More than 100 business leaders sign letter backing Tories

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Labour have been targeted in a letter signed by more than 100 business leaders backing the Tories and warning that any “change in course” after the general election would threaten jobs and put the UK’s economic recovery at risk.

The letter, which was sent to the Daily Telegraph, was released as Ed Miliband prepared to set out plans to effectively outlaw “exploitative” zero-hours contracts.

The signatories, who include executives from some the country’s best known companies, also highlighted the chancellor, George Osborne’s, policy of progressively lowering corporation tax to 20% – which they said had been a “key part” of the Government’s economic plan.

By contrast, shadow chancellor Ed Balls has just announced that a Labour government would reverse the final reduction – due to take effect later this month – in order to hand a cut in business rates to small firms.

Of Osborne’s corporation tax cuts, the executives said: “The result is that Britain grew faster than any other major economy last year and businesses like ours have created over 1.85 million new jobs.”

“We believe a change in course will threaten jobs and deter investment. This would send a negative message about Britain and put the recovery at risk.”

Signatories to the letter include BP chief executive Bob Dudley, Prudential chief executive Tidjane Thiam, Sir Charles Dunstone, the chairman of Dixons Carphone and Talk Talk plc, and Duncan Bannatyne, a former star of Dragons’ Den.

However, opposition activists are likely to be poring over the backgrounds of those involved for opportunities to score back political points.

The list includes Sir Philip Green, the retail billionaire who was a target in the past of a nationwide campaign by protesters opposed to alleged tax avoidance.

Other signatories include Rooney Anand, the chief executive of Greene King, who has sought to defend a controversial tax avoidance scheme at the brewery and pub chain.

Green has defended the tax record of his Arcadia retail empire and said it is run “100% correctly”. Anand has meanwhile said of Greene King: “We understand, as many people do, the difference between tax evasion and tax efficiency.”

While the letter also includes long-standing high profile Tory supporters and peers such as Anthony Bamford and Karen Brady, it also includes former Labour supporters – albeit from the Blair era.

As well as Bannatyne, they include Surinder Arora, Charles Dunstone, Cameron Mackintosh and Moni Varma.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna dismissed the letter as “nothing new”.

He said: “No one will be surprised that some business people are calling for low taxes for big businesses. That’s nothing new and under Labour Britain will have the most competitive corporation tax rate in the G7.

“But whilst the recovery may have reached some firms it hasn’t reached many others which is why we will prioritise tax cuts for the smallest firms with an immediate cut in business rates for 1.5m small business premises.

“We don’t believe, as David Cameron does, in more tax cuts for the richest in society – the priority is tax cuts for small firms, working people and saving our NHS.”

Tory figureheads seized on the letter however, with the party chairman Grant Shapps tweeting it to his followers. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010