Posted by

Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy and External Affairs

16 Jul 2013

I’ve spent much of my time this week in the Palace of Westminster, meeting members of Parliament, participating in two events on the on-going aviation capacity debate (one of which was organised by Essex Chambers), and giving evidence to a Public Bill Committee on HS2. While these meetings and events were often on very different subjects, I quickly started to notice a common theme. And then realised that this theme is something I’ve been encountering for years now, perhaps for the whole of my career.

The only way to sum it up is “Stop-Start Britain”. It’s the way Britain handles big decisions on infrastructure projects, pushing their costs into the stratosphere and generating uncertainty for potential private investors. It’s the way that government ministers claim they are simplifying the tax system, and then use every Budget to tinker with it to suit their own ends. It’s the way that ministers reform or modernise public services – the long and painful process of Royal Mail privatisation, also finally announced this week, being a case in point. Or the way that Whitehall constantly re-hash qualifications, apprenticeships and school curricula, to the point that neither individuals nor businesses have any idea what they mean.

“Stop-Start Britain” is a country where businesses get frustrated and choose solid, steady performance rather than taking big risks for growth, because they don’t know whether the underlying environment will be benevolent, benign, or hostile. Wittingly or unwittingly, the political culture of this country contributes to a “small c” business conservatism that becomes tough to change – even though Chamber members are so often the dynamic exception to the rule.

So our campaigns for policy certainty, stability, and clarity are about getting the conditions right for a “Full-Speed-Ahead Britain”. While we can point to incremental improvements, like this week’s announcement on regulation that enacts BCC’s hard-fought recommendations on health and safety and employment tribunals, there’s so much yet to do. We as businesses must continue to demand long-termism from our politicians, shine a light on gimmicks and distractions, and remind our elected leaders and unelected civil servants that only a truly enterprise-friendly environment will enable business growth.