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Yeo: Making Britain a better place to do business

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2003

"Party conferences are when politicians set out their stall at the seaside.

Two weeks ago we learned that the Lib Dems won't let you smack your children

Even if they're seven years old and miss a sex education class.

With Labour the trouble is what they do doesn't get mentioned at Conferences.

Last week Tony Blair didn't tell us about Labour's sixty tax increases.

The tax increases on health and pensions and insurance and investment.

Tax increases on petrol and cars and lorries and diesel.

Tax increases on jobs and self-employment and marriage and mortgages.

You name it and they've increased the tax on it.

You can avoid tax increases under Labour

As long as you don't save, don't insure, don't have a pension, don't have a job, aren't self-employed, don't drink, don't bet, don't drive, don't get married don't buy a home, if you do buy a home, don't have a mortgage.

It could be worse, though.

Yes, really.

If the Lib Dems had their way tax would be even higher.

Let me make one thing clear

I will never agree to a rise in damaging business taxes

I'll tell you what else we won't do.

I won't tell people how to run their businesses.

I won't second-guess markets.

I won't intervene in relations between employers and employees any more than is absolutely necessary.

But under Patricia Hewitt there are more laws telling employers how to treat their workforce than ever before.

Patricia Hewitt learned her politics under Neil Kinnock.

That's a bit like being taught to ski by Eddie the Eagle.

If the Cabinet were in Celebrity Big Brother

She'd be out first.

Unless of course Gordon Brown had the vote.

Then she'd be out second.

Because we all know who Gordon wants to get rid of.

This week we've set out how we'll make Britain a better place to live in.

Making our streets safer with 40,000 extra police.

Helping sick people with our Patients' Passport.

Giving parents more say over schools.

Ending Labour's war on the motorist.

Making everyone more secure in retirement.

Restoring trust in government.

But we can't make Britain a better place to live in unless we also make it a better place to do business.

Delivering a fair deal for everyone depends on wealth creation.

A fair deal for business and enterprise isn't just crucial to business people, it's crucial to everyone.

We believe in business for its own sake.

Unlike Gordon Brown, who sees business only as a milchcow from which to extract more and more tax.

Instead of helping business create wealth for everyone's benefit.

He wants business to provide wealth he can spend for Labour's benefit.

Do you remember how Tony Blair and Gordon Brown posed as the friends of business?

Six wasted years later

After £47 billion of new business taxes

Hasn't that turned out to be the biggest spin of all?

Nothing less than a cynical fraud against Britain's hard-working business people.

Gordon Brown talks about his golden rule.

There's only one golden rule for business when it comes to Labour.

Don't believe a word they say.

Like many of you I've been in business myself.

I remortgaged my home to start a business.

I woke up in the night wondering where the next order was coming from.

I worried about the people whose jobs depended on me.

I worked in service industry and manufacturing, for companies small and large.

I learned first-hand the challenges business faces.

Today investment and jobs are more mobile than ever before.

Businesses are moving from Blackpool to Bangkok.

Norwich Union staff now process insurance claims more quickly and more cheaply in East India than East Anglia.

Industries where Europe used to lead the world are migrating to the Asia Pacific region.

And sadly, Britain faces this challenge weaker than it should.

After six years Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have squandered their golden economic inheritance.

Britain's deficit in traded goods is the worst since records began in 1697.

Business investment is collapsing.

Productivity has risen only half as fast as it did under the Conservatives.

More days were been wasted through strikes last year than in any year for over a decade.

More than 2,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost every single week since Labour came to power.

Worsening trade, collapsing investment, slowing productivity, more strikes and haemorrhaging jobs.

Is this what Tony Blair meant when he said things could only get better?

And surprise, surprise, even the low unemployment total Tony likes to trumpet is more spin than substance.

Jobs in the productive, wealth-creating part of the economy are falling.

A fall that's hidden by the huge rise in the number of Government bureaucrats.

That can't go on forever.

You can't conceal a loss of manufacturing jobs by manufacturing new jobs for pen pushers in the public sector.

Under Labour Britain has become a worse place to do business.

In four years small business failures have trebled.

More businesses went bust in 2002 than in any year since 1994.

Company profits have fallen to its lowest level since 1993.

That's the dossier on business even Alastair Campbell couldn't sex up.

No wonder foreign investment in Britain, which boomed under the Conservatives, has halved in the last two years.

Never mind, the DTI are on the case.

Or a case, anyway.

While business struggles, DTI bureaucrats have drawn up a new foliage strategy.

I'm not kidding.

I'll quote the document:

"Where an area has moved to New Ways of Working (defined as open-plan, having new-style furniture and soft seating (break-out areas)) funded displays will be allocated only to the break-out areas. Any movement of plants outside of these areas must be agreed prior to its happening and will be subject to Health and Safety restrictions".

There's a complete chain of command to determine where the office yucca plant should go.

The DTI may not do much for business

But they're obviously keen on pukka yucca.

Don't we all know exactly where business would tell Labour to stick its yucca.

Unlike Labour, we'll make Britain a better place to do business.

We'll restore the competitive advantages Margaret Thatcher won when she transformed Britain from being the sick man of Europe into a country which held its head high.

We'll cut regulation, which the Institute of Directors says costs Britain £6 billion a year.

We'll halt the rise in business taxes.

We'll rebuild our infrastructure.

And we'll give our workers the skills they need.

You've heard the pledges Michael Howard, Tim Collins and Damian Green made about tax, transport and education.

I'll now make a pledge about regulation.

Within days of taking office I'll lighten the burden.

Because regulation hurts every business, raises prices for every consumer, cuts returns for every saver.

And it harms especially small and medium sized businesses, the engines of job creation.

The British Chambers of Commerce say that employment admin costs the smallest companies 50 times as much per worker as the largest.

We will never regulate disproportionately to risk.

We will never regulate by law if a voluntary approach is possible.

The smaller the organisation, the lighter our touch.

So a business with two employees has a lighter burden than one with two hundred thousand.

That's why I'll make sure firms with fewer than twenty workers are exempt from the most onerous burdens.

Some people claim all this red tape comes from Brussels and there's nothing we can do about it.

That's not true.

At Maastricht we won the opt-out which kept the pound and the opt-out from the Social Chapter, which Labour threw away,

Conservatives proved that a Government determined to defend British interests can do so.

The trouble is that Ministers often make European regulations tougher when they're applied here in Britain.

Like the charges slaughterhouses pay for health inspections - optional in France and Germany and Italy and Spain but compulsory in Britain.

When I'm Secretary of State I'll never destroy British jobs by forcing our people to play by rules other countries are flouting.

Because when a British small business pays a compulsory charge, it can't take on the extra workers its continental competitors can.

When paying that charge involves form-filling British business people are stuck in the office at 10 o'clock on Friday night ticking boxes on a form for faceless bureaucrats to file while their continental competitors are at home with their families.

When a voluntary code is replaced by a compulsory one British ceramics companies find a nine-page guidance document turned into a ninety-page Directive

Which Labour Ministers haven't looked at

Which needs more bureaucrats in Whitehall to enforce and more inspectors in the regions

To monitor the way business monitors its own workforce.

And all this is paid for by you and me.

The new Proceeds of Crime Act requires retailers to report every individual theft to the National Criminal Intelligence Service. This will cost £50 for each of the seven million retail crimes each year.

In the rest of Europe only the largest crimes are reported individually. The others are aggregated together.

But here in Britain retailers and shoppers face a £350 million bill simply because labour says we must.

And that's before Tony Blair's thrust the EU constitution down our throats.

The one he won't let us vote on.

When I exempt the smallest firms from the most onerous laws

When I apply sunset clauses to Labour's Employment Acts so we can find out if they're creating jobs or destroying them

I'll do it not for the sake of employers but for employees.

To help workers of all ages, both sexes and any skill level find decent, satisfying work.

To make sure no business is held back.

And no worker is left behind.

I've talked a lot about regulation but I'm concerned about consumers, too.

The DTI is responsible for one industry where each of us is a consumer.


We've been reminded lately what happens when the power fails.

Chaos on the streets. People stuck in the Underground. Offices in the dark. Old people injured at home.

Modern life, at home and at work, depends on electricity.

Yet Labour have let the safety margin of generating capacity fall to its lowest level for years.

The experts fear this means more cuts.

If your house is cold this winter, if your child is sent home from school because the lights go out, you'll know who to blame.

And looking ahead, it's not getting any better.

Britain has used up its cheap North Sea oil and gas and soon we'll be importing gas on a huge scale.

Half all of our needs in 2010. Ninety per cent in 2020.

Most of it from Russia, Algeria and Iran, funny countries on which to depend to keep the lights on.

And Ministers are ignoring climate change, too.

Right now, Britain's carbon dioxide emissions are going up, not down.

We're failing to meet our international commitments to reduce them.

Despite all those bright sparks at Number Ten, Labour haven't a clue what to do about energy.

There's another thing the DTI is responsible for, that we all use every week.

The Royal Mail and the Post Office.

Under Labour the Royal Mail has lost £1.8 billion in the last two years.

Three thousand post offices are being closed.

To make matters worse, Ministers cancelled our plans to let every pensioner go on receiving their pension in cash at their local post office.

Over the next couple of years that'll make life hard for thousands of vulnerable people.

And because someone who gets cash at a post office counter often spends a bit of it in the same shop Labour's policy will force more post offices to close.

Next month I'll set out a better future for Royal Mail and Post Office workers and pensioners and for Post Offices, without spending a pound of taxpayers' money.

And when I am Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, I'll cut the bureaucracy in the DTI itself.

I'll bang on the desks of my Cabinet colleagues

To make sure they know what they're doing to business.

Under the Conservatives everyone in Whitehall will know that Britain must be made a better place to do business

So we can achieve the other things we want.

We've got a message for Tony Blair.

Instead of increasing National Insurance Contributions he should cut the tax on jobs.

Instead of taxing pensions he should encourage saving.

Instead of forcing universities to dumb down he should back our world class institutions.

Instead of abolishing the House of Lords and ignoring the House of Commons he should answer for his Government's mistakes.

But Tony Blair's had his chance

And he's squandered it.

Lost the trust of the British people.

Voters are fed up with all the broken promises.

Fed up with the arrogance and the lies and the spin.

Fed up with a Government that says it's listening but goes on lecturing.

Fed up with a Third World transport system.

Fed up with a Government that's destroyed the security of every pensioner.

Fed up with a Prime Minister who's corrupted our constitution and now wants to give Brussels more power under a European one.

In 2003 Britain is a nation yearning for politicians who provide leadership they can trust.

A nation yearning for a Government that has integrity.

A nation yearning for Ministers who show courage.

A nation yearning for policies that are honest.

As I look around this hall I see people who yearn for the Conservatives

To provide that leadership

To offer that integrity

To display that courage

To deliver that honesty.

Iain Duncan Smith and the Conservative Party are rising to that challenge.

Our task is urgent.

We must begin today.

He that hath no stomach to this fight: let him depart.

To everyone else I say

Together we can drive Tony and his cronies out of Downing Street."

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