In an open letter to readers of Building, Conservative party leader David Cameron set out his party’s pre-election pledges on employers’ National Insurance, red tape and regulation, procurement, transparency and skills.
Cameron stressed that the Conservatives will raise the secondary threshold at which employers start paying National Insurance contributions, a decision which he said had been supported by the bosses of JCB, Berkeley Homes and Aggregate Industries.
He pledged to cut red tape and have fewer regulators. This would be achieved by creating a “one in – one out” requirement whereby any new regulation must include cuts in old laws to produce a net 5% reduction in the total regulatory burden. He said this would be enforced by a so-called “Star Chamber”, chaired by the business secretary Ken Clarke.
To ensure fewer, cheaper and smaller regulators, he also promised to apply a “sunset clause” to all regulatory bodies. They would be assessed in terms of their duties, size and functions during the first term of a Conservative government.
He also said he would open up the procurement process to promote transparency and innovation, and committed to publishing all contracts online, in full. He added that he would end the overly prescriptive detail of every contract, and instead look to the industry to find solutions.
To boost skills he promised that the Conservatives would make it easier for companies to run apprenticeships by instituting direct payments to employers, simplifying the inspection regime and reducing paperwork.
He also pledged £775m of support for apprentices of all ages, to be delivered through lifelong learning accounts and he promised £20 m investment to fund a thousand more scholarships for new university places for industry apprentices every year.
Cameron acknowledged that the construction industry has suffered more than any other industry during the recession, but promised that the Conservatives have the energy, vision and ideas to help get the industry back on its feet.
“We will set out a long-term strategy and not rely on short-term fixes. We must attract more apprentices and produce more graduates, cut the red tape, open up the procurement process and simplify the tax regime,” he said in the Building letter.