Jeremy Hunt has no plan for growth, says CBI boss

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Chancellor Jeremy HuntImage source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Jeremy Hunt has offered no plan for growth, says Tony Danker of the CBI

The chancellor's Autumn Statement offered no plan to revive growth in the economy, the head of the UK's biggest business lobby group has told the BBC.

Tony Danker from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said Mr Hunt had instead prioritised stability.

Mr Danker said that without higher growth, the UK would not afford the growing cost of health and social care.

The health secretary said the UK would use its post-Brexit freedoms to boost "high growth" industries.

In his Autumn statement last week, Mr Hunt laid out £55bn of spending cuts and tax rises aimed at bringing down soaring prices while protecting public services.

At the same time, the government's economic forecaster warned households would see their biggest drop in living standards on record in the next few years as living costs surged and the country fell into recession.

The CBI represents 190,000 UK businesses and its annual conference kicks off on Monday.

Speaking on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Danker said Mr Hunt's statement had been "all about fighting inflation and getting the government budget in some decent shape and that does need to be done".

But he added that "there was really nothing there that tells us the economy is going to avoid another decade of low productivity and low growth".

"Jeremy Hunt did some things which will be very welcome, but he also made businesses and everybody pay more taxes and so the fear is there just wasn't enough there to turn round and say, 'we can grow again'," he said.

"So I don't think he did enough, I think he is going to have to come back with more."

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Tony Danker, head of the CBI lobby group

Mr Hunt's Autumn Statement was in large part designed to reassure financial markets after the controversy sparked by his predecessor's mini budget in September.

Kwasi Kwarteng promised major tax cuts to boost growth, but unfunded plans spooked investors and caused government borrowing costs to spike.

Mr Danker, who initially welcomed elements of the former chancellor's plans, told the BBC that the tax cuts had clearly backfired.

However, he said other of Mr Kwarteng's proposals - such as relaxing immigration, regulation and planning laws - needed to be looked at again.

Lagged behind

The UK economy has lagged behind those of other developed nations over the last decade and the country is expected to be in recession all of next year.

Part of the problem is global, with energy and food prices soaring this year due to the war in Ukraine and Covid.

But the UK also faces significant labour supply challenges, while it is more difficult for small businesses to trade with Europe or access the talent they need due to Brexit.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, senior government officials are looking at how to build closer ties with the European Union as a way to boost growth.

This could see the UK move to a Swiss-style arrangement, where it paid into the EU budget to remove trade barriers, although it would not accept freedom of movement as Switzerland does, the paper reported.

Also speaking on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Barclay, the former Brexit Secretary, said he did not "recognise that story" and it was not on the cards.

He also said Mr Hunt had taken action in the Autumn Statement to promote UK growth.

"We've protected the research and development budget increase up to £20bn. We've got £600bn of infrastructure investment. We are seizing the greater opportunities of our freedoms through Brexit."

He said the UK could use its "regulator autonomy" post Brexit to find new opportunities in high growth industries such green energy, digital, financial services and life sciences.

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