King's speech: "thin" on business detail
By Simon Hacker | 8th November 2023
Sector representatives from small via medium to giant have reacted to the first King's Speech, given to UK Parliamant yesterday, with cautious approval – and outright disappoinment.
Ian Mean, Business West's Gloucestershire director, made little attempt to hide his dismay.
Mr Mean told Punchline-Gloucester.com: "To say that the King's Speech was thin on content to benefit business is an understatement. The story here for business is what was not in it."
He added: "The King's historic address – full of all the English parliamentary pageantry – featured 21 bills of which seven have been carried forward from last year. They had already been announced – hardly good news from a struggling government now in general election mode."
Despite citing an aspiration to increase economic growth, which Mr Mean said was the most important factor for business, he warned: "Business, especially SMEs, need to feel they are being supported by government, but it is sadly lacking."
He said the document was also disappointing in its lack of planning reform.
"Planning and the difficulty in actually getting planning permission is stifling companies' growth in Gloucestershire."
He did, however, acknowledge that the speech offered optimism through a mention of increasing high-quality apprenticeships.
"That's so important because the lack of skills is holding business back. Business has to hope that the Chancellor's forthcoming statement will give them more support but companies will not be holding their breath."
The Federation of Small Businesses meanwhile reacted with cautious optimism on the mention of skills.
The FSB said: "It was encouraging to hear the Kings Speech focus on the importance of skills, which is why the Chancellor must empower the self-employed in his Autumn Statement by making training expenses deductible from their taxable income, which will foster a culture of skills."
The Confederation of British Industry however, warned that a focus on the election risked putting the economy on the "back burner".
John Foster, CBI Chief Policy and Campaigns Officer, said: "The King's Speech offers an opportunity to inject momentum into the economy and action to speed up grid connections, advance autonomous vehicle technology through future-focused regulation, and back UK businesses to trade globally through CPTPP is welcome.
"But the critical moment will be when the Chancellor delivers the Autumn Statement in just over two weeks' time, where action to unlock business investment, deliver an internationally competitive business environment and seize high growth opportunities can help ignite the economy."
He added: "One idea that would be a game changer in terms of unlocking business investment and driving growth is extending full capital expensing beyond the current three-year window. A longstanding CBI campaign, our research shows that the move could deliver a permanent boost of 21% to business investment and increase GDP by up to 2% by 2030/31."
The Institute of Directors struck a more downbeat tone.
In reaction to the speech, Dr Roger Barker, director of Policy, said: "The King's Speech provided the last opportunity for the government to lay out its legislative agenda ahead of the next General Election. However, there is not much in it to address the direct concerns of business leaders.
"We welcome the introduction of a bill that will enable the UK to proceed with its entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). However, although there will be legislation to guide the introduction new technologies like driverless cars, we are disappointed that the government does not yet have anything substantive to offer with respect to the future regulation of Artificial Intelligence.
"Corporate governance is a crucial issue for the IoD and its members. We welcome the introduction of a Football Governance Bill, which will hopefully enable football clubs to operate in a more sustainable manner. However, the absence of a bill to implement key aspects of the government's long planned audit and corporate governance reforms is a major omission. It appears that corporate governance is not seen as a vote winner by politicians - despite the wide-ranging impact of the collapses of companies like Carillion and BHS."
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