Prime Minister Gordon Brown has set out his election stall for the retail industry in an exclusive article for Retail Week addressing issues such as the controversial planned National Insurance rise.

Gordon Brown says Labour would create the right conditions for the UK’s “world famous” retail companies and small shops to thrive and warned that Conservative proposals risk pushing the UK back into recession.

Responding to concerns about a National Insurance rise he says: “Some retail figures have questioned this decision and fear it could cost jobs - but as we have found before if you do this when the economy is growing, that will not be the case.”

He continues: “I think people who work in retail understand that you