Following the General Election and the subsequent hung Parliament, the Queen's Speech recently outlined a somewhat reduced version of the government's legislative plans. The speech was delivered against a backdrop of political uncertainty, with business groups calling on the government to 'put the economy first' as Brexit negotiations began.
Meanwhile, businesses are being urged to prepare for the introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which places an increased emphasis on accountability and transparency, and will increase their obligations in respect of the collection, processing and safeguarding of individuals' personal data.
Business groups call for 'softer' Brexit as negotiations begin
The Queen delivered her annual speech at the state opening of Parliament against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty. This year's speech outlined the government's legislative plans for the next two years, following the government's decision to cancel the 2018 Queen's Speech in order to give MPs 'extra time to deal with Brexit laws'.
The speech included a number of Brexit-related bills, designed to pave the way for the UK government to make future changes to UK laws. The bills also grant the UK government flexibility to accommodate trade agreements with the EU and other countries, control over the import and export of goods and the ability to end the free movement of EU citizens into the UK.
Other proposals outlined in the speech include a data protection bill designed to strengthen consumers' rights, a national insurance contributions (NICs) bill aimed at 'making the system fairer', and a financial guidance and claims bill, which establishes a new statutory body to co-ordinate the provision of debt, money and pensions guidance.
The government also announced that it will issue three Finance Bills over the coming two years, in order to 'implement Budget decisions'. Summer Finance Bill 2017 is set to outline 'a range of tax measures', including plans to tackle avoidance.
Ahead of the speech, leading UK business groups called on the government to secure continued access to the European single market until a final Brexit deal can be struck with the EU.
Commenting on the contents of the Queen's Speech, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: 'While Brexit isn't the top immediate priority for many businesses, firms of every size and shape want to avoid turbulence and confusion during the Brexit transition. The government's proposed bills on trade, customs and immigration must minimise adjustment costs and maximise opportunities.'
Meanwhile, a snap poll carried out by the Institute of Directors (IoD) following the election found that business confidence in the UK economy has 'fallen dramatically'.
The new General Data Protection Regulation
Businesses have been urged to prepare for the introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will impose new requirements on all organisations that collect, store and process individuals' personal information, with significant financial penalties for non-compliance.
The new GDPR places an increased emphasis on accountability and transparency, and businesses should ensure that they have up-to-date records relating to the personal data that they hold, including where the data came from and who it has been shared with.
Businesses are also advised to review any privacy notices they have in place and, where necessary, make sure that these are amended in time for the implementation of the new GDPR, which comes into effect in May 2018.
Organisations must also identify their 'lawful basis' for processing activity within the GDPR, record this and update their privacy notices accordingly. The GDPR will modify some individuals' rights, depending on the lawful basis. If you use consent as your lawful basis for processing, clients will have a greater right to have their data deleted, if they so wish.
Businesses must also ensure that adequate security systems are in place to protect data, and to detect, report and investigate any data breaches.
Commenting on the new GDPR, David Riches from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: 'Businesses need to be proactive about ensuring they are ready for the new data protection regulations when they come into force [in May 2018] and not leave preparations until the eleventh hour'.