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CBI responds to Queen's speech

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general, said, “Given where we are in the political cycle, and the temptation to play to public opinion, it was refreshing to see this Queen’s Speech focusing firmly on the economic recovery.

“The last thing businesses wanted was a raft of new legislation, so they will be bolstered by targeted measures to cement long-term growth, promote jobs and raise living standards. The recovery is already motoring ahead and this Queen’s Speech should help step it up a gear.”

On the Infrastructure Bill, she said: “The UK urgently needs to boost housing supply, so we’re really pleased that the Government will kick-start a programme to sell off high-value public land for new homes.

“The Government has talked a good game on infrastructure but the pace of delivery has been sluggish.

“Improving the pre-application phase of the planning process and moving towards a one-stop-shop for planning consents, should help to streamline the system and get much-needed projects over the start line and onto the home straight. But more than anything else we need to see bold political will to achieve this.

“Transforming the Highways Agency into a Government-owned company, with flexible five year budgets, would stop it from getting bogged down in stop-start cycles and enable it to act more strategically and deliver improved road networks.”

On the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, she said: “Successfully getting credit to our small and medium-sized businesses will underpin the recovery, so we support action to match firms with providers and there is merit in formalising and extending existing referral arrangements.

“We also back measures that improve access to credit data, which should help facilitate better decisions by providers.

“Changes to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to tender for public sector contracts, including a one-off registration process are much-needed.

“Growing businesses rely on cash flow and are too often hampered by late payers, so we back a & lsquo;comply or explain’ system for payment terms of more than 60 days.

“All employers should pay the National Minimum Wage, so we would support the introduction of an increased fine for those who intentionally do not, and strong enforcement to ensure that the law is respected.

“The UK’s flexible labour market is a strength of our economy, keeping the number of people out of work down and boosting employment - it should be protected.

“A ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts would be a proportionate response to some of the issues that have been highlighted, as it focuses on poor practice rather than demonising flexible work in general.”

On the Private Pensions Bill, she said: “We welcome the Government’s aims to boost choice and flexibility in the pensions market and Collective Defined Contribution schemes will play a part in this. These schemes are complex, so they are likely to be offered only by a few large employers keen to provide their employees with something more predictable than existing defined contribution schemes.

“They have the potential to deliver more for savers – but equally they need to understand that even in retirement their pots could decrease because there are no individual controls over how pensions are drawn down. That’s why businesses need to explain clearly the terms to employees.”

On the EU, she said: “Being a member of the EU is critical to the strength of the UK’s economy but it does need serious reform to become more competitive and more focused on supporting growth. The Government is right to seek to cut back the EU’s unnecessary interference in member states’ national affairs.”

On apprenticeships, she said, “Apprenticeships are a great way to build careers and improve the skill levels in our economy, so the Government’s commitment to deliver two million apprenticeships by the end of the Parliament is good news. Ensuring the system is responsive to employers’ needs is essential to delivering on this aim.”

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