King's Speech to introduce legislation for driverless vehicles

King’s Speech set to introduce legislation that will see driverless buses, delivery vans and farm machinery become the new normal ‘by the end of the decade’

  • King Charles will make the speech at the Houses of Parliament in London today 

New legislation which will clear the way for the introduction of driverless buses, delivery vans and farm machinery is set to be announced in the King’s Speech, according to reports.

The laws would make autonomously operating vehicles more common in some sectors of the economy by the end of the decade, the Times reports.

A source told the publication that the decision would have ‘huge benefits for consumers, reduce road deaths and help decarbonise transport’, while Rishi Sunak is believed to be keen to push the bill through Parliament quickly.

It is also believed plans to ‘phase out’ leaseholds will be in the address, while the Renters Reform Bill will return although the commitment to ban ‘no-fault’ evictions has been watered down. 

It would be announced in the King’s Speech later in the House of Lords, alongside other legislation the Government wants to focus on for the next session of Parliament.

King Charles III is set to deliver a speech outlining the Government’s legislative plans for the next session of Parliament today

A driverless bus which was introduced in the Swedish capital of Stockholm in 2018. The sight could become commonplace in Britain by the end of the decade

It will be the first time Charles has conducted the State Opening of Parliament as King, although he delivered the last Queen’s Speech of Elizabeth II’s reign in place of his mother last year.

Due to the late Queen’s long reign, it will be the first King’s Speech since George VI opened Parliament in 1950. 

Among the legislation set to be introduced, is plans to allow fully-autonomous vehicles on the roads of Britain which won’t require a ‘safety driver’.

It comes after lobbying from transport firms and AI companies to allow progression when it comes to vehicle automation, with Government sources telling the Times it would ‘promote investment in the UK’.

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Supermarkets Asda and Ocado have already started trialling autonomous vehicle software that uses a ‘safety driver’, but under new laws this would not be required.

It would mean the introduction of driverless buses, delivery vans and farming machinery, with claims it would improve road safety where most incidents are caused by human error.

The speech will also promises of tougher sentences for killers, rapists and grooming gang ringleaders. 

With a general election expected next year, the Prime Minister has put a series of criminal justice laws at the heart of the King’s Speech, in an attempt to draw dividing lines with Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour.

The plan will deliver on already-announced proposals for killers convicted of the most horrific murders to expect whole life orders, meaning they will never be released, while rapists and other serious sexual offenders will not be let out early from prison sentences. 

Other measures in the speech – being delivered by the King for the first time as monarch – include giving police the power to enter a property without a warrant to seize stolen goods, such as phones, when they have reasonable proof that a specific stolen item is inside. 

That could mean using a device’s GPS tracking to lead police to where it had been stashed. 

The Prime Minister said: ‘I want everyone across the country to have the pride and peace of mind that comes with knowing your community, where you are raising your family and taking your children to school, is safe. That is my vision of what a better Britain looks like. 

‘Thanks to this Government, crime is down, but we must always strive to do more, taking the right long-term decisions for the country and keeping the worst offenders locked up for longer. 

‘In the most despicable cases, these evil criminals must never be free on our streets again. Life needs to mean life.’ 

Senior Tories believe a focus on ‘bread and butter’ Conservative issues will help Mr Sunak as he seeks to overturn Labour’s opinion poll lead. 

King Charles will deliver his first speech at the State Opening of Parliament as monarch today

Downing Street said a new Sentencing Bill will extend whole-life tariffs – meaning killers have no possibility of parole – to ‘any murder involving sexual or sadistic conduct’

Mr Sunak’s allies also believe Sir Keir’s record as director of public prosecutions – something the Labour leader has often highlighted as a positive – could also be a point of weakness. 

One No 10 insider pointed at his 2010 support for a US-style system of first and second degree murder charges, the latter of which might not have attracted a mandatory life term. 

The new Criminal Justice Bill will include widely trailed measures to ensure reasonable force can be used to make offenders appear in the dock to face their victims for sentencing, or risk having up to two years added to their jail term. 

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It will also make being in a grooming gang an aggravating feature for sentencing, meaning tougher punishments for ringleaders and members. 

The Sentencing Bill will mean a whole life order will be handed down in the worst cases of murder, with judges having discretion to impose a shorter tariff only in exceptional circumstances. 

The legislation will also ensure that rapists and serious sexual offenders serve the whole of their sentence behind bars, without being released early on licence. 

A Victims and Prisoners Bill will give ministers the power to block parole for the worst offenders and ban them from marrying in prison. 

The promise of longer sentences comes as the prison system is under strain, with ministers forced to act last month to free up space by letting out some less serious offenders up to 18 days early. 

The Government has promised the largest prison building programme in 100 years to create more than 20,000 more places. 

Shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said: ‘What further proof do we need that the Tories have completely run out of ideas than witnessing them using the most significant event in the parliamentary calendar to simply repackage ideas they’ve announced multiple times. 

‘The Government should be focusing on delivering the prison places we actually need to keep criminals behind bars.’ 

The King, who has a longstanding interest in environmental matters, will also announce his Government’s plan for a new law to mandate annual oil and gas licensing in the North Sea – another issue on which the Tories hope to fight a political battle with Labour. 

The speech could also introduce a law that would stop children who turn 14 this year and those younger from ever legally buying cigarettes or tobacco in England, as promised by Mr Sunak at the Tory conference.

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