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The Government is set to introduce its long-awaited Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) Bill in the next session of Parliament, say City lawyers.
Richard Thomas, director of public policy at Clifford Chance, who has been advising the Government on its draft legislation, says: "I would be very surprised now if it wasn't in the programme for 1999-2000."
Limited liability partnerships protect partners' personal assets from negligence claims against their firm. They are allowed in most of the 50 states of the US but not in the UK.
The Government announces its legislation for the next session of Parliament in the Queen's Speech on Friday.
Thomas says the LLP Bill may not be explicitly mentioned in the speech because the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is introducing legislation - for instance on e-commerce - that the Government considers more glamorous.
But he says: "The DTI have published extensive consultation on the bill and draft regulations. There's been a lot of consultation with representative organisations and all the indications are that it is ready.
"It will be scrutinised in the House of Commons and the House of Lords over nine months or so and the regulations will be made as soon as it is on the statute book."
Thomas expects the bill to get royal assent by July next year but says changes in administration at Companies House are likely to delay its implementation until 2001, as the DTI aims to outsource the Companies House documents to an IT company to put them into an electronic format.
He says there is "a lot of interest in the bill" from City law firms. "We have worked with most of the other big City firms through the City of London Law Society."
Richard Turnor, private client partner at Allen & Overy says he will be "bitterly disappointed" if the bill is not introduced.
As part of its merger with Rogers & Wells, Clifford Chance will be registered as a New York LLP (The Lawyer, 19 July). Thomas will not comment on whether the firm will opt for UK LLP status once the Government's legislation is passed.