The decisions taken during the term of the next Parliament will have a profound impact on our ability to grow businesses here at home and trade the world. We need a business plan for Britain - with governments across the UK focusing their attention on creating the best possible environment for growth, aspiration and enterprise. This Monday, we at the British Chambers of Commerce are publishing our Business Manifesto which sets out such a plan - outlining tangible business priorities that must be at the heart of any plan for government.
I am proud that the British Chambers of Commerce is taking the lead in calling for the creation of a new Childcare Contribution Scheme, designed to help businesses retain key staff as they start families. Many working parents with children younger than school age do not have the choice of balancing childcare and maintaining a career, and are forced to give up work. In respect of those who want to go out to work, businesses and the economy are missing out on talent.
The Childcare Contribution Scheme would be an upfront loan from government to help parents manage the initial costs of paying for childcare. The primary earner would make repayments through PAYE, therefore making the cost much more manageable for working parents rather than finding a large sum of money upfront. A family needing to find £50 per week for childcare costs could reduce their outlay to around £14 by spreading it over a longer period. A better childcare finance scheme would offer a win-win solution for employers and parents, enabling more talented individuals to stay in work and contribute to growth.
Another key driver of growth will come from removing barriers to trade and doing more to attract investors and business people from overseas. Introducing a fast-track passport issuance scheme for British exporters and global traders overseas, enforcing a maximum turnaround of four weeks will ensure that Britain's exporters can respond to business opportunities quickly. A more pragmatic approach to visa issuance for foreign students and skilled workers will allow the visa system to addresses economic need, rather than shut out individuals who can make a real contribution to growth. We urge the Home Office to become more pro-business so the UK can attract the best talent and investment from overseas, and British firms can forge stronger links with customers, investors and business partners.
If the UK is to be a world-leading economy, it needs to be matched with world-class infrastructure. Much of the UK transport network is at, or near full, capacity. The main London airports are still reliant on runways which have been in place since the middle of the twentieth century, Heathrow is now effectively full and forecasts show that by 2030 Gatwick, London City and Luton are all predicted to be at capacity. Future economic growth depends on a significant increase in airport capacity in order to encourage international trade and inward investment, attract tourists and increase employment.
A crucial piece of the puzzle to ensure a successful future for the UK will be implementing clear safeguards for Britain against unwanted further EU integration. It is clear from our surveys that businesses believe leaving the EU would have a negative impact on Britain's business and economic prospects. However, there is also little support for maintaining the current relationship status or closer integration. On average only 10% believe the status quo would be positive and 20% believe closer integration would lead to a positive outcome.
The scenario viewed most favourably is to remain in a reformed EU; one where more decisions are made a national level and in which the interests of states outside of the eurozone are protected in future decision making. It is also important that existing EU legislation is fit for purpose. New proposals must avoid unnecessary regulatory burdens for UK businesses and must add value to ensure the UK remains competitive.
These are just some of the proposals from our Business Plan for Britain, which covers everything from tax to export support and which we believe is practical, pragmatic and achievable. We must all work together in a true partnership - the business community, the next UK government, the devolved administrations, and local authorities to make our plan a reality, and lead Britain into a more prosperous future."