Brexit dominates Queen's Speech, but no business rates reform

21 June 2017 by
Brexit dominates Queen's Speech, but no business rates reform

The UK's exit from the EU dominates the content of today's Queen's Speech, with eight proposed bills outlining the practical process of the country's departure from Europe.

Key to the hospitality industry will be the Immigration Bill, which will enable the government to end the free movement of EU nationals into the UK, but still allowing the country to attract the "brightest and the best".

The other Brexit bills cover the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act, customs issues, trade, fisheries, agriculture, nuclear safeguards and international sanctions.

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), said: "The hospitality and tourism industry, the fourth largest in the UK, looks forward to working with Ministers to build the widest consensus on Britain's future outside the EU. The Government is already aware of the industry's vital need to have continuing access, in the short term, to the EU labour market while we encourage more UK workers to take up a career in hospitality and tourism.

"The trade bills announced to help British businesses export to markets around the world should also consider that tourism is the UK's sixth largest export. With this in mind it is essential that the immigration system encourages, rather than deters tourism to the UK and allows visa-free access for Europeans."

Elsewhere, the initial response to the Queen's Speech is one of disappointment that there is no specific announcement on business rates reform, which the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) called on as being "a first day priority" for the weakened Conservative government, which failed to achieve a majority in the general election.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the ALMR, said: "The current rates regime is rigged against hospitality businesses as it penalises growth and investment as higher turnover invariably leads to higher rates. We will now be looking for reassurances from ministers on a commitment to rates reform in the Budget later this year.

"On immigration and access to labour, the sector needs clarity. We take some assurances from today's speech but any legislation needs to be expedited to provide certainty to operators and employees alike."

Nicholls responded to the Queen's announcement that the National Living Wage will be increased "so that people who are on the lowest pay benefit from the same improvements in earnings as higher paid workers" by saying that it is "vitally important that this doesn't become a politically-set wage target that could see many businesses struggle to afford increases".

She added: "A commitment to increases in line with average earnings goes some way to reassure us that this will not be the case, but maintaining the independence of the Low Pay Commission (LPC) to set National Living & Minimum Wage rates is critical."

Ibrahim added: "We have also made clear that the National Living Wage should be decided by the Low Pay Commission after 2020."

The National Insurance Contributions (NIC) Bill will legislate for the changes in NIC announced in the 2016 Budget and 2016 Autumn Statement and intends to make the system "fairer and simpler.

Today's Queen's Speech, which under normal circumstances occurs once a year, will occupy parliament for the next two years due to the complexity of Brexit.

New 'barista visas' aim to help hospitality hold on to EU staff >>

Pub industry cautious over mandatory code on alcohol sales >>

Get ready for the Brexit effect >>

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