CBI lays down gauntlet on tax and regulation


Too much regulation, high taxation, public sector inefficiency and crumbling infrastructure threaten to destroy the economic progress Britain has made over the past 25 years, the CBI President will warn today.

John Sunderland, will make his comments at the CBI Annual Dinner in London, attended by around 1,200 business leaders, at which he will share a platform with Chancellor Gordon Brown, who will be making his first major speech since the general election.

But having held its fire during the election campaign, the CBI will pull no punches in making clear to the government that business must be free to create wealth for the country without being held back by increasing tax and damaging regulation.

Describing the EU bureaucrats as "legions of jobsworths" and "the unaccountable in pursuit of the unquantifiable", Sutherland will say that the acid test of the government's business credentials will be the vigour with which they oppose the EU Working Time Directive,

"An individual's right to work, when and how they choose, should be inalienable. We elect politicians to represent us, not to deny us choices. How on earth did we get to a position when my right to work, when and for how long I choose, could become illegal?"

The CBI has also said it is encouraged by recent comments from Prime Minister Tony Blair, describing the Working Time Directive as "wrong" and "completely misguided".

Sunderland will also make it clear that British companies are not a cash cow to be milked to pay for endless rises in public spending and that companies will not accept further increases in business taxation and.

"You have assured business that you have no intention of adding further to the significant taxation burdens which have already been imposed on business over the last eight years - an accumulative £43 billion. Be certain, we'll hold you to that assurance." And he will warn the government: "British business has never been more challenged by global competition - and never been freer to move abroad if the challenge becomes too strong."

Business also needs competitively-priced energy and decent public transport if it is to thrive in Britain, he will add.

A further element of the government's record that will come under fire is public sector productivity and the amount of national wealth consumed by the state.

"If you take the money, then please spend it well. Ensure that it produces real improvements in people's lives," Sunderland will say.

And alluding to figures suggesting that the government has created only 144,000 'front-line' public-sector jobs he will ask: "How many of the nearly 900,000 jobs that have been created in the public sector since 1997 were extra doctors, nurses, police? How many were target setters, target checkers, gender and diversity observers and outreach specialists?"

"We are entering a critical era in the relationship between Government and the business community," Sutherland will tell Gordon Brown.

"Business wants to contribute to a fairer society, business is always keen to give something back. But we need the freedom to operate, the infrastructure to compete and the liberty to make the profits to pay for a fairer world."