Brown calls for National Insurance payments freeze

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The Independent Online
A NATIONAL Insurance contribution freeze for companies taking on the long-term unemployed and grants to help small businesses create more jobs were called for yesterday by Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor.

Widening pre-Budget calls for action, Mr Brown said: 'If someone is taken on within the next three months, then for the period of the year - up to a certain amount - the Government should relieve the employer of their NICs to enable more people to be taken on quickly.'

Mr Brown said the cost of that, and of direct government grants to small businesses in key areas such as engineering, would be 'substantial' but could be financed by closing tax loopholes. Details of the loopholes he claims can be closed will be revealed in the run-up to tomorrow week's Budget.

On BBC television's On the Record, in his first major interview since taking up his front-bench post, Mr Brown responded to claims that his 'new economics' policy is defensive and hard to distinguish from the Tories'.

The policy centres on individual training and employment opportunities and an abandonment of the 'old battles' between market and state and public and private sector. Using the term 'community' rather than government or state, he said the difference between Labour and the Conservatives was that Labour would use the power of the community to the good of everyone.

Pressed on the use of the word 'community', Mr Brown said he meant recognising the 'interdependence of us all. It doesn't necessarily mean that government must own everything. What it does mean is that there is a public interest which requires the Government to act either by setting standards or rules or acting as a partner with private industry, a financier in some cases, a public interest that is advanced in a flexible way in a modern world.'