BCC Director General, John Longworth, reacts to the speech of Business, Innovation and Skills Secretary, Vince Cable.
Commenting on the speech by Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable MP, John Longworth British Chambers of Commerce Director General said:
“Vince Cable was right to put the economy at the heart of his speech, and issue a warning that we should not become complacent. There is no doubt that tax or cuts, or in fact both, will be needed to deal with the deficit and the growing national debt.
“It is positive to hear the Secretary of State speak of the importance of long-termism in both business investment and in government policy. But too often in the past the rhetoric of politicians is at odds with the reality of what businesses see on the ground. Actions, not words are what count and this means sticking by an evidence-led approach to policy, not cutting across established mechanisms such as the Low Pay Commission for the minimum wage, and abiding by the findings of the Davies Commission on building new runways.
“Some of the most successful economies in the world exhibit a true partnership between business and government. Although Vince Cable touched on some critical business issues today, we will wait expectantly for the Autumn Statement in December, where we hope to see radical measures announced to support business growth in the UK.”
On infrastructure and airport expansion:
“Vince Cable only briefly mentioned infrastructure, which is disappointing given the UK faces a huge infrastructure investment challenge over the next decade. Ageing road, rail and energy networks need upgrading and replacing, and more houses need to be built. While many companies rely on private investment, some sectors are heavily dependent on public investment. It is therefore important to explore new ways for the government to help finance these vital projects. We are calling on the next government to exclude borrowing for investment in infrastructure from any public debt target.
“It is also crucial that the next government commits to solving the airport capacity crunch, if it wants to win business support. Firms across the country were stunned by the Liberal Democrat pre-manifesto, which seemed to jump the gun on Sir Howard Davies' airports commission and rule out aviation expansion, before the report has even been concluded.”
On the minimum wage for apprentices:
“Most businesses value their apprentices highly, and already pay them significantly above the apprenticeship minimum wage rate. For that reason the proposed change will have minimal impact on businesses bottom line, but it must be up to the Low Pay Commission to make evidence-based recommendations to ensure that wage rates are right for market conditions.”
On business rates:
“We would have liked to have heard more from Vince Cable on the issue of business rates in his Conference speech. British companies now pay the highest business rates in Europe which has a huge impact on investment, and ultimately jobs and growth too. We are calling on the next government to commit to a thorough review of the system and freeze rates for all businesses until 2017 when a full review is due to take place.”