I'll Set Business Free Vows Cameron in Blast at Civil Service

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Byline: James Chapman Political Editor

DAVID Cameron launched an extraordinary attack on his own civil servants for loading costs on to business last night as he set out the 'moral' case for enterprise.

The Prime Minister expressed intense frustration with the failure of officials to understand that firms buckling under the weight of Labour's red tape 'frankly cannot take it any more'.

'If I have to pull these people into my office in No 10 to argue this out myself and get them off the backs of business, then, believe me, I'll do it,' he said.

His remarks, in a speech to the Conservatives' spring conference in Cardiff, appeared to be a deliberate echo of Tony Blair's famous complaint about the 'scars on my back' in July 1999.

The then prime minister attacked the 'forces of conservatism' for holding back Labour's public sector reform agenda.

Mr Cameron said his was an 'enterprise government' and promised the most 'pro-growth Budget for a generation' this month, highlighting a pledge to cut corporation tax from 28 to 24 per cent.

He echoed Margaret Thatcher's pitch as the champion of the hard-working small-business owner, telling the Tory faithful: 'At its beating heart this is still a party of start-ups, go-getters, risk-takers'.

The Conservatives had always been a 'party of builders and businesswomen, electricians and engineers, roofers and retailers', he said.

But he conceded there was 'so much more still to do' to boost small and medium-sized firms, attacking what he called the 'enemies of enterprise' who were standing in the way. Mr Cameron condemned 'bureaucrats in government departments who concoct those ridiculous rules and regulations that make life impossible for small firms'.

He also attacked the 'town hall officials who take forever to make those planning decisions that can be make or break for a business, and the investment and jobs that go with it', and the 'public sector procurement managers who think that the answer to everything is a big contract with a big business and who shut out millions of Britain's small and medium-sized companies'.

Mr Cameron insisted that setting up and creating successful businesses was 'about more than money'. The Tories, he said, understand that 'enterprise is not just an economic good, it's a social good'. 'It's about morals, too,' he declared. He hailed practical men and women who build a business and see it grow 'not just for the money, not for the glory but for the simple reward and deep satisfaction of seeing your efforts pay off'.

'What drives us is getting things done, and what drives us mad is the bureaucracy, the forms, the nonsense getting in the way,' he added. …