By Andrew Lansley
What does the Queen’s Speech mean for SMEs?
Politics always dominates the reports of a Queen’s Speech. This was no exception. And the elephant in the room – the EU Referendum – pretty nearly trampled on the rest. But, behind the noise, the announcements of legislation for the year ahead had an unusually rich crop of announcements relevant to business, including small businesses.
Potentially most important will be the Local Growth and Jobs Bill. This will implement the plan for local authorities to retain all their business rate income and for the combined authorities with Mayors to be able to seek supplementary business rate income to fund infrastructure. For local businesses, if this leads to greater accountability to businesses, it can be a driver for economic development as a priority.
The push for devaluation continues, including more powers for the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Powerhouse and new Combined Authorities, including in relation to business services.
Competition is integral to effective markets, and the Better Markets Bill will be intended to promote competition, especially for consumers switching banks or energy supporters.
For many small business owners, the extra protection for pensions and, for the under-40s, the Lifetime ISA, will help promote savings and pension provision.
Following the large-scale Housing and Planning Bill, a further push for neighbourhood plans, reform of Compulsory Purchase Orders privatisation of the Land Registry and simplification of pre-commencement planning conditions are all intended to promote development and meet the one million new homes target.
The National Information Commission will be put into law, and the resolve now to give Britain a competitive infrastructure is a key business requirement. This purpose, including the Digital Economy Bill, will be especially welcome if it makes high-speed broadband genuinely a universal access requirement.
Innovation gets a push too, from legal-backing for driverless cars and spare-parts, to new dispute resolution for intellectual property cases.
So, some potentially useful legislation is lining up over the next year. With government further strengthening its’ deregulatory drive, there is more for businesses to welcome than fear (even if the soft drinks levy looks fairly regulatory, it is phrased in is a way that industry can adapt to it; and many recognise the need).
If – and it is a big ‘if’ – businesses can also avoid the elephant-like impact of a Brexit vote, then the resumption of business-as-usual in this legislative programme has promise, especially through engagement for business with devolution.