A raft of new business legislation to
be passed over the course of the next Parliament was unveiled in the Queen's
Speech on Tuesday 17 May.

Regulation is the watchword for the government over
the next eighteen months, with bills aimed at slashing corporate red tape
and extending consumer and employee protection introduced at the State Opening
of Parliament at Westminster.

The long-awaited Company Law Reform Bill has
been
promised, which is intended to keep the regulatory burden on business
to a minimum, particularly small and medium sized enterprises. Ministers aim
to enhance shareholder engagement, promote a long-term investment culture,
and
make it easier to set up and run a company. The bill is also likely to
contain provisions to limit the liability on auditors and directors.

A Regulatory
Reform
Bill will also be introduced to ensure that unnecessary red tape is
slashed, with the aim of cutting the backlog of what the CBI has called "damaging
regulation". Businesses will be consulted before the bill is put forward
next year.

A new offence of corporate manslaughter will be created to target "gross
failings" by management that have led directly to fatalities.
By allowing courts to look at a wider range of management conduct,
the bill will make it
easier to prosecute companies in the aftermath of fatal accidents.
The bill will apply in England and Wales, and the Scottish Executive
is currently preparing
a consultation on introducing an offence of corporate homicide.

A Consumer Credit Bill
will provide regulators with more effective powers of enforcement and
increase controls on extortionate credit offers, and a Regulation of Financial
Services
Bill will improve protection for homeowners, many of them elderly,
by bringing all home reversion plans under the eye of the Financial Services
Authority.

Ministers
will also introduce a Parental Rights Bill, which will aim to extend
the period of statutory maternity pay from 26 to 39 weeks from April 2007,
with some of
this time transferable from the mother to the father.

Business groups
have shown a mixed reaction to the measures announced in the speech.

The British
Chamber
of Commerce (BCC) described their reaction as "lukewarm", warning
that businesses need flexibility, not burdens, as they compete in the global
market.

The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the Company Law Bill, but
expressed concern that the introduction of so many major pieces
of new legislation could make it difficult for the government to meet its target
of a 25% cut
in red tape.

 

Bills announced in the Queen's Speech

A total of 45
bills and 5 draft bills were in the Queen's Speech 2005, ensuring a packed
legislative
schedule in the 18 month Parliament that follows the general
election.

Animal Welfare Bill
A bill aimed at pulling together existing legislation
on
animal
welfare in England and Wales.

Armed Forces Bill
Establishes
a single system of service law for the armed forces.

Charities Bill
An
attempt by the
government
to boost the voluntary sector by overhauling charity
laws "so that a vibrant,
diverse and independent charitable sector can continue to flourish with public
confidence".

Child Care Bill
Places a duty on local authorities to secure
sufficient child care to meet the needs in their local
area, and change the regulation of child care provision for the under 5s.

Child
Contact and Inter-Country
Adoption Bill

Will give the courts flexible powers
to enable contact arrangements and ensure agreements are enforced.

Civil Aviation
Bill

Strengthen the regulation
of aircraft noise and emissions.

Commissioner for
Older People (Wales)

Creates a new watchdog for older people, similar to
the children's
commissioner for
Wales.

Common Land Bill
This will provide new protection
for common land identified as part of the "rural cultural identity of England and Wales".

Company
Law Bill

Ministers want to make it easier to
set up and run a company as part of its drive towards a more flexible and competitive
economy. Held over from
last session.

Compensation Bill
A bill to discourage the "compensation
culture" in the law courts.

Consumer Credit Bill
Consumer credit laws
are to be updated in an attempt to give people
greater protection from unfair lending practices. First proposed in previous
Parliament.

Corporate Manslaughter
Bill

A bill holding bosses to account when people
are killed in disasters. Draft version in previous Parliament.

Counter Terrorism
Bill (draft)

Further
measures to remedy any "gaps or deficiencies" in the prevention of
terrorism act which became law at the end of the last Parliament, including "scope
for new offences which would assist in bringing suspected terrorists before
the courts."

Coroner Reform (draft)
Plans to reform the coroner service
following two independent reviews.

Criminal Defence Bill
This aims to make "the
best use of legal aid resources" in order to provide value for money for
the taxpayer and is intended to ensure people who can afford their legal defence
pay for it.

Crossrail Bill
This will pave the way for building the Crossrail
link across London. Held over from last session.

Constitutional Reform Bill
A free vote will be allowed on further reforms
to the House of Lords, including
making it an elected chamber. May not be introduced
in this session of Parliament.

