Although the last months of the old parliamentary session gave the impression that MPs had run out of things to do, the Queen’s Speech had plenty of content, particularly to help small businesses in the North. Not that parliament’s success should always be measured by the amount of legislation passed. The old maxim “when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change,” is a good one. MPs should debate the bills they do pass more thoroughly with at least two or three days for a second reading.

After the Lib Dem’s poor showing in the recent elections, there was a danger that David Cameron would be left riding into his last legislative term before the General Election with Nick Clegg strapped, half dead, over the back of his horse. Instead the Posh Boys have signalled that they are in it together till the end.

Lib Dem influence remains alive both in measures included, like infant free school meals, and bills left out, such as entrenching the E.U referendum in law.

The key elements in this Queen’s Speech are pension reform and help for business. It is a bold aim of the Prime Minister to make Britain the most business friendly country in the world but the list of support measures is long. Penalties on employers who undercut the minimum wage should help honest business people. Measures to reduce delays in employment tribunals, to tackle red tape (again) and simplify the collection of National Insurance from the self employed will all be welcomed.

The government pledge to help SMEs with access to finance will be met with some scepticism. A survey out this week found that a third of companies planning growth in the North West feared the banks would turn them down.

The pension changes will potentially affect people’s lives into the second half of the century. Giving people new rights over their pension pots and the proposed defined collective contribution schemes(DCCs) are not without their problems. There is a danger we will create a new class of feckless retirees who blow their pension pots and have to rely on meagre state pensions in their last days. In relation to the DCCs proposal, will there be enough employers prepared to band together to create pension funds with the clout to get better returns than the current annuity system? These funds will have to be managed by the financial whizz kids who were responsible for the mis-selling of financial products in the past.

Other measures in this surprisingly meaty Queen’s Speech included a continuing freeze on petrol duty and plans to elect the boards of our National Parks. A whiff of democracy in the Lake District and High Peak is no bad thing.

More controversial is the measure to make fracking easier. Battle will be joined from Blackpool to Salford and beyond.


I had the privilege at the weekend to go aboard the first Cunard liner to dock in Liverpool for nearly forty years. The Commodore and crew of Queen Victoria all expressed their delight at returning to their spiritual home virtually underneath the Cunard Building on the Pier Head.

Mayor Joe Anderson, who has done much to get the cruise business back to Liverpool, announced that a restaurant in the Cunard Building is to be named Aquitania. It’s in honour of the longest serving express liner in the company’s history. The Aquitania made its maiden voyage from the port a hundred years ago.

Many people at the event were looking forward as well as back. Max Steinberg, the captain of the International Festival of Business told me it is hard to keep up with the number of events that are being added daily to the global networking event about to get under way in the city.


This historic building has been at the centre of my thoughts this week for two completely different reasons.


The discovery of the bones of Good King Richard is inevitably linked to the story of the Princes in the Tower. There is no proof Richard killed them by the way. Instead the king should be remembered for being a damn good governor of the North of England. We could do with him now. However I must remember this is principally a business blog in the present time.


Even with that in mind, the Tower of London loomed up this week because the Liverpool Embassy in London is located near the Tower. Liverpool in London, to give it its more correct title, is a project to give entrepreneurs from the city a base to work from and to signal a confident Liverpool open for business.


It opened its doors in Royal Mint Court two years ago and the original backers of the project could have been heading for the Tower if some of the critics had been proved right. A gimmick that won’t last would be a polite way of summing up the reaction of the sceptical.


In 2011 the inspiration for the idea came from Guy Wallis a senior partner in the Liverpool offices of the business law firm DWF. It was backed by our own Frank McKenna and Joe Anderson, the leader of Liverpool Council.


Two years on the project has generated £1m additional sales for Liverpool companies, and attracted £20m of new investment. Those are the hard figures but it is in the intangible networking opportunities that the project has justified its funding by the council and private sector. £58 pounds return for every £1 invested according to its backers


The ringmaster is Chris Hayes, the Liverpool in London manager. He arranges quarterly networking events, dinners and hundreds of one to one meetings between Liverpool business people and potential clients in London. You can use the facilities free for a day but Chris Hayes wants people to sign up to the business club thereafter.


The private sector have stepped up to a limited extent to back Liverpool in London but it is still a 70/30 split in favour of the city council. As we know the authority is facing mega financial pressures and it would be handy if more firms came on board. That said Mayor Joe Anderson was in upbeat mood when he spoke at a second anniversary event for the embassy this week.


He announced that funding was secure through the next two years and he hoped for a couple of years after that, but he wanted more people to use the facilities at Royal Mint Court. He sees Liverpool in London playing a vital part in getting over the good news about major capital projects happening in Liverpool and hinted that a major announcement was imminent on the £5.5bn Liverpool Waters project.


A number of Liverpool business people spoke of their practical experience of using the facility in the capital. John Porter of Crosby Associates told of his success in developing the mobile app used by the London Chamber of Commerce and said it was as a result of having a base in the capital.


Liverpool Vision are strong supporters of the project and their flamboyant CEO Max Steinberg says Liverpool in London will be crucial to the projection of next year’s International Festival of Business being held on both sides of the Mersey.


Our own Frank McKenna pleaded for more positive coverage of this and other projects in the local press which he claimed was sometimes sabotaging jobs coming to the city by its coverage.


The event ended with Guy Wallis reflecting on the success of his vision and hoping that Mayor Joe Anderson could meet Mayor Boris Johnson on Tower Bridge to mark the success of Liverpool in London. So come on Boris you owe us that.