Tory conference

Johnson hit by business backlash over investment

Addressing the faithful: Boris Johnson wants to ‘level up’

Boris Johnson faced a backlash from business after accusing company leaders of using immigration to hide behind a lack of investment.

In his address to the final day of the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister invoked the spirit of care workers and the drive of entrepreneurs to underpin his aim to narrow the health and wealth gaps in Britain.

But business reacted angrily to claims they were to blame for the lack of productivity and said his “high skill, low tax” vision was a pipedream after he imposed higher national insurance contributions and was failing to tackle issues such as business rates.

The Prime Minister said Britain would benefit from having “got Brexit done” and promised to control immigration to boost wages.

In a swipe at those who have challenged the government over labour shortages, he said: “We are not going back to the same old broken model with low wages, low growth, low skills and low productivity, all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration.

“The answer is to control immigration to allow people of talent to come to this country, but not to use immigration as an excuse for failure to invest in people, skills and equipment.”

He referenced his predecessor Margaret Thatcher to justify his manifesto-breaking tax rise to pay for NHS and social care, saying that she “wouldn’t have ignored the meteorite that has just crashed through our economy”.

Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry said: “The vision championed by the Prime Minister today does not match the current lived realities of small businesses and sole traders.

“For it to be realised, we need ambitious policies aimed at driving growth and reducing tax at the coming Budget. After a conference that’s been light on pro-business policy, it’s time for the party of enterprise to get back on the pitch.

“It’s a relief to hear the PM speak positively about the business community. But it’s equally remarkable to hear the benefits of a low tax economy vaunted when the government has just signed off a hike in national insurance contributions for employers, sole traders and employees alike, which we estimate will cost at least 50,000 jobs.”

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