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Business leaders look to Queen’s Speech for respite from referendum ‘low politics’

17 May 2016
Outside shot of the front of 116 Pall Mall
  • IoD looks forward to spaceport announcement, which it first called for in 2012,
  • But bemoans indecision on SE airport runway, saying government is making it easier to get to ‘Mars, but not to Malaysia’.
  • IoD spokespeople available for broadcast and comment on space industry and the business agenda for this session of Parliament

While the EU referendum debate may have seen both sides engaging in some pretty low politics, business leaders are hoping the Queen’s speech this week will bring progress on a rather loftier ambition: space exploration. The Government is expected to announce the location the UK’s first spaceport on Wednesday, with Cornwall, Wales and Scotland all in contention.

This is not a flight of fancy. Billionaire entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have been pouring their own money into space travel, while the industry in the UK, currently worth around £12 billion, is expected to grow to £40 billion by 2030.

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, which first called for a UK spaceport in a report in 2012, said:

“If the Government names the site of the UK’s first spaceport at the Queen’s Speech it will be a significant step forward in the development of the UK’s already-successful space sector.  It may seem fanciful, but space offers huge commercial potential for communications and tourism, and this industry is already home to some of the most innovative companies in the UK.

“While this Government has shown real ambition on space travel, it has dithered terribly on less exciting, but none the less vital, forms of transport. At the current rate, we may see spacecraft taking off from mainland Britain before we see airplanes landing at a new runway in the South East. They are making it easier for Britons to get to Mars, but not to Malaysia, or even Malaga.”

On the legislative programme the Government will outline in the Queen’s speech, Walker said:

“Business leaders do not want lots of new initiatives to be announced this week. Politicians always want to be seen to be doing something, but they should resist this urge, and focus in the next session of Parliament on continuing the path of deficit reduction, simplifying business red tape where possible. Additional costs, in the form of the National Living Wage and, next year, the Apprenticeship Levy, are being piled on companies. The Government must ensure it does not create any further burdens.

“Longer-term, there is a significant challenge facing society on making sure our education system is fit for a world in which tasks currently done by workers are automated. The IoD has called for tax breaks for employers and individuals to encourage the huge investment in training that will be needed. Further changes to the tax system are also required to open up the ‘equity economy’, allowing many more people to take a stake in entrepreneurial companies and share in Britain’s booming enterprise culture.”

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