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Economic policy/business bill

Published on October 16, 2014
Communiqué issued following the Council of Ministers’ meeting
Paris, October 15, 2014

The Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector made a statement on the preparation of the business bill.

In order to return to a path of sustainably high growth, it is necessary to revitalize investment by galvanizing the European Union around an ambitious programme and encouraging private initiative in France. The French economy must also be modernized, in order to remove the obstacles to the development of business. This last action must involve many levers and instruments that stimulate or create business wherever possible.

The goal of this bill is to unlock the French economy and encourage mobility in every aspect, particularly for young people. The act will feed into three major reform priorities: (i) modernizing the market for goods and services by unblocking several sectors; (ii) stimulating investment by speeding up the simplification timetable, encouraging innovation and boosting the country’s attractiveness; (iii) developing employment and social dialogue by improving the operation of the labour market. The bill will be presented to the Council of Ministers in December and debated in Parliament in the first quarter of 2015. The whole government has been involved in it – particularly the ministers most directly concerned, including the Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy; the Minister of State for Transport, Marine Affairs and Fisheries; the Keeper of the Seals, Minster of Justice; the Minister of Finance and Public Accounts; the Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Women’s Rights; the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Dialogue; the Minister of Housing and Regional Equality; and the Minister of State for Commerce, Small-Scale Industry, Consumer Affairs and the Social and Solidarity Economy.

1) Removing the brakes on business

Freeing up energy and business involves modernizing the framework of the regulated legal and health professions, but it also requires sectoral reforms aimed at improving French people’s mobility and thus enabling them to work and obtain housing at a cost that is under control.

Following wide-ranging consultation, a balanced and pragmatic reform of the regulated legal and health professions will enable those professions to be modernized. The exclusive nature of their public service missions will be confirmed. The modernization will be carried out in several areas: facilitating start-ups and siting, particularly for young professionals, in order to create business; opening up access to capital, to encourage investment, make business more effective and encourage cross-industry cooperation; and finally, regulating charges to better reflect real costs. Among other things, the act will provide for the professions of bailiff, judicial representative and legal auctioneer to be merged into a single “judicial execution” profession. The practical implementation of these principles will benefit from the conclusions of the two parliamentary missions under way: the fact-finding mission on the legal professions, chaired by Cécile Untermaier, and the mission of the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector on the regulated professions, entrusted to Richard Ferrand. The provisions relating to the health professions will be picked up on in the bill concerning health.

Encouraging business, particularly for young people, also involves greater mobility. The supply of coach transport services will thus be freed up nationwide. The act will also reform the way motorway tolls are set by introducing checks by an independent authority on the contracts signed by the state with contractors, as proposed by the Competition Authority in its advice of September 2014.

Facilitating mobility also means freeing up the property market. This involves removing the regulatory obstacles limiting the supply of new housing, in order to address the urgent lack of house-building in areas under pressure, by freeing up land. It also involves simplification measures, reducing the time taken for building permits to be granted. The bill will thus include measures proposed by Jean-Pierre Duport’s mission.

2) Investing

Investing better means, firstly, simplifying and speeding up the administrative procedures for industrial projects. In this respect, the act will allow us to make the legislative and regulatory environment more transparent and stable by simplifying certain procedures.
The act will include measures to help the state as a shareholder intervene more effectively. It will authorize the realization of public shareholding companies’ industrial projects, such as the coming together of Nexter and KMW. It will also authorize transfers of public assets so that, apart from debt reduction, a dynamic industrial policy is conducted and investment financed.

It will integrate reforms to the employee savings plan in order to better finance the economy and develop these tools for the benefit of employees, as announced by the President at the conférence sociale (1). It will promote measures encouraging employee share-ownership that give employees greater involvement in their company’s development and it allows high-potential staff to be recruited in start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises. It will enhance the economy’s attractiveness by adopting the measures announced by the President.

3) Working

Sunday trading legislation must address the challenges of developing those areas of the country which are highly attractive from an economic and touristic point of view. It must draw on the Bailly report’s proposals in order to reduce distortions between shops and improve compensation for those employees who volunteer, while building on it, particularly with regard to train stations and tourist areas with international interests and strong economic potential. This will enable the existing legislation to be clarified and rationalized and the legal uncertainty of the current framework to be overcome, while allowing energy to be freed up wherever economic gains are possible for businesses, employees and regions.

Moreover, the bill aims to reap the benefits of the negotiation under way between the social partners regarding the quality and effectiveness of social dialogue in companies and the improvement of employee representation, by opting for a more strategic, less formal and therefore simplified approach. It is also about initiating effective dialogue for all employees, including in very small companies.

Finally, it is essential to improve the operation of the industrial tribunals system, whose characteristic parity is an identifying feature of, and symbolizes, the social partners’ unity in supporting the system but which currently suffers from unreasonable delays in its rulings and a very excessive rate of appeals. Consultation will be started immediately by the ministers concerned – first and foremost the Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice and the Minister of Labour, Employment, Vocational Training and Social Dialogue – with all the stakeholders. This consultation, explained in particular by M. Lacabarats’ recent report, will relate to the entire procedure (conciliation, rulings and appeals)./.

(1) a government-led round table with trade unions and employer federations.

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