02/10/2012

Responding to Ed Miliband's keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference in Manchester, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

"Ed Miliband extended an olive branch to business by saying that Labour wants to engage with the private sector and small businesses. Many companies in the real economy will want to hear more over the coming months about Mr Miliband's promise to support businesses focused on long-term growth.”

On banks and access to finance:

"Many businesses will sympathise with Ed Miliband's ultimatum to the banks to reform or face regulatory action. However, there could be perverse consequences of a political witch hunt. In designing its future policies to improve access to finance, Labour must be careful not to undermine the financial services industry, which makes such a valuable contribution to our economy.  Labour must also set out how it will make a British Business Bank a permanent part of our national growth strategy."

On skills and education:

"Employers have long said that our national obsession with university leads to a blatant disregard for the majority of young people. Too often, young people come out of education without the skills required for the world of work. We need to value all types of skills equally, as they are all critical for the success of the economy. Business cannot function without the right mix of academic, technical and manual skills - they are all vital.

"Ed Miliband wants to put employers in the driving seat for training and skills. He’s right to say that giving employers greater control over training funds will deliver results. But introducing yet another overhaul of qualifications is not the answer. Businesses have a hard enough time determining the value of current qualifications. Instead, we need to focus on getting businesspeople into schools to help prepare young people for the world of work, boosting apprenticeships, bringing back enterprise education, and ensuring no one leaves the classroom without the basic skills needed to succeed in work.

"To get there, however, Labour may need to reconsider its long-held views on academic selection. The systems that work best in the rest of Europe separate academic, technical and manual schools, where they are funded and valued in equal measure. Labour must also look beyond the issue of apprenticeships in tackling problems with public procurement.” 

Ends

Notes to editors:

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is the national voice of local business.

The BCC sits at the heart of a powerful nationwide network of Accredited Chambers of Commerce, serving over 100,000 businesses across the UK, which employ over five million people. For more information visit: www.britishchambers.org.uk

Media contacts

Liz Larvin
T: +44 [0]20 7654 5813
M: +44 [0]7825 746812
l.larvin@britishchambers.org.uk

Lisa Morrison
T: +44 [0]20 7654 5812
M: +44 [0]7717682221
l.morrison@britishchambers.org.uk