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The Queen’s Speech 2017

Given the Conservative Party’s ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland, maybe it is time to look at the contents of the Queen’s Speech.

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This is with the knowledge that the DUP will support the Conservatives in passing this, so progress through to action may be a reality. The Queen’s Speech sets out the government’s legislative proposals for the coming parliamentary session. We already know that this will be a two-year parliamentary session, so this programme lasts until 2019 (assuming nothing changes in the meantime).

 

Note that the majority of Bills are UK-wide and the government has signalled a collaborative way of working with the devolved administrations for the benefit of the whole of the UK. This is interesting in itself, as political commentators note that the DUP agreement has already indicated that one part of the UK (Northern Ireland) holds more influence than the others.

 

Full details of all of the associated bills plus commentary can be found on the Gov.uk website. However, I want to look at the contents as they may affect the reward professions (payroll, HR and pensions). The speech was focused around five themes:

 

  1. Delivering Brexit
  2. Building a stronger economy
  3. Making our country fairer
  4. Making our country safer and more united
  5. Other

Brexit

 

Coming soon to all employers near you! Perhaps understandably, the focus in the next two years will be on Brexit, which may go some way to explain the lightweight domestic legislative programme.

 

Hard Brexit seems to have got softer, though this will only be known as we go through the EU divorce proceedings. There are a number of bills regarding Brexit and, probably, we should be looking at the Repeal Bill in preference to the others. Although the bill has lost the word ‘Great’ from the front, the underlying intention is the same. It will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and convert into UK law any part of EU law that is not already in domestic legislation. The Repeal Bill will also allow for reams and reams of secondary legislation in the months and years to come, all of which will be essential for day-to-day working as, simply, any reference to EU law or EU institutions will not be legislatively correct or applicable if this secondary legislation does not transpose it to make reference to UK law and institutions.

 

The Repeal Bill is misleading by its name. More appropriate would be to name it ‘the Continuity Bill’, ensuring that post-Brexit UK operates the same as pre-Brexit UK. That also reflects the nature of Brexit itself on the reward profession. Things will change for us – but not immediately.

 

Economy

 

Look out for the UK-wide National Insurance Bill. This will place into legislation announcements that were made at Budget 2016 and Autumn Statement 2016. This will be things like ensuring that employer NICs are payable on terminations payments over £30,000 and abolishing Class 2 NICs.

 

Fairer

 

In the last Parliamentary session between 19 December 2016 and 13 February 2017, a consultation took place on the creation of a new statutory body to coordinate the provisions of debt advice, money guidance and pension advice, e.g. Pension Wise, The Pensions Advisory Service, Claims Management Companies and the Money Advice Service.

 

Look out for the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill that will put this into place. This is complicated by devolution in that debt advice is a devolved responsibility and the Bill will apply in England only. Further, the part of the bill that refers to regulation of Claims Management Companies will apply only in England and Wales.

 

United

 

Look out for the Data Protection Bill. This does not replace the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) but reflects plans in the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto to protect data in the digital age in which we live.

 

We will have to look at this bill, including aspects such as references to the ‘right to be forgotten’ and an individual’s control over the data we keep. Hopefully, this UK-wide bill will not conflict with the EU-wide GDPR.

 

Other

 

Where would we be in life without an ‘other’ category that catches everything else? Such is this category and we need to be looking for:

 

  • Three Finance Bills in this two-year parliamentary term, starting with Summer Finance Bill 2017.
  • The intention to revisit the control of public finances versus increased investment in public services while keeping taxes low at the same time. We will hear about this tricky balancing act at Autumn Budget 2017.
  • In Great Britain, the extension of gender pay gap reporting regime to include factors such as gaps because of race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation.
  • The Matthew Taylor Review of Employment Practices. This may prompt a review of employment rights generally (which will be interesting, as this is an area that is devolved totally to Northern Ireland).

 

In conclusion

 

Brexit is the priority, understandably. If government gets this wrong we might as well pack our bags now! The promised inclusive and collaborative way of working will, hopefully, mean cross-party support on issues (and cross-border too).

 

Let’s see where we go…

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