Government changes tack on foreign takeover scrutiny
The Government is wrestling with a number of interrelated reforms to corporate governance, competition and foreign investment. An important change has been made to its approach to the latter this week, with Ministers easing proposed new rules for monitoring acquisition of shares in UK companies by overseas investors. The change has been made via a small amendment to the National Security and Investment Bill, legislation intended to strengthen the Government’s ability to intervene in transactions to protect national security. Comparisons had been drawn with the US Committee on Foreign Investments, but the UK’s initial approach was seen as more hardline, with the Government planning to require notification of the acquisition of stakes above 15% in a company – the bill amendment revises the threshold to 25%. The move will divide Conservatives, some of whom are sympathetic to the arguments of the likes of the CBI who have long argued that the original plans would deter harmless foreign investment, while others push for Ministers to increase scrutiny of investment from jurisdictions like China.
Health Committee continues inquiry into LD and autism care
Parliament’s Health and Social Care Select Committee recently held the latest evidence session in its ongoing inquiry into care for people with learning disabilities and autism. The focus of the session – and much of the inquiry – was understanding the barriers to progress in moving people with autism or learning disabilities out of inpatient care and into community settings, a decade on from the Winterbourne View scandal and the beginning of the Transforming Care programme. The inquiry has also considered issues including the use of restraint – particularly in the context of new Liberty Protection Safeguards to be introduced – and reforms to mental health provision. This continues to be a sensitive area for the Department of Health and Social Care and one where political scrutiny remains high. Providers should monitor the outcomes of the inquiry and the Government’s response to it, which may provide some interesting insights into how this type of care is commissioned and regulated in the future.
Report suggests ‘abolishing’ the Spending Review
An interesting report published this week has called for the ‘abolition’ of Spending Reviews. The report recommends moving away from the current approach to setting three-year departmental budgets – or, in the case of the last two, single-year budgets – and towards budget plans published to cover a whole parliament. The Government already partly does this through publishing what are known as single departmental plans which set out priority policy areas and prospective timeframes, and which are useful indicators of future activity, but do not typically contain detail on budgets and spending plans. While there has long been an appetite in central government to have fewer significant ‘fiscal events’, a change in the current approach to Spending Reviews is unlikely given the extent to which the last few years have shown how drastically the state of the public finances can change over the course of a parliament. With a three-year Spending Review due in a few months’ time, reform is unlikely under this government.