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The Enterprise Bill [HL] 2015-16 (Bill 112 of 2015-16) was introduced to the House of Commons on 16 December 2015 and is scheduled to receive its Second Reading on 2 February 2016.  It began its passage through Parliament in the House of Lords, and was debated there between 16 September 2015 and 15 December 2015.

Both the Bill and its Explanatory Notes are available on the Parliament website.

The Bill was announced during the Queen’s Speech on 27 May 2015, described as a Bill to “reduce regulation on small businesses so they can create jobs”.

The measures in the Bill are summarised below.

Part 1 of the Bill would create the role of the Small Business Commissioner whose functions would be to:

  • give advice and information to small firms; and
  • assist small businesses in payment disputes with larger firms.

Part 2 would

  • extend the ‘business impact target’ provision in Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 to include the actions of statutory regulators;
  • require regulators to report on their compliance with the ‘growth duty’ and duty to have regard to the Regulators Code;
  • repeal the legislative barrier to subjecting Ofgem, Ofcom, the ORR and Ofwat to the Regulators’ Code and regulation principles; and
  • modify the requirement for certain secondary legislation to be reviewed within five years of being made.

Part 3 would extend the Primary Authority scheme, which permits businesses operating across multiple local authority areas to maintain a regulatory relationship with a single ‘primary authority’, enabling a business or a group of companies to access assured regulatory advice from a single point.  It would, among other things, widen access to the scheme and enable national regulators to support the primary authority by issuing advice and guidance.

Part 4 proposes a requirement for public sector bodies to contribute towards the target of creating three million apprenticeships and report on progress towards this.  It would protect the term “apprenticeship”, making it an offence for a person offering training to describe the same as an apprenticeship if it is not a “statutory apprenticeship”.

Part 5 addresses the late payment of insurance claims.  It would make it an implied term of every contract of insurance that, if the insured makes a claim under the contract, the insurer must pay sums due within a reasonable time.  The Bill would restrict the ability of insurers to contract out of the implied term.

Part 6 would introduce two minor adjustments to business rates legislation. The first seeks to facilitate the sharing of information between the Valuation Office Agency and local authorities. The second arises from the Government’s review of business rates and would introduce a new appeals system: “check, challenge, appeal’.

Part 7 is titled “enterprise-related provisions”.  It covers industrial development; UK Government Investments Limited; UK Green Investment Bank; and the Pubs Code, the last two of these resulting from Lords amendments.

Part 8 would enable regulations to restrict exit payments to employees of prescribed public sector authorities, or holders of prescribed offices, to a value of £95,000; an amount which may be varied by regulations or waived in special cases.

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