The British Chamber of Commerce’s Policy Unit has responded to the recommendations in the Conservative Party economic policy review, launched today.

Business regulation:

BCC Policy Adviser Kieran O’Keeffe said:

"These proposals are a welcome contribution to the debate on regulation. The British Chambers of Commerce have long called for independent monitoring and greater parliamentary scrutiny to ensure businesses are not hit by excessive burdens, so it’s pleasing to see that both of these are prominent in the report’s recommendations.

Coming after recent Government pledges to improve Parliamentary oversight of regulation, it shows an encouraging consensus beginning to emerge across the political spectrum. We look forward to this leading to progress on an issue so important to the UK economy.

Economy:

BCC Senior Economist Narinder Gill said:

"Reducing the burden of business taxation is necessary if the UK is to retain its competitive position. Ireland has shown what can be achieved if corporation tax is reduced and it is reassuring that the Conservatives appear to be leaning towards tax cuts.

.If there is any complaint it is that they have not gone far enough. Small company corporation tax was 19 per cent before the last unwelcome rise and it would be welcome to see levels reduced back down to that level."

Skills:

BCC Senior Policy Adviser Charlotte Moore-Bick said:

"The report is right to identify vocational skills and training as a major area in need of reform. The UK must move to a demand-led system, with employer-led training and qualifications so that the UK’s economy has the skills it needs for productivity. In any employer-led system, the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must not be overlooked. The proposal to pilot Group Training Associations, allowing SMEs to run apprenticeship schemes, will open up a very valuable training route that can benefit both companies and individuals.

"One of the biggest threats to the UK’s competitiveness is in the shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. 25% of all first degrees in the UK are in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, compared to nearly 50% of first degrees in China. However, although the report sets out the problem and some of the efforts being made to remedy this skills shortage, it offers scant recommendation as to how this can be redressed."

Transport:

BCC Policy Adviser Gareth Elliot said:

"The failings of the UKs transport infrastructure are one of the most pressing concerns for our members, so it’s encouraging to see the report propose solutions. The proposals will need to be considered very carefully though, to ensure that policies achieve the intended aims.

First, while moves to invest private finance in road improvements are welcome, assurances need to be given that businesses are not penalised through unreasonable road pricing. In particular, any road charges for lorries must be revenue neutral for UK haulage firms.

And on the railways, while extra freight capacity and commuter services are desperately needed, the feasibility of any schemes needs to be carefully detailed. It is vital that the rail infrastructure is equipped to cope with new capacity if we are to avoid increases in congestion."

Planning:

BCC Policy Adviser Kevin Hoctor said:

"The BCC has long called on moves to make the planning system faster and more efficient. It’s encouraging then to see the policy review take up these ideas. In particular we welcome moves to encourage town centre revitalisation by redeveloping commercial properties."