Miliband’s “non-speech” Fails to Inspire Small Business

Ed MilibandEd Miliband’s maiden speech as Labour Party leader, in which he promised to make Labour the “party of enterprise”, has been given a lukewarm reception by business groups and small firms.

During the speech to the Labour Party Conference on 28th September, Miliband advocated an increase in the National Minimum Wage (NMW), greater protection for agency workers and a rethink of the impact of immigration on the pay and conditions of the British workforce. He also called for “a tax system for business that rewards responsibility”.

Business groups and business owners have expressed concern that Miliband’s approach would stifle wealth and job creation, and weigh small firms down with red tape.

“It’s a non-speech,”

said Alex Pratt, founder of lighting manufacturer Serious Readers and chairman of the Buckinghamshire branch of the Institute of Directors (IoD).

“He said what he needed to say about being the party of small businesses, but all governments have struggled to do anything particularly useful for us in terms of creating wealth.”

“It’s quite a protectionist approach that he’s advocating. It still feels like we’re saying we’re better off than we are and we can afford to be good to ourselves. But there were no real signs that he understands the stark reality of the economic conditions that we now face.”

On the Saturday before the speech, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) published a survey of Labour backbenchers that, they suggested, indicated a gap between the party and small businesses. The research found that 93% of backbenchers disagreed that employment law had shifted too far toward the employee and 66% did not believe there should be a limit on the number of employment law changes happening at any one time.

The BCC’s director of policy and external affairs, Adam Marshall, said:

“It was good to hear Mr Miliband talking about wealth creation and small business. But it was difficult to hear him saying ‘I will make my party the party of enterprise’ at the same time as talking about new employment regulations and processes that will prevent employers from creating jobs.”

“The employers’ perspective is that the balance of employment law has shifted too far towards the employee. Between now and 2014 the cost of implementing employment regulations that have already been passed will be £11 billion.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) expressed a similar concern and the IoD said Miliband was drifting away from New Labour’s pro-enterprise agenda.

“It’s only because we’re comparing ourselves with Greece that we feel good. China has growth of 10%.”

Miliband’s non-speech Fails to Inspire Small Business

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