The Queen's Speech – what does it mean for GCs?

“So how is the Queen’s Speech going to affect my one, three and five year business plans?” your CEO asks you, the GC, next time you meet.

“Five year term, majority government – should be pretty easy to work out. So give me the full view in two weeks’ time. Oh, and we can set your department budget for the five years at the same time since we now know what we are dealing with”.

Twelve seats is enough to write a manifesto – but not, necessarily, to deliver all of it; and 224 out of 785 seats in the Lords means that a lot of what is written may get savaged – even if, ultimately, passed in some form – before the two Houses have finished the legislative “ping pong”.

And then there’s the SNP, with 56 MPs and less than two years until the next Scottish Parliamentary elections (and perhaps another referendum).

So five years of volatility – but what about that manifesto? Possible EU treaty change, another referendum, a British Bill of Rights, more devolved powers, metro mayors…

Ok, but what’s that got to do with me as GC?

Well that – and myriad other business issues – is what we aim to address in this new blog. And the answer is, potentially a huge amount.

In many respects, the next five years may be some of the most predictable (as to issues) and also the most challenging for our businesses (as to the detail and exact timing of those issues and how to plan for them) that we have seen for many years.

Devolution

Here's an example. Write down a list of where in the UK your company has offices, shops, warehouses, manufacturing plants, staff, major clients, outsourced facilities or key subcontractors. If any of those are in Scotland, Wales, a current or anticipated “metro mayor” area, or the proposed “Northern Powerhouse” then you'll be having to look at your tax and local grant and funding opportunities, your employee taxes, obligations and options especially around apprentices, employment schemes and trainees, and your business rates.  And that's just for starters.

Cumulatively (and sometimes individually) these costs and benefits may be significant. You might have to consider the timing and location of your company’s investment decisions, your lease break clauses, Force Majeure provisions, outsource contract price uplift and exit provisions.

And, then there is the underlying need to ensure compliance with all of these changes – will your current payroll system be able to cope or will your Scottish staff need a different system? Some of these things (particularly when tied to core business software systems, staff and premises) can take a long time to sort out so your business decisions may need to happen some time before the law comes into force.

Europe

And much the same applies to Europe, to treaty renegotiation and to the referendum, key worker immigration, currency hedging and so on. Do you know how you will handle your sale and your purchase contracts if, in less than three years, we might decide to exit the EU? What does that do to the five year framework agreement with that German company that you are negotiating at present?

The GC who knows their business well – both its current state and future plans – and whose legislative awareness is good may spot the deal making or contract exit opportunities that are presented and be able to demonstrate real, tangible pounds of “value add” that the legal department’s proactive and strategic view can bring.

Of course the reverse is also true.

Navigator

But, if you are the kind of GC that wants to be proactive; to add tangible business and strategic value; and to develop yourself, your team and your business in the process, then you will need to read ahead, plan ahead, think strategically and keep up to date. You will want to be the navigator of your company rather than the salvage expert.

And you will need help in this navigation – and that is what this blog is here for. To help you to map out and to keep updating your recommended route for your business to take around all the legal opportunities, ambiguities and threats.

In our next blog, we will dissect the Queen's Speech in more detail, outlining what the possible impact on your business could be.

And over the course of the coming months, as the relevant bills arise on the likes of investigatory powers, housing, local government devolution and HS2, experts from across RPC will be blogging about what their implications might be for you and you businesses.