By Jonathan Davies

Following the Prime Minister David Cameron’s keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, business leaders have been having their say.

Mr Cameron outlined plans to cut incomes taxes, boosting apprenticeships and cutting the deficit.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:

“The CBI welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to a long-term economic plan for a successful Britain. Businesses are ready to step up to the plate to make sure that growth is meaningful to everyone.

On taxes and jobs:

“A job is the best route to prosperity and business supports stronger incentives for people to get a job and get on in work.

“At the same time, we need more investment to create more jobs, so pledging to keep the UK corporate tax rate the most competitive in the G20 will send out a clear positive signal to businesses.

“A flexible labour market is good for jobs but abusive zero hours contracts are not and should be tackled.

On Europe:

“Freedom of movement is an essential part of the single market and it must be protected.

“The EU is the biggest single market in the world and access to it is vital for firms, small and large.”

John Allan, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“In his speech the Prime Minister promised he would secure a better future and balance the books. For business, his commitments on tackling the deficit, corporate taxes and much-needed house building are welcome.

“We particularly support the Prime Minister’s clear commitment to delivering full employment – a goal the FSB put at the heart of our Manifesto. Small firms will be critical in achieving this by creating the high quality new jobs needed. Policy makers need to ensure measures are in place to support small businesses to deliver the growth and employment the country needs.”

“In order to deliver the economic growth necessary to balance the books the next government will need to place small businesses at the heart of their plans.”

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:

“At the heart of the Prime Minister’s speech was an aspiration to cut taxes for millions of people. Raising the personal allowance, lifting the 40p threshold and keeping corporation tax low will all ensure that work pays and more jobs are created. We await the details of how such reforms will be financed. Increasing the personal allowance is particularly expensive to the Exchequer. Furthermore, the 40p rate (42p with National Insurance) should not apply until an income reaches at least twice median earnings, or £53,000. Nevertheless, this is a bold and overdue correction to a tax system that was sucking in more and more medium earners.

“Keeping corporation tax at the lowest level in the G20 is a powerful and tangible commitment to promoting Britain as a place to do business. However, whilst it’s also right that companies operating here pay their fair share of tax. Clamping down on egregious tax avoidance must coincide with a radical simplification of the tax code. Taxes must be simpler, as well as lower.

“On Europe, it is disappointing that the Prime Minister intends to put toughening up the rules around the free movement of people at the core of his impending renegotiation strategy. In addition to the level of resistance to reform of this policy on the continent, it remains the case that labour mobility and access to necessary skills is one of the elements of EU membership that businesses value the most. From a business perspective, regulatory reform and a focus on improving Europe’s competitiveness must take centre stage of any reform process.

“On his plans to bring about constitutional reform, the Prime Minister will find broad support among IoD members, 67% of whom would like to see greater devolution of tax and spending powers to the UK’s nations, cities and the regions.”

Phil Orford MBE, chief executive of the Forum of Private Business, said:

“The Prime Minister’s speech showed a focus on public services with promises of an ease of cost pressures towards the end of the next Parliament. For business, there was a pledge to maintain the lowest Corporation Taxes of the G20.

“A side effect of a raised personal allowance and increased tax threshold is that pressure to raise the National Minimum Wage dramatically above inflation might dampen. With wage costs still significant for many struggling businesses this will be welcome but is still some way down the line.

“Coupled with the Chancellor’s impressive case for a better understanding of how business growth and taxation supports the wider economy earlier in the week, the Conservative Party has set out the need for further austerity but with a clear understanding that a prosperous economy is the driver to higher spending in the public sector.”

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