REUTERS | Phil Noble

What’s on the agenda for in-house lawyers in March 2023?

The Spring 2023 Budget is on Wednesday 15 March. In-house lawyers should also take note of two developments in the High Court initiated by environmental NGO, ClientEarth, and progress of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill.

Spring 2023 Budget

The Spring 2023 Budget is on Wednesday 15 March and will be delivered to parliament by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, at around 12.30pm, immediately after Prime Minister’s Questions. The proposals announced in the Budget form the basis of the annual Finance Bill.

Practical Law’s Budget coverage includes an infographic illustrating how the Budget fits into the annual cycle of tax legislation. We have also published Spring 2023 Budget: predictions, speculation and lobbying, which tracks the latest press speculation and contains an A-Z list of bodies that have submitted representations to the government ahead of the Budget.

Climate change

Environmental NGO, ClientEarth, has issued a derivative claim in the High Court in London against the board of Shell plc. It is bringing the claim in its capacity as a shareholder and alleges that Shell’s directors have breached their legal duties to assess, disclose and manage material risks to the company under section 172 of the Companies Act 2006. ClientEarth alleges that the Shell board has mismanaged climate risk by failing to prepare properly for the energy transition to net zero, and by failing to adopt and implement an energy transition strategy that aligns with the Paris Agreement.

ClientEarth has also applied to the High Court for permission to apply for judicial review of the Financial Conduct Authority’s decision to approve the prospectus of UK oil and gas company Ithaca Energy plc. ClientEarth argues that Ithaca did not explain how climate change risks to the oil and gas industry in general affect Ithaca’s business specifically, or how significant these risks are for the company, when listing on the London Stock Exchange.

On 10 February, CAP and BCAP published updated guidance on the use of carbon neutral and net zero claims in advertising, drawing on certain key principles in the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA) guidance on environmental claims on goods and services.

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill

On 8 February, the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords. The Bill will next go to the committee stage for a line-by-line examination, on a date to be scheduled. The government has also published a memorandum setting out its re-evaluation from an ECHR perspective of certain aspects of the Bill as it was introduced in September 2022 (and which have remained unamended during the Commons passage of the Bill).

Duty to report on payment practices and performance

BEIS has published for consultation proposals to amend the Reporting on Payment Practices and Performance Regulations 2017 and the Limited Liability Partnerships (Reporting on Payment Practices and Performance) Regulations 2017. Among other things, BEIS is consulting on whether, to provide greater transparency, reporting businesses should be required to include their payment practices and performance information in their directors’ report. The deadline for submitting responses is 28 April.

Non-disclosure agreements

The Legal Services Board plans to consult on how to address the misuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) by lawyers. A call for evidence to inform a policy statement or guidance on the misuse of NDAs is expected in March 2023.

Competition law

The CMA has published short guidance to provide advice to employers on how to avoid breaking competition law. The CMA is seeking to boost business compliance and remind employers of their legal obligations to avoid collusion when it comes to employee pay, working conditions and the hiring of staff.

Dates for your diary

1 March

Start of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) sunrise period.

Deadline for responses to Department for Business and Trade consultation on the proposed drafting of the Competition Act 1998 (Motor Vehicle Agreements Block Exemption) Order 2023.

3 March

The following Bills are scheduled to have their second reading in the House of Lords:

  • Carer’s Leave Bill 2022-23.
  • Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill 2022-23.
  • Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill 2022-23.

7 March

The second reading of the Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill 2022-23 is scheduled to resume. Second readings of the Non-Disclosure Agreements Bill 2022-23 and the Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) Bill 2022-23 are also scheduled for this date.

8 March

CMA consultation on draft guidance on horizontal agreements closes.

Deadline for applications to the Civil Justice Council for recruitment of six non-judicial members.

9 March

Consultation on proposal to make holiday entitlement under the Working Time Regulations 1998 proportionate to hours worked ends.

13 March

Consultation on merging R&D tax reliefs into a single scheme ends.

16 March

The Employment Appeal Tribunal is due to hear Higgs v Farmor’s School, a case that concerns the topic of gender critical beliefs in a dismissal.

20 March

Deadline for responding to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee’s call for evidence regarding a progress review into the court reform programme.

24 March

Deadline for responses to the Joint Committee on Human Rights consultation on the protection of rights at work.

International Trade Committee inquiry into export barriers closes for comment.

Second readings of the following Bills:

  • Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Bereavement) Bill.
  • Paternity (Leave and Pay) Bill 2022-23.
  • Miscarriage Leave Bill 2022-23.
  • Employment (Application Requirements) Bill 2022-23.
  • Asylum Seekers (Permission to Work) (No. 2) Bill 2022-23.

27 March

Consultation on panel composition in the employment tribunals and EAT closes.

31 March

Consultation on Advertising (Less Healthy Food Definitions and Exemptions) Regulations 2022 closes.

Deadline for responses to the European Patent Office consultation on use of videoconference for oral appeal hearings.

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