King's Speech at State Opening of Parliament 2023: What small businesses need to know

King's Speech at State Opening of Parliament 2023: What small businesses need to know
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Tue 7th Nov 2023

In the annual State Opening of Parliament, King Charles III outlined the UK government's legislative agenda for the 2023-24 session.

The king delivered the address last year due to the late Queen's ill health, but today was his first speech as monarch and the first by a king in 72 years. It was also likely the last King's Speech before the next general election which is predicted to take place next year.

Delivering the speech, which is written for him by ministers, King Charles said:

"My ministers' focus is on increasing economic growth and safeguarding the health and security of the British people for generations to come.

"My government will continue to take action to bring down inflation, to ease the cost of living for families and help businesses fund new jobs and investment.

"My ministers will support the Bank of England to return inflation to target by taking responsible decisions on spending and borrowing. These decisions will help household finances, reduce public sector debt, and safeguard the financial security of the country."

Video of the full King’s Speech by King Charles:

Bills of interest to small business owners

A total of 21 parliamentary Bills were announced. Here are the plans of interest to small businesses.

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill

This Bill will allow the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the trade group which includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Business secretary Kemi Badenoch signed a treaty confirming the UK's accession to the bloc earlier this year.

The countries in the group have a combined GDP of £12 trillion, are home to more than half a billion people and, according to the government, is worth 15% of global GDP with the UK as a member.

The UK is the first new member and first European country to join since CPTPP launched in 2018. The government says 99% of UK goods exported to CPTPP member countries will be eligible for zero tariffs.

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

Carried over from the 2022-23 session of Parliament, this Bill is aimed at strengthening consumer and business protection, and ensuring competition in the digital and technology space which is dominated by large technology companies. They are defined as those with global turnover exceeding £25bn, or UK turnover more than £1bn.

Measures include:

  • a new Digital Markets Unit within the Competition and Markets Authority will have powers to directly enforce consumer law rather than go through court processes. Penalties of up to 10% of global turnover for breaching consumer law can be imposed on large technology firms such as Google, Apple, Meta and Amazon.

  • fake reviews will be tackled with new laws making it illegal to commission someone to write or submit a fake review, posting consumer reviews without taking reasonable steps to check they are genuine, and offering or advertising to submit, commission or facilitate fake reviews.

  • 'subscription traps' in which businesses make it difficult to exit a contract will also be stopped by requiring businesses to provide clearer information to consumers before they enter a subscription contract, issuing a reminder to consumers that a free trial or low-cost introductory offer is coming to an end and before a contract auto-renews onto a new term, and ensuring that consumers can exit a contract in a straightforward, cost-effective and timely way.

  • ensuring that business customers are treated fairly by large technology businesses. The government says that businesses of all sizes "are often locked into burdensome, unfair relationships with powerful tech firms" because "they are forced to sign up to onerous contract terms, use specific payment services and pay inflated prices". Ministers say that new system "will force the most powerful tech firms to treat businesses in the UK fairly".

  • opening up opportunities for innovative start-ups in the UK to compete with big technology firms.

  • increasing choice and reducing prices for UK consumers for online goods and services such as social media and search.

Data Protection and Digital Information Bill

Also carried over from the 2022-23 session of Parliament and previously discussed by the government, this Bill is a post-Brexit measure that replaces the data protection system that the UK inherited from the European Union.

The government claims that it will reduce burdens on small and medium sized businesses, remove red tape for researchers and boost the economy by £4.7bn over 10 years.

It also says the reforms will "encourage small and micro businesses to use more data more effectively in their decision making, boosting productivity", and "increasing their annual gross value added levels by approximately £14m a year".

Measures include:

  • allowing businesses to "protect personal data in more proportionate and practical ways than under the EU’s GDPR".

  • new laws to tackle "repetitive" and "nuisance" website pop-ups and cookies banners.

  • increasing fines for nuisance calls and texts from £500,000 to either £17.5m or up to 4% of global turnover.

  • strengthening the powers of the Information Commissioner’s Office to tackle organisations that breach data rules.

Arbitration Bill

This Bill, which applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is aimed at reducing the pressure on the court system and allowing faster and cheaper resolving of disputes between individuals or businesses by permitting two or more people to use an arbitral tribunal.

It also empowers arbitrators to expedite decisions on issues that have no real prospect of success.

Draft Rail Reform Bill

This Bill is aimed at improving the rail system and bringing down the cost of rail travel, an issue of importance for many small business owners.

Measures include:

  • introducing single ticket pricing which stops the common practice of rail companies charging almost the same price for a single journey as for a return ticket.

