|BCC VIEW OF THE LABOUR BUSINESS MANIFESTO
March 30 2015.
Commenting on Labour's manifesto and the policies proposed, John Longworth, Director General at the British Chambers of Commerce said: "The Labour business manifesto sets out a number of sound policies, notably around long-term investment, access to finance, infrastructure and training - all of which are critical to the sort of sustainable, balanced growth that the UK economy needs.
"At the same time, some of the tax and regulatory plans proposed by Labour need a re-think - to ensure these do not negatively affect enterprise and entrepreneurial aspiration.
“The proof of success will be in the delivery and impact of these policy proposals – that is how we will measure any incoming government.”
On EU membership:
"When it comes to Europe, politicians must acknowledge that there are a variety of views amongst British businesses. As our surveys have shown, there is widespread support for Britain remaining within the Single Market, but alongside renegotiation of the UK's place in the EU and a referendum, not membership at any cost. Those like Mr Miliband who favour attempting reform within the current system need to set out how they would achieve this increasingly difficult goal, and on what timescales.
"As the EU debate continues, it is crucial for politicians and businesspeople on all sides to stick to the facts. The real 'clear and present danger' is hyperbole and inflammatory language during an election campaign - which could take the debate further and further away from the big-ticket issues."
On the Business Bank:
“We are pleased that Labour has recognised our call to address the long-term structural failure in UK business finance and the importance of delivering a fully functioning business bank. However, only a business bank that is sufficiently capitalised, and has the ability to lend directly to companies that need it, will be effective in helping firms to reach their growth potential. It remains to be seen whether Labour's proposed Business Investment Bank will be sufficiently ambitious to meet this criteria.”
On business rates and corporation tax:
“Business rates are an iniquitous tax and a drag on business growth, and that is why we called for a freeze on business rates in our business manifesto. However, we are concerned that paying for a cut or a freeze in business rates by reversing the forthcoming reduction in corporation tax, would send mixed messages to the business community. Both business rates and corporation tax have to be contained if we are to create a tax system which helps our most promising companies realise their potential.”
“Businesspeople throughout the UK want to see less centralised government, more responsive to local need. Labour’s proposal to devolve £30 billion of funding to city and county regions could help to drive forward the economic development of local areas, but it can’t be devolution for devolution sake. More localized decisions on tax and spending must go hand in hand with greater accountability and efficiency of local government. We are calling for a ratepayers vote on local economic development and funding decisions.”
On an Independent National Infrastructure Commission:
“The UK needs to adopt a new approach to the delivery of infrastructure. For too many decades, we've seen plan after plan, strategy after strategy – but little delivery on the ground. An independent infrastructure commission could help end this 'Stop-Start' approach, and promote greater business investment.”
On exports and international trade agreements:
“Growing the UK’s export sector is essential to rebalancing the economy and putting it on a long-term sustainable footing. We must ensure that we have the best possible support mechanisms for exporters, if we are to compete with the world’s best. That is why we need to continue working to ensure that businesses can access the same products and scale of support as their global competitors.
“British businesses strongly support the principle of free trade between the EU and the US. Firms across the UK will cheer a free trade deal that helps them gain new opportunities in US markets. However, there is still a lack of clarity around how TTIP would work in practice, and businesses also need reassurance of the benefits for small and medium businesses, not just multi-nationals.”
“For some time now we have called for closer links between the education sector and businesses, in order to better prepare young people for the world of work. It is pleasing to see that Labour acknowledges that their needs to be some reform within the education sector to achieve this. We’ve proposed that schools are measured on their pupils’ job destination and salaries, so that young people have the right skills to succeed at work and businesses have a pipeline of talent.
“Businesses will also support increased emphasis on quality, to ensure that apprenticeships are seen across Britain as routes into great careers. It’s also right to give employers more purchasing power when it comes to apprenticeship funding, as this will help ensure apprenticeships are delivered to an ever-higher standard.”
On corporate takeovers:
“Although corporate takeovers and mergers take place every day, there have been some high profile cases which have raised serious concerns about whether they are in Britain’s national interest. Labour is right to propose action to protect the future of some of our most promising firms. Our Business Manifesto calls for an independent public interest test to be introduced to determine whether any deal has long-term economic value for the UK.”