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Party leaders set out manifesto for business

Yesterday's CBI conference gave the world of business and employment a rare opportunity to see all three party leaders speak on the same stage.

In possibly the last chance to see them address assembled business leaders before the election in 2015, all three gave strong hints about the issues that will spearhead their employment agenda. So what did we learn from the three speeches?

Cameron: EU reform sorely needed

Prime minister David Cameron claimed that a referendum on the EU would not harm the UK's economy and reiterated the need for reform around Europe. 

"Britain’s future in Europe matters to our country and it isn’t working properly at the moment, and that is why we need to make changes,” he said. “We should be looking for a reformed European Union."

In his address, Cameron pledged a Conservative government would focus on "rebalancing" the UK's economy, ensuring the recovery is felt across all regions and sectors. He said he wanted to see his party "abolish youth unemployment", and a Tory government would aim to produce 3 million apprenticeships over the next parliament. 

He also encouraged businesses to get more involved with schools. "You [business leaders] can be excellent role models if you go into school and talk to young people," he said. "If we can link up our schools and universities with businesses better, we'll be onto a winner." 

Miliband: This is a 'joyless recovery'

In his speech to the CBI conference, opposition leader Ed Miliband promised that a Labour government would work with businesses to create "decent jobs" for British people.

He welcomed the fact that the economy is growing "finally", but added that many see it as a "joyless recovery" to the lack of wage growth. He warned that the youngest generation coming into work is "without hope" due to a lack of clear career paths.

To solve this, he proposes making a future Labour government's main aim to support a "revolution in vocational education". He explained this is a departure from the last Labour government, which had the key goal of seeing more people go to university.

Maintaining a strong relationship with the EU is another area that Miliband targeted to achieve his aims of protecting and creating high-quality jobs within the UK. He warned that too much posturing on the financial relationship would put us on the "conveyor belt to the exit", putting millions of jobs at risk.

Clegg: Coalition government best for recovery

Deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg told business leaders to be "careful what you wish for" when it comes to single party government. Speaking at the CBI conference, Clegg said a coaltion government was necessary to "anchor government in centre ground" and avoid "lurching" right and left. 

Clegg also argued passionately for the UK to remain in the EU, claiming it will not be possible to compete globally otherwise. "If we can't stand tall in Berlin, Paris or Brussels, how will we stand tall in Washington, Tokyo or Beijing," he said. 

Like Cameron, Clegg urged business leaders to go into schools and inspire children about the world of work. "Speaking to people who can inspire them is a powerful catalyst to make sure children feel ambitious about their futures," he said.