Queens Speech targets businesses

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The latest government initiatves outlined in the Queen’s Speech neither help, nor further hinder, the bus and coach industry

The Queen’s speech revealed new measures designed to encourage businesses by reducing regulation in an attempt to boost economic growth.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill covers competition, employment disputes, directors pay and regulatory reform. It also outlines the merging of the CC and parts of the OFT, with the intention of strengthening competition enforcement. Employment tribunals also face a shake up, with more options being made available for the early resolution of disputes through ACAS. Shareholders are given greater sway over director’s pay, with a binding vote on the remuneration of senior management.

Legislation also unveiled in the Speech sees the creation of a specific drug driving offence. Though it is currently an offence to drive whilst under the influence of drugs police have to demonstrate the suspect’s driving had been impaired in order to prosecute.

Under the proposed legislation it will automatically be an offence to drive a road vehicle with certain controlled drugs in your body in excess of specified limits. This makes it much easier for police to take action against drug drivers.

An independent review of drink and drug driving law in 2010 recommended a new specified limit offence be developed. The exact drugs covered by the offence and the specified limits for each will be determined following advice from a panel comprised of experts in the field of alcohol and drug misuse who will work with officials from the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Department of Health, followed by a public consultation.

The penalty for the new offence will be a maximum of six months imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to £5,000 and an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months. Devices to screen for drugs in the body are expected to receive Home Office approval by the end of the year.

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: “The new offence sends out a clear message that if you drive whilst under the influence of drugs you will not get away with it. We have an enviable record on road safety in this country and I want to keep it that way. This measure will help to rid our roads of the irresponsible minority who risk the lives of innocent motorists and pedestrians.”

In regards to the transport industry, John Major, CPT Communications Director told CBW nothing announced during the opening of the new Parliament supports the industry in its efforts to address passengers’ number one issue – punctuality. He said: “We have made numerous representations to Ministers over recent times about the continuous list of issues they’ve confronted us with: Concessionary Fares, The Local transport Act, The Competition Commission review and cuts in BSOG, to name but a few, – and could they please just see their way clear to giving us a little bit of breathing space before the next raft comes our way. All we ask is a chance to get back to our day jobs, focus on the things that really matter to our passengers and even try to build on the customer satisfaction rates which hover around 90% for the services we provide. Perhaps therefore we should be comforted by the fact no new direct legislation which would get in the way of this was announced and as such, at least for now, it would be churlish for the industry’s comment on the Queen’s Speech to be anything other than, ‘Thank you’.”

Simonne McIvor at Pellys Solicitors said: “From an employment angle the Queen’s speech will impact all employers/ employees in the Coach and Bus industry. Without being political the recommended changes include increasing the qualifying period in bringing claims in the tribunal from one year to two years. This however does nothing to preclude anyone issuing proceedings with less than two years service if the claim also includes a claim for discrimination or for protected conditions under statute, for example whistle blowing, sex discrimination and so forth.

“It remains to be seen if the increased qualifying period has the desired impact of reducing the number of spurious claims in the Employment Tribunal and enable the tribunals to clear backlogs and sift out the time wasters.”