The Queen's Speech: What Does It Mean For Business In The UK?
In late May, the Queen opened the new session of Parliament and outlined the legislation that is due to come into force under the new Conservative government. Her Majesty's speech focused largely on the European Union, rewarding hard working families and small businesses.
So how will the measures introduced in the Queen's speech affect you and your business?
The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill
The government is introducing legislation specifically aimed at small businesses and it intends to make the UK a fairer place for growing companies.
First of all, much of the red tape and bureaucracy which can hold businesses back will be removed - for example, the new Small Business Conciliation Service will help resolve business-to-business disputes, particularly around payment. Collectively, the government expects this measure to save businesses around £10bn a year.
The government is also aiming to improve transparency to increase the fairness of business in the UK and so it will make it easier to find out who owns a company. A register of beneficial business ownership will be created and stronger rules with govern director disqualifications.
John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said: “We are very pleased the government is maintaining focus on small businesses. Our members have been very clear on the need to cut burdensome red tape and on addressing issues like the billions owed to small businesses in overdue payments. The Enterprise Bill is a real opportunity to make progress on these issues.”
The EU Referendum
The UK is now set to vote on whether it should remain a member of the EU or not. The run up to the referendum, due before the end of 2017, is set to cause some uncertainty which will impact businesses, especially those relying on the EU market or with long term contracts to sell into the EU. Should the UK opt to leave the EU, there is also concern that import tariffs will be imposed on goods which will increase costs and squeeze profits.
“With the UK set to debate its relationship with Europe, it is vital we truly understand the case for staying in or leaving the EU. The Single Market is important for many businesses in the UK – however, some are concerned about the EU’s approach in a number of areas, especially regulation,” said John Allan.
“The referendum will inevitably bring a period of uncertainty, which should be resolved as soon as possible. However, we must also ensure there is adequate time allotted to fully explore the options on the table. Small businesses must be able to fully understand and participate in the debate – discussing the economic case and what meaningful reforms are achievable before deciding how to cast their vote,” he added.
The Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill
As part of the Full Employment Bill, the government is intending to create three million apprenticeships over the next five years. This may help businesses which are struggling to find staff with the right skills. However, the FSB has warned that there is more to successful apprenticeship scheme in the UK than increasing the numbers.
“The only way to significantly increase the number of apprentices is to improve take-up among the UK’s 5.2 million small business. This requires government to make it crystal clear what the benefits are and what support is available. They must be affordable, have standards based on current industry practice and the quality of training must give confidence to employers that apprenticeships will produce the skills they need for the long term,” said Allan.
In summary, a significant portion of the legislation to be enacted during the next Parliament will see business centre stage, providing both threats and opportunities for UK companies.