Business groups welcomed measures in the Queen’s Speech today while urging the government to push on with big decisions after the EU referendum, but clashed over broadband.
The Queen’s Speech was announced as a “one nation” effort by Prime Minister David Cameron, and was set around three principles – the economy, increasing chances for the disadvantaged and security.
The Intsitute of Directors
The Institute of Directors (IoD) said that the government was right to resist the temptation to announce lots of eye-catching initiatives in the speech, but was disappointed by the lack of ambition on broadband.
“The most exciting area of the government’s agenda for us is the Modern Transport Bill, which continues the work on developing the UK’s first spaceport and encouraging job-creation in the industry, “ said Simon Walker, the IoD’s director.
“The Bill also contains encouragement for firms working on driverless cars, and the lays a framework for the commercial use of drones. Properly supervised, both are exciting growth areas for business.
“We are concerned, however, that the commitment to enable all households to access broadband speeds of 10 megabits per second is not ambitious enough.
“Several cities around the world are pushing ahead with networks of 10 gigabits per second – a thousand times faster. If the UK is going to continue to be a world leader in the digital economy, the government needs to look further ahead than their basic universal service obligation.”
TechUK also said that the government’s “ambitions for extending the reach of high quality broadband are achievable. But we mustn’t put the cart before the horse.”
It’s deputy chief executive Antony Walker said the UK needs to focus first on how we can drive down costs, by removing barriers and enabling companies to plan efficiently. “If we can drive down costs, then the funding discussion becomes far easier and the whole process should move faster.”
The Confederation of British Industry
However, while the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) was positive about the “government’s clear commitment to locking in growth, creating jobs and bringing investment, it differed from the IoD as it was more positive about the focus on digital".
Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said: “Prioritising the digital revolution, which is transforming the face of modern business, is a key step to propelling the UK’s productivity. Ensuring that broadband reaches all corners of the country will breed a new generation of companies in an increasingly competitive environment.”
Hardie warned, however, in the same vein as Walker, that “in the near future, business is looking forward to hearing more on several key projects, from a new runway in the South East to the National Innovation Plan".
The British Chambers of Commerce
The British Chambers of Commerce, meanwhile, agreed with the CBI about high-speed broadband.
“Businesses will see the merit in many of the bills announced in the Queen’s Speech, particularly the commitment to high-speed broadband for all households and business premises,” said Adam Marshall, acting director general of the BCC.
“If implemented in full and at pace, this could go some way to improving the poor digital connectivity that far too many firms face.
He also sounded the alarms over the need for some big decisions to be made. “Yet on most of the issues where business is impatient for action, what’s needed are big decisions – not new legislation.
“Businesses want decisive action to boost aviation capacity, help companies plug skills gaps, and stop the steady drip of new taxes and costs piled on their bottom lines at a time of significant uncertainty.
“Firms want to see bold and decisive steps from government after the EU referendum – whatever the outcome – to help Britain get back to business.”
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
The government is expected to make a decision on aviation capacity this summer, after months of dithering, and has come under pressure from Labour, as well as groups including the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, for allowing a skills shortage to develop and ignoring productivity.
The CIPD today said: “Given that the UK’s productivity is continuing to stagnate, it’s hard to understand why improving workplace productivity doesn’t seem to figure in the government’s priorities.
"Improving this is the key to increasing wages, enhancing services and building stability and success into the economy for the long term. Businesses – particularly small firms – need more support from government to help them improve workplace practices that can unlock productivity improvements."