The measures proposed in the Queen’s Speech to help boost UK competitiveness were broadly welcomed by TM readers including manufacturing professional and those working to support the industry.
While commentators in many cases asked for more nuance, cautioned against complacency or asked for “more backbone” on issues like the late payment of suppliers, the moves to incentivise infrastructure investments and protect the UK’s energy security were welcomed.
Perhaps the exception to this rule is the plastics industry which came out strongly in opposition to the proposal to charge 5p for all plastic carrier bags in the UK.
Below is a selection of industry comment and commentary in response to the Queen’s Speech 2014.
Tim Thomas, Head of Employment Policy at EEF, said:
On Zero ours contracts:
“Zero-hours contracts occupy an important space in the labour market where, properly used, they provide flexible employment in job roles where open-ended contracts are unsuitable. The way forward set out today treads a fine line between supporting the majority of workers who want to continue to work on their zero-hours contracts and limiting their use where they are neither necessary nor appropriate.
On pensions reform:
“Pensions require a long-term stable base to encourage workers to invest in them, and frequent or consecutive reforms must be avoided. With many employers yet to reach their auto-enrolment staging date, there is currently little additional scope to require more from these employers, beyond their current commitments.
“Providing greater choice and flexibility for workers to draw down their pension pots must be accompanied by advice, not just information, if workers with no prior experience in managing their retirement savings are to benefit from the changes. Collective DC schemes can provide better pensions, but their members need to know what they are signing up for – that targets for incomes in retirement are not the same as guarantees and that collective schemes do not provide a defined benefit.”
On modern slavery:
“Businesses will want to support plans to outlaw the exploitation of workers, wherever this occurs. Many will already have robust process in place to ensure that any exploitation is eliminated from their supply chains and others will be willing supporters of expanding this best practice to their own businesses. Government can act as a catalyst to the good work already underway by providing early guidance and the reassurance that, provided employers follow this guidance, businesses of any size won’t find themselves on the wrong side of the new law.
Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:
“Given where we are in the political cycle, and the temptation to play to public opinion, it was refreshing to see this Queen’s Speech focusing firmly on the economic recovery.
“The last thing businesses wanted was a raft of new legislation, so they will be bolstered by targeted measures to cement long-term growth, promote jobs and raise living standards. The recovery is already motoring ahead and this Queen’s Speech should help step it up a gear.”
“The Government has talked a good game on infrastructure but the pace of delivery has been sluggish.
“Improving the pre-application phase of the planning process and moving towards a one-stop-shop for planning consents, should help to streamline the system and get much-needed projects over the start line and onto the home straight. But more than anything else we need to see bold political will to achieve this.
On late payment and zero hour contracts:
“Growing businesses rely on cash flow and are too often hampered by late payers, so we back a ‘comply or explain’ system for payment terms of more than 60 days.
“The UK’s flexible labour market is a strength of our economy, keeping the number of people out of work down and boosting employment – it should be protected.
“A ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts would be a proportionate response to some of the issues that have been highlighted, as it focuses on poor practice rather than demonising flexible work in general.”
Sahar Danesh, Principal Policy Advisor for Manufacturing at the IET said:
“Manufacturers, while upbeat about their sector, have told us consistently that Government support is skewed towards the larger companies with complicated application processes that they simply don’t have the time or resource to navigate.
“Smaller manufacturers want less red tape and simple, straight forward and easier access to Government support to ensure they can continue to grow and help build a successful economy.
“The manufacturing industry is proud of its growth and development and we need to make sure that we can make more people aware of how much value investing in this industry can bring to the UK economy.”
Main elements of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill include making it easier for small businesses to access finance; improving payment practices; providing small firms with fair access to the £230 billion spent each year in the form of public procurement contracts; and increasing the availability and sources of finance for businesses that want to invest.
A Tata Steel spokeperson said:
“The responsible development of a shale gas industry is a big opportunity for the UK economy and for the country’s foundation industries like steel, provided the full value of the supply chain can be captured here in the UK.
Tony Hague, managing director, Power Panels Electrical Systems said:
With regards to the subject close to all of our hearts, that of the commitment to 2M apprenticeship places in the UK.
Mby only concern/comment is what constitutes an apprenticeship?
In the good old days – or when I was 16 years old – some 29 years ago - being an apprentice meant four years training on the job, working across all areas of the business, coupled with day release at college and/or evening classes to get formal qualifications, such as ONCs and HNCs in engineering.
At the end of the period, you were well trained, fairly competent, qualified and able to make informed decisions on how best to progress your career. During your apprentice years, the pay was pretty bad, but you accepted this because it was clear the company was investing in you for the long term. The fact your mates worked down at the local supermarket and had more beer money than you – was not your primary concern.
Do we still have these values ?