The Queen’s Speech 2012: a manufacturer’s perspective

Posted on 9 May 2012

The Queen gave her speech today, in what was described as some by less incendiary than some. But what does it mean for manufacturers with UK operations?

As to be expected, the Coalition placed economic growth at the heart of the speech. Business Secretary Vince Cable said afterwards: “Plans to cut red tape, boost green investment, reform the competition landscape and reform the banks are vital moves that would help strengthen the business environment and boost consumer and business confidence.”

The main bills to affect the conduct of business in the UK were the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, the Energy Bill, the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, The Banking Reform Bill and the Children and Families Bill.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will aim to:

  • Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of competition enforcement and the competitiveness of markets by strengthening the regime and improving the speed and predictability for business.
  • Set the purpose of the UK Green Investment Bank and ensure its independence to help accelerate private sector investment in the UK’s transition to a green economy.
  • Extend the Primary Authority scheme, reduce inspection burdens on business and strengthen the legal framework for sunset clauses on regulation.
  • Repeal unnecessary legislation, cutting the burden on business and citizens.

The Energy Bill aims to:

  • Increase investment in power plants that use green technology by introducing long-term contracts that ensure a guaranteed and steady ROI for investors. It is hoped that the bill will help investors to get past the huge initial costs of investment in nuclear power plants as well as on and offshore wind turbines.
  • Discourage and even prevent the construction of new coal-fired plants by introducing an emissions performance standard.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill will:

  • Create a Groceries Code Adjudicator to uphold the Groceries Code to address the market dominance of the large retailers, and ensure suppliers are treated fairly and lawfully. It is planned that the bill will address issues regarding competition between smaller and larger businesses by arbitrating disputes between retailers and suppliers, investigating anonymous complaints and taking sanctions against retailers who break the rules.

The Banking Reform Bill will:

  • Help the Government go further in its steps to create its promised Green Investment Bank to accelerate investment in environment-friendly projects.
  • Split investment bank and traditional banking, hopefully leading to a more certain and surefooted environment for investors.

The Children and Families Bill aims to increase flexible working by making shared parental leave an option for employees.

Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF said: “Today’s speech focussed on some key areas for business including energy, pensions and regulation. These are critical issues for industry in terms of competitiveness and in giving it the confidence in the UK as a place to invest.”

He added: “With the headwinds on growth intensifying, it is vital that government gets on with the job of delivering on its commitments in these key areas.”

Commenting specifically on reform of the electricity markets, Dr Colin Brown, director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “With the UK’s nuclear programme in disarray, wind power under increasing pressure and uncertainty over Feed-In Tariffs squeezing the UK solar industry, Electricity Market Reform is the Government’s best chance to ensure a secure, clean and affordable energy supply in the coming decades.”

Dr Brown went on to say: “However, the warm words about rebalancing the economy … are not matched by any significant legislation to help UK manufacturing. Our manufacturers and engineers are crying out for an industrial strategy backed by strong legislation that can support their efforts to drive the economy back towards growth.”