The Tory Party conference promises to be hard work for the Chancellor. The economy is barely expanding, the euro crisis promises to make things worse, and the faithful will be showing signs of austerity fatigue (don’t laugh). There’s not a lot he can do to cheer them up; another round of money printing is, in theory, the Bank of England’s decision, and Eric Pickles has stolen one feelgood soundbite.

Those sunlit uplands seem as far away as ever, and they won’t be reached by weekly bin collections, frozen council tax or raising the speed limit on motorways, any more than would Labour’s mad idea of dividing companies into good and bad. Growth and employment can only come from making things work better, the so-called supply side reforms, as Christopher Fildes points out this week.

Small businesses are the engine that provides jobs, but the proposals to exempt them from some taxes for taking on new employees are expensive and cumbersome. One simple, cost-free change would be to exempt businesses with fewer than (say) 25 employees from all employment legislation. A single bad employee who exploits the rules can destroy a small business. Freedom of contract between employer and staff would allow the business to survive. Such a move would breach European employment directives, causing more trouble in Brussels, but George Osborne might rather welcome that, with the party in its current eurosceptic mood.

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