Prime Minister Gordon Brown and leader of the opposition David Cameron MP today described how their political parties will enable business and technology leaders to move Great Britain’s economy back to growth. Brown, opening the CBI Annual Conference, stressed the importance of technology in British business life whilst Cameron indicated his party believed in high speed rail links.
The annual meeting of British industrial leaders took on a heightened sense of importance today with the weekend’s news leaks that the government is to change its policy on taxation and impose higher taxes on those earning over £150,000. With the world and national economy dominating public agenda, Brown and Cameron used the event to clearly set out the demarcation lines between their parties.
In a slick presentation where he made overt gestures to not being a politician to the business leaders present, Cameron borrowed from the most loved national leader of the last century, Winston Churchill. “Never in the history of Britain have so many owed so much,” he said in reference to government and individual levels of debt. The leader of the opposition was angry with the PM over how his party has been represented by the government during the financial crisis. “You never get anywhere by misrepresenting your competitor’s products and he should stop doing it,” he said to the packed auditorium.
Prime Minister Brown assured CIOs and business leaders that his party will continue to invest in technology, promising to continue investment into the national technology infrastructure and “human capital”. “Investment in ideas, knowledge, brands and research, these will be vital for building the future of Britain. We have a programme to improve the infrastructure. We are preparing ourselves for the future.”
Brown also highlighted the importance of skilled workers. “We have to have the best skills base possible.”
David Cameron, when asked by business leaders what his plans were for developing technology in the UK said the Conservative Party policy was to develop high speed rail networks to improve connections between Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester with London. He also outlined policy plans to decentralise the National Grid so that companies and individuals can generate and sell their own electricity and to offer a £3 billion tax break to companies that take people out of unemployment. On the subject of skilled workers he promised to improve the apprenticeship schemes in the UK and bring them up to European levels.
Cameron said the economy was in its current difficulties because the British economy is “far too dependent on housing, which is in decline, finance and government investment which is at its limit.” He accused the government of over using consultants and promised his party would reduce their number, claiming that Labour is using more consultants than the private sector.
Brown though, was more upbeat about the economy. “There is another way of looking at this; we are in the midst of a transition to a global economy.” Defending his government’s record and taking a swipe at the Conservatives he said, “To fail to act now would be a failure of policy and would lead to higher unemployment.”
Brown said his government will invest in low carbon industries, which he believes will offer at least a million jobs in the UK and he cited the importance of nuclear power in his speech. Asked by business leaders from the midlands if he would invest in the rail infrastructure he agreed on importance, but did not answer a question on whether he will back further developments at Heathrow, notably the call for a third runway.
Cameron said he would implement “radical measures to get credit flowing again” and said he would form an independent institute to guarantee government lending.