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7 months ago

The King’s Speech: Key Points for SMEs

In a much-anticipated address, King Charles laid out the Government's priorities for the upcoming year in the first King's Speech of his reign. This speech serves as a blueprint for the Government's agenda and outlines the bills that cabinet ministers intend to bring to Parliament in the next 12 months.

For SMEs in the UK, some of these announcements will carry significant implications. In this guide, we highlight the key points from the King's Speech and provide some commentary on what each point means for SMEs.

Investigatory Powers Bill

This bill, which grants law enforcement greater access to personal data, is a double-edged sword for the business world. While it is likely to support the war on cybercrime, it also raises red flags regarding data privacy. SMEs should prepare to adapt their data handling policies and processes in the case of changes to security regulations.

Trade Bill

The focus of the Trade Bill is on enabling the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade pact. This trade agreement holds the potential to open doors to global markets for British SMEs aiming to begin exporting their products.

Woman packing orders in boxes and envelopesThis Trade Bill could be a big boost for businesses that have struggled with international business since the UK’s Brexit deal was formalised.

Leasehold and Freehold Bill

The proposed ban on leaseholds for new-build houses and an extension of the lease period is welcome news for businesses in the property sector. This legislation should lead to increased stability and flexibility for property buyers.

Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill

The annual awarding of licences for oil and gas projects in the North Sea could create new opportunities for SMEs working in or adjacent to the energy sector. However, they should also consider the broader environmental implications and potential shifts toward renewable energy sources in the future.

Animal Welfare Bill

This proposed bill seeks to ban cattle exports for the purpose of fattening and slaughter. For SMEs involved in the livestock industry, this could be a seismic shift. For businesses selling cattle in particular, it’s essential to prepare for these changes and explore alternative markets in case Parliament passes the law.

Automated Vehicles Bill

The legal framework for self-driving cars presents both opportunities and challenges. For SMEs operating in the technology or automotive sectors, there will be new avenues for growth, but they must also adapt to tightening regulations.

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

Strengthened digital rights for consumers, and the fight against fake reviews are positive steps for e-commerce businesses. However, compliance with these regulations will be vital to maintain the trust of customers.

Football Governance Bill

The establishment of an independent regulator for the Premier League and England’s three other professional tiers has been long-awaited.

The Football Governance Bill might impact SMEs providing products or services to professional football clubs in England and Wales. Adapting to new governance may be necessary, and those affected will have to move quickly.

Pedicabs (London) Bill

SMEs operating the pedal-powered taxis often seen in Central London should prepare for increased regulation as more power is handed over to Transport for London (TfL). Ensuring compliance with new rules will be essential to avoid sanctions and make these businesses sustainable.

Tobacco and Vapes Bill

For SMEs that manufacture tobacco or vaping products and, to a lesser extent, retailers, this bill is a monumental development. This move is the Government’s commitment to introducing a phased ban on all smoking and further restricting marketing.

Man selling a vape to a customerDepending on the nature of the business, diversifying product offerings and shifting towards healthier alternatives are strategies worth considering.

Rt. Honourable Mentions

The inclusion of an Arbitration Bill is a welcome development for smaller businesses. It presents opportunities for SMEs to resolve disputes and arrive at out-of-court settlements, saving time and money.

The introduction of a Sentencing Bill, which mandates whole life sentences for the worst murders, and a Criminal Justice Bill compelling criminals to appear in court are expected to have a positive impact on the perception of safety and justice in the UK. For SMEs, this law might not have a significant impact on operations but could lead to a better sense of justice for their employees and customers.

The Economic Activities of Public Bodies Bill is a bold move from the Conservative Government, effectively banning public bodies from boycotting Israel amidst public backlash over its handling of the conflict in Gaza. This Bill might have a limited impact on private businesses, but SMEs who count Government branches as customers should be aware.

The Holocaust Memorial Bill enables the building of a new memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster, a potentially sizeable project for SMEs in design and construction to bid for.

What it All Means

The annual King's Speech provides a comprehensive overview of the Government's priorities for the year ahead, encompassing a wide range of sectors and industries. It often reveals direct implications and knock-on effects for businesses in the UK.

SMEs should stay informed and adapt to changes, seize opportunities and ensure compliance. As the Government's agenda takes shape, smaller businesses will play a crucial role in driving economic recovery and growth.

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Sam White