  • increasing the rollout of pay as you go ticketing.

  • ending the current rail company franchise system and establishing a new body, Great British Railways, to oversee rail services and pricing.

Unlike most other Bills in the King's Speech, this is a draft Bill which needs to go through a period of consultation before being formally introduced to Parliament. This means it may not be introduced before the next general election, which has to happen by January 2025 but is likely to take place in 2024.

Tobacco and Vapes Bill

Of interest to businesses that sell cigarettes and vapes, this Bill aims "to create a smokefree generation by restricting the sale of tobacco so that children currently aged 14 or younger can never be sold cigarettes, and to restrict the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children".

Other measures include:

  • a further crack down on youth vaping to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children, while ensuring that vapes remain available for adult smokers to quit.

  • new powers for in the spot fine of retailers who sell tobacco products or vapes to underage people underage.

  • enhancing online age verification to stop the sale of tobacco products and vapes to underage people online.

Renters (Reform) Bill

Of interest to landlords of rented accommodation is this Bill which aims to "provide greater security and certainty of quality accommodation for renters, while helping landlords get their property back swiftly when needed, such as evicting anti-social tenants or those repeatedly in rent arrears".

Measures in the Bill, which applies in England and Wales, include:

  • abolishing 'no fault evictions' but not "until stronger possession grounds and a new court process is in place.

  • ending blanket bans on pets so tenants have the right to request a pet, which landlords cannot unreasonably refuse. Landlords will be allowed to require insurance from renters to cover potential damage from pets.

  • creating a digital "private rented property portal" to bring together key information for landlords, tenants, and councils.

  • making it illegal to have blanket bans on renting to tenants in receipt of benefits or with children.

  • speeding up the courts process so landlords can more quickly regain possession of their property if a tenant refuses to move out.

Pedicabs (London) Bill

Tackling anti-social behaviour in towns and cities is a key focus of the government's plans and an issue of concern to many small businesses with physical high street premises. This Bill aims to tackle the unregulated pedicab industry in London which the government says leads to "anti-social, unsafe, and nuisance behaviour from some pedicab operators and drivers".

The Bill will give Transport for London powers to regulate pedicabs "so that passengers, pedestrians and other road user go about their lives safe in the knowledge these vehicles and their operators are properly licensed and accountable".

There are thought to be up to 900 pedicabs in London.

Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill

This Bill will ban the export of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain, "stopping unnecessary stress, exhaustion and injury caused by exporting live animals".

Other measures in the Bill include:

  • funding for farmers to improve animal welfare conditions, such as through funding annual vet visits for all livestock farmers and new equipment and upgraded farm infrastructure.

  • introduction of a £4m Smaller Abattoir Fund, opening by the end of 2023. It is aimed at improving animal health and welfare and helping to sustain the network of smaller abattoirs.

Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill

The Bill will introduce legislation to protect public premises from terrorism in light of the Manchester Arena attack.

Under 'Martyn's Law', named after Martyn Hett who was one of 22 people murdered in the Manchester Arena attack in 2017, certain venues will be required to follow steps according to their capacity to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack and reduce harm.

The duties that premises will have will depend on the size of the venue. Premises and events with a capacity of 800 or above will be in the enhanced tier, while premises with a capacity of 100 to 799 will be in the standard tier.

Automated Vehicles Bill

The government says this Bill will "unlock a transport revolution by enabling the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles" and "cement the UK’s position as a global leader in this high tech and high growth industry and deliver one of the world's most comprehensive legal frameworks for self-driving vehicles, with safety at its core.

Measures include:

  • setting the threshold for self-driving vehicles in law.

  • holding companies firmly accountable once vehicles are on roads.

  • new processes to investigate incidents involving self-driving vehicles to ensure that lessons are fed back into the safety framework.

  • banning misleading marketing so that only vehicles that meet the safety threshold can be marketed as self-driving.

Full list of Bills in King's Speech 2023

Find more details in the government's briefing notes.

  • Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill

  • Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill

  • Automated Vehicles Bill

  • Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

  • Data Protection and Digital Information Bill

  • Media Bill

  • Arbitration Bill

  • Draft Rail Reform Bill

  • Tobacco and Vapes Bill

  • Leasehold and Freehold Bill

  • Renters (Reform) Bill

  • Football Governance Bill

  • Pedicabs (London) Bill

  • Holocaust Memorial Bill

  • Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill

  • Economic Activities of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill

  • Sentencing Bill

  • Criminal Justice Bill

  • Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill

  • Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill

  • Victims and Prisoners Bill

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance journalist and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's news reporter and Bristol Local Leader. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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