Education Bill
A bill giving schools greater
freedom to expand, allowing new
independent providers to enter the state
system, and giving parents more powers to call in Ofsted inspections for failing
schools.

Electoral Administration
Bill

Will establish new electoral fraud
offences to ensure the security of postal ballots.

Equality Bill
This will aim to
extend protection against discrimination
to religious faith and will also establish
a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights. Held over from last session.

EU Accession Bill
Paves the way
for the accession of Bulgaria and Rumania
to
the EU in 2007.

European Union Bill
Laws setting out the rules for a
vote on
the draft new EU constitution
- which could take place in spring
2006.

Fraud Bill
Clarify and strengthen current law on fraud, by simplifying
the law
and creating a new offence of
obtaining services dishonestly, and
focusing
on intent rather than outcomes.

Government of Wales Bill
Extended
powers for Welsh assembly, to be decided
after further consultation and
a referendum if full law-making powers are proposed.

Housing Benefit Bill
Reform
of housing benefit to encourage more mobility by
introducing flat-rate housing
benefits, which vary by area.

Health Improvement and Protection Bill
Measures
to
tackle MRSA, including a new hygiene code of
practice with a range of sanctions.
Legislation to introduce a smoking ban in all enclosed public places
(except
pubs
which
don't sell food) by 2008.

Identity Cards Bill
Moves towards
the
introduction of ID cards by 2008 are outlined. Most controversial
measure in the previous
session.

Immigration and
Asylum Bill

Part of the five-year
strategy to
modernise the system, including the plan for a points system
for work permits and tougher penalties for employers
who employ illegal workers.

Incapacity Benefit Bill
Reforming incapacity benefit to get people to move
from
welfare to
work.

Incitement to Religious Hatred
Bill

Makes it a criminal
offence to stir up hatred against members of minority faiths. Criticism or
ridicule
of
faiths would not
be covered by the offence.

Judicial Pensions Bill
This
will maintain the
current value of judges' pensions within their overall
remuneration package.

Legal Services Bill (draft)
Reforms
the regulatory framework
for legal services,
setting up an independent complaints body.

Management
of Offenders and Sentencing Bill

This aims to reduce re-offending
and would introduce the
National Offender Management Service. Extends powers of tagging.

Marine Bill
(draft)

Sets
up a sustainable
development framework
for planning and managing
coastal areas, marine habitats and wildlife.

Mental Health Bill
Provides
a
legal
framework for
treating people with a mental disorder
without their consent
when they pose a risk to others or themselves.

Merchant Shipping Bill
Increases
compensation
available
in case of an oil spill.

Natural
Environment
Bill

Combines English Nature
and the Countryside Agency to create Natural
England. Establishes a
commission for rural communities.

NHS Redress
Bill

Sets
up a new authority to allow patients
to claim compensation for mistakes
made by NHS hospitals.

National Lottery Bill
Aims to streamline the process
for
applying to get lottery cash by establishing a Big Lottery fund and give the
public
more
say in
lottery distribution
decisions.
Held over from last
session.

Olympics Bill
Creates an Olympic Delivery Authority if Britain wins the
right to host the
games
in 2012.

Parental Rights
Bill

Extends statutory

maternity pay
from 26 to 39 weeks
from
2007, and allows some to be paid
to the father.

Pensions Bill (draft)
Setting up the authority to change the pensions

system - but no decisions before the Turner Commission reports in the autumn.

Protecting Vulnerable Groups
Bill

Implements the recommendations
of the Bichard

inquiry
on
preventing unsuitable people from working with children, following
the Soham murders.

Regulation of
Financial Services Bill

Will
bring home reversion schemes
(where elderly people sell a share of the equity in their home
in return for an annual income) under
regulation.

Regulatory Reform
Bill

Legislation to
streamline regulatory
structures and make it simpler to removed outdated
or unnecessary legislation.

Road
Safety Bill

More flexible
system of fixed penalties,
for example, for speeding.

Tourism Accommodation (Wales)
Bill (draft)

Provides for the statutory
regulation of tourist
accommodation following a

request from the Welsh Assembly.

Transport (Wales) Bill
Gives the Welsh Assembly
new powers over transport issues.
Ran out of time in
last session.

Violent

Crime Bill
Will tackle knife crime, banning sales of knives to under-
18s, and
reduce availability of replica
guns. Also further
measures to reduce binge drinking
and tackle
yob behaviour in town centres.

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