Missed opportunity to help business in challenging times – Kings speech business industry reaction

8th November 2023

A number of proposed reforms were announced by King Charles as he laid out the government’s priorities for the year ahead at the State Opening of Parliament.

Responding to the announcements, Alex Veitch, Director of Policy and Insight at the British Chambers of Commerce said “The King’s Speech opened with an aspiration to increase economic growth – but it failed to outline how that will happen. The businesses we represent need help in dealing with inflation, interest rates and a challenging labour market.

“The Government could, and should have gone further, to help companies in challenging times. We hope the Autumn Statement later in the month will provide more certainty for businesses.

“It is disappointing that the King’s Speech didn’t include further planning reform in England. We continue to call for a faster and more efficient system that enables business to grow.

“Latest data from the BCC’s Insight Unit shows investment flatlining. Our Quarterly Economic Survey for Q3, showed only 23% of respondents were increasing investment whilst concern over the impact of high interest rates is growing, reaching 45%.”

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Martin McTague said “The King’s Speech comes at a crunch time for the economy. The Chancellor now has a good opportunity to build on the King’s Speech with clear, sharp action in the upcoming Autumn Statement.”

“The emphasis on steering inflation back to its target underscores the need for prudent decision-making.Equally crucial is taking action on late payment, under pressure sectors and the advancement of skills. It’s important for the Autumn Statement to empower the self-employed to deduct training expenses from their taxable income so the UK can keep pace with economic and technological change.”

“Small firms are on tenterhooks for other favourable policy announcements. They want to see the SME-focused 75 per cent business rates relief for firms in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors continue. This lifeline is set to vanish in March and its absence could leave a devastating blow to those already struggling to stay afloat. Similarly, the much-anticipated business-rates reform cannot remain in limbo.”

“After the first King’s Speech in 70 years, all eyes are on the Autumn Statement to champion the cause of the UK’s 5.6million strong business community.”

Dr. Roger Barker, Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors said “The King’s Speech provided the last opportunity for the government to lay out its legislative agenda ahead of the next General Election. However, there is not much in it to address the direct concerns of business leaders.”

“We welcome the introduction of a bill that will enable the UK to proceed with its entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). However, 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.”

“Corporate governance is a crucial issue for the IoD and its members. We welcome the introduction of a Football Governance Bill, which will hopefully enable football clubs to operate in a more sustainable manner. However, the absence of a bill to implement key aspects of the government’s long planned audit and corporate governance reforms is a major omission. It appears that corporate governance is not seen as a vote winner by politicians – despite the wide-ranging impact of the collapses of companies like Carillion and BHS.”

Michael Izza, ICAEW Chief Executive, commented on the exclusion from the King’s Speech of an audit and corporate governance reform bill:
“Carillion’s collapse almost six years ago marked a watershed moment for UK audit and corporate governance, but it appears that the government’s promise of comprehensive reform will remain unfulfilled due to a lack of political will.

“It is very disappointing that the audit and corporate governance bill is missing from the King’s Speech, leaving us with no realistic prospect that this key piece of primary legislation will happen before the next election. This comes hard on the heels of the government’s surprise decision last month to scrap new draft reporting regulations which the regulator and the accountancy profession had been working on for years.

“The attractiveness of the UK as a place to invest and do business is firmly based on the high quality of corporate transparency, governance, reporting and audit in this country. The government’s faint-hearted attitude to protecting and maintaining that reputation does the economy no favours.”