Tory manifesto: British Chambers of Commerce welcomes policies but calls for more specifics

The BCC said policies might increase up-front costs, regulatory obligations and uncertainty for businesses

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The Independent Online

One of the UK’s most powerful business groups has prudently welcomed policies laid out in the Conservative’s manifesto, while also warning that many of the pledges don’t provide necessary specifics on how the party aims to implement them.

Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said that promises to overhaul the business rates system, to deliver better digital and mobile connectivity, and to focus more on “unlocking the growth potential of cities, towns and counties” would likely be welcomed by businesses across the UK.

“However, the positive reception to some elements of the manifesto will be tempered by proposals that would increase up-front costs, regulatory obligations and uncertainty for businesses,” he said.

“The Conservatives’ proposed approach to immigration, at a time when many firms are already doing everything they can to train up and employ UK workers, will worry companies of every size, sector, region and nation,” he said.

He said that some of the Conservative proposals for additional market intervention and new employment regulation would likely be questioned, even by firms that are not directly affected, “because of the signals they send”.

The BCC represents more than 50 chambers of commerce around the UK, which in turn speak on behalf of thousands of companies of all sizes.

It has been a vocal proponent of reforming the business rates system and providing stable infrastructure and a sustainable industrial strategy as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

Earlier this week it dismissed many of the policies outlined in Labour’s manifesto as inadequate, particularly honing in on “sweeping nationalisation and deep intervention in business decision-making”, which it said were “not the hallmarks of an ambitious and enterprising society”.

Mr Marshall on Thursday praised the Conservative manifesto for recognising that the UK “needs a strong economy, stable public finances, a strong domestic business environment and outward-looking trade policies to weather the Brexit transition”.

But he added that over the coming weeks, business communities “will want to see much more detail on how the manifesto’s pro-enterprise elements would be implemented, and their concerns on its more interventionist elements clearly addressed”. 

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, echoed the BCC’s comments.

“This is a wide-ranging plan that seeks to take positive steps to strengthen corporate governance, encourage people back into work, and help clarify the rights of workers, particularly those working in the gig economy,” he said.

“However, we are concerned about the detail of recommendations on immigration, skills and pay ratios, particularly the evidence base and practical implications in areas that are so critical to the UK economy.”