Following David Cameron’s first major speech as leader of a majority Conservative government, business groups including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have stressed the importance of delivering practical reforms to encourage enterprise.
The Prime Minister’s speech to the party conference in Manchester yesterday has been widely interpreted as an attempt to appeal to the political centre-ground, following the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership.
The speech included a long section on promoting equality of opportunity, and covered criticisms of the gender pay gap and of widespread discrimination against ethnic minorities when it comes to employment opportunities.
Mr Cameron also launched an attack on Labour’s new economic policy direction and specifically its adoption of the ideas of tax campaigner Richard Murphy, who favours higher corporate tax rates and a significant increase in anti-avoidance legislation. The Prime Minister accused Labour of giving up “any sensible, reasonable, rational arguments on the economy”.
However, the speech did not contain many detailed policy announcements, and business leaders have called for practical measures to assist enterprises.
John Longworth, Director General of the BCC, said: “The Prime Minister has set out a series of national challenges that businesspeople across Britain will identify with. Economic strength, social cohesion, personal mobility and opportunity, more housebuilding and change in our relationship with Europe are all things that businesses support because their achievement would make us all better off, and make our country a more enterprising place.
“In business, however, delivery is what counts. Successive governments have a poor track record when it comes to executing big, bold changes in the national interest. The Prime Minister has set the bar high for himself and for his Government – we look forward to seeing results.”
CBI Director-General John Cridland said: “The Prime Minister’s vision for an even greater Britain, built on the foundations of a stronger economy and society is one that businesses will stand right behind.” But he added: “Continuing to deliver high-quality public services will require a truly transformational approach from this Government. We need to see innovative ideas like digitalising and joining up more services.”
Mr Cridland also emphasised his belief that most businesses want to remain within the European Union: “Businesses will welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to a UK that is strong in Europe – recognising the benefits to firms of the single market and the reforms necessary to build on those strengths. The majority of CBI members want to stay in a reformed EU.”