This week’s Queen’s Speech helped open the new Parliamentary session by setting out the Government’s legislative priorities for the next year. Among the speech’s eclectic list of Bills are some potential legal changes which could impact small businesses.
The Procurement Bill
The Procurement Bill contains various measures aimed at making processes for public procurement (ie the purchase of goods and services by the Government or public bodies) more transparent and commercially pragmatic. The bill also intends to make it easier for small businesses to win public contracts, for example by creating a centralised digital platform that suppliers can use to bid for contracts.
The Data Reform Bill
The Government hopes the Data Reform Bill will help to make data protection law more accessible, and compliance with it more outcome-focussed and less bureaucratic. This should continue the movement away from the UK’s current approach to data protection, which is strongly derived from EU law.
This could have positive implications for small businesses. They may soon be able to invest less time and energy into data protection compliance whilst still meeting high privacy standards.
The Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill
The Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill will implement and make provisions in connection with the free trade agreements that the UK entered into with these countries after Brexit. The free trade agreements will bring the removal of all import tariffs on UK goods going into Australia and New Zealand. The changes also intend to make it easier for UK businesses to supply services in Australia.
The agreements are expected to significantly increase the volume of trade between the UK and each Australia and New Zealand. This could create opportunities for small businesses to expand into these overseas markets with fewer financial and bureaucratic obstacles.
The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill
It is hoped that this bill will make it easier for corporate crime (eg money laundering) to be combatted. A measure that the bill may introduce, which would affect small businesses, is the requirement for anybody setting up, running, controlling or owning a company in the UK to verify their identity with Companies House. The Government also wants to make the Companies House filing systems more streamlined and affordable.
Electronic Trade Records
The Government is working with the Law Commission on plans to introduce (among other new international trade practices) legal reforms which allow trade documents (eg those needed for international business-to-business trade) to be made and exchanged digitally. This could make more trade opportunities less expensive and cumbersome for small businesses.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
‘Pavement licences’ were introduced as a temporary measure during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It looks like they are here to stay. It is expected that the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will make provisions for outdoor dining, including allowing hospitality businesses to offer outdoor dining to customers year-round.
This legislative agenda could bring new rules, compliance requirements, and opportunities for SMEs. You can Ask a lawyer for help navigating these.