Reacting to the speech by Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna MP, John Longworth BCC Director General said:

On local growth:

“Businesses will support Chuka Umunna’s commitment to further devolution of economic development in England. There is no such thing as national prosperity without boosting the growth prospects of our cities and counties. Decisions on local growth are best taken when businesses and councils decide what arrangements work best for their areas, and deliver these accordingly.

“Government must ensure businesses are placed at the heart of local growth. In our business manifesto we are calling for a ratepayers vote on local economic development strategy and funding decisions, to ensure that plans for an area’s future have the support and input of the whole of the business community.”

On skills:

“Business will find much to agree with in Labour’s focus on delivering more apprenticeships and technical degrees. We must support all talent pools in the economy to maximise economic growth in a knowledge based economy. Education, training and skills at all levels are as important to the infrastructure of the nation as our roads, railways and airports.”

On the national minimum wage:

“There is no doubt that the widening pay gap and a lack of social mobility is detrimental to the UK economy. This is not a phenomenon born during the recent recession, but a trend that has been developing over decades. As the economy continues to improve, businesses agree that the minimum wage must rise.  However, businesses are in favour of an evidence-based approach to wages legislation. Politicians should focus on implementing policies to raise productivity and improve skills in the workplace – which are key to higher wages for all in the future.”

On zero hours contracts:

“Zero hours contracts are vital for a successful jobs market, but they must be fair and work for all parties. Much of the negativity surrounding zero hours contracts misunderstands the vital role they can play in creating jobs. For example, they can be beneficial for students, older workers or those with caring duties who don’t want to be constrained by a fixed contract. And they allow employers to experiment with new services or markets. The UK’s flexible labour market has prevented unemployment from increasing to the levels economists expected during and following the recession.”

On Europe:

“While the majority of our members want to remain in the European Union, they want to see a renegotiated settlement that works for business. This includessecuring safeguards for the UK and other non-eurozone countries in future EU decision-making, so that as eurozone countries look to integrate further, non-eurozone states are not disadvantaged in the future governance of the Single Market.”