September is party conference season and we have at the time of writing heard from the Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Chancellor and Chancellor.
We now have a clearer sense of where the economic battle lines are being drawn ahead of the general election in May, and we have had several policy announcements which give an indication of what each of the parties’ priorities will be should they form the next government.
At the CBI we have been consistent and clear in calling for deficit reduction to remain a high priority for the next Government, and the Chancellor’s indication that a future Conservative Government would eradicate it is welcome. However, we cannot underestimate how far we still have to go.
With the Shadow Chancellor reaffirming Labour’s commitment to fiscal discipline, both parties that could form the next Government are committed to balancing the books, which is the foundation upon which confidence in Britain, investment and job creation will be built.
Ensuring the next generation has the right skills is a key concern of the CBI and the wider business community, and it’s pleasing to see both parties coming up with plans to tackle the issue. However, while it’s good to see Labour prioritising apprenticeships, demanding that employers take on an apprentice for every skilled non-EU job created is needless at a time when companies are already enthusiastic about apprenticeships and taking on as many as they need.
Business leaders are clear that remaining within a reformed European Union is the best way to ensure Britain remains competitive, and Labour’s recognition that the single market is critical to protecting jobs and growth is heartening.
We are yet to hear the Prime Minister’s speech, but he has previously set out plans to reform and renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership; British business leaders have called for the single market to be deepened and for the City to be protected from any Financial Transactions Tax, which would be a good start.
What business needs above all else is stability.
Both parties have set out plans for the longer term, which will go a long way towards helping businesses to plan for life under a new Government of any colour.
With both parties making positive noises about investment in infrastructure, tackling the deficit, Britain’s role in Europe and plugging the skills gap, business leaders can be content that their businesses can continue to grow and investors can be assured that Britain will remain a great place to spend their money.