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East Midlands Chamber News

Chamber Reacts to Queen’s Speech

George Cowcher, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: “Listening to the measures outlined today, the business communities’ number one priority will be how the growth that was hard won over the past five years can be secured during the coming Parliament.

“There is some concern that there are currently unfunded measures proposed. Cuts to public services to fund these measures could be hard to achieve and add pressures on schools and local authorities which might be difficult to accept. This may be something the Chancellor, George Osborne, plans to address in his statement in July.

“The key focus of this Government needs to be stability of the economy which Chamber members tell us is essential to maintain the business confidence of the past few years.

“Beyond stability, there are two big debates that look set to characterise the early stages of the coming Session – devolution in the United Kingdom and a referendum on Europe. On both of these, and on the economy, it is vital that the business voice is central to discussions and the best interests of business and this country’s prosperity are foremost in the minds of decision-makers.

“As the leading voice for business in the East Midlands, the Chamber will continue to work with politicians regionally and nationally to ensure the region’s business views are informing policy at all levels.”

Commenting on specific elements of the speech, George Cowcher said:

Europe: “There will definitely be an in/out referendum before the end of 2017 and the sooner we know the date the sooner we can begin to have formal discussions based on facts rather than rhetoric. Delays and uncertainty are damaging to business.”

Devolution: “Promises were made to Scotland following the independence referendum. The Chamber has said all along that devolution has to be fair and that Wales, Northern Ireland and England should not be disadvantaged as a result of promises made to Scotland. Ensuring changes specific to each country will be led by policymakers from that country has to be welcomed. Reiteration of promises to devolve power to the regions is also welcomed but business needs to be at the centre of this discussion.”

Infrastructure: “The Chamber is glad to hear that this Government is continuing its commitment to high speed rail but it would urge that progress is accelerated to ensure the East Midlands can benefit from this infrastructure investment as soon as possible.”

Taxation: “Ensuring workers on minimum incomes, who work fewer than 30 hours a week, pay no income tax will help very many low-paid workers. A promise of no rise in income tax, national insurance or VAT for the duration of this Parliament gives businesses and individuals the certainty needed for longer-term planning.”

Enterprise: “Further attention to regulation of businesses of all sizes is something the Chamber has been actively calling for and it is delighted to see that this Government plans, through an Enterprise Bill, to address the issue.”

Housing: “Giving housing association tenants the right to buy their homes does not address the overarching need for more homes to be built.”

NHS: “Many parts of the NHS already offer a 24/7/365 service but there has long been a need for GP hours to be more reflective of the needs of workers and the Chamber believes the five-year-plan suggested today will go some way towards addressing that need.”

Welfare: “The skills gap that exists between young people leaving academia and starting in employment is something the Chamber has been calling to be improved for some time. Moves to make young people earn any claimed benefits will give them skills that will hopefully make them more employable.”

Investigatory powers and data: “The Chamber is concerned that businesses could face unnecessary regulation and cost under proposed communications and data legislation and it would call on Government to make sure this is not the case.”