FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published plans (consultation closes on 21 October 2009) to create a consistent & more transparent framework for calculating financial penalties which could mean some fines treble in size. The new plans reflect the FSA’s determination to change behaviour and address concerns that firms are repeatedly failing to improve standards (e.g. in relation to mis-selling to consumers and market misconduct).
They will also ensure that fines better reflect the scale of the wrongdoing and that any profits made from the breaches are clawed back. Any new policy is likely to apply to breaches committed after February 2010.
Under the new proposals, fines will be linked more closely to income and be based on:
* Up to 20% of the company’s income from the product or business area linked to the breach
* a minimum starting point of £100,000 for individuals in market abuse cases
* Up to 40% of an individual’s salary & benefits (including bonuses) from their job relating to the breach in non-market abuse cases
Press release ~ CP09/19: Enforcement financial penalties ~ Examples of how the proposed framework will apply to firms and individuals
BIS: The Department for Business has launched a consultation on new regulations that will make it unlawful for trade union members to be denied employment through secret blacklists. This consultation will run for a shorter than usual period of 6 weeks (closes on 18 August 2009) to enable legislation to be brought forward as soon as possible. Ministers plan to seek Parliamentary approval for the regulations in the autumn and implement them urgently as soon as it can thereafter.
DCLG: The Government is currently asking for views on a £2bn relief scheme to support the minority of businesses who could see their rates increase as result of a 5-yearly revaluation of business property. While the government claims most businesses (60%) will see falls in their rate bills next year following revaluation, it admits some will pay more.
A £2bn transitional relief scheme will limit & phase in increases to rate bills resulting from the revaluation. The relief scheme is self-financed by businesses by redistributing money collected across the country from business rates. The Government is now consulting (closes on 23 September 2009) and asking businesses how this scheme should be run.
Press release ~ The transitional arrangements for the non-domestic rating revaluation 2010 in England - Consultation paper ~ Business rates information letter
Defra: New Environment Minister, Dan Norris, addressed the water industry at a special conference on the UK Climate Projections 2009 released by Defra last month. The first Projections in Practice conference explained how the UK Climate Projections illustrate the extent of the changes the UK could face if nothing is done to cut greenhouse gas emissions – warmer and wetter winters, hotter and drier summers, increased risk of coastal erosion and more severe weather.
All of these changes could have an impact on the water industry and its ability to deliver high quality water and sewerage services – from increased water scarcity to ensuring water infrastructure can cope with a changing climate. It is vital that climate change considerations, using the best available science, are fully integrated in all water policy, operations and management.
The water industry is the first sector to have a legal requirement to plan ahead on the basis of climate change considerations, through the production of statutory water resources management plans. In addition, the Government is currently consulting on proposals that 103 priority organisations should have to report to Government on the risks climate change poses to their operations and businesses and the plans they have in place to respond.
Press release ~ Consultation on the Adaptation Reporting Power in the Climate Change Act 2008 (closes on Wednesday 9 September 2009) ~ UK Climate Projections
DH: A consultation (closes on 20 August 2009) on a new national three-digit number – 111 – that will make it ‘easier for patients to access urgent care’ wherever they are, has been launched by Ofcom. In the final report on his review of the NHS, Lord Darzi recommended that the NHS continue to explore options for a single national three-digit number providing access to advice & information on non-emergency care. Asking Ofcom to consult on providing a number is the next stage in the process.
111 will not replace existing local telephone services or NHS Direct; it will provide patients with an additional choice in how they find urgent care. In the long-term, 111 could become the single number to access non-emergency care services in England, including NHS Direct. 999 will remain the number to call in an emergency situation.
If the Ofcom consultation finds that a three-digit should be allocated, pilot schemes will be launched later this year to identify the best model for the number. The Department of Health is working closely with the NHS to make sure any new number, which is introduced, complements existing services.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published proposals that will enable people to see how firms handle complaints – including the number received, the main products and services covered and how quickly they are resolved. The proposals would see firms publishing their own complaints data every six months and the FSA would publish results from the whole sector twice a year.
The FSA is inviting stakeholders to comment on its proposals relating to the publication of firms’ complaints data – the closing date for responses is 30 October 2009.
Press release ~ CP09/21) - ‘Transparency as a Regulatory Tool and Publication of Complaints Data, including Feedback to DP08/3’ ~
Real life case studies
HMRC: Two consultation documents (closing on 1 October 2009) on modernising HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) powers, deterrents & safeguards have been published:
* The first paper contains proposals for modernising & improving HMRC’s information powers and accompanying safeguards, in 2 key areas: bulk information powers & specialist unnamed taxpayer powers
* The second consultation looks at ideas for a new & modernised excise checking framework, as well as ways of improving excise administrative procedures, in order to reduce admin burdens for business