The Queen’s Speech: Government must deliver certainty and confidence for rural businesses

Rural business owners have committed to working with Ministers across Government to ensure the legislative programme announced in today’s Queen’s Speech delivers growth and jobs in the rural economy.

CLA President Henry Robinson said: “We welcome the programme laid out by the Government today and will work with Ministers across Whitehall to ensure that the legislation announced delivers investment, growth and jobs. Our focus will be on pressing Ministers to ensure new legislation such as proposed laws on Enterprise, Housing & Planning and Taxation work for rural businesses in England and Wales.

“There is much opportunity for businesses across the rural economy but Government must provide as much certainty and stability as possible. This includes Ministers doing all they can to reassure businesses that all eventualities are being planned for with respect to the implications of a referendum on UK membership of the EU, and to ensure that commitments to lock taxation extend across all aspects of business and property taxation.”

CLA President Henry Robinson also provided comments on specific Bills as follows:

On the EU Referendum Bill

“With a referendum on membership of the EU now confirmed to take place before the end of 2017, it is vital that the Government demonstrates that all eventualities are being fully planned for. This must include commitments to maintain investment, at the levels currently made by the EU, in agriculture and rural economic development.

“The UK’s membership of the EU impacts directly on hundreds of thousands of rural businesses and millions of jobs and Ministers have a vital role to play in reducing uncertainty that could hamper investment up to and beyond the referendum.

On Income Tax Bill

“We welcome the commitment in law to lock income, value added or national insurance taxation. However this commitment must extend further into all business and property taxes that affect rural businesses, many of which are run as sole traders or partnerships. We will be making the case for reducing the burden of taxation so as to allow rural businesses more scope to invest and create jobs.

On the Housing Bill

“We need more homes across our rural communities. It is vital that we meet the housing challenge in a way that is sustainable and contributes to the unique character of our countryside. This means careful planning and effective community engagement. We are concerned that the Government’s desire to limit the amount of housing brought forward on greenfield land to 10% could create difficulties in locating appropriate housing developments in rural areas. We remain convinced that the decision should be specific to the area involved and not prescribed by national rules.

“Government must provide certainty and appropriate incentives to landowners that are considering bringing forward land for affordable housing. We are concerned that proposals to extend Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants could deter many landowners from making an investment in much needed affordable housing developments. It is vital that the exemption from right to buy from tenanted properties in small rural settlements and national parks is maintained.

On the Enterprise Bill

“A Bill designed to support small businesses and job creation is welcome, but it must benefit rural businesses as well as those based in towns and cities. Cutting red tape is an important ambition, we will be keen to play our role in ensuring that this latest initiative does not fall by the wayside like many that have gone before.”

On the Energy Bill

“Landowners need clarity and certainty around when and where wind power developments are appropriate. Any investment in renewable energy takes a long time to bring forward and requires significant upfront investment. It is important that the planning and other policies are clear and consistent if we are to see any significant investment in the future. In recent years the debate on wind farms has left landowners confused and far less likely to consider bringing forward developments.”

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