Posted: Mon 20th Nov 2023
In a busy day for political speeches and in a week that includes the Autumn Statement, prime minister Rishi Sunak, Labour's shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds and chancellor Jeremy Hunt have outlined their plans for boosting businesses and improving economic growth.
Join Enterprise Nation on 22 November from 12.30pm as a panel of small business owners and experts instantly react to the Autumn Statement.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak
First to speak was Rishi Sunak at an event in a London college. Attendees included Enterprise Nation's head of policy Daniel Woolf.
The prime minister said the government is taking five "long-term decisions" to grow the economy. They are:
Cutting tax and rewarding work
Building domestic, sustainable energy
Backing British business
Delivering a world-class education
With the latest figures showing inflation has fallen to 4.6%, Sunak said the government will now "turn our attention to cutting tax". He did not say which taxes but some tax reductions are expected in the Autumn Statement on 22 November.
Hinting that further tax cuts may be announced in the Budget next March, Sunak said:
"Now that inflation is halved and our growth is stronger, meaning revenues are higher, we can begin the next phase, and turn our attention to cutting tax.
"We will do this in a serious, responsible way based on fiscal rules to deliver sound money and alongside the independent forecasts of the Office for Budget Responsibility.
"And we can't do everything all at once. It will take discipline and we need to prioritise. But over time, we can and we will cut taxes."
Sunak emphasised the business experience of himself and the chancellor:
"So this is our message to business. The chancellor and I spent most of our careers in businesss. We understand, we care, we get it, and we're acting to make this the best country in the world to do business."
Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds
Labour's Jonathan Reynolds was one of the keynote speakers at the CBI conference.
Reynolds opened his speech saying Labour has worked on its relationship with businesses to become "the undisputed party of business".
He said this is because Labour is "genuinely focused on how to create the conditions we need for businesses to succeed". Reynolds added:
"I believe the relationship between business and the Labour Party, is not based on positioning, or trying to win an election, or people reacting to opinion polls.
"It comes from a deep-rooted belief that Britain faces some big challenges, that we need to meet together.
"It is my absolute conviction, that the major economic issues before us – low investment, poor productivity, and low growth – can only be fixed with a better relationship between government and the private sector."
Reynolds said Labour in government would have an industrial strategy that "coordinates the work of the whole government, not just the business department".
"It will be permanent - with an industrial strategy council made up of business and union leaders, placed on a statutory footing.
On support for small businesses, Reynolds referred to previously announced policies:
"Our Start-Up, Scale-Up review proposed ways to strengthen the British Business Bank, and the availability of growth capital, we will continue to develop those plans following the work of the Capital Markets Industry Taskforce.
And this work is alongside our specific commitments to help small businesses, by tackling things like late payments, to strengthen devolution and the role mayors play in their local economies, and to replace business rates with a fairer system.
"This is our comprehensive plan for business – not one-off rabbits for the sake of headlines. Giving you what you need on skills, energy, trade, finance and taxation."
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt
Also speaking at the CBI conference was chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of his Autumn Statement this Wednesday.
Two days before the Autumn Statement, Hunt quipped that there's still time to pitch ideas:
“It's not all finalised so there’s still time to get that last minute idea into my head!"
In the conversation with CBI director-general Rain Newton-Smith talked about his mission to make Britain "the next Silicon Valley" by focusing on increasing the number of scale-up businesses.
"Compared to a decade ago I think most people would say if you've got a good idea in a growing sector it's not difficult to find up to £5m get your business off the ground. That used not to be the case, but I think that has changed because of EIS, SEIS, VCTs and so on.
"But if you're trying to get a business from £20m to say £500m cap it's still too hard, and you're more likely to get investment from a Canadian pension fund than a British pension fund. We've got second biggest pension fund ecosystem in the world, but for various historic reasons there are too many barriers that prevent them investing in some of the biggest domestic opportunities.
"The 'Mansion House' pension fund reforms are designed to address that. I will explain in the autumn statement how we're going to conclude that process.
"But I also think there are lots of other things that we can do in terms of removing supply side barriers to growth. Demis Hassabis, the greatest British tech entrepreneur you've never heard of, an absolutely brilliant guy. What would it take to persuade the Demis Hassabis of the future not to sell his DeepMind to Google, but to grow it into a multi-billion pound company floated on the London Stock Market and able to access all the capital he needs? I think we can do that. But we've got to do the work together."
Turning back to the Autumn Statement, Hunt said "having made progress on inflation, we want to focus on the long term growth of the British economy". Referring to the audience of business leaders at the conference, he added:
"You are all business people. You know that Rome wasn't built in a day. We are not going to get there immediately. I won't be able to do every single thing you've asked me to do, but I hoe you will look at Wednesday's measures and apply to those measures that same definition of success as you would apply to your own business.
"That is to say what matters is not the headlines you grab the next day, but are these the measures that are going to make a real difference in the next five years?"