Patricia Hewitt, the government’s new trade and industry secretary, was all smiles and enthusiasm at last week’s launch of the company law review. And quite rightly so. The results of the three-year study, which is designed to drag Britain’s complex system of business law out of Victorian times and into the 21st century, amount to a bold and worthwhile blueprint.

She has promised the government will look carefully at the proposals in the review, which are outlined on pages one and two of this week’s Accountancy Age, and said that parliamentary time will be made available for the legislative changes required to adopt many of them. If the ideas are implemented sensibly, then small businesses in particular have a lot to gain in terms of reducing the burden of red tape.

There are also many implications for the accountancy profession – the long talked about hike in the audit threshold to #4.8m, for example, or proposals to cap auditors’ liability.

But how quickly any changes filter through the parliamentary process and come out the other side as working laws remains to be seen. This is a government that is keen on legislative reform in all areas of our lives, and parliament’s timetable is always tightly packed. And there are other diversions, too – not least the euro and the threat of impending recession.

If the hard work and good ideas of the company law review are not to be wasted, Hewitt and her colleagues will have to make sure that the momentum is not lost and that its ideas are actually used. A modern and sensibly-legislated system of business law can only help Britain compete with the rest of the world.

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