Having kicked off the State Opening of Parliament for the 65th time, Elizabeth II left UK startups with plenty to chat about
Photo credit: Atlaspix
The tradition of the Queen's Speech being the centrepiece of the State Opening of Parliament can be traced back to 1536. But while the ceremony may date back to the reign of Henry the VIII, there was nothing old about the bills presented yesterday, some of which will prove very welcome news for UK startups.
For starters, the new Digital Economy Bill will enshrine the legal right for every UK household to have a fast broadband connection with a minimum speed of 10Mbps. Alison Vincent, CTO of Cisco UKI, the global IT company, welcomed the bill, saying: “By laying the foundations and establishing broadband as an essential pillar to the future of the UK economy, businesses will be able to drive innovation and build a framework that will improve productivity, fuel collaboration, capitalise of business opportunity and accelerate the UK digital economy.”
Keeping in mind that tech giants such as Apple, Tesla and Google are all predicted to release autonomous cars in the not too distant future, it is not surprising that the Queen’s Speech also announced a bill aimed at encouraging UK companies to invest in self-driving cars, space planes, drones and electric cars.
Paul Farrington, senior solution architect at Veracode, the application security company, applauded the Modern Transport Bill. Yet, he warned that autonomous car developers shouldn’t take the threat of hack-attacks lightly. “While driverless cars have been championed for their potential to improve road safety, cut congestion and even speed up delivery times, we must ensure that cybersecurity factors are brought to the forefront of policy agendas from the outset,” he said.
While it’s still uncertain when the first British-made autonomous car will rev-up on UK roads, in the short-term the Better Markets Bill will surely drive change for UK consumers. The proposed legislation aims to make it easier for customers to switch banks and energy providers, as well as aspiring to make competition investigations faster and bestow regulators with more powers. Other regulators likely to receive beefed-up powers are those fighting corruption. If the Criminal Finances Bill passes through government, authorities will have an easier time tackling tax evasion and recovering criminal assets and companies will be held liable for the financial misconduct of their staff.
The Queen’s Speech also teased some startup-friendly changes to copyright laws. The Intellectual Property Bill could change regulations relating to unjustified threats of legal action in cases involving patents, trademarks and design rights, making it easier for out-of-court settlements. “These reforms should make rights holders more open and lawyers less nervous,” said Matthew Jones, partner at EIP Europe, the intellectual property law firm.
Meanwhile, the government has also proposed granting local communities a bigger say over neighbourhood planning and giving local authorities powers to retain 100% of business rates. Particularly interesting for techie entrepreneurs, the Bus Services Bill, which will only affect England, will require bus operators to share route, fare and schedule data with app developers.
But something any tech developer should pay close attention to is the NHS Overseas Visitors Charging Bill, especially if they employ foreign workers. The proposed legislation aims to charge overseas migrants and visitors for NHS services they are not entitled to and to make it harder for visitors from the European Economic Area to access free health care.
The Queen’s Speech also included bills aimed at changing the pensions system, children and social work systems and reforming the prison system in England and Wales. Looking at education, the government has announced its intention to make it easier to convert under-performing English schools into academies and to establish new universities in England. Additionally, the Queen’s Speech introduced a bill aimed at counteracting radicalisation and extremism.
With this slew of bills in mind, business leaders are advised to keep their eyes open for new opportunities, risks and rewards accompanying the changing times.