Commenting after the Queen’s Speech today David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“The devil will be in the detail on much of this proposed legislation. On climate change and road pricing business is willing to work with the government to find solutions but is not prepared to pay higher taxes to compensate for the nation’s excesses.

“Reform to the pension system is needed but clearly small businesses will be severely affected by the requirement to provide a compulsory 3 per cent contribution. The DWP must ensure provision is set aside to help business through the proposed changes as this could easily entrap employees with yet more red tape.”

Climate Change

Business supports attempts to tackle climate change but UK competitiveness can not be put at risk. Taxing businesses more to trade in the UK will merely force businesses abroad and do nothing to tackle global warning. The recent BCC Energy Efficiency Survey discovered that business wants to ‘go green’ but needs more assistance in doing so.

http://www.chamberonline.co.uk/policy/pdf/Energy_Efficiency_report_2006.pdf

Business welcomes the growing consensus that Britain should be the world leader in setting challenging targets in carbon emissions trading but business needs two things;

1. Financial framework from government which supports new energy efficient technologies.
2. Fair competition which means at the very least a carbon emissions trading scheme which doesn't impose greater costs in carbon emissions trading in the UK than it does in other countries.

Road Pricing

We recognise that it is unrealistic to expect any new road pricing scheme to be revenue neutral but the Department of Transport must guarantee that money raised is spent on improving the road network and on improving public transport. We are heartened that schemes will be local in nature one than be a one size fits all model.

Pension Reform

We have serious concerns about the compulsory contribution of 3 per cent that employers will have to make.

The BCC is requesting the following:

i. Additional tax incentives over and above the 1% currently on offer to enhance the attractiveness of PAS for employees.

ii. A reduction in years 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 of the employer’s National Insurance contributions equal to the employer contribution required in year one dropping by 20% a year to ease the employer cost burden over a 5/6 year introductory period.

iii. A flat rate lump sum payment, to cover all costs associated with the implementation of the revised procedures.
iv. The payment of all ongoing employer costs in administering the contribution deduction system.
v. The creation of a special training and education budget for business organisations to provide initial and ongoing employer support on the implementation and ongoing running of PAS during the years up to 2012, and the years after.

vi. The Government should allocate a budget to communicate the changes to the business community so that it is made clear that companies that have to pass on increased employment costs to their customers have done so due to the re-engineering of the state pension system.

vii. The Government should re-introduce tax credits on equity dividends for pension accounts and pension funds.
viii. Special additional financial and administrative help for smaller employers, who will be hit disproportionately.
ix. Consider an ongoing reduction in employer NI contributions to boost the attractiveness of the PAS system.

Skills

We welcome the announcement of a Further Education Bill to take forward the Government's plans to make the FE sector more efficient and responsive to the needs of business and the economy. This will take forward government plans to give the Further Education sector an economic mission. However, we would like assurances that the Government will continue to reform the funding of Further Education to make the system more demand-led, driving up standards in the sector and ensuring that employees get the best, most flexible training, which is best suited to their needs and those of business.

Local Government

Businesses need more responsive, accountable leadership in their local areas and we welcome proposals in the Local Government Bill to create stronger, visible leadership. However, each area should be able to determine for itself the best leadership model for its needs and should do this in conjunction with all parts of the local community. Local government alone cannot meet all the challenges facing a community so it is vital that closer links are forged with local businesses who create jobs and prosperity locally.

Planning

We welcome positive steps by the Government to simplify the UK’s lengthy planning processes that currently act as a restraint upon economic growth.