/online procedures for entering pleas. It will also make permanent the provisions for participants in criminal hearings to attend remotely.

Electoral Integrity Bill

The Electoral Integrity Bill will, among other things, extend the ‘imprint’ requirement to digital political campaigning. See here for background.