The King’s Speech: what can businesses expect from the Autumn Statement?

King Charles III’s Speech at the House of Lords yesterday has incited scepticism from businesses as strategies for economic growth remain vague.

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In his first speech as monarch, King Charles III delivered the King’s Speech at the House of Lords, proposing bills targeted at promoting economic growth and digital innovation.

Overall, 21 bills were cited, including the Trade Bill, the Automated Vehicles Bill, as well as a nod to the AI Safety Summit last week, which fostered transnational cooperation to combat the dangers posed by frontier AI.

“My Government’s priority is to make the difficult but necessary long-term decisions to change this country for the better,” the King emphasised at the start of his speech.

“My Government will continue to take action to bring down inflation, to ease the cost of living for families and help businesses fund new jobs and investment,” he added.

Despite the focus on economic policies throughout the Speech, the business community has reacted with lukewarm support as it remains unclear how these initiatives will translate into supportive business policies.

Impact for SMEs

Although businesses welcome the emphasis on reining in inflation and advancing economic growth, concerns over what to expect in the upcoming Autumn Statement and the general elections have been voiced.

“With a general election within the next 12 months looking increasingly likely, the priority for business is ensuring that the economy isn’t put on the back burner,” warns John Foster, CBI Chief Policy and Campaigns Officer.

“But the critical moment will be when the Chancellor delivers the Autumn Statement in just over two weeks’ time, where action to unlock business investment, deliver an internationally competitive business environment and seize high growth opportunities can help ignore the economy,” he stresses.

The CBI is calling for the government to unlock business investment by extending full capital expensing beyond the current three year window.

According to the organisation, this policy could deliver a permanent boost of 21% to business investment and increase GDP by up to 2% by 2030.

On a more pessimistic note, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) understood the King’s Speech more as a missed opportunity.

“The King’s Speech opened with an aspiration to increase economic growth – but it failed to outline how that will happen,” points out Alex Veitch, Director of Policy and Insight at BCC.

“It is disappointing that the King’s Speech didn’t include further planning reform in England,” he elaborates. “We continue to call for a faster and more efficient system that enables business to grow.”

Veitch also points out that even prior to the King’s speech, the Government hasn’t shown proof of enough effort to help the business community during challenging times. Moving forward, the BCC would like the Autumn Statement to outline clear initiatives to help businesses grow.

According to research from the BCC’s Insight Unit, over the last quarter only 23% of businesses were increasing investment whilst concern over the impact of high interest rates is growing, reaching 45%.

Despite the scepticism voiced by the business community, the BCC welcomed the focus on increasing high quality apprenticeships.

“The skills crisis is one of the main issues impacting business,” notes Veitch.

Prioritising technological innovation

The King revealed that a priority for his government will be to prioritise technological innovation.

“My Ministers will introduce new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of emerging industries, such as self-driving vehicles, introduce new competition rules for digital markets, and encourage innovation in technologies such as machine learning.”

This green light for the Automated Vehicles Bill would give the Department for Transport additional powers to certify the safety of driverless vehicles. This spells good news for businesses in this industry, which is estimated could be valued at £42bn and create 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035.

His mention of machine learning follows the closure of the AI Safety Summit hosted in Bletchley Park, where 28 nations signed the Bletchley Declaration in a bid to combat the dangers posed by frontier AI.

This points to how AI will continue to be a key agenda item for the government as it works to become a global hub for artificial intelligence.

The focus on innovation spells good news particularly for AI startups who have been calling for the government to focus more on the role SMEs play in developing emerging technologies like machine learning.

As the government prepares for the Autumn Statement on 22 November, businesses will want to be given answers on how the policies outlined in the King’s Speech will actually look like and whether there will be a strong commitment for small businesses as inflation continues to bite.

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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