Commenting on the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Conservative Party Conference today (Monday), John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“This conference season, party politics and electioneering have dominated the discourse, when our political class should be focusing on growth and wealth creation.
“So it was heartening to hear George Osborne bring the debate back to our incomplete economic recovery, and the importance of getting the fundamentals right for the future. This is precisely the time when the economy must be the thread that runs through every government policy. It must be front and centre for our political leaders at all times.
“If Britain’s economy is to go from being just good to truly great, the focus the Chancellor exhibited in his speech must be maintained relentlessly for years to come. We must be ambitious for Britain – and our political leaders must get moving, and ensure that their commitments to growth and wealth creation are not just warm words.”
On capital spending and infrastructure investment:
“The Chancellor’s commitment to ensure that capital spending rises at least in line with national income is extremely important. Britain faces a tremendous infrastructure gap – from roads and railways to broadband – and this is an important signal that will help to underpin much-needed investment in future.
“The Chancellor’s commitments to HS2, energy security and investment in R&D now will be welcomed by business after weeks of political uncertainty.
“However, the Chancellor must also continue to boost infrastructure in the short term, by continuing to shift more current spending to capital spending, and by creating the conditions for private investment in energy and other sectors.”
On Help to Buy II:
“We are not against the principles of Help to Buy. Indeed, the first phase of the scheme gave an important boost to the new-build market.
“However, there are legitimate concerns around the second phase. The Bank of England needs to keep a careful eye out for inflationary pressures and housing bubbles. Since mortgage market interventions could cause the prices of existing properties to increase, the role of the Bank is paramount. And given these concerns, rushing the scheme may not be right.
“The most important issue is to build more houses, as the BCC has been saying for some time. Unless we enable significant new house-building capacity, along with other major infrastructure development, it will be hard to transform Britain's economic recovery from good to great."
On fuel duty:
“Small businesses in particular will welcome the Chancellor’s ambition to freeze fuel duty for the remainder of this Parliament. But they will want to ensure that ambition becomes a reality.”
On access to finance:
“We would have liked to hear more from the Chancellor on business access to finance. The government must make a commitment to scale up the British Business Bank if we are to see young, innovative and recovering companies achieve their growth potential.”
On export support:
“George Osborne’s personal commitment to trade with emerging markets is clear. This autumn, he can back up that commitment with even more direct, practical, business-to-business support for British exporters.”