New Business Secretary Savid Javid has refused to answer a burning question for business - whether he wants the UK to leave the European Union.
In a Radio 4 interview this morning he said: “No one can answer that until the outcome of renegotiation.”
He also appeared to bat away the assertion that a lot of businesses don’t want to leave.
He responded: “A lot of businesses say, ‘can you end this uncertainty?’
“The debate has been going on for years, business wants to know our future relationship with the EU.
“We will have a renegotiation. The Prime Minister has proven successful in dealing with our European partners.
“The British people will make that decision.”
An in-out referendum would be held before the end of 2017, he added.
“At this point there are many priorities, but it will be held before the end of 2017. Before then we need a renegotiation with our European partners.”
The MP for Bromsgrove was handed the job yesterday following the Tories’ shock majority win in the general election.
He replaces Vince Cable and moves from the post of culture secretary.
He also said there would reform of strike laws and new benefit rules for young people.
“I do know sometimes governments create new rules and make things worse. I want to makes sure government is clearly on the side of business.”
In future a strike would require a minimum of 50 per cent turnout, 40 per cent for essential public services, and he would lift the ban on agency staff during a stoppage, a move blocked by his Lib Dem predecessor.
“We want to update strike laws, we have never hidden away from that.”
He also said there would be welfare changes to ensure every young person aged 18-21 would move from Jobseekers Allowance to a youth allowance only available to those on an apprenticeship, performing community work, or in training.
EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, urged Sajid Javid to ‘build on the success’ of Dr Cable’s industrial strategy, maintain funding for R&D and exporters and help ensure the Government delivers big infrastructure projects, including a new hub airport runway.
Andy Tuscher, Yorkshire and Humber region EEF director, said: “Sajid Javid takes on this critical brief at a pivotal time for the economy and industry. Business needs stability and continuity in policy and the Government’s commitment to a long-term economic plan and business strategy remains key.
“The new Secretary of State will also play an important role in any EU negotiations and in the forthcoming referendum and I am sure he understands that the vast majority of businesses he will now be representing in Government want Britain to remain at the heart of a reformed Europe.”
Sheffield Chamber executive director Richard Wright, said his main concern was around the union and membership of Europe.
“MPs from all parties will need to work hard to ensure this does not lead to massive disruption, and objectives focused too much around vested interests, or we sense a real challenge to the union.”
John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “He was an excellent Treasury Minister and will be a strong voice for the business community.
“We want to encourage more companies, especially Britain’s forgotten army of medium-sized businesses, to boost exports and investment, to drive growth and create jobs up and down the country. We look forward to working with Sajid to achieve this.
“As an immediate step, we want the Government to set out a clear business plan for its first 100 days, including getting the deficit down, finding new ways to deliver public services and committing to the Airports Commission’s final decision on a new runway this summer.
“We also need policies to bolster our supply chains, and make the UK the destination of choice for manufacturing high-value products.”