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Queen’s speech 2021: What businesses and companies need to know

by Marie Huntley

Queen’s speech 2021: What businesses and companies need to know

In her first major public engagement since Prince Philip’s death, Her Majesty announced a number of new bills which are on the Government’s legislative plan for the coming session of Parliament. This article gives a brief overview of the aspects that are relevant to anyone running a company or a business.

Online Safety Bill

This was leftover from the last session of Parliament, and is due to be completed in this session.

It creates new obligations and duties of care about managing the online experience, especially in relation to children.

Ofcom will be the regulator of such matters, and fining powers have been magnified up to £18,000,000 or 10% of global turnover, whichever is greater.

While the duties apply to all companies with an online presence, they are particularly relevant to those large social media and community-type platforms who will be obliged to have clear terms around what behaviours will or won’t be accepted on their platform, and clearer duties to manage their platform accordingly.

These companies will also be obliged to have reporting mechanisms so users can report any offensive behaviour.

There is also another potentially interesting and subjective area - they will be obliged to have mechanisms for tackling misinformation.

The next bill also relates to the online world.

Product Security and Telecommunications Information Bill

This will impose security standards around smart devices, and is aimed at reducing cyber-crime and risks.

The obligations affect a whole range of people, including those who:

  • manufacture smart devices
  • import smart devices
  • sell/distribute smart devices

There will be a new regulatory body set up to manage and enforce these obligations.

While those two relate to the tech sector, there are also bills in progress that will affect a broader range of businesses.

Environmental Bill

This Bill increases business and company responsibilities around environmental issues, especially those who produce physical products, because it extends the power of the regulatory authority around the types of labelling they can demand.

The next two bills have become necessary post-Brexit as these issues were previously managed under the EU framework.

Health and Care Bill

There will be further controls on junk food advertising. If the bill goes through in its current form, these companies will be limited to posting ads after the 9pm TV watershed, and their ads will be banned entirely online.

Procurement Bill

This modernises processes for public sector procurement in the UK, as there will be a single online platform for supplier registration and bid management and for challenging decisions.

The suggested impact of this Bill would be to create a public procurement processing platform that will be a unified online one-stop shop. With all tenders in one place, it should give greater visibility of those processes.

The final bill worth mentioning at this stage is explicitly required as a consequence of Brexit.

Subsidy Control Bill

This sets controls around how subsidies are set and controlled, and replaces the EU State Aid Regime we were previously part of.

It governs how, to what extent, and for what purposes subsidies can be granted by the UK government or a local authority.

The aim is principally to govern management and judicial oversight of decisions that are made by public authorities around subsidies.

What this means to you

The law is constantly changing, and it can be hard for any business-owner or company director to keep up to date. That’s our job! So, if you have any questions, we are always happy to help.

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