George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer:
- “Britain’s economic plan is working but the job is not done. We need to secure the economy for the long term. And the biggest risk comes from those who would abandon the plan.”
- “We seek a responsible economy. One where we don’t squander the gains we have made but go taking the difficult decisions. One where we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past but spot the debt bubbles before they threaten financial stability.”
Ed Balls, shadow chancellor:
- “For all his complacent boasts, for three damaging and wasted years, for most people there is no recovery at all.”
Melanie Leech, director general Food and Drink Federation (FDF):
- Exports: “An improvement in export performance will be key to the food industry realising its vision for growth. The availability of extra funds for export finance and for the promotion of our fantastic products abroad is welcome news. However, we also need to do more to promote the opportunities to smaller companies not yet export active, and raise the awareness of the GREAT campaign amongst industry.”
- Skills: “Food and drink manufacturing faces a substantial skills and talent shortfall which threatens to damage our competitiveness. The government is to be congratulated for putting employers in control of apprenticeship funding – the use of the HMRC system offers an opportunity to create a simple demand-led system.”
- Innovation: “As FDF prepares to launch its vision and shared priorities for innovation next week we were pleased to see that the government will produce a Science and Innovation Strategy for the Autumn Statement 2014. We look forward to food and drink playing a lead role in the government’s innovation priorities.”
- Energy: “While the fuel duty freeze will provide some welcome relief, manufacturers will be disappointed that the chancellor did not respond to our request for help with business energy costs, which are threatening our competitiveness, squeezing margins, and ability to maintain consumer prices.”
John Cridland, Confederation of British Industry director general:
- “We have always advocated the dual approach of tackling the deficit and driving growth – the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] forecasts confirm it is working. Let’s stick with what works.
- “The pressure on the high street has been recognised; the 2% cap on business rates and discount for very small businesses are positive, as is the reoccupation relief.
- “Abolishing a jobs tax on employing young people under 21 will make a real difference and help tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.
- “But it was a missed opportunity not to support our hard-pressed energy intensive businesses which are also struggling with rising costs, and the package on housing supply could have been more ambitious.”
Richard Lloyd, consumer group Which? executive director:
- “Today’s figures on economic recovery are positive news for the country, and millions of consumers struggling with the cost of living will welcome steps to relieve some of the pressure of rising energy bills, rail fares and fuel. However, as the chancellor himself said, the job is not yet done.
- “Just one in six households think that economic growth has had a positive impact on their standard of living so the challenge for the chancellor over the coming months will be to ensure that the growth in the economy gets through to peoples’ pockets.”
Alexander Jackman, head of policy at the Forum of Private Business:
- “There are some positive measures in today’s speech to help reduce the costs of doing business. With fuel duty frozen, £1,000 rebate on business rates and a subsidy on employing young people, there are measures worth thousands to small businesses. Within a time of constrained budgets, it’s good to see the chancellor has listened to the concerns of small businesses around rising costs.
- “Of course there are other issues not addressed directly today, but upon which work is ongoing. Top amongst these is energy prices. We are working hard to ensure members benefit from any reining back of green taxation.”
John Allan, national chairman, Federation of Small Businesses:
- “Today’s autumn statement represents steady progress, with a range of announcements that address members’ concerns in the cost of doing business, with action on business rates and confirmation that next year’s fuel duty rise will be cancelled.
- “The statement is a sobering reminder about the scale of the deficit the country faces and the tough choices which need to be made. We therefore welcome the use of what spare resources the chancellor could find to focus tax cuts on encouraging firms to take on younger workers, which must be an overriding priority.”
Matthew Clark, PwC assurance senior associate:
- “The chancellor is proposing to introduce a new registration scheme for alcohol wholesalers to tighten control of the supply chain. According to the Treasury, 7% of UK alcohol is sold with no duty. The Treasury believe this measure will raise revenue of more than £200M per year.
- “We don’t have the details of how the scheme will work yet, but the key issue is that the level of penalties under the regime need to be set at the right level to discourage smuggling of this kind. A fraudster can benefit by £80,000 – £120,000 in unpaid alcohol duty for the sale of a single HGV load of illicit booze. If the penalties are set too low they will be seen as part of the cost of doing business rather than acting to stop the trade.
- “Care must be taken to make sure that the regime doesn’t capture legitimate businesses.”
Phil Bicknell, NFU chief economist:
- “The NFU believes that several of the announcements made in the Autumn Statement could have a positive effect on farming. Moves to freeze fuel duty rises and extend small business rate relief in addition to the previously announced employment allowance could all play a part in helping farming’s profitability in the future.
- “But there is also a missed opportunity here. Long-term demand for food is growing and we’ve got a natural advantage when it comes to some farming systems. But agriculture is a sector where incomes tend to be volatile from year to year, and the past 12–18 months have proven that. Such volatility isn’t conducive for long-term investment in farming infrastructure, so it’s frustrating that we’re not seeing consideration of fiscal measures that incentivise SMEs [small- to medium-sized enterprises] like farmers to develop long term strategies and make consistent investment in their businesses.”