The new government: what does this mean for commercial lawyers?

The new government: what does this mean for commercial lawyers?

It all felt very ‘1992’ this morning.

In that year nobody predicted success for John Major’s Conservatives; yet he won the general election of that year with a majority of 21 MPs.

Today, David Cameron exceeded the expectations of commentators and pollsters alike and has clocked up a majority of 12.

There will be no coalition agreements nor any supply and confidence arrangements. Indeed a reshuffle is taking place now:

So what does the future hold for commercial lawyers?

Here’s what has caught our eye in the Conservative Party manifesto.

  • Red tape: a cut of a further £10 billion of red tape over the next Parliament through the Red Tape Challenge and One-In Two-Out rule
  • Procurement: the target for SMEs’ share of central government procurement will be increased to one-third; the Prompt Payment Code will be strengthened and all major government suppliers will be obliged to sign up to it
  • Late payment: a new Small Business Conciliation service will be established to mediate in disputes, especially over late payment
  • Tax simplification: the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) will be established on a permanent basis and its role and capacity expanded
  • ‘Buy British’: there will be help for consumers to ‘buy British’ by pushing for country of origin labelling in Europe, particularly for dairy products
  • Supermarkets: the new Groceries Code Adjudicator will be championed with a view to farmers receiving a ‘fair deal from the supermarkets’
  • Broadband: the licence fee for digital infrastructure will be ‘topsliced’ to support superfast broadband across the country
  • Intellectual property: voluntary anti-piracy projects will be built upon to warn internet users when they are breaching copyright. The new government will also work to ensure that search engines do not link to the worst-offending sites
  • Data: the government is looking to keep up-to-date the ability of the police and security services to access communications data – the ‘who, where, when and how’ of a communication (ie metadata), but not its content.
  • Devolution: English votes for English laws will be introduced, ‘answering the longstanding West Lothian Question in our democracy’
  • Business Improvement Districts: Business Improvement Districts and other forms of business-led collaboration on high streets will be supported with a view to giving more say to local traders on issues such as minor planning applications, cleaning and parking
  • Europe:
    • “We want national parliaments to be able to work together to block unwanted European legislation. And we want an end to our commitment to an ‘ever closer union,’ as enshrined in the Treaty to which every EU country has to sign up”
    • “We want an EU that helps Britain move ahead, not one that holds us back. We have already succeeded in exempting our smallest businesses from new EU regulations, and kicked-off negotiations for a massive EU trade deal with the USA, which could be worth billions of pounds to the UK economy”
    • “We want to expand the Single Market, breaking down the remaining barriers to trade and ensuring that new sectors are opened up to British firms. We want to ensure that new rules target unscrupulous behaviour in the financial services industry, while safeguarding Britain as a global centre of excellence in finance. So we will resist EU attempts to restrict legitimate financial services activities. We will press for lower EU spending, further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and Structural Funds, and for EU money to be focused on promoting jobs and growth”

And leaving the biggest policy to last (or 'Bully's Special Prize' as they might have said in Bullseye):

We will legislate in the first session of the next Parliament for an in-out referendum to be held on Britain’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017. We will negotiate a new settlement for Britain in the EU. And then we will ask the British people whether they want to stay in on this basis, or leave. We will honour the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome.”

No doubt, there’ll be more on these matters in the weeks and months to come.

We'll be keeping an eye on the Queen’s Speech for developments (due to take place on Wednesday 27 May). There’ll be more analysis at that time.

In the meantime, have a good weekend…

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