Posted by

Dr Adam Marshall, Executive Director of Policy & External Affairs

12 Jun 2014

Last week’s Queen’s Speech was the coalition’s last chance to spell out the laws it wants to pass before the general election, which is now less than a year away. Whilst the speech saw the introduction of some welcome measures aimed at supporting UK businesses, the real test will be if the government can deliver on these proposals.

With only 11 new bills introduced to parliament, the fewest since 2009, the task initially appears to be somewhat elementary. However, with only 299 days until this parliamentary session winds up, and six other bills carried over from the last session, MPs and peers will have plenty to do.

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill

Simplifying life for small or growing businesses should be an objective shared across all political parties. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill aims to do just that, including faster company registration, improvements to public sector payment, and measures to support business cash flow.

Although the vast majority of firms are already transparent in the way they run their business, the bill also outlines plans to improve transparency in corporate governance. We hope that ministers will continue to work closely with the business community to ensure that the implementation of these reforms doesn’t create an unnecessarily high administrative burden on law abiding companies.

Infrastructure Bill

Measures to speed up the planning for major infrastructure schemes are welcome, but only if they actually cut the complexity that blights so many key energy and transport projects. We support the transformation of the Highways Agency into a more flexible body, with five-year investment programmes, which we think will offer more certainty to business on key road projects. However, it is one thing to announce new infrastructure but quite another to deliver it.

Energy security is paramount for British business. Britain needs to exploit all of its potential energy generation resources - including shale gas to deliver the security of supply that our economy requires. All businesses, from the smallest to the largest, tell us that they can’t trade unless the lights stay on.

Pensions Tax Bill

Businesses and their employees will welcome attempts to broaden and diversify the provision of pensions in the UK. However, if the government does introduce a collective defined contribution scheme, it must ensure that the perceived benefits are not overplayed, and that prospective participants are educated of the possible pitfalls of entering such a scheme – particularly around risk and access to funds.

The real question that will hang over all the pomp and ceremony of last week is: can the government transform their agenda outlined in the Queen’s Speech into meaningful changes to support businesses? Action, not words and bills, is what matters for business.