King's Speech

Audit reform withdrawal ‘a blow to public trust’

Bruce Cartwright
Bruce Cartwright: calls for a rethink

A decision to drop regulatory improvements from the legislative programme has been described as a blow to public trust in business.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) has called on the UK government to rethink its decision to remove the Audit and Corporate Governance Reform Bill from the King’s Speech.

Bruce Cartwright CEO of ICAS, said:  “This feels like groundhog day. Again, we see lack of action by a government apparently committed to reform but again back tracking on those commitments.

“The result is to potentially undermine public trust in that as a business community, we demonstrate transparency in business and do the right thing.”  

Mr Cartwright says that dropping audit and corporate governance reform from the King’s Speech is a huge blow to the interests of UK businesses and the public.

It follows the government’s decision in October to pull its draft regulations to enhance the UK’s corporate reporting framework.

“There is consensus among all the key players that these reforms are long overdue. UK businesses need a solid, regulatory environment to ensure good governance and to maintain the public’s trust,” said Mr Cartwright.


There was also some dismay that promised pensions reform was omitted. Lily Megson, policy director at My Pension Expert said: “The exclusion of pensions from the King’s Speech is likely to leave many in the sector perplexed, prompting questions about the government’s commitment to essential pension reform. This will be unnerving for many pension planners, to say the least.

“With the general election drawing nearer, the government is running out of time to tackle the pressing, long-term issues affecting pensioners and individuals saving for retirement.

“Now, our hopes for much-needed pension reform will have to pivot towards the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement later this month. I certainly hope that it offers clear and decisive action to address the financial needs and expectations of pension planners.”

New bills include:

+ A draft Media bill which protects public service broadcasting and gives Ofcom the power to regulate the streamers, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, to bring them in line with their traditional broadcasting peers. These powers will enable Ofcom to investigate and enforce standards, as well as protect audiences from harmful material.  

+ A bill to establish a new legal framework across Great Britain for self-driving cars

+ Confirmation of annual oil and gas licensing rounds that “would help the country transition to net zero by 2050 “without adding undue burdens on households”.

+ A pledge to strengthen consumer rights online and tackle fake reviews are contained in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

+ The existing Data Protection and Digital Information Bill will replace the data protection regime the UK inherited from the EU

+ An Arbitration Bill will introduce new rules for individuals and businesses to resolve disputes without going to court

+ A Trade Bill will enable the UK to join the 11-nation CPTPP trade pact with several countries in Asia and the Pacific

+ A Rail Reform Bill creating a new body to oversee the railway in Great Britain is included, but only in draft form

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