14 November 2023 – Last week we witnessed a historic moment, when we heard the King’s Speech for the first time in 70 years. While economic growth featured prominently, small businesses will wonder what it all means for them.
About once a year, the government outlines its priorities for the coming year delivered by the monarch in what’s known as the King’s Speech.
In the past 70 years, it was the Queen’s Speech, so it was a historic moment for the country and the monarch himself as Charles III addresses Parliament as King for the first time.
With a general election expected next year, it has to take place by January 2025, it is another chance for Rishi Sunak to convince voters that his government is the right one for the country.
But from the 21 prospective laws announced, seven were carried over from last year, so have already been announced. And while the speech emphasised the government’s pledge to promote economic growth, actual details on how this is achieved have been scarce.
Which Laws In The King’s Speech Affect Small Businesses
Even though bringing down inflation and growing the economy was emphasised as a key priority in the coming year, there was no mention how this would be achieved.
However, business leaders and industry figures have found some aspects in the speech to be optimistic about. While no laws in this respect have been put forward, the government has said it’s planning to increase high-quality apprenticeships to address the skills shortage.
One law that was welcomed by business leaders was a trade bill that would allow the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade pact. This would enable the country to trade with 11 nations in Asia and the Pacific.
The Automated Vehicles Bill was also welcomed, which is to provide a legal framework for the new technology of driverless cars. This could help the economy to build momentum in this sector.
The King’s Speech offers an opportunity to inject momentum into the economy and action to speed up grid connections, advance autonomous vehicle technology through future-focused regulation, and back UK businesses to trade globally through CPTPP is welcome.John Foster, Chief Policy and Campaigns Officer at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
One proposed bill that will have potentially a profound impact on small businesses is the Terrorism Bill or Martyn’s law. This bill will force businesses in the UK to have anti-terrorism plans in place.
It has been formulated on the back of the terror attack in Manchester at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017. Under the new legislation, there will be a two-tier system of duty. The standard duty will cover venues with a maximum capacity of 100 people which are accessible to the public. This will include small businesses such as cafés, restaurants and shops.
To comply with this new proposed law, small businesses will have to assess what types of terrorism could occur on their premises, how they could be prevented and how they will react to an attack.
Staff training and the drawing up of a six-step terrorism plan would also be required under the new legislation.
What Business Leaders Want From The Autumn Statement
There wasn’t much that was in the King’s Speech that gave business leaders and industry bodies much optimism. And there was concern that in the run-up to a general election, the economy could be left behind.
So the business community is looking forward to the Autumn Statment, which will take place on 22 November, in the hope that the Chancellor will announce measures to support the economy growth promised in the speech delivered by the monarch.
The British Retail Consortium is calling on Jeremy Hunt to freeze business rates in the upcoming statement, to allow retail businesses to cut prices and help ease inflation.
The CBI called for an extension of full capital expensing, which is currently only planned for a three-year period. The industry body believes this could increase business investment by 21% on a permanent basis.
The Institute of Directors raised concerns about what wasn’t included in the speech. Such as the lack of any substantial legislation on the regulation of artificial intelligence.
[…] although there will be legislation to guide the introduction new technologies like driverless cars, we are disappointed that the government does not yet have anything substantive to offer with respect to the future regulation of Artificial Intelligence.Dr Roger Barker, Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors
Business leaders and industry bodies, like small businesses, will now look forward to the Autumn Statement in the hope that it will contain measures to support small businesses.
With an election looming, we would have thought that Rishi Sunak will make his case, why he is the right man to lead our country for the next five years.
However, the announcements in the King’s Speech didn’t grab our attention. It was more of the same old. For us as a small business, we felt ignored and left out, as no doubt many other small businesses felt.
While the talk about bringing down inflation and growing the economy is good news, there was no substance behind it. We are none the wiser on how this government will achieve this.
Small businesses have been facing huge challenges for the past few years, with a pandemic, soaring interest rates and energy bills and a cost-of-living crisis to content with.
With business rates set to increase come April and income tax increasing at the same time, small businesses won’t feel supported by this government. On the contrary, it feels like they have been forgotten about.
Given that over 90% of UK businesses are small businesses, one wonders how the economy can grow if these small businesses can’t thrive.
We have to wait and see what the Chancellor will announce in his Autumn Statement, but at the moment we are not expecting too much that will help small businesses.