PracticeConsultingView from the House

View from the House

Accountants are a pretty law abiding bunch, and therefore the emphasis in the Queen's speech on law and order may seem like a bit of an irrelevance to you. But it isn't just the yobs that the government is targeting. It seems pretty keen on giving itself new powers to deal with benefit fraud and other ill-gotten gains.

As Accountancy Age has revealed, the new laws will mean more powers to go through your clients’ books with a fine tooth comb. The reasons can range from chasing international drugs barons to checking that even the smallest company isn’t colluding with its staff in benefit fraud.

But much of this proposed legislation is unlikely to make it on to the statute book. Not because there is too much of it to get through a full session of Parliament – in fact it is a pretty thin workload – but because a general election in May is now all but certain.

Why, then, has the government proposed so many measures on law and order when it knows they will fall by the wayside? And does this mean that you can ignore these proposals in the hope they will never come to force?

The answer to the first question is the government has obviously decided one of the issues it wishes to fight the election on is law and order.

Anything that doesn’t make it onto the statute book during this parliament is likely to end up in the manifesto instead.

No one, they say, ever lost money by underestimating the taste of the British public and equally the main political parties seem to think you can’t be too tough on crime. They have long feared that appearing weak on law and order is a sure fire way of losing votes.

Tony Blair himself is a prime example of this. To a large degree he made his political reputation by trying to steal the Tory’s clothes: he attacked their image as the party of law and order. His ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ was a winner. It seems he hasn’t forgotten that lesson and neither, I am sure, have the Conservatives.

The Tory party is therefore unlikely to leap to the defence of the rights of privacy or the sanctity of the client/ accountant relationship in the run up to the election. That kind of thing seems to be left to the Lib Dem these days.

So the answer to the second question seems to be, don’t bet on it.

  • Jonty Bloom, a business news reporter at the BBC.

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