Lancashire businesses welcome Government Queen’s Speech plans, but say now is the time to act

Lancashire business leaders welcomed the fine words of the Government’s plans for the year ahead in the Queen’s Speech, but said it was now time to deliver.

By Tim Gavell
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 10:58 am

The Queen’s Speech, written by the Government in power and which sets out the bills for the coming Parliamentary term, was delivered by the Prince of Wales for the first time.

In all, the package featured 38 bills or draft bills, including some that had been carried over from the last parliamentary session.

Businesses were hoping for positive news amid the economic uncertainty and rising costs following on from the set-back of the pandemic and while there were some encouraging ideas, the Government now had to make good on its levelling up claims and to help mitigate the effects of inflation, perhaps with an emergency budget.

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The Prince of Wales, , flanked by the Duke of Cambridge and the Duchess of Cornwall, delivers the Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords, London

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Geoff Mason, policy manager at the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is encouraging that economic growth has been prioritised by the Government.

"For an area hoping reap the benefits of levelling up, it is good news to finally see comprehensive legislation to ensure progress.

"Businesses want to see tangible results soon from levelling up, not just lofty ambitions. With County Deals to be at the heart of local decision making, it is essential that Lancashire works together to develop a workable plan to ensure we are within the next tranche of deals and not left behind.

Martin McTague FSB National Chairman

“Other aspects of the speech are to be welcomed. Ensuring HS2 reaches Manchester, helping Lancashire unlock the benefits of the new line is excellent news. Increased infrastructure investment is also good to see with bills covering transport, telecommunications and energy.”

He said that many businesses were hoping for some help when it came to business rates.

He said: “The Chamber has long argued for fundamental reform of business rates. While it is promising to see some movement on this, including more frequent revaluations, we still want the system to be easier to navigate for businesses.

“While the Brexit Freedoms Bill has great potential for innovation in new technologies and sectors, it is important that we don’t see deregulation for its own sake, risking the ability of our exporters to sell their goods abroad, especially in the EU.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the Central Lobby at the Palace of Westminster during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords, London

“We agree with the Government’s ambitions to grow the economy and help protect the UK from future shocks. However, in order to take advantage of these opportunities we must deal with the issues of rising costs now.

"We back the call from the British Chambers of Commerce for an emergency budget to help firms tackle current inflationary pressures. If unchecked now, we risk weakening the ability of businesses to grow, employ and invest, at a time many are still trying to recover from the difficulties of the pandemic.”

Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Martin McTague said: “It was good to hear a pro-enterprise address, but it’s now time to turn kind words into action.

“Firms need the Government to deliver quickly on levelling-up commitments through plans for devolution, infrastructure investment and regulatory reform.

“To date, a combination of a disappointing Shared Prosperity Fund settlement, rolling back of HS2 plans and withdrawal of the New Enterprise Allowance has left many in target areas feeling underwhelmed.

“Efforts to establish a new infrastructure bank, cement roll-out of gigabit-capable broadband and improve 4G coverage across the UK need to happen swiftly, targeting areas most in need.

“So far, levelling up efforts have been too vague to have any meaningful impact – the time has come for flesh on the bones.

“As the Government pushes the levelling up agenda over this parliament, it needs to ask itself the questions that matter: Are we genuinely improving high streets? Do community businesses feel empowered to invest and expand? Are we creating enough start-ups to counter the thousands lost over lockdowns?”

Electricity North West CEO, Peter Emery, said: “The Government is right to prioritise the UK’s transition towards a cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy system and we welcome its target to generate almost all the electricity we use from renewable sources by the end of the decade.

“Our plan will see us invest £1.8bn in the region over the next five years. We are committed to innovating and investing to help achieve the North West’s environmental targets at lowest cost to customers. We welcome all steps from the Government that aim to do the same and look forward to their support as we seek to transform the infrastructure that will power the transition to Net Zero.”

Martin Tugwell, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, welcomed the Queen’s Speech, which included references to improving transport and delivering on the levelling up agenda.

He said: “It is reassuring to hear clear mentions of the need for rail reform, something that we and our region’s political and business leaders have been calling for and contributing to. Combined with a focus on innovation and decarbonisation, and underpinned by the ongoing commitment to levelling up, this is a welcome commitment to enhancing connectivity.

“We now need greater detail on the role of Sub-national Transport Bodies within the new Transport Bill, setting out how we can offer our regional insights and expertise to help deliver a new rail regulatory framework that puts passengers first. Transport for the North is ready and waiting to be at the forefront of the Government’s plans to make levelling up a reality and create a sustainable transport network across the North of England.”

The bills in the speech included:

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill:

This will give local leaders new powers to help rejuvenate high streets by forcing landlords to rent out empty shop units.

It will also place a duty on the Government to produce an annual report updating the country on its progress to deliver its missions for levelling up.

Energy Security Bill:

Focused on paving the way for new, low-carbon technologies and growing the consumer market for electric heat pumps.

Will also appoint Ofgem as the new regulator for heat networks and extend the energy price cap.

UK Infrastructure Bank Bill:

Establishes the bank in law, with clear objectives to support regional and local economic growth and deliver net zero.

Non-Domestic Rating Bill:

This will shorten the business rates revaluation cycle from five to three years from 2023.

High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill:

Provides the powers to build and operate the next stage of the High Speed Two (HS2) network between Crewe and Manchester.

Draft Audit Reform Bill:

This will establish a new statutory regulator, the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority, and empower it to enforce directors’ financial reporting duties.