By Claire West
As the Liberal Democrat party conference convenes in Liverpool, the British Chambers of Commerce has today (Monday) published results from a survey of Members of Parliament that suggest some divisions within the Coalition on top business concerns.
When it comes to helping companies create jobs and aiding the UK’s fragile economic recovery, the ComRes-conducted survey found clear discrepancies among MPs from the two Coalition parties.
Whereas 87% of Conservative MPs surveyed felt that the balance of employment law had shifted too far towards the employee, to the detriment of the employer, 71% of Liberal Democrats polled disagreed — a profound difference of view on an issue that businesses say is stopping them from taking on more staff.
Whereas 62% of Conservatives were in favour of appointing a full-time trade minister to ‘bang the drum’ for British companies overseas, 50% of Liberal Democrats surveyed felt such a minister was not necessary — a result that makes interesting reading for HSBC Chairman, Stephen Green, due to join the Government in precisely that role.
And on infrastructure investment, a key business priority ahead of next month’s Comprehensive Spending Review, there are similarly wide disagreements between the Coalition parties. 70% of Liberal Democrat MPs surveyed want spending on infrastructure to rise or remain constant in real terms — a view strongly shared by business leaders — while only 27% of Conservatives agree.
Commenting, David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
“While the Coalition Government has made important strides to improve the environment for business during its first few months in office, we are concerned about some of the gaps opening up between ministers and their parliamentary parties.
“As Vince Cable’s business department conducts a major review of employment law, with the goal of making it easier for businesses to take on staff, it’s worrying to see that 71% of Lib Dem back-benchers seem to think that the current amount of red tape facing employers is acceptable.
“This is a critical week for Nick Clegg and Vince Cable to re-state the importance of business growth to their party colleagues. The UK’s economic recovery depends on a stable government with the backing for policies that put enterprise growth first.”