In a speech at the State Opening of Parliament 2015, Her Majesty the Queen outlined the main policies the Conservative government will be pursuing over the next five years.
However, the speech has been critised for not going far enough to support energy efficiency and security.
The Queen outlined new duties that will require ministers to report annually on job creation and apprenticeships. Measures will also be introduced to reduce regulation on small businesses so they can create jobs.
Legislation will be brought forward to ensure people working 30 hours a week on the National Minimum Wage do not pay income tax, and to ensure there are no rises in Income Tax rates, Value Added Tax or National Insurance for the next five years.
Measures will be introduced to increase energy security, although no detail as to how this will be accomplished was given.
The Energy & Utilities Alliance was particularly disappointed in this, describing the Energy Bill as ‘a little light weight’.
“We were hoping for more, particularly a commitment to review UK Gas Storage,” explained Isaac Occhipinti, external affairs manager at EUA. “The speech made reference to energy security but failed to address the very real need to increase our Gas Storage, currently the UK stores less gas than other European countries.
“Gas remains the number one choice for UK homeowners as a means of heating their homes. There is a recognition that we need to become more energy secure but little plan as to how we are to achieve this. We had hoped to see a commitment to the Renewable Heat Incentive beyond 2016 and a review of the Heat Strategy.”
Mr Occhipinti welcomed the commitment to funding additional apprenticeships, but argued work needs to be done to tackle the reputation of apprenticeships as the ‘poor relation’ to university places.
He also welcomed the pledge to freeze VAT for the next five years but said the association will be pressing for a clarification on the VAT rules.
“Successive governments promote energy efficiency measures, encouraging homeowners to install everything from insulation, new boilers to state-of-the-art controls, yet there are huge anomalies in the levels of VAT charged. Installing a new control, as a one-off job, would attract VAT at the lower rate of 5%, making it attractive to the consumer yet installing the same control, as part of a wider system improvement, would attract VAT at the standard, 20% rate. The current system is inconsistent and sends out mixed messages,” he said.
Finally, the EUA applauded plans to continue with cutting the red tape facing businesses but urges the government to take their own advice and remove the bureaucratic and expensive PAS2030 and MCS accreditation.