Cable: I will be a ‘critical friend’ of business

By Ian Dunt

Vince Cable will be a critical friend of business who won’t ‘pull his punches’, he has told the Institute of Directors (IoD).

Speaking to the institute’s conference in the Royal Albert hall on a day when all three major parties are facing tough questions about how they would cut the deficit after the election, Mr Cable was careful to remind his audience that the Liberal Democrats were intent on cleaning up the financial system.

“I am a friend but also a critical friend of business and I have no intention of pulling my punches when they are needed,” he said.

“For example, I have no time for billionaire tax dodgers who step off the plane from their tax havens into the country where they make their money and have the effrontery to tell us how to vote and how to run our tax policies.

“If some of them came onshore and paid their taxes it would make a useful dent in the budget deficit.”

Mr Cable delivered a carefully worded statement of intent to the IoD, whose commitment to business interests suggests it would be alienated by some of the Lib Dem’s tougher policies against the financial sector.

“Let me be clear, I have no quarrel with the IOD,” he said.

“I expect the IOD to lobby for lower taxes which affect its membership. You would want your membership fees back if it didn’t. In the same way I expect dairy farmers to lobby for milk subsidies, high tech companies to lobby for special tax breaks and my old friends in the oil industry to lobby for tax relief on oil exploration.

“I actually agree with you that a tax on payrolls is not a good way to raise revenue.

“But none of that excuses politicians who are too weak to take into account the needs of the whole economy and say ‘no, sorry we simply can’t afford what you ask’.”

Mr Cable also took Labour and the Tories to task for relying on efficiency savings to cut the deficit.

“We are told that it will be paid for by increased ‘efficiency’,” he said.

“I am all in favour of increased efficiency and less waste. But efficiency has become the new politically correct word for sacking people and cutting services.”

An Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) report yesterday berated all three main parties for not being more open with voters about how they plan to tackle the deficit ahead of polling day.

The Lib Dems emerged best from the report, with the institute finding the party had mapped out 25.9% of the cuts it needed.