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Queen's Speech slammed by small biz

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Small business groups were less than impressed with Gordon Brown's fantasy list of what he would do in the unlikely event that he is re-elected as Prime Minister.

Although many were shocked at the lack of action on MPs' expenses, small business groups were unimpressed at the lack of promised action on improving internet access and speeds.

David Frost, boss of the British Chamber of Commerce said:

Universal, high-speed broadband is a crucial piece of business infrastructure that the UK badly needs. A commitment to two megabite broadband is a start, but the target could be more ambitious.

How to fund this infrastructure without financially impacting on businesses is not yet clear. A new telephone line levy will add to business costs at a time when they can least afford it.

We would prefer that the government looked again at their spending commitments and other taxes to fund what is a critical piece of investment for our future economy.

The Federation of Small Business was even less impressed. While it recognised that over half of small businesses get up to 50 per cent of turnover from their websites now, there was no support for rural firms still struggling without broadband access.

The FSB said:

We believe that a broadband tax to subsidise the target of a minimum 2mbps of broadband will only deter the private sector from improving its own infrastructure. Small businesses shouldn't have to pay for a service which could be encouraged by opening up the market to more competition from internet providers, who should then be compelled to install more efficient and effective speeds to attract the consumer.

John Walker, national policy chairman of the FSB, said it had been a grim year for many companies, and banks were only just starting to restart lending. He said legislation over the next few months should focus on supporting these few sparks of confidence rather than score political points. ®

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