Opinion

Queen’s speech 2016: UK plc leaders react to announcements

12 min read

18 May 2016

Former deputy editor

Following on from her 90th birthday celebrations, the Queen has given her state opening of parliament speech, during which she spoke of economic recovery and technological advancements. We heard from the UK’s business leaders about their thoughts on the announcements.

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“My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,” she opened. “My government will use the opportunity of a strengthening economy to deliver security for working people, to increase life chances for the most disadvantaged and to strengthen national defences.

“My ministers will continue to bring the public finances under control so that Britain lives within its means, and to move to a higher wage and lower welfare economy where work is rewarded.”

The Queen added that, with a view of supporting economic recovery, which will include job and apprenticeship creation, legislation will be introduced to see that the country has all of the tools it needs to enable business growth.

Her majesty also noted the importance of the digital economy and commented: “My ministers will ensure the United Kingdom is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles.” Further legislation will be introduced to see that this is the case.

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More of George Osborne’s promised devolution of power is also on the agenda, with a view to “spread economic prosperity” and support his beloved Northern Powerhouse programme.

The Queen detailed: “In England, further powers will be devolved to directly elected mayors, including powers governing local bus services. Legislation will also allow local authorities to retain business rates, giving them more freedom to invest in local communities.

“Following last week’s Anti-Corruption Summit in London, legislation will be introduced to tackle corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.”

Amid the ongoing discussion of the skills gap, the Queen noted that a bill do provide a “fairer balance” across schools will be introduced as part of the National Funding Formula.

“A Bill will be brought forward to lay foundations for educational excellence in all schools, giving every child the best start in life,” she said.

“To ensure that more people have the opportunity to further their education, legislation will be introduced to support the establishment of new universities and to promote choice and competition across the higher education sector.”

But what did the UK’s leaders have to say about the announcements? Continue reading on the next page for their thoughts.

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said:

“Given the focus on the European Union referendum in this political cycle, it’s particularly encouraging to see the Government’s clear commitment to locking in growth, creating jobs and boosting investment to create a more prosperous society.

“Prioritising the digital revolution, which is transforming the face of modern business, is a key step to propelling the UK’s productivity. Ensuring that broadband reaches all corners of the country will breed a new generation of companies in an increasingly competitive environment.

“We are already working closely with the Government on ensuring higher education gives students the best opportunities and skills, and on the devolution of business rates to drive regional growth. Further action to improve offender rehabilitation is an area where business will look forward to working with the Government.

“Whatever the outcome of the EU referendum, it’s vital the Government ploughs ahead with the rest of its programme. In the near future, business is looking forward to hearing more on several key projects, from a new runway in the South East to the National Innovation Plan.”

Paul Evans, CEO at Boosty, said:

“The Queen’s digital economy bill aims to provide the UK with the foundations for a better, nationwide broadband infrastructure. Yet despite the Government’s ongoing promises, large portions of the population, including those areas that power our industrial economy such as Scotland and Northern England, continue to be deprived of access to superfast, reliable broadband.

“Today’s legislation will see Ofcom impose service providers with a ‘universal service obligation’ to deliver minimum broadband speeds of 10Mbps, but will it actually happen? The policy will need to be stringently enforced, as it aims to hold to account service providers that continue to deliver substandard broadband. This will mean offering compensation to inconvenienced customers, who can choose to switch providers if they are unhappy. Simply put, the UK’s broadband providers will need to improve their levels of service, or else face losing revenue.

“Realistically, even if the government’s plans are pushed through, it could still take up to 5 or 6 years to roll-out superfast fibre broadband. By then the broadband infrastructure and may not be sufficient enough to support a new generation of digital services.”

Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said:

“There are a number of Bills announced today which could have a big impact on small businesses and their ability to grow. A key theme appears to be improving the workings of dysfunctional markets and investing in key infrastructure. Helping to rebalance the economy and deliver growth in all parts of the country will be a fundamental test of this Parliament, and we are pleased this appears to be another core theme of the coming legislative programme.

“FSB will closely monitor the Better Markets Bill as an opportunity to boost competitiveness and drive growth, and the Digital Economy Bill which must improve access to broadband for business premises, not just residential properties.

“We also welcome today’s announcements to back the Northern Powerhouse, reform intellectual property, tackle rural transport problems, give new impetus to local growth, establish new universities and improve careers advice for young people.”

Paul Scarrott, director at Nimble Storage, said: 

“The driverless car market is growing at a staggering rate, with the Boston Consulting Group projecting that it will be worth $42 billion by 2025. It’s great to see the government’s efforts to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of this industry – both in support for manufacturers and with today’s announcement that driverless cars will be insurable under ordinary policies.

“However, as the government looks at how to position the UK on the cusp of this automotive revolution, it is important that considerations are taken beyond the traditional car infrastructure. Unlike ordinary vehicles, driverless cars not only rely on roads, signs, traffic lights etc. An extraordinary amount of digital infrastructure is needed to store the data generated by the vehicles. Indeed, Tesla’s fleet of cars records 1.5 million miles worth of data every single day.

“With this already mammoth amount of data set to increase rapidly as driverless cars become more popular, it’s important that greater consideration is given to how and where this data will be stored and shared, especially with the GDPR and Privacy Shield on the horizon.”

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors:

“The Government was right to resist the temptation to announce lots of eye-catching initiatives in the Queen’s speech. Once the referendum hiatus is over, the focus for ministers must be on following through on several worthwhile programmes already in train to boost innovative companies.

“The most exciting area of the Government’s agenda for us is the Modern Transport Bill, which continues the work on developing the UK’s first spaceport and encouraging job-creation in the industry. The Bill also contains encouragement for firms working on driverless cars, and the lays a framework for the commercial use of drones. Properly supervised, both are exciting growth areas for business.

“We are concerned, however, that the commitment to enable all households to access broadband speeds of 10 megabits per second is not ambitious enough. Several cities around the world are pushing ahead with networks of 10 gigabits per second – a thousand times faster.”

Phil Harrold, automotive partner at PwC, said:

“Todays Queen’s Speech reinforces the need for the UK to continue investing, both financially and logistically, in order to remain at the cutting edge of new vehicle technology – from propulsion systems to autonomous vehicles.

“In recent years we’ve seen a gentle creeping of transport automation, with UK engineering driving much of this capability. However, the real road test will be persuading the general public to readily accept even more car or van autonomy, and for developers, manufacturers and the Government to robustly respond to any safety concerns consumers may have. There are precedents they can lean on – after all, who would have thought 10 or 15 years ago that we’d readily travel on driverless trains at the airport?

“Ultimately, for autonomous consumer transport modes to succeed, it’s vital that ‘perfection’ isn’t set as the default benchmark during the highway test phases or on roll-out – we don’t expect this of other drivers on the road – and that what is aimed for is a realistic and marked improvement on human fallibility levels.”