Queen’s Speech – bullet points and reaction

Measures included on the Queen’s Speech:
•    Reforms to annuities letting people draw retirement income in one go if they choose
•    Employees can pay into collective pension funds shared with other workers
•    Childcare subsidy up to £2,000 a year, replacing existing employer-funded scheme
•    Extra protection for people being sued for negligence if acting heroically or in public interest
•    Curbs on “excessive redundancy payments” for highly-paid public servants
•    Tougher penalties for failing to pay minimum wage plus crackdown on abuse of zero hours contracts
•    Fracking firms can run shale gas pipelines under private land
•    Tougher powers to seize cyber-crime assets
•    Tougher penalties for human trafficking
•    Power to trigger by-elections against wrong-doing MPs

Several of these measures are within a ‘Small Business, Enterprise & Employment Bill’.

Commenting on some of the aspects, the British Chambers of Commerce said:

On pensions:

“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 (CDC), it must ensure that the perceived benefits are not overplayed, and that prospective participants are made aware of the possible pitfalls of entering such a scheme – particularly around risk and access to funds. From an employer’s perspective, offering a range of models is not a problem, providing this does not lead to additional, burdensome bureaucracy. There should also be incentives for employers of all sizes to participate in CDCs, otherwise only very large companies are likely to take these up.”

On the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill:

“Simplifying life for small or growing businesses should be an objective shared across all political parties. There are many measures in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill that will receive support if they work in practice – including faster company registration, improvements to public sector payment, and measures to support business cash flow.

“The vast majority of law-abiding businesses will also favour a clampdown on rogue employers who do not pay the National Minimum Wage, and on company directors who act unscrupulously. The key here will be to ensure that enforcement focuses on those businesses and individuals that knowingly and wilfully flout the law. Any measures that tie up honest businesses in new bureaucracy would ultimately be self-defeating.”

On infrastructure, roads and planning:

“It is one thing to announce new infrastructure, but quite another to deliver it. We believe that the Infrastructure Bill proposed by ministers has the potential to speed up the road, rail and energy projects that business needs to invest and grow.

“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. Measures to speed up the planning for major infrastructure schemes are welcome, but only if they actually cut the complexity that dogs so many key energy and transport projects.”

On fracking:

“Energy security is paramount for British business. While some companies are concerned about volatile energy prices, all businesses, from the smallest to the largest, tell us that they can’t trade unless the lights stay on. Britain needs to exploit all of its potential energy generation resources – including shale gas – in order to deliver the security of supply that our economy requires. While fracking may be unpalatable to some, it is absolutely essential, and business will support legislative measures to exploit Britain’s shale gas deposits.”

On Beneficial Ownership:

“The vast majority of firms are already transparent in the way they run their business, so plans to improve transparency in corporate governance will be welcomed. We hope that ministers will continue to work closely with the business community to ensure the implementation of these reforms does not create an unnecessarily high administrative burden on law abiding companies, while also ensuring the UK is not the only country taking action to encourage proper corporate governance.”

Written on 4th June 2014Lillie Geistdorfer. Published in BCC, Current Issues, News