• BCC Director General John Longworth will address the business group’s Annual Conference at the QEII Conference Centre, Westminster at 11.30am on Tuesday 10th February
  • Keynote speakers include: Senior Cabinet Ministers, Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, Chuka Umunna MP, Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Rt Hon William Hague MP, John Swinney MSP and business figures including António Horta-Osório
  • To register for a free media pass, please contact the press team on 020 7654 5813 / 5817 or register via the website.

The British Chambers of Commerce holds its Annual Conference on Tuesday 10th February at the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster.

BCC Director General John Longworth will set out the leading business group’s General Election manifesto — entitled A Business Plan for Britain — and will call on all aspirants to political power to embrace a pro-enterprise, pro-growth agenda in order to generate wealth and prosperity for the United Kingdom.

The following extracts will feature in John Longworth’s conference speech Tuesday:

ON BRITAIN’S PLACE IN THE WORLD:

“The United Kingdom is a small country in a dangerous, competitive and uncertain world. Yet – in an increasingly specialised world – our size and these changed circumstances are not a problem. Indeed, they are an opportunity.

“Britain is a niche player in a global market of constant change. Fleet of foot, flexible, and open, Britain is a great place to do business in the world of the 21st century.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE CITY AND THE REST OF THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY:

“Our inadequate system of business finance stands in the way of a truly great economy. It is the key area we must address if we are to transform our economic ambition into reality.

“Long-term, patient, loan capital is what makes fast-growing small companies into the home-grown, mid-sized champions of the future. Without it, too many are forced to sell out and lose control, eventually and all-too-often to disappear into the clutches of multinationals.

“This is not a new problem. It is a chronic handicap at the very heart of our economy – and one that has been made worse by the great recession we have just experienced. So there is no doubt that fixing the relationship between business finance and the rest of the economy is the key to so many of our aspirations.”

ON BRITAIN’S FUTURE PLACE IN EUROPE:

“Chamber members fundamentally support the Prime Minister’s objective: Britain in a reformed Europe. The next government must set out what it will do to protect the United Kingdom against the prospect of being in a club where all the decisions are made by, and for, the Eurozone.

“More than any repatriation of powers, businesses want to know that the UK has safeguards against being drawn closer to the Eurozone – especially as history tells us that currency unions inevitably fall apart unless there is real political, economic and social integration.

“Without true reform, business support for the European project is far from guaranteed. A new settlement for Britain in Europe is essential to achieving our economic ambitions – helping our businesses succeed here at home, and across the world.

“Above all, the debate over Europe must not be hijacked by political ideology. Economic pragmatism – what’s best for Britain, for British business, for our national growth ambitions – must win the day.”

ON A CALL FOR POLITICAL RESPONSIBILITY:

“To those who say that the state should have no role in supporting the growth of UK businesses, I say that some of the most successful economies in the world are based on a true partnership between government and business. Attitudes on both sides need to change, and so do attitudes in Whitehall.

“To those who believe the state is the answer, and that markets have run their course, I say that it is only business that can deliver the wealth and prosperity that the people of this country want. Without business, there can be no welfare state, and no NHS.

“To those who historically stood for individual responsibility, but are now content to see curbs on aspiration, I say that it is the small percentage of risk-takers and the many hard workers in this country who create wealth and prosperity, in spite of the burdens imposed by the state – not because of them.

“And to those who believe that Britain is better served by disengaging, either from nearby trading partners, or from the pursuit of economic growth, I say that it is only if we deliver an open and enterprising economy that we will meet our aspirations, and it is only through growth that we will avoid becoming a Ruritarian backwater or a living museum.”