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Rumour and speculation had been rife; what manifesto commitments would make the Government’s top plans? Today (27 May) saw the first all-Conservative Queen’s Speech since 1996 and the first chance, post election, for Cameron and his team to lay out in detail the big commitments of the new Conservative Government. The Prime Minister stated the speech would set out a ‘clear vision for what our country can be’.
Plans for an ‘In-Out’ Referendum by 2017 and the reforms Cameron wanted to achieve for the UK in the European Union, were expected to top the list.
Consultation of the Human Rights Act and a UK Bill of Rights, Devolution, Housing, Tax and Enterprise were also heavily tipped.
The Queen’s speech announced 25 new Bills, as well as one draft Bill. As predicted, the EU Referendum was the main headliner from the speech.
“My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states.
“Alongside this, early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union before the end of 2017”.
For businesses, the Conservative Manifesto rhetoric was ever present, notables announcements include:
The Enterprise Bill will cut business regulation and enable easier resolution of disputes for small businesses. It will also introduce a cap on public sector redundancy pay and business rate appeals reform.
The Enterprise Bill will be headed by Sajid David, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and his BIS team. It reflects the commitments made by the Tories during the election campaign, established within their Small Business Manifesto which promised to; cut £10 billion of red tape and establish a new Small Business Conciliation service to mediate in disputes, especially over late payment.
Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill
The Bill will create a duty on Ministers to report on job creation and apprenticeships.
“Legislation will be brought forward to help achieve full employment and provide more people with the security of a job. Newduties will require my ministers to report annually on job creation and apprenticeships. Measures will also be introduced toreduce regulation on small businesses so they can create jobs”.
National Insurance Contributions/Finance Bill
Will freeze for the next 5 years:
“Legislation will be brought forward to ensure people working 30 hours a week on the National Minimum Wage do not payincome tax, and to ensure there are no rises in Income Tax rates, Value Added Tax or National Insurance for the next 5 years”.
The Queen promises a ‘strong and lasting constitutional settlement, devolving wide-ranging powers to Scotland.’
The Scotland Bill will devolve further powers to the Scottish Parliament, including control of income tax, air passenger duty and borrowing.
This is the result of the Smith Commission Agreement, established after the results of the Scottish Referendum in 2014.
Wales also received a devolution bill, the Wales Bill, which will devolve further powers to the National Assembly for Wales, including over certain energy projects, transport regulation and voting for 16 and 17 year olds.
Northern Ireland will implement the Stormont House Agreement.
The Queen also detailed plans surrounding English votes for English laws:
“My government will bring forward changes to the standing orders of the House of Commons. These changes will create
fairer procedures to ensure that decisions affecting England, or England and Wales, can be taken only with the consent
of the majority of Members of Parliament representing constituencies in those parts of our United Kingdom.”
“The NFDA is encouraged to see the government’s continued commitment to introducing measures to reduce regulation on small businesses”, said Sue Robinson, Director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers across the UK, following the Queen’s speech earlier today.
Robinson continued, “This will be good for our members, helping them to support and grow their business. Red tape has been a long standing issue for companies, and has been costly both in time and administration. Any plans to reduce this burden would certainly be well received by our industry.
“Measures to support businesses and job creation are all positive steps in assuring continued economic stability. A reduction in the burden of regulators on small business would be appreciated by members who have to deal with financial, health and safety, and employment regulation”.
Chuka Umunna, Shadow Business Secretary, on BBC News:
“Just because you claim to be a One Nation government doesn’t make it so.”
The Shadow Business Secretary also says the Government’s devolution proposals ‘simply don’t go far enough’.
The CBI responded to new legislation announced in The Queen’s Speech. Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said on the Enterprise Bill:
“Pruning unnecessary red tape from Westminster and Brussels will give firms bursting with potential – especially small and medium-sized ones – the space to grow and thrive.
“We want to see more details on how the Small Business Conciliation Service will work in practice. We believe customers and suppliers should deal directly to reach agreement wherever possible.”
The TaxPayers’ Alliance
Responding to the Queen’s Speech, Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“The Conservatives were elected on a mandate of protecting taxpayers and reducing spending, and the Queen’s Speech delivered on the first. We hope that the Chancellor follows through in his forthcoming Budget, ensuring that Britain lives within its means and starting the much-needed simplification of our tax system”.
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) says today that the Queen’s Speech fixes a strong tone for Government policy, with a focus on tackling tax avoidance and evasion, clarifying plans for long-term economic stability and job creation, with the Government seeking to deliver pre-election commitments to full employment.