The Queen's speech and small businesses

The Queen's speech during the State Opening of Parliament marked the beginning of the Parliamentary session yesterday, and outlined the Government's proposed policies and legislation, many of which will impact on the UK's businesses.

The Government's priority during this session is to, "reduce the deficit and restore economic stability," The Queen announced yesterday, before introducing the Bills the Government intends to introduce.

Of particular interest to business groups has been the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which plans to overhaul the employment tribunal system, improve the effectiveness of competition enforcement, set the purpose of the UK Green Investment Bank, and cut 'unnecessary' red tape.

The Department for Business and Skills is also responsible for the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA), to uphold the Groceries Code. The GCA is designed to address the market dominance of large retailers such as supermarkets, and to ensure that their suppliers are treated fairly and lawfully.

Commenting on the GCA, Phil McCabe, senior policy advisor at the Forum of Private Business (FPB) said: "For too long small firms have suffered at the hands of the supermarket giants, but the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill should go some way to rebalancing the relationship.

"Of course the Government must now ensure the Bill is passed without delay. And while the new adjudicator is welcome, it is hugely disappointing that the ombudsmen will not have powers to fine supermarkets who unfairly abuse their suppliers.

"But we would say anything that can help safeguard the interest of food-chain suppliers is a move forward from where we are today."

But the FPB was not so welcoming of other measures announced to make parental leave more flexible through the Children and Families Bill. McCabe said: " Perhaps the most concerning aspect of today's Queen's speech for many small business owners is the plan to shake-up maternity leave by letting mums or dads mix and match time off with the new arrival. Nice concept in theory, but the paperwork and organisation will frankly not be welcomed by most business owners."

Other Bills announced yesterday include the Banking Reform Bill, which will change the structure of the UK's banks, and the Small Donations Bill that will provide a new system of top-up payments for small donations from April 2013. The top-up payment will be 25p for every pound collected in the United Kingdom, on up to £5,000 of donations, where the individual donations are £20 or less - without the need for a Gift Aid declaration.