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Expert commentary on Queen’s speech

Jonathan Riley, Head of Tax at Grant Thornton UK LLP, comments on the Queen’s speech:

“Reassuringly, the Queen’s speech opened with a commitment by government to build a consensus across Parliament, business and devolved administrations.  It is vital that government lives and breathes this commitment to consensus.  If it does, then people will respond positively.  If commitment to consensus and collaboration is real then government could unlock potential in all parts of UK.

We know from our discussions that businesses and other dynamic organisations have a huge appetite to collaborate with each other, and with government, to work together to shape a vibrant economy.  We would love to see this inclusive policy applied to key elements of the Queen’s Speech. This is a great opportunity to create a new collaborative approach to industrial strategy, boosting exports through business-to-business support, strengthening links between employers and schools, and equipping communities to create vibrant places.

The Government’s agenda includes a continued commitment to an industrial strategy to boost business performance and spread prosperity to all parts of the UK.  Over the last year, we have been talking to people across the UK in the private, public, and third sector – to identify common visions for shaping a vibrant economy.  This has identified the potential for an industrial strategy that incentives collaboration to boost exports, develop a healthy pool of skills and talent for employers, and unlock innovation.  

New measures on trade, customs and supporting exports are welcomed; as leaving the EU will create a more competitive environment for British businesses in international markets, and it is vital we do everything we can to strengthen our businesses’ international capability and seize the opportunities of new growing markets outside Europe.  Government can help further strengthen our export culture through business tax relief for the costs of entering new markets and supporting greater business-to-business help to succeed in overseas markets.

The Government’s commitment to building consensus also needs to apply to the Immigration Bill and schools and skills reforms.  Employers up and down the country face growing skills gaps and when we talk to employers about action needed to address skills shortages, they invariably focus on employer engagement with education and training, and immigration policies.  A fair and sustainable immigration system must be connected to local and sectoral needs for global talent and labour and support a step change in UK exports. Education and skills reform should incentivise collaboration between employers and education. This should include a new school performance measure for every pupil to have at least one interaction with an employer every year; and encouraging graduate-level apprenticeships in universities, eligible for apprenticeship levy funding and involving businesses in teaching courses.

In terms of infrastructure and regional growth, the commitment to completing the Birmingham to Crewe HS2 line is welcome.  However, we know that businesses in the Northern Powerhouse are also crying out for improved east-west transport links and want to see a commitment to cross-Pennine HS3, as well as local transport infrastructure to link northern towns to cities.” 

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