Responding to the Queen’s Speech today the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said that we welcome the focus on a stronger economy and measures to help small businesses to create jobs.
The measures announced today must go hand in hand with ongoing work to develop the Government’s Business Bank and a drive to help small firms access finance.
On the Bills that have particular importance to small businesses, John Allan, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses said:
National Insurance Contributions Bill
“The FSB welcomed the announcement in the Budget in March to completely exempt some employers from paying National Insurance. This will help small businesses wary of the cost of employment to take on staff and help those that currently employ to free up funds to expand and grow.”
“We will be looking closely at this Bill, with a view to further simplifying and reducing regulation for small firms. We have welcomed much of what the Government has done so far in this area and look forward to further measures to make it easier for small businesses to be both compliant but also grow.”
Intellectual Property Bill
“We welcome the ongoing modernisation of the Intellectual Property regime. Streamlining the patents system, as recommended by the Hargreaves Review, will make it more cost effective for small businesses to protect their inventions. The Government has taken important first steps in addressing concerns over copyright licensing by collecting societies, but more remains to be done to ensure small firms are treated fairly.”
“The announcement of government plans to reform the water sector is good news. The introduction of competition in the business water sector should bring reduced costs and better customer service for the UK’s five million small firms.
“However, it is essential that government and Ofwat, the water regulator, learns the lessons from the electricity and gas markets. To ensure the reform of the water market really does deliver a truly competitive market place which is not dominated by a few key players, who fail to offer price competition.”
Several Bills have been carried over into the new legislative period from the last parliamentary session.
Commenting on what the FSB wants to see from these Bills, John Allan added:
“The FSB will support an amendment to the Energy Bill to tackle the practice by energy companies of rolling over contracts and locking small firms into un-negotiated and often more expensive terms for a full 12 months. Such an amendment, originally tabled by Caroline Lucas MP in the last parliamentary session, would seek to limit this to 30 days, helping to deliver a fairer energy market for micro businesses.
“FSB research has found that one in four small firms had been subject to roll over contracts without their knowledge. An overwhelming 82 per cent of respondents said they would support the abolition of rollovers.”
Banking Reform Bill
“The Banking Reform Bill is an important opportunity to provide more stability for small businesses and to open up competition in the sector. This needs to come from more banks on the high street providing genuine choice for small firms. We want to see the Financial Conduct Authority look at the ways that competition can be opened up and entry to the banking sector made easier.”
Children and Families Bill
“Maternity and paternity leave is seen by small businesses as a complicated area of legislation and the current system often acts as a barrier to mothers returning to work after childbirth. The FSB supports a more flexible arrangement, but is calling on the Government to ensure that the new system of Shared Parental Leave is as light a touch as possible for employers.
“Clear safeguards are also needed for employers that are unable to accommodate requests to take leave in irregular patterns.
“Small businesses already offer their staff flexible working options, wherever possible, and recognise the business benefits of flexible working. Extending the right to request flexible working to all employees is therefore unnecessary, and will add to the administrative pressures on the smallest of businesses who lack dedicated HR functions.”
On non-legislative measures announced in the speech, the FSB commented:
Education, Traineeships and apprenticeships
“The FSB welcomes this Government’s focus on driving up standards and rigour in schools and education. We support the Government’s intentions to improve the Apprenticeship programme and look forward to the implementation of the Richard Review recommendations to put employers at the programme’s heart. We also look forward to seeing the details of the proposed Traineeship.”