February 27, 2012 9:09 pm

Labour turns on charm for creative industries summit

Labour’s top team will on Tuesday launch a charm offensive with creative industries in its first big engagement with business leaders since the recent disputes over bankers’ bonuses and executive pay.

Senior Labour leaders, including Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, and Harriet Harman, shadow media secretary and deputy party leader, will meet 50 executives from the media and other creative industries to discuss how to promote the sector.

Ms Harman told the Financial Times the event showed that Labour wanted to develop links with business and insisted Ed Miliband, party leader, was attempting to push a “pro-reform rather than an anti-business agenda”.

The creative industries summit follows a period of increasingly strained relations between Labour and business as Mr Miliband has promoted his “responsible capitalism” agenda.

‘ABOLISH’ BUSINESS DEPARTMENT

Conservative MPs urged the chancellor to relax labour laws, cut red tape for small businesses and cut spending in the Budget, writes Elizabeth Rigby.

One prominent Tory suggested scrapping the business department.

David Ruffley, a member of the Treasury committee, said on Monday that shutting down Vince Cable’s department could save at least £1bn a year, adding that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport could also be reviewed. “We should, as a metaphor for getting rid of bits of government activity that don’t need to be done, abolish the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills,” Mr Ruffley said at the launch of a pre-budget plan for growth by the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs and the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Elizabeth Truss, MP, wants employment rights waived in businesses with less than 10 staff. Kwasi Kwarteng, a member of the transport committee, called for tolls on the five biggest motorways.

“In the creative industries we want to listen acutely to what business wants government to do and act on that because it creates jobs in the future,” said Ms Harman.

One senior Labour figure admitted the summit – involving a sector with which the opposition has enjoyed close relations in recent years – was part of a rebuilding of relations with industry. “It’s going to be a big love bombing of business,” said one party figure.

Other Labour leaders attending the event will include Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary and Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary. Companies invited include Time Warner, ITV and Google.

“There are a whole range of areas where the government need to be taking action [such as] access to finance, support for exports, making sure music and creative subjects in school are not squeezed, [and] that copyright issues are being dealt with,” said Ms Harman.

She criticised the government for failing to implement the Digital Economy Act, Labour’s attempt to stem piracy. She also expressed dismay that the government had not moved faster on the communications green paper to help define regulation to the sector.

The paper was due to be published earlier this month.

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