Cameron hosts business leaders' meeting

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David Cameron met business leaders today to discuss how to lead Britain out of the economic slump, at the Tories first Get Britain Working forum.

The Tory leader told the meeting in Salford, Greater Manchester, it was one of 13 such events taking place hosted by members of the shadow cabinet from Plymouth to Tynemouth.

He said he wanted to hear from the 60 or so local business people and Tory party members gathered at The Lowry arts centre, about their own ideas to get the economy moving again.

Today's initiative by the Conservative Party is part of a strategy to make the running on the economy after being labelled the "do nothing" party by Labour.

Mr Cameron said the Tories had already suggested a raft of measures but today he would be in "receive rather than transmit mode" looking for ideas from businessmen and listening.

One chartered surveyor told Mr Cameron the government's VAT cut was a "damp squib" and suggested the housing market needed to get going as the "engine" of the economy.

He said mortgages were being advertised - but only available to first time buyers with a 35 per cent deposit.

He suggested copying an Australian scheme where taxpayers fund first time buyers deposit.

Mr Cameron said Labour's stamp duty freeze had not worked but it was difficult to know in such a housing downturn, the right time for intervention.

He added: "It seems to me the most important thing is to get banks lending again to businesses.

"Businesses large, medium and small are all writing to me saying effectively the same thing, my credit line has been withdrawn, my overdraft facility has been taken away... I'm having to lay people off.

"The biggest thing we have to do is recognise the recapitalisation of the banks was fine in that it stopped banks falling over and going bust, but it's not got them lending again properly."

A businessman from computer printer firm Brother, said imported technology goods would increase 20 per cent to 25 per cent between now and May because Sterling had fallen - costs which would be passed on to customers.

Mr Cameron said government borrowing was a reason why Sterling had fallen and he was a firm believer in floating exchange rates - as he was in the Treasury during the ERM debacle of the 1990s.

"It is really a reflection of what the world thinks of the British economy," he said.

"And I would argue it's been made a lot worse by the very big borrowing.

"I see no circumstances in which joining the Euro would be a good thing because I want us to set our own interest rates.

"We just need a government that puts fiscal responsibility at the heart of what it does."

Today's meetings follow proposals yesterday by Mr Cameron to offer tax breaks worth a total of £5bn to millions of pensioners and savers.

The Tories have also promised a £50bn loan guarantee scheme with government "standing behind" loans to firms.

Other plans included freezing council tax and cutting National Insurance for small firms.

Labour said the Tory plans, funded by restricting the growth of public spending, were "economic madness" and would not benefit the vast majority of ordinary people.

It would mean cuts of more than £2bn in funding for police, education, transport, housing and council services.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said Labour's £40 billion capital investment programme would create thousands of new jobs.

Mr Cameron says Britain must change "from a spend, spend, spend society into a save, save, save society".

The Government's approach of borrowing to fund its fiscal stimulus was "economically stupid and morally indefensible" and would lead to increased taxes and higher debt, he claimed.

Later today Mr Cameron will meet local voters at a debate in Manchester.