Queen’s Speech offers hope for e-commerce

On behalf of the recently-returned Labour Government, the Queen promised ‘legislation to reform the system of land registration to promote greater e-conveyancing’.

The Lord Chancellor’s department, which will handle the Bill, said that the Land Registry will eventually move from the use of written communications to an electronic process.

Land title information will be available online, the accuracy of the Registry will be improved, and more information about owners’ rights and responsibilities will be made available.

Property website welcomed the move. ‘Behind the scenes, there are a lot of people working on this already,’ said editorial director Neil Mackwood.

The site is preparing a service which will allow home movers to track the process of conveyancing online, enabling customers to see when lawyers and agents take actions such as searches.

‘You won’t have to phone your lawyer every few minutes,’ said Mackwood. ‘It’s very good news for us, and it should speed up house moves, making it faster and potentially cheaper.’

No schedule has yet been set for the Bill within this parliamentary session, which will continue until late autumn 2002.

The Speech also stated: ‘A draft bill to create a single regulator for the media and communications industries and reform the broadcasting and telecommunications regulations will be published.’

Legislation creating the new Ofcom watchdog, which will take over telecoms regulation from Oftel, will be pushed back to the parliamentary session starting in late 2002. However, the draft details of the body will be discussed through consultation which is likely to start around the end of this year.

The Department of Trade and Industry has said it will make a further announcement on Ofcom in a few weeks. During the election campaign, Labour said it would create the body by 2003.

Although only referred to in passing by the Queen, Chancellor Gordon Brown earlier this week gave details of his plans to boost the country’s entrepreneurial spirit, including further reform of share option taxation.

The Enterprise Management Scheme, a tax-efficient share option scheme which was expanded in Brown’s Budget this year, is set to be opened to larger companies.

Currently, the scheme can be made available to 15 staff – rising to all staff from April next year – in companies with gross assets of £15m. This limit looks set to be doubled, allowing many mid-sized firms to take part.

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