Responding to news that the Government is to require companies to adhere to workforce racial quotas if they hope to win public contracts.

Sally Low, Director of Policy and External Affairs for the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "The way to address high unemployment in some ethnic communities is not race quotas but by equipping workers with the skills businesses need. Individuals should be employed based on no other criteria than their ability to do the job and whether they have significant merit compared to all other applicants."

"Companies already face a £50.3bn tidal wave of red tape and regulation - much of it employment related – and there are already measures in place that prohibit discrimination on grounds of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation."

"Firms will not welcome more bureaucracy to wade through in the process of tendering for public contracts where it is already very difficult, particularly for smaller businesses, to break through and get Government work. These proposals could lead to a situation were firms able to offer a competitive service are dissuaded from pitching for government work."

"Another unanswered question is that of the UK's European competitors. Contracts over a certain monetary value have to be open to all companies in the EU: does the Government seriously expect other member states to closely adhere to these measures?"

"These proposals simply don't seem to have been thought-through; nor are they applicable to vast swathes of business and industry given the exemptions for rural and construction businesses. If enacted these they could lead to an uneven playing field and will do nothing to encourage many companies to compete for Government work. We urge the Government to consign this idea to the Silly Season dustbin where it belongs."

Tim Hutchings, Chief Executive of the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce & Industry said, “ When I first heard of this proposal I had to check that it was not 1st April. It would be easy to dismiss these proposals as being simply barmy but in reality they are yet another example of this government laying the responsibility, and cost, at the doorstep of businesses. If government wants businesses to provide social services they should pay them to do so”.