The Queen’s Speech FSB Policy Analysis :: Academies Bill - to enable more state schools to become academies. It will allow more schools to become academies with freedom from day-to-day Whitehall control, as well as giving more say to teachers to decide what should be in the curriculum. FSB Response: The FSB wait to see the detail of these proposals. We support the drive to promote academies as they are focussed on the curriculum needs of sponsors such as universities and the business community. We would like to ensure that small businesses are made aware of the opportunities of (aiding teachers) in curriculum design as they are best placed to know what skills are required from the employees of today and tomorrow. :: Identity Cards Bill - to scrap the national ID card scheme and the National Identity Register. The imminent scrapping of identity cards and the planned National Identity Register is already being foreshadowed on the Home Office website. FSB Response: The FSB took a neutral stance when the original Identity Cards legislation was being debated recognising that this was more of an issue for the individual rather than businesses. There would have been some benefits for businesses in being to establish the age of customers (although other mechanisms already exist) and being able to establish right to work in the UK of employees. However, there would have been inevitable costs for businesses particularly if the roll out of ID cards had been linked to the next generation of Chip and PIN card readers which businesses would have inevitably been obliged to pay more for. The FSB would welcome a future wider debate around effective identity management options that work for the public and businesses alike. :: Freedom Bill - to regulate the use of CCTV and the DNA database. FSB response: The FSB calls on the Government to take small businesses into account and ensure that any revised procedures or systems (e.g. the CCTV Code of Practice) do not make reporting more onerous or time- consuming. :: Education and Children's Bill - to enable parents and other groups to set-up Swedish-style "free" schools. It will begin the move to the much-anticipated “free schools” to allow different groups, including parents, to start and run state schools. It also include the Lib Dem-backed “pupil premium” which would see more money being spent on children from a disadvantaged background, as well as focusing on early-years learning. FSB Response: The FSB believes that now is the time for Government to be bold about how education is delivered and this means challenging the way people learn. The FSB supports the ambitions of enterprises such as EDGE and Studio Schools – with practical learning being cemented in the education of every child when they reach 14. We want to see a system where children spend more time on enterprise themed projects and time in business. This means greater engagement between schools and local businesses. :: Postal Services Bill FSB Response: The FSB welcomes the commitment to ensure the provision of the universal postal service and commitments to safeguarding the future of the Royal Mail and the Post Office network. We hope these commitments do not alter the service Royal Mail provides to the detriment of small businesses. We also hope that the commitments made will also lead to the setting up of a Post Bank. :: Increased investment in high-speed broadband (secondary legislation) FSB Response: The FSB welcomes the Government’s commitment on broadband, which has taken on board some of the recommendations of our report, most notably the appointment of a Broadband Minister, a market- led approach and commitments to infrastructure sharing. The FSB urge the Government to fully take on board our recommendations, and notably ensure that fast and reliable broadband becomes a universal service obligation. :: Financial Service Regulation Bill - to return supervisory powers to the Bank of England. FSB Response: Whoever has responsibility over the financial services sector of the UK must be aware that small businesses play an active role in these. They are both members and consumers. The most important factor must be to incentivise greater competition within the SME credit market and for more banks to come into the UK market. These banks must be retail based and not investment based. :: Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill - to make police forces more accountable and clampdown on anti-social behaviour. This is the vehicle for making police forces more accountable – including oversight by what ministers refer to as a directly elected "individual". FSB response: The FSB is in favour of making police forces more accountable to the public and businesses that they serve but questions whether having a directly elected individual locally is the right way to go about it. The important issue for the business community is that crimes against business that make up one fifth of all recorded crime (‘the forgotten fifth’) are addressed through priorities for action in local policing plans. An agreed national definition of crimes against business would help police forces take a more uniform approach and forces that have adopted definitions have put in place effective strategies to reduce these types of crime The publication of local crime statistics is essentially meaningless when you consider that only 45 per cent of businesses report crime when they are a victim so official crime statistics underestimate the real extent of the problem The FSB welcomes further action to tackle alcohol related violence and anti social behaviour as businesses are often targeted by repeat and low level nuisance crimes :: Office of Budget Responsibility Bill - to replace the Treasury as the official economic forecaster. FSB Response: The FSB welcomes the fact that the OBR will become a true forecaster of the UK economy. This will provide the Chancellor and observers with truly independent and hopefully accurate forecasts. This will provide good basis on revenues and inflationary figures for decision makers, but also small businesses that rely on these numbers for future growth plans. :: National Insurance Bill - to block the planned rise in employers' national insurance contributions. FSB response: The FSB welcomes this Bill which would have cost 57,000 jobs in the SME sector. This would have been disastrous in the weak economy and would have sent a very negative message to small firms. :: Pensions and Savings Bill FSB Response: With the new pension scheme due to start in 2012 the FSB remains concerned about the cost and administrative burden placed on businesses. We are pleased to see note that due recognition will now be given to members concerns over the level of unsustainable public sector pensions as we move forwards. :: Welfare Reform Bill - to cut the benefits of claimants who refuse work. FSB Response: The FSB welcomes the commitment to simplify the benefits system and to simplify it to improve work incentives. We urge the Government to continue to recognise that small businesses can be part of the solution for getting the long-term unemployed back into work. :: Energy Security and Green Economy Bill - to improve energy efficiency and encourage "green" businesses. FSB response: The FSB are pleased that the Government has identified ‘pay as you save’ initiatives as the way to increase energy efficiency provisions. Providing small businesses with upfront capital, in the form of loans that are repaid only when the business starts enjoying reduced energy bills, is the most effective way of incentivising the UK’s 4.7million small businesses to go green. The FSB welcomes the Government’s intention to deliver greater levels of low carbon energy generation, but emphasises that this can only be achieved if commercially viable Feed-in Tariffs are put in place to encourage the take up of micro generation of low carbon energy. In terms of consumer protection in the energy markets the FSB believes the Governments intention to require energy companies to provide more on information on their energy bills, such as details of the lower tariffs, should not only extended to households but to small businesses as well. Small businesses have similar energy consumption to domestic consumers but often lack the time and expertise to negotiate fair contracts. The FSB believe that small businesses should enjoy the same levels of consumer protection as domestic consumers. :: Decentralisation Bill - to devolve powers to local communities. FSB Response: The FSB considers that while RDAs will be scrapped by the coalition Government, certain aspects of policy like infrastructure, major planning issues and skills need to be taken at the regional level. We hope that the Local Enterprise Partnerships will be business led and focused on economic development. :: Flexible working (secondary legislation) Small businesses already undertake flexible working and we are concerned by the potential regulations of further “right to requests”. We will be keen to read the detail of these proposals. We welcome commitments to equal pay in principle, however it must not be an excuse for court cases contesting equal pay and there must be no extra regulatory burdens. :: European Referendum Lock Bill - to require a referendum if more powers are to be passed from Britain to the European Union. FSB response: There will be a referendum on every Treaty change that the coalition considers a transfer of power or competence. This is a very important point as 90 per cent of FSB members indicated in 2008 that there should be a referendum on what was then the EU Reform Treaty. This means that FSB members value that they are consulted whenever there is a transfer of power or competence to the EU. :: Scotland Bill - to implement recommendations from the final report of the Commission on Scottish Devolution. FSB response: The FSB will examine any proposals in detail and will assess their implications with particular reference to small businesses and employers in Scotland. We look forward to seeing more detailed proposals to assess the impact on small businesses in Scotland.