What are the parties offering business?

By Sophie Morris, PA Political Staff

Business is the topic of the day with Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson attending the CBI Conference in an attempt to win over City leaders with their proposals.

Mr Johnson has promised to end Brexit “uncertainty and confusion” while Mr Corbyn unveiled Labour’s plans for 320,000 apprenticeships in England.

The Liberal Democrats say that, as the party of Remain, they are the “party of business”.

Here is what the parties plan to do if they win the General Election:

– What are the Conservatives proposing?

Mr Johnson has said planned cuts to corporation tax next April will be put on hold if the Conservatives get back into power, with the money instead to be spent on the NHS.

Corporation tax, the rate paid by firms on their profits, was due to fall from 19% to 17% in 2020.

The Prime Minister said the move would have cost the Government about £6 billion a year.

Mr Johnson also said he plans to cut National Insurance contributions for employers, who already benefit from a reduction known as the employment allowance.

The party said its plans to increase the employment allowance from £3,000 to £4,000 will provide a cut in National Insurance of up to £1,000 for more than half a million businesses.

Mr Johnson has also promised to increase the Research and Development tax credit rate from 12% to 13%, which the Tories say will boost manufacturing along with the scientific, technical and professional service sectors.

– What is the Labour Party’s plan?

Mr Corbyn has promised to create a climate apprenticeship programme which will train an average of 80,000 people per year.

Jeremy Corbyn at the CBI Conference (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Under the plans, Labour said it would deliver 320,000 apprenticeships in England during its first term in government, with 886,000 apprenticeships being created through the scheme by 2030.

Labour said the programme will be funded by diverting 25% of the funds employers already set aside through the Apprenticeship Levy, and topped up by any dividends over the cap paid into Labour’s Inclusive Ownership Funds, which the party said is expected to be £700 million by 2024.

Labour also plans to reform the Apprenticeship Levy to better meet the needs of workers and employers, and to also tackle the climate emergency.

– What do the Liberal Democrats say?

The Lib Dems say they are the “natural party of business” by campaigning to remain within the EU.

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson has said her party is the “natural party of business” (PA)

The party’s economic spokesman Sir Ed Davey has said staying in the EU would create a “£50 billion Remain bonus”, which would allow more money to be invested in schools and policies to tackle inequality.

Ms Swinson has criticised both the Conservatives and Labour’s plans to spend large sums on big infrastructure projects.

– What do businesses think of the parties’ policies?

Responding to Mr Johnson’s speech, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI, the UK’s largest business lobby group, said business welcomes the Prime Minister’s increased investment in education, infrastructure and technology.

However, she warned that his words must become “firm commitments” in the Conservatives’ manifesto.

Director-General of the CBI, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

In response to Labour’s plans, Dame Carolyn showed support for the party’s proposal of greater flexibility on the Apprenticeship Levy and plans for vocational training for school leavers and those switching careers.

However, she raised concerns that “false instincts for mass nationalisations and forcing inclusive ownership schemes onto thriving businesses does little more than frighten off investors from backing the UK”.

– What was the reaction to plans to postpone corporation tax cuts?

In his speech at the CBI Conference, Mr Johnson said the Government would postpone cuts to corporation tax to pay for a £6 billion investment in public services.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Mr Johnson’s plans to pause cuts to corporation tax “cannot compensate for the lives that have been lost and will not repair the damage done to our communities to pay for the Conservatives’ handouts to big business since 2010”.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said it is “disappointing” to see a slowdown to cuts in corporation tax.

He added that in order to boost the economy, pay for first-class public services and put more money into the pockets of taxpayers, the parties should be “committing to cutting the tax burden immediately”.

-What do businesses want?

Dame Carolyn said that whichever party wins the General Election must prioritise working with business to provide “bolder, better and fairer” answers to the challenges facing the UK.

Ms Fairbairn has also accused politicians of ignoring the interests of businesses in recent times.

In the business group’s manifesto for political parties, which outlines the steps the next government should take to help businesses, the CBI calls for business rates to be reformed, the “broken” Apprenticeship Levy to be fixed, and for vital infrastructure projects like HS2 and the Heathrow expansion to be completed.

The CBI has also called for a new immigration system which provides access to labour and skills, focuses on contribution, not numbers, and gives business time to adapt.