UK businesses welcome legislative moves

Businesses have welcomed government ambitions outlined on Tuesday to take greater steps to 'level up' the UK economy, to boost financial services and to reform and reduce taxation.

state opening 2022

The Prince of Wales delivers the speech with the Duke of Cambridge sitting to the left and Duchess of Cornwall to the right. It is written by the government and sets out its legislative agenda for the 2022-23 session. Copyright House of Lords 2022 / Photography by Annabel Moeller https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The plans were unveiled in the Queen's Speech to both houses of parliament - basically, a government blueprint for the new parliamentary session, written by ministers but which has been delivered by Queen Elizabeth for the past 60 years but, on this occasion, by Prince Charles because of his mother's ill-health.

Prince Charles unveils the State Opening of Parliment

Early in the speech, the prince said: "Her Majesty’s Government will drive economic growth to improve living standards and fund sustainable investment in public services.

"This will be underpinned by a responsible approach to the public finances, reducing debt while reforming and cutting taxes.

"New legislation will strengthen the United Kingdom’s financial services industry, ensuring that it continues to act in the interest of all people and communities. The United Kingdom’s data protection regime will be reformed."

He also said the government would support the Bank of England's efforts to reduce inflation to the target of 2%. It is currently running at 7% and, as with many other nations across the globe, could hit double figures in the coming months.On the government's 'levelling up' agenda, which is intended to enable other regions and nations in the UK to enjoy the economic success of London and SE England, the prince said legislation would be introduced "to drive local growth, empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas, and ensuring everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success".

The statement focuses on improvement in many areas such as local growth and reducing inflation

He added: "Her Majesty's Government will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovation. Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers."

The government will also repeal and reform regulations on businesses with a new Brexit Freedoms Bill being introduced to "enable law inherited from the European Union to be more easily amended".

And the prince said that, under an upcoming Procurement Bill, "public sector procurement will be simplified to provide new opportunities for small businesses".

On energy, the government is going to bring forward legislation to "deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy”.
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Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said the Queen’s Speech came at a crucial time, when households and businesses were facing significant economic headwinds.“Firms looking for the  government to address the cost-of-living crisis by growing the economy will be encouraged by the ambition in the Queen’s Speech," he said.

“The focus on infrastructure, energy security, and skills all lay the foundations for sustainable, longer-term growth. And reaching for smarter, better regulation will ensure the UK remains world-leading in finance and put us at the front of the pack to make the most of emerging technologies."The financial services trade body, TheCityUK, welcomed the announcement of a Financial Services Bill and called on the government to use it to introduce "a new competitiveness objective" to include measures to drive a new regulatory culture grounded in proportionate, fair and predictable regulation.

Improving workers rights is one area that was not included in the finanical bill

"This will maintain high standards, enable our industry to provide the best service to its customers and remain at the forefront of new growth areas and the transition to net zero," the organisation said in a statement.

There was, however, disappointment that a bill aimed at improving workers' rights - first promised by the current government in December 2019 - was not included in the legislative proposals.

Such a bill was expected to offer flexible working rights, protections against redundancies and pregnancy discrimination, and rights for staff to keep all tips.

Ben Willmott, head of policy at the  Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said the omission of the bill left the government with "very little time to meet its promises to protect and enhance workers' rights".

It was, he said, a "missed opportunity" to protect workers rights, particular those in lower paid jobs dealing with rising household costs.

Businesses feel this is a missed opportunity to help build growth and stability within companies

"The recent sacking of workers, without notice, by P&O Ferries shows that much more needs to be done to ensure unscrupulous employers cannot ignore their legal responsibilities and undercut employment standards in the UK," he added.

"It will also be hugely disappointing for working carers that there is no progress on legislating to give them new rights to take time off to manage their caring responsibilities."

Verity Davidge, director of policy at the manufacturers' organisation Make UK, agreed. "Business will be frustrated that, yet again, three years after having promised it, there was no Employment Bill. This is a major omission given how fast the world of work is changing, a trend accelerated by the pandemic," he said.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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