Insights for the 2019 Parliament

Insights for the new Parliament is a landmark collection of topical briefings prepared in the run up to the 2019 General Election. Produced by our impartial researchers, the articles cover the topics MPs will need to know about in the coming months and years. Below is a summary in British Sign Language and text, along with links to download the PDF booklet or as individual articles.

A summary of the key issues facing the new Parliament

Insights for the new Parliament provides impartial analysis of some of the key issues that parliamentarians will have to address.

Prepared during the general election campaign, the publication covers a range of domestic and international policy areas which have been chosen by Commons Library researchers.

It begins with an overview of the Brexit process and the options still available. It also looks at how, in the event the UK leaves, the future relationship agreement with the EU will be negotiated and the option of extending the transition period.

Living and working in the UK

Chapter one, Living and working in the UK, examines key areas of daily life.

In the housing sector the most pressing challenge will be to achieve a sustained increase in house building and tackle the backlog of housing need. In the utilities sector, there has been a rise in public and political interest in how companies are managed and regulated. Using the water industry as an example, we look at what changes might be considered in the coming years. The new Parliament is likely to consider critical changes to building regulations and safety in the coming years. This is driven by the Grenfell Tower fire and the need to reduce emissions from housing. The future of rail services will be informed by the anticipated awaited Williams Review, which is likely to recommend improving accessibility and regional accountability. However, political parties differ over the role of the private sector.

Brexit could affect the protection of human rights in the UK, as the European Charter on Fundamental Rights will cease to have effect after the UK leaves the EU. We examine key legislation and the role of human rights in the UK’s future relationship with the EU.EU citizens living in the UK who want to stay after Brexit will need to apply for a new immigration status and can do so via the EU Settlement Scheme. Deadlines to apply may vary depending on the Brexit process.

For the UK’s workforce, the Good Work Plan has introduced a range of proposals to tackle insecure work but many of the key proposals are yet to be implemented. For UK farmers, the new Parliament could see the biggest changes to farm policy for decades. Leaving the EU means the UK could develop new policies to support farming.

Health, social care and welfare

Chapter two, Health, social care and welfare, looks at how those in our society are cared for.

It considers proposals to reform the NHS to offer more integrated care in England and whether new legislation is needed to achieve this. It also looks at NHS waiting times, which reached record highs in 2019, and the demand for NHS services, including overnight beds and capacity issues. Shortages within the health and social care workforce have a knock-on effect on care. We explore how the new Parliament might address this.

Social care will be a key issue for the new Parliament. Social care is not generally provided for free and its funding needs to be examined. We look at whether reform is likely to happen. Pressure to address mental health with the same urgency as physical health has gained prominence in the last decade. The new Parliament is likely to look at how to improve services and break down barriers to improving mental health care.

Universal Credit, which is replacing means-tested benefits and tax credits for people of working age, is being rolled out across the UK. There have been concerns over the process of moving people over, including how the monthly assessment and single monthly payments work. Within pension policy, there is cross-party support for key areas.As people are being given more control over their savings pots, Parliament will need to consider what measures need to be taken to ensure that pensioners are adequately provided for throughout their retirement.

Education

Chapter three, Education, considers issues shaping how children and young people are educated.

The level and distribution of school funding in England has been a major focus of debate in recent years, and this looks set to continue. The funding of further and higher education is of similarly longstanding concern. The recent Augar review made proposals to reduce university tuition fees and enhance support for other post-18 courses. Reforms to support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities made in 2014 are now embedded, but recent reports have questioned whether they have been implemented well enough, and funded sufficiently, to succeed.

Environment

Chapter four, the Environment, looks at the plans for net zero emissions and meeting environmental challenges.

Following Parliament’s 2019 declaration of a ‘climate emergency,’ the Government legislated for net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Debate in the new Parliament is likely to consider what sectors, including transport, energy, and agriculture can do to reduce emissions. We look at what areas are likely to lead the debate in the new Parliament to achieve this. An exploration of environmental challenges for 2020 and beyond highlights five areas of environmental concern: environmental governance, flooding, air quality, biodiversity loss and resource use.

Trade and the economy

Chapter five, Trade and the economy, focuses on the issues facing the UK economy.

We turn first to slowing economic growth and consider how low levels of productivity have meant that while employment has been rising, real wages have not. The form that Brexit takes could have a significant impact on the UK’s economic outlook. Once the UK leaves the EU, it will gain greater responsibility for formulating an independent trade policy. We look at the decisions the UK will have to take on issues such as tariffs, product safety standards, assistance to developing countries and its place in the WTO. Trade in services are particularly important to the UK economy, ranging from financial and business services to tourism and IT. We consider how EU membership allows the free movement of services and what the UK will need to do to ensure future services trade is as frictionless as possible.

Government spending was already set to increase and during the campaign all parties made further spending pledges. We look at the challenges facing public spending, including Brexit, rising health and social care bills and the prospect of a future recession.

Crime and cyber security

Chapter six, Crime and cyber security, looks at key areas of safety and security.

There is a consensus that domestic abuse legislation is needed. When Parliament was dissolved in November, the Domestic Abuse Bill fell. We examine what the legislation might look like and how far the previous Parliament got with the bill. Knife crime has been on the rise in England and Wales, although some of the reported increase is due to improvements in police recording practices. We look at the use of stop and search powers, and approaches to early intervention.

There is increasing concern about harmful content and activity on social media. We look at what regulation might be needed and what select committees and charities have said. Cyber threats from foreign states and criminal groups are growing more frequent and sophisticated. The new Parliament will need to consider key cyber security issues, including in the telecoms infrastructure and consumer devices.

Although recent years have seen an increase in recorded crime, the number of prosecutions has fallen. There are also concerns that legal aid changes are compromising defendants’ access to justice. We examine key areas of the criminal justice system including the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service. It has long been recognised that the process which dictates how funding is allocated to police forces requires reform. We look at how police forces are currently funded, and how much they receive.

Foreign affairs

Chapter seven, Foreign affairs, considers the UK’s armed forces and place in the wider world.

Relationships with the European Union and the United States will be at the heart of decision-makingin UK foreign policy, following Brexit developments and ahead of the US presidential election in 2020. The UK faces challenges around the world, including tensions in the Strait of Hormuz, ongoing counter-terrorist operations against ISIS, and in its relationship with Russia. The UK’s defence in the 2020s will be shaped by the Strategic Defence and Security Review due in 2020, as well as challenges in recruitment and expenditure on military equipment. Debates can also be expected on the prosecution for alleged historical offences by military personnel. The replacement of the UK’s nuclear deterrent will move into its next phase in this Parliament, with a decision due on whether to replace the current nuclear warhead, which is expected to be retired in the late 2030s.

Parliament and the constitution

Chapter eight, Parliament and the constitution, looks at key legislation affecting Parliament and the UK’s relationship with the EU, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

One of the major hurdles in negotiating a Brexit settlement has been the need to keep an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Brexit has also led to challenges and tensions for the relationship between Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act sets a five-yearly interval between general elections. It is due for a review in 2020, and Labour and the Conservatives have both promised to abolish it. The Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body will be responsible for the restoration of the Palace of Westminster. It starts operations in earnest in April 2020.

Insights for the new Parliament

This article is part of our series of Insights for the new Parliament. This series covers a range of topics that will take centre stage in UK and international politics in the new Parliament.