Prince Charles has delivered the Queen's Speech in Parliament, setting out the government's legislative agenda for the coming year. The 38 proposed bills were primarily economic in nature. No new measures were announced on ending violence against women and girls.
Thirty-eight bills were proposed with the government prefacing the Speech by warning that the country could not spend its way out of the economic decline.
A review of the legislative proposals indicates that the government is delaying in reforming the audit and accountancy sector, only offering draft legislation and the expected new Employment legislation was absent.
There were no new measures announced in respect of ending Violence against Women and Girls. Rape and sexual assault crimes against women went up by 21-22% in 2021. The launch of a 'Rape Action Plan' by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2015 shows no signs of any improvement in the rate of successful rape prosecutions. The UK now lags behind 35 other countries that have ratified the 2012 EU Istanbul Convention on Action on ending Violence against Women and Girls. Although the UK signed up to this in 2012, it has failed ratify the convention.
A summary of selected legislative proposals that will interest businesses and their owners include:
- Draft Audit Reform Bill
- Establishing a new statutory regulator, the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority, that will protect and promote the interests of investors, other users of corporate reporting and the wider public interest.
- A new approach of managed shared audit in which challenger firms undertake a share of the work on
- Bringing the largest private companies within the scope of regulation in the definition of ‘public interest entities’.
- Giving the new regulator effective powers to enforce directors’ financial reporting duties, supervise corporate reporting and oversee and regulate the accountancy and actuarial professions.
- Reforming the regulation of Insolvency Practitioners to give greater confidence to creditors and strengthening corporate governance of firms in or approaching insolvency so that ‘asset stripping’ can be more effectively tackled.
- Financial Services and Markets Bill
- Revoking retained EU law on financial services and replacing it with an approach to regulation that is designed for the UK.
- Updating the objectives of the financial services regulators to ensure a greater focus on growth and international competitiveness.
- Reforming the rules that regulate the UK’s capital markets to promote investment.
- Ensuring that people across the UK continue to be able to access their own cash with ease.
- Introducing additional protections for those investing or using financial products, to make it safer and support the victims of scams.
- UK Infrastructure Bank Bill. Putting the new bank on a full legal footing and guaranteeing independence.
- Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill
- Broadening the Registrar of Companies’ powers so that they become a more active gatekeeper over company creation and custodian of more reliable data, including new powers to check, remove or decline information submitted to, or already on, the Company Register.
- Introducing identity verification for people who manage, own and control companies and other UK registered entities. This will improve the accuracy of Companies House data, to support business decisions and law enforcement investigations.
- Providing Companies House with more effective investigation and enforcement powers and introducing better cross-checking of data with other public and private sector bodies.
- Tackling the abuse of limited partnerships (including Scottish Limited Partnerships), by strengthening transparency requirements and enabling them to be properly wound up.
- Creating powers to more quickly and easily seize and recover crypto assets, which are the principal medium used for ransomware. The creation of a civil forfeiture power will mitigate the risk posed by those who cannot be criminally prosecuted but use their funds to further criminality.
- Levelling up and Regeneration Bill
- Putting a duty on the Government to set Levelling Up missions and produce an annual report on progress.
- Unlocking new powers for local authorities to bring empty premises back into use and instigate rental auctions of vacant commercial properties in town centres and on high streets.
- Strengthening neighbourhood planning and digitalising the system to make local plans easier to find, understand and engage with.
- Energy Security Bill
- Introducing state-of-the-art business models for Carbon Capture Usage and Storage transport and storage, low carbon hydrogen and industrial carbon capture.
- Reducing the risk of fuel supply disruption by giving Government the power to give directions to, require information from and provide financial assistance to core fuel sector businesses.
- Supporting industry in the growing electric heat pump market.
- Ofgem as the new regulator for heat networks.
- Extending the energy price cap.
- Enabling research in hydrogen, fusion and the electricity network.
- Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill
- Tackling subscription traps by requiring businesses to provide clearer information to consumers and to send reminders before a contract auto-renews.
- Updating consumer law to prohibit commissioning fake reviews.
- Strengthening protections for consumers using Christmas savings clubs.
- Giving the Competition and Markets Authority the ability to decide for itself when consumer law has been broken.
- Empowering the Digital Markets Unit to designate a small number of firms who are very powerful in particular digital activities with Strategic Market Status. This status will lead to these firms facing legally enforceable rules and obligations to ensure they cannot abuse their dominant positions at the expense of consumers and other businesses.
- Giving the Digital Markets Unit powers to proactively address the root causes of competition issues in digital markets.
- Non-Domestic Rating Bill
- Shortening the business rates revaluation cycle from five to three years from 2023.
- Creating a power for the Valuation Office Agency to provide ratepayers with information on the calculation of their rateable value.
- Introducing new 12-month rates relief on increases to rateable value arising from improvements made to a property, and a new 100 per cent rates relief for low carbon heat networks that are assessed as separate entities for business rates.
- Electronic Trade Documents Bill
- Bringing about modernisation to statutes such as the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992. It would enable the use of electronic and digital systems.
- Brexit Freedoms Bill
- Creating new powers to strengthen the ability to amend, repeal or replace the large amounts of retained EU law by reducing the need to always use primary legislation to do so.
- Clarifying the status of retained EU law in UK domestic law to reflect the fact that much of it became law without going through full democratic scrutiny in the UK Parliament.
- Procurement Bill
- Enshrining in law the objectives of public procurement including: delivering value for money, maximising public benefit, treating suppliers equally and without discrimination, and acting, and being seen to act, with integrity.
- Tackling unacceptable behaviour and poor performance through new exclusion rules and giving buyers the tools they need to properly take account of a bidder’s past performance.
- Reforming the Single Source Contract Regulations to ensure we continue to pay fair prices on single-source defence contracts while providing value for money.
- Data Reform Bill
- Ensuring that UK citizens’ personal data is protected to a gold standard while enabling public bodies to share data to improve the delivery of services.
- Using data and reforming regulations to improve the everyday lives of people in the UK, for example, by enabling data to be shared more efficiently between public bodies, so that delivery of services can be improved for people.
- Designing a more flexible, outcomes-focused approach to data protection that helps create a culture of data protection, rather than 'tick box' exercises.