The Queen’s Speech to parliament yesterday included a major piece of business legislation. Main elements of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill include measures to set up the UK Green Investment Bank, reform competition law, overhaul the employment tribunal system, cut red tape for businesses and reform directors’ pay.
Business secretary Vince Cable said: “Securing economic growth through business investment and trade is absolutely essential to recovery. Government’s 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 Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said that the measures “offer hope to small business employers who need greater flexibility to run their businesses”.
FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “Small construction businesses are the backbone of the UK economy but red tape means they are at breaking point which is why reform of tribunals to give small businesses owners greater flexibility is a welcome initiative. Employees clearly need strong protection, particularly in a dynamic industry like construction, but this protection should not be at the expense of the business as a whole.”
Mr Berry added: “Small businesses often work in innovative and flexible ways so employment law needs to reflect this level of flexibility in order to support and grow businesses. We believe the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill could be a great step forward for construction SMEs struggling to cope with the ever increasing demands of employment law.”
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) also backed the legislation. “CECA hopes the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will cut through red tape in the infrastructure sector, while protecting those regulations that play an important role in maintaining the sustainability of the industry, and the health & safety of those who work in it,” said CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner.
“Furthermore, the continuing commitment to the establishment of the Green Investment Bank, and the implementation of the legal powers required for it to function effectively, is a positive development. We recognise the more needs to be done to meet the coming infrastructure investment deficit, but believe the GIB is one small step in the right direction.”
Nelson Ogunshakin, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, agreed. “Infrastructure is the key driver of growth as the government makes bringing the UK out of recession a key priority,” he said. “The Green Investment Bank can play an important part in achieving that alongside the other measures needed to bringing key projects through.”
Trades unions were less excited by the proposals. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, said: “The government is delusional if it thinks that making it easier to fire people will suddenly spur the flagging economy into life. The Queen Speech was devoid of any hope or ideas of how to get the economy growing. Instead the government signalled more misery with plans to penalise ordinary working people by either stripping their employment rights away, or making them work until they drop.
“Taking away people’s rights in the workplace will create insecurity at work and hit consumer confidence. Along with a reduction in health and safety inspections, it gives a green light to ‘rogue’ employers. The government is also looking to add to that misery by railroading through changes to public sector pensions and the state pension age which will see people working longer, paying more and getting less.”