Outlook: Entrepreneurs

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S ENTREPRENEURS and venture capitalists at least have no cause for feeling neglected right now. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, talks about "enterprise" almost as much as "prudence" and Stephen Byers, the Trade and Industry Secretary, has been announcing initiative after initiative. The past week has seen a brace of high-profile gatherings designed to put enterprise well and truly back on the political map.

Last week, it was Messrs Brown and Byers extolling the American way at an event held under the auspices of the US embassy. The Prime Minister, no less, yesterday tore himself away from events in Northern Ireland to deliver the keynote address at the British Venture Capital Association's "entrepreneurs' summit" in central London. Lots of talk there was too about "knowledge", "growth" and "enterprise".

In the end, however, rhetoric is no substitute for action, and in this department the Government still has a long way to go. Most of what we have seen so far is little more than fiddling at the edges, while government policy in other areas - labour and social legislation - far from encouraging enterprise, glues it up and stifles it.

Meanwhile Britain continues to have one of the most retrogressive capital gains tax systems in Europe. For a comparatively measly take of pounds 1bn a year, CGT creates huge ill-will and disincentive among entrepreneurs. If Tony Blair is serious about creating an entrepreneurial culture, abolishing CGT would be a useful starting point.

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