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Cridland says business concerned by new powers

CBI chief warns English devolution poses threat to UK single market

John CridlandCBI boss John Cridland will today leap back into the devolution debate – this time warning about the risks of handing power to English cities and regions.

Mr Cridland will urge Westminster not to rush into creating new power bases that may damage the UK economy by setting one region against another.

In a speech in the north of England, Mr Cridland will say that businesses believe devolution to be a real opportunity, but are concerned that the speed of reform and “rushed backroom deals” could undermine the economic gains.

He will add that local bodies ought to recognise that in exchange for getting enhanced powers they must accept reforms to their own operations and budgets.

The director-general will warn of the pitfalls of “playing politics” with the UK’s internal market through further fiscal devolution.

“Harming foreign direct investment and creating unhealthy competition between regions will help no-one,” he will tell business leaders in Manchester , adding that the business view is that “devolution shouldn’t be about being different for its own sake.” He will say that businesses want to see evidence that extra powers will boost growth and jobs while minimising complexity and bureaucracy.

Mr Cridland’s comments come a year after he intervened in the Scottish independence debate and was forced into an embarrassing u-turn over the CBI’s registration with the Electoral Commission as a No supporter.

He apologised for what he called an “honest mistake”, but has not flinched from his commitment to ensuring the integrity of the UK as a single market.

Today he will say that business can – and should – play a constructive role in the debate over further devolution in England, but is concerned at the pace of proposed reform.

“It’s important that where promises of further devolution have already been made – be that the Smith Commission in Scotland or the devolution of corporation tax in Northern Ireland – that these powers are delivered in order to give businesses in the devolved nations the certainty they need.

“Any devolution of powers must be done in a careful, considered and transparent manner. And not through rushed backroom deals between politicians and civil servants.

“Let’s take time to breathe and – above all – let’s make sure we get this right. The alternative would be uncertainty, complexity and increased costs at the moment we can least afford them.”

Mr Cridland says his members want further devolution to be built on strong economic foundations wants for evidence to show that further powers will complement – not constrict – growth, jobs and investment.

“If we do this right – we can make sure that people in all regions and nations see their fair share of the UK’s prosperity.”

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