How we love the State Opening of Parliament with the pomp and the circumstance. Although, perhaps it was not so much about the pomp this year but the circumstances in which it was held?

The Circumstances

Whilst I do not write from a political standpoint, it is a fact that 2019’s State Opening of the new Parliamentary session was unique:

  • The speech was written by Ministers of a Government which has no majority
  • EU Exit looms, in one form or another, at some time or another, plus
  • A General Election seems closer rather than farther away – in fact, the Government were calling for one just weeks before this State Opening

Therefore, you could rightly agree with commentators who have said that, given these circumstances, the Queen’s Speech 2019 might have been a huge waste of time and money.  Will any of the Bills outlined in the Speech actually come to pass?

Although, they give a massive insight into the Conservative Party Manifesto likely later this year.  For this reason, the Speech is worth looking at.

The Speech

The Speech outlined 26 Bills in this Parliamentary session, however long that may be.  Some are EU Exit-related which is understandable.  4 are either carried forward or re-introduced from previous Parliamentary sessions.

Professionally there are three key areas to keep an eye on:

EU Exit Bills
  • European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
  • Fisheries Bill
  • Agriculture Bill
  • Trade Bill
  • Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
  • Financial Services Bill
  • Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill

These are all UK-wide Bills with the Withdrawal Agreement being the legal mechanism for leaving the EU with a deal and a transition period.  If there is a deal, the Social Security Co-ordination Bill will be important for the coordination of social security after the end of the transition period.

Employment
Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill

This Bill will be designed to create a legal obligation on employers to pass tips on to workers in full.  As employment law is devolved to Northern Ireland, this will apply to Great Britain only.

The ‘Background Briefing’ also makes reference to a number of other things that the Government will be doing, implementing the recommendations of Taylor’s review of modern working practices.

Pension Schemes Bill

Page 68 of the ‘Background Briefing’ gives an overview of the elements of this Bill, including providing the legislative framework for the introduction of pensions dashboards.  Also, the Pensions Regulator’s powers will be enhanced to tackle employers who do not take their ‘responsibilities seriously’.  Look out for the progress of this, as pensions policy is devolved to Northern Ireland, even though the objective may be UK-wide.

English Devolution

Whilst there is no legislation, the Background Briefing (page 91) says that the Government will publish a White Paper outlining its intention for ‘enhanced devolution’ across England.  This is for the purposes of local economic growth.

Fortunately, as far as I can see, this will not impact our professions.  England will not become a devolved nation so we will not have to watch different parts of England just like we have to keep a constant eye on what happens in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In summary

For more information on the Speech, do read the Background Briefing (130 pages) and / or the UK Government’s Policy Paper (a few pages).

It is very difficult to present facts without them being perceived as political.

However, it can only be true that the Queen’s Speech and the announcement of the ‘plan’ to hold a UK Budget on 06 November 2019 is questionable.  Although, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid says about the Budget, the plan is the right thing to do as Government ‘must get on with governing’.  Note that in the event of a No-Deal EU Exit, the Budget will be postponed and become a ‘simple economic statement’.

So, without clarity on EU Exit, certainty on the stability of the UK Government itself and the timing of the inevitable General Election, payroll professionals are left in the dark in so many areas where there should be clarity.

 

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