The Queen’s Speech is a grand ceremonial affair, part of the State Opening of (the UK) Parliament. The speech announces the legislation that the government plans to introduce. This year, Queen Elizabeth was not able to deliver the speech in person, and the Prince of Wales read it on her behalf.
The speech, and the government briefing note which followed, announced a very large number of Parliamentary Bills, several of which caught IP Draughts’ eye. It remains to be seen whether they will all be introduced and passed. They include the following items. Bullet points are quotes from the briefing note.
Electronic Trade Documents Bill:
- Allowing the adoption of new digital solutions which bypass the need for paper and wet ink signatures.
- Ensuring that trade documents in electronic form meet certain criteria designed to replicate the key features of paper trade documents. These criteria include: ensuring that an electronic document is subject to exclusive control (only one person, or persons acting jointly, can exercise control over it at any one time) and once transferred the previous holder should no longer be able to exercise control
over the document.
Comment: Electronic signatures are discussed in our book, Execution of Documents. Covid has led to a much greater use of Docusign, and similar services. This technical legislation looks interesting.
Brexit Powers Bill:
- Creating new powers to strengthen the ability to amend, repeal or replace the large amounts of retained EU law by reducing the need to always use primary legislation to do so.
- Clarifying the status of retained EU law in UK domestic law to reflect the fact that much of it became law without going through full democratic scrutiny in the UK Parliament.
Comment: Giving the government powers to change the huge amount of retained EU law without primary legislation sounds undemocratic.
Data Reform Bill
- Ensuring that UK citizens’ personal data is protected to a gold standard while enabling public bodies to share data to improve the delivery of services.
- Using data and reforming regulations to improve the everyday lives of people in the UK, for example, by enabling data to be shared more efficiently between public bodies, so that delivery of services can be improved for people.
- Designing a more flexible, outcomes-focused approach to data protection that helps create a culture of data protection, rather than “tick box” exercises.
Comment: Compliance with data protection legislation adds significantly to the cost of drafting and negotiating contract terms for research projects, often with no obvious benefit to the data subject. But what, exactly, will the legislation do? If it is proposed to allow widespread access to health records for research, this will raise important privacy issues.
Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill:
- Creating a new, simpler regulatory regime for precision bred plants and animals that have genetic changes that could have arisen through traditional breeding or natural processes. No changes will be made to the regulation of animals until animal welfare is safeguarded.
- Introducing two notification systems for research and marketing purposes where breeders and researchers will need to notify Defra of precision bred organisms. The information collected on precision bred organisms will be published on a public register.
- Establishing a new science-based authorisation process for food and feed products developed using precision bred organisms.
Comment: public attitudes have evolved since the first wave of genetically-modified organisms, which resulted in the Flavr-Savr Tomato in the 1980s. IP Draughts recalls that there was widespread public hostility in the UK and Europe to GM crops. The lack of outcry about this proposed legislation suggests that our society is now more comfortable with genetic engineering.
Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill:
- Broadening the Registrar of Companies’ powers so that they become a more active gatekeeper over company creation and custodian of more reliable data, including new powers to check, remove or decline information submitted to, or already on, the Company Register.
- Introducing identity verification for people who manage, own and control companies and other UK registered entities. This will improve the accuracy of Companies House data, to support business decisions and law enforcement investigations.
Comment: If this results in Companies House doing identity checks on company shareholders and directors, this may reduce the need for solicitors and other professionals to do ID checks on corporate clients. IP Draughts would welcome a more risk-based approach to compliance with anti-money-laundering legislation.