Business leaders split over path to prosperity

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Business leaders in the Lords have disagreed over the best way to improve the UK's economic outlook.

Chief executive of Next and Conservative peer Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise said the economy over the last four years had felt like "walking up the down escalator".

He condemned the "chronically slow" and "debilitating" planning system for holding back business investment.

His comments came during a debate on the UK economy on 29 January 2013.

Another businessman, the Labour peer and technology entrepreneur Labour's Lord Mitchell, said the government should have followed the US in choosing a fiscal stimulus but had instead adopted "misguided" austerity measures, which had left the economy paralysed.

Lord Bilimoria, a crossbencher and founder of Cobra Beer, called for more optimism.

"The government needs to be firm and fair and aspirational in its outlook. It needs to make the cuts that are required in areas like welfare, but it also needs to show that we want to be more competitive in cutting taxes," he said.

Former MP and infrastructure investment consultant Lib Dem Baroness Kramer welcomed the government's focus on "doing and delivering" and suggested setting up a dedicated taskforce to look at ways to help small and medium-sized enterprises.

Winding up for the opposition, shadow Treasury spokesman Lord Davies of Oldham warned the government could not continue with its current policies "without pushing the country into total despair".

But Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Lord Deighton said he had a "growth mentality" and insisted "the scheme we have employed to encourage banks to lend will be a very effective mechanism to improve lending to businesses and households".

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