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East Midlands Chamber News

Chamber Welcomes Queen’s Focus On Growth

HRH Queen Elizabeth II reads her Speech from the Throne at today's State opening of ParliamentReflecting on the Speech from the Throne by HRH Queen Elizabeth II at today’s State opening of Parliament, George Cowcher, Chief Executive of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce (DNCC), said: “Businesses will welcome the renewed focus on economic growth highlighted in the Queen’s Speech today.

“In previous years, Her Majesty has stated that deficit reduction has been her Government’s main priority, so this is a positive shift in thinking, as although a majority of local firms still support measures to bring down the deficit, austerity alone cannot sustain economic recovery and growth.

“Today’s speech has set out a challenging legislative blueprint for the year ahead, aimed at promoting economic growth, supporting free trade, tackling tax evasion and encouraging greater transparency and accountability. Ministers must now ensure they deliver on these new proposals to help businesses grow, invest and create jobs."

Mr Cowcher’s reaction to some of the specific proposals in the Queen’s Speech is outlined below:

On the National Insurance Contributions Bill:

“The move to help our smallest companies take on staff by cutting their employer’s National Insurance bills by £2,000 will give many businesses an important boost of confidence. Small companies should be able to focus on growth rather than worry about getting hit by employment taxes.”

On the Deregulation Bill:

“Efforts to reduce the burden of health and safety regulation will be welcome news to many businesses. Ensuring that low-risk workplaces are exempted from inspections is a sensible change that will save employers time and money without reducing the safety of workers.

“The removal of the ‘strict liability’ currently attached to some health and safety regulations will reduce an important burden on employers. The threat of being found liable for a health safety claim, even when the employer has not been negligent, is enough to put anyone off running their own business.

“The Government has to understand that the more that it does to increase the cost of employing people and the more the administrative burden imposed on business by unnecessary employment legislation, the fewer jobs businesses will create. There is an inextricable link between the two. More red tape = fewer jobs.”

On the HS2 Hybrid Bill and (Preparation) Bill:

“HS2 is another step closer following the proposal of these two important Bills, which is welcome news. Poor transport infrastructure has held back the UK's ability to take full advantage of opportunities to grow its businesses.

“Not only will HS2 unlock initial potential economic benefits of £3.8bn in the East Midlands, it will bring all the UK regions closer together and create the capacity our businesses need to invest with confidence, expand and compete on a global scale.”

On proposals to ensure it becomes typical for every school-leaver to start a traineeship or apprenticeship, or go to university (no new Bill):

“DNCC has long-argued that the academic route is not for every child and that more should be done to promote vocational routes into work as a viable alternative to further education or university. The Chamber would also like to see greater ambition in preparing young people for employment through comprehensive careers education.”

On Defence Procurement and increasing business support for the Reserve Forces:

“There is still a huge gulf in Ministry of Defence procurement, with a large number of services supplied to our troops being provided by overseas companies. This is not in the best interests of UK plc, so it’s good to see efforts being made to address this.

“Clearly, the regular forces cannot function without the support of Reservists, so it is crucial that more businesses get engaged. There are a vast number of individuals in the Reserve Forces gaining knowledge and experience relevant to business and firms which allow them to do so will reap the benefits when they return to the workplace.

“However, if businesses are being asked to allow their reservists to be deployed for longer periods, then the Government, for its part, should look at ways to use its procurement more strategically to support British businesses of all sizes in return.”

On the (draft) Consumer Rights Bill:

“Consolidating the vast amount of legislation on Trading Standards’ powers into one piece of legislation may benefit consumers. However, any simplification of consumer law must not add new burdens for businesses.”

On the Pensions Bill:

“The introduction of a single tier state pension brings much greater clarity for pension savers, as well as parity for the self-employed. The government must ensure there is as much flexibility as possible for firms required to end contracting out, particularly given the decision to implement this reform as early as 2016.”

On the Energy and Water Bills:

“The Government must ensure that the Energy Bill is not subject to any further delays that would hinder the future security of the UK’s energy supply or discourage private sector investment.

“The lack of competition in the English water market has meant that English businesses have received a poorer service than customers in Scotland. Ensuring genuine competition between water suppliers is good news for businesses in England.”