This parliamentary session must focus on growth

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

Recent criticism aimed at the government’s lacklustre growth agenda, and a rather empty looking parliamentary calendar (after the proposed Lords reform was dropped), has apparently left ministers frenziedly drawing up plans for a bill to help stimulate the economy.

A heavily-leaked report of an Economic Regeneration Bill for the autumn surfaced in the media this week. Rumour has it the bill could entail a range of business friendly measures, from changes in employment law to a relaxation of planning laws. It has even been suggested that the bill could pave the way for a third runway at Heathrow, new nuclear power stations, and increased infrastructure projects.

If the rumours are true about a new Economic Regeneration Bill then pressure surrounding major barriers to growth, certainly on infrastructure, could be alleviated. Businesses up and down the country feel constrained by inadequate infrastructure, be it transport, energy or digital connectivity, as improvements are often at the mercy of the planning system. Any changes to the planning system in the Economic Regeneration Bill should be aimed at making it as straightforward as possible for projects of national strategic importance (such as capacity expansion at our airports and on our energy grid) to obtain permission, while safeguarding the rights of local communities.

Already, there are measures going through Parliament aimed at injecting some much needed growth into the economy. For example, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, soon to go through the House of Lords once Parliament reconvenes.  This bill aims to strengthen the business environment and reduce regulatory burdens. The bill includes provisions to legislate for the establishment of the Green Investment Bank, make changes to the employment tribunal system, reduce inspection burdens on business, and to repeal legislation. Many of the proposals in this bill are welcome and should make a real difference to businesses on the ground. These measures will help to boost business confidence and reduce burdens on firms.

However, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill won’t solve some of the major barriers to growth faced by businesses such as access to finance, investment incentives, and problems around infrastructure.

Norfolk businesses work hard every day to create jobs, wealth and worth in this challenging economic climate. This parliamentary session must focus on growth and on increasing business confidence to grow, innovate and create employment. That is why we hope the rumours surrounding the Economic Regeneration Bill translate into substantive measures that will help business kick-start growth in the real economy.

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