New government's programme announced
Action on red tape, immigration, childcare and personal taxation has been announced today in the Queen’s Speech.
The speech, which marked the formal opening of the new Parliament and sets out the new Conservative government’s agenda for the next year, included some fundamental reforms that will affect all UK businesses, including those in the games industry.
Plans to increase free childcare provision, cut red tape, increase employment, and cut taxes for low earners, will all change the environment games businesses are working in. There are proposals for a new levy on the hiring of foreign workers. Finally the plan to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in the next two years has been confirmed.
The government’s full briefing document can be read here. The main bills of relevance to games are:
- Enterprise Bill
- EU Referendum Bill
- Finance Bill
- Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill
- Childcare Bill
- Immigration Bill
- Investigatory Powers Bill
This Bill will continue the push to reduce regulations on business, with an aim to save businesses £10 billion in the next five years. There is little detail yet on how this will be done or which regulations might be cut, although the government has said it will include more independent regulators in the attempt to find rules hindering businesses.
The Bill will also reform the appeals system for business rates. This is an attempt to improve the system before the revaluation of rates that is due in 2017.
It will also create a Small Business Conciliation Service to help resolve disputes between businesses over late payment.
EU Referendum Bill
The government’s plan to hold a referendum on UK membership of the EU will be put into force through this Bill, which will allow for the vote to be held before the end of 2017.
As part of the annual Finance Bill, several tax changes will be made, including:
The income tax personal allowance will be tied to the national minimum wage, there will be no rises in income tax rates, VAT rates or National Insurance contributions (NICs) rates for individuals, employees and employers will be put into force.
Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill
The Bill will impose statutory duties on the government to report on its progress in reaching full employment and creating 3 million new apprenticeships.
Parents of three and four year old children will be given 30 hours of free childcare for 38 weeks a year (equivalent to the school year).
An offence of illegal working will be created, allowing the police to seize the wages paid to illegal migrants as proceeds of crime. At the same time, the government will consult on a skills levy. This would impose a levy on businesses which employ non-EU workers with a visa, and use the proceeds to fund apprenticeship schemes for UK and EU workers.
Investigatory Powers Bill
Reportedly blocked by the Liberal Democrats during the coalition government, this Bill would increase the ability of the police and security services to access communications data. Where data can currently be accessed on emails and phone calls, other forms of digital communication would be accessible under this Bill. Although full details have not yet been published, it is likely this will include games platforms.