Grant Thornton Election Debate 2015

Grant Thornton hosted their 2015 Election Debate at the British Museum this morning. We were fortunate enough to attend, and have provided a summary of the topics covered at the event.

Grant Thornton Election Debate 2015Grant Thornton hosted an Election Business Debate at the British Museum this morning. The event started at 8:30am and was televised by Bloomberg TV. We were asked to keep our mobiles on, so that we could tweet during the debate using #GTbizdebate.

The debate was opened by Sacha Romanovitch the new Grant Thornton UK Chief Executive discussing some of the prominent issues and needs of business, and welcoming the participants to the British Museum stage.

The event was chaired by Anna Edwards. Anna is a Bloomberg News Anchor, and was simply superb! Really good at chairing a lively and entertaining discussion, asking great questions with a few amusing asides.

Opening Remarks

Chukka Umunna (Labour) Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills started the debate. Chukka is one of the stars of the current opposition and a member of the Treasury select committee.

He stated three priorities for Labour:
• A focus on job creation and meeting the living wage, supported by a vibrant business economy
• Balancing the public sector budgets and reducing debt, while keeping a prominent role in Europe and leading on key European issues
• Finally doing practical things to support business, whilst at the same time continuing to resolve the problems in banking.

Vince Cable Secretary of State for business innovation and skills and a key member of the Liberal Democrats was second in the debate.

Vince set at three achievements that he is proud of:
• Taking the economy from the brink of crisis and back to recovery.
• Launching the industrial strategy
• Resolution of the banking system.

He moved on to discuss policy three policies he would have in place for the future. Here Vince’s focus was on business productivity, research and innovation, and finally being a productive and vibrant part of Europe.

Nick Bowles (Conservative) is the current Skills Minister. Nick concluded the opening remarks by discussing how the coalition government led by the Conservatives had developed 1.8 million new jobs, safely marshalled the revival of British industry including creating 65,000 new businesses and a fast growing and vibrant economy.

Audience Questions

The debate then moved on to questions from the audience around fiscal responsibility, tax and coalition. Here is just a flavour of some of the questions.

The debate on fiscal responsibility was excellent. All three politicians discussed a focus on debt reduction, deficit reduction, whilst also investing in skills and innovation so that we build for the future.

Both Chukka and Vince were firmly pro-European, as was the audience; both were keen to engage in a lively debate with Europe. Europe was a topic that Nick Bowles was mainly silent on.

Vince believes we should think of two different types of borrowing. Borrowing for capital expenditure, which he described as investing in infrastructure projects and growth for the future, comparing this to the bad kind of Opex borrowing where borrowing is for unproductive expenditure. Nick Bowles followed Vince by saying the Government had invested for growth citing HS2, HS3 and Crossrail. He also cautioned that this debt had to be paid back sometime.

A question from the audience asked for clarity over the boundary between tax avoidance and tax evasion. All the politicians were unanimous. Chukka said this was an issue of trust, that complex and opaque tax arrangements were perceived by society as bad and because of this business untrustworthy. He stated that it is important that society regain trust in business.

Ben Wilson, David-James Marker and Mark Davies had a tremendous morning. We would all like to thank Chukka, Nick, Vince, Anna and Sacha as well as Grant Thornton and Bloomberg for a superb morning.

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