What Was in the Queen’s Speech for Small Businesses?
As the Queen officially opened Parliament, what measures were in the Queen’s speech for UK SMEs?
Despite the Government’s drive to deregulate, especially with its Red Tape Challenge looking at and testing 21,000 regulations, the Queen’s Official State Opening of Parliament speech held very little for British businesses.
Written by ministers, the speech focused on the orimary target of HM Government to prop up the economy.
The National Insurance Contributions Bill was one welcome move, scheduled to come into effect in April 2014. The NICs Bill entitles businesses to a £2,000 employment allowance, meaning that the first £2,000 of an employee’s NICs will be waived. The move is expected to affect some 450,000 who will be exempt from paying NICs.
There was also a High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, giving the Government access to funds for the preparation work on the controversial HS2 project that will link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
As a big infrastructure project, HS2 is supposed to cut rail journey times from the north of England to the south and is the time-saving alone is expected to have positive benefits for the UK economy as a whole.
A new Intellectual Property Bill has been drafted to help speed up and simplify patent and design protection laws. Under the new bill the Unified Patent Court will oversee European patent issues, meaning that a single patent application will be valid in most EU territories.
The Draft Consumer Rights Bill will improve consumer protection laws an now cover digital downloads such as e-books, music and apps. Trading Standards will be given new powers to order traders to pay compensation to consumers when the law is broken.
There was also a Draft Deregulation Bill looking at exempting the self-employed from certain health and safety laws where they pose no risk to others.
Commenting on the speech, Phil Orford, the CEO of the Forum of Private Business (FPB) said:
“At first glance this is a raft of Bills that will pass right over the head of small businesses. There is much made of a ‘deregulatory bill’ but if the government really wants to deregulate it needs to stop unnecessary regulations in the first place, a cause not helped by plans for immigration checks to be placed squarely on the shoulders of small business.”
On the Government’s task to legislate changes to flexible working and parental leave, due in 2015, Orford added:
“The Government must realise it is the constant churn of change that most annoys small businesses, not archaic regulations they are not aware of and so do not probably obey anyway.”
As a parting shot, Orford finished by saying:
“Upon initial viewing, this seems the most insignificant Queen’s Speech for business for a number of years. If that means Government leaves them alone to get on with growing their businesses then more the better.”