Enterprise Bill promises to cut tribunal costs

BUSINESS secretary Vince Cable yesterday unveiled the government’s Enterprise and Regulatory Reform bill and claimed that it will “make Britain one of the most enterprise-friendly countries in the world”.

Measures in the bill, announced as part of this month’s Queen’s Speech, include changes to the employment tribunal system, introducing a new Competition and Markets Authority and giving a binding shareholder vote on executive pay.

It also sets out the purpose of the government’s £3bn Green Investment Bank.

“We want to make sure the right conditions are in place to encourage investment and exports, boost enterprise, support green growth and build a responsible business culture,” Cable said.

“[The bill] will help ensure that people who work hard and do the right thing are rewarded,” he added.

In an attempt to cut down the number of employment tribunals, businesses will be encouraged to use conciliation services.

Proposals to cut red tape include merging parts of the Office of Fair Trading with the Competition Commission to form a new organisation that promises to speed up adjudication on competition issues.

The bill will also hand shareholders a binding vote on executive pay deals, raising the prospect of further investor rebellions in the vein of the recent so-called shareholder spring.

Details of the required level of shareholder backing will be published before parliament enters the summer recess.

But Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said the bill fails to provide a “compelling vision” for economic growth, adding that businesses are “right to question” why there are not more measures “to give them the help they need to grow and take on extra workers”.

Alexander Ehmann of the Institute of Directors said it “offers little to satisfy those in search of worthwhile deregulation” with only the changes to employment tribunals getting to the “red meat of the issue”.

WHAT’S IN THE ENTERPRISE BILL?

Employees must contact conciliation service ACAS before seeking a tribunal hearing, in an attempt to settle more disputes without costly legal proceedings.
Measures to ensure less complex employment disputes can be dealt with quicker and cheaper through a new ‘Rapid Resolution’ scheme, giving businesses the confidence to take on new staff.
Improving small businesses’ access to advice on complying with regulations in areas such as trading standards.
Creating a new Competition and Markets Authority to “ensure dynamic and open markets” with faster decisions.
Setting the purpose of the UK Green Investment Bank in legislation and ensuring its independence so it can help the “transition to a green economy”.
Giving shareholders of UK quoted companies binding votes on directors’ remuneration.
Encouraging investment in design by extending copyright protection for mass-produced art (e.g. designer chairs, lamps) to the life of the creator plus 70 years.
Putting a time-limit on new regulations via “sunset clauses”, forcing departments to repeatedly make the case to keep regulation or face having it scrapped.

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