PracticePeople In PracticeThe Queen’s speech 2000

The Queen's speech 2000

In what has been widely interpreted as a move to 'clear the decks' ahead of a Spring election, this year's Queen's speech contained only 15 Bills and four draft Bills.

Among the major legislation of concern to the business community was a Regulatory Reform Bill, with which the government promises it will reduce inappropriate red tape.

The Queen also unveiled a Bill to combat money laundering, which will include the formation of a National Confiscation Agency.

The speech was followed by a Common’s debate in which Conservative leader William Hague attacked the government’s slim programme.’It was very good of Her Majesty to come down here to deliver it [the speech] herself,’ Hague said.

The 15 Bills announced compares with 28 last year and 26 in 1998. Prime minsiter Tony Blair’s programme is the smallest legislative agenda since labour came to power.

But Blair said: ‘We are giving the police the powers they need, we are giving the people the support they need to win back their communities.’

Earlier in the day Downing Street was quick to point out that some of the legislation was very broad in scope and claimed it was unfair to simply compare the number of Bills with that of other years.

The main points of the Queen’s speech, which sets out the government’s plans for the coming year, are shown below. Click the links for more information about the particular Bill.

Regulatory Reform Bill – ensures unnecessary legislation and red tape is removed so that business can operate as efficiently and productively as possible.

Draft Proceeds of Crime Bill – setting up of a National Confiscation Agency to recover criminal assets and assess tax liability of those in possession of suspected criminal assets.

Social Security Fraud Bill – the power to use public and private sectors as source of information to use against fraudsters, and deny social benefits to multiple fraud-benefit offenders.

Private Security Industry Bill – to provide better regulation of the security industry, in particular of nightclub doorman and security guards.

Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill- to ban tobacco advertising.

Safety Bill – addressing tansport safety issues.

Export Control Bill – to increase transparency regarding export controls, especially regarding defence exports.

The speech also included Bills on justice; hunting; vehicle crime; special educational needs; selling homes; finance; the armed forces; and a White Paper on international poverty.

Business offers cautious welcom to red tape Bill

The government this week used the Queen’s speech to unveil its Regulatory Reform Bill which it hopes will go some way to placating a business community unhappy at the burdens of red tape.

The Queen said the Bill would have the effect of ‘removing inappropriate and over-complex regulation’ and ensure that future legislation will impose as few regulations on business as possible.

The Bill promised it would be easier to end or repeal obsolete or unnecessarily bureaucratic legislation through ministerial orders, compared with the prevailing long-winded process of primary legislation.

Prime minister Tony Blair said his government was committed to cutting red tape and attracting new business to the UK, and reaction to the Bill suggested that business was in general satisfied with the what has been proposed, but with reservations.

Digby Jones, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, described the Bill as ‘an important shift in the right direction’ but criticised existing legislation, which he said did not go far enough or give business ‘sufficient breathing space’.

Deputy-director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Ian Peters, welcomed the bill, but said his organisation was ‘concerned that the benefits of this measure would be completely overshadowed by government plans to introduce further layers of employment regulation’.

Peters was referring to government plans to introduce paid paternal leave and extended maternity leave, which are seen as barriers to productivity and efficiency for small business.

The exact details of the Bill will be made known shortly, but it is expected to introduce employment tribunal reform, which will protect small business from retaliatory and weak claims against them.

Tough fire regulations are also thought to be a priority target of the Bill.

Queen unveils agency to fight money laundering

The Queen announced a Bill to combat money laundering as part of the government’s forthcoming legislative programme.

‘My government is determined to combat all aspects of crime, to protect all members of our society,’ the Queen said.

The Proceeds of Crime Bill will increase state powers to fight money laundering and establish a national confiscation agency with operational powers.

If passed, the Bill will give the agency the ability to recover assets through the civil courts.

It was welcomed by the police who struggle to catch hardened criminals because of complex money laundering scams. Inland Revenue officials will be permitted to disclose financial information to the police to support prosecutions.

Former head of the Serious Fraud Office George Staples, said: ‘These measure are required for dealing with huge syndicates of international criminals who are significantly affecting our economies.’

Government investigators could inspect bank accounts

The Social Security Fraud Bill is aimed at giving government the power to obtain information about suspected fraudsters from both public and private sector organisations and will target welfare fraud.

Under the new legislation, government investigators will be able to inspect bank, building society and credit agency accounts and tax records in cases of ‘reasonable suspicion’, while anyone convicted of benefit fraud twice in three years would receive no tax benefits. Employers who conspire with their employees to commit benefit fraud will face fines of up to Pounds 5,000,

The Bill came under attack from the Liberal Democrats in the Commons debate following the Queen’s speech, because it would ‘harm families as well as the fraudsters’. Under the legislation, in the case of a benefit fraud being discovered the family of the guilty party will be supported from a hardship fund.

It also aims to combat international gangs involved in benefits fraud and will have the power to exchange information with overseas social security departments on international fraud.


Queen’s speech 1999

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