Ed Miliband pledges to support small businesses with raft of new measures

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Ed Miliband is to answer critics who claim that Labour is “anti-business” by promising that his party would give new rights to small companies and the self-employed if it wins power.

Mr Miliband will stick to his “cost of living” agenda despite grumbling from some Labour MPs that he needs a new strategy now that the economy is recovering. In a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB),  the Labour leader will declare that he wants to see small firms “make bigger profits and become bigger businesses".

He will try to build bridges with the business community after facing criticism of his interventionist policies, such as an energy price freeze, and his plan to restore a 50p tax rate on incomes over £150,000 a year.

Mr Miliband will tell the FSB that Labour is changing so that it can fight next year’s general election as “the party of small business.”

He will say: “Since the turn of the century, the number of people working for themselves has increased by over one million. Small businesses are now the bedrock of our economy.”

He will announce that Labour’s reforms to the energy market would give small companies similar protection from unfair practices as households. A new energy regulator would enforce a ban on suppliers rolling firms over on to more expensive tariffs without their consent - or crippling them with retrospective bills for periods longer than a year.

Groups such as the FSB would be granted new rights to take cases - like late payment by others firms or government departments -  to court on behalf of their members.

The FSB would join consumer groups in setting the agenda for the Competition and Markets Authority’s investigations to ensure markets work for consumers and businesses.

Mr Miliband will argue that the “fundamental choice” in British politics is “whether we embark on a race to the top and build a high-wage, high-skill economy in which you can succeed, or whether we continue on a race to the bottom in which the only way to win is if you lose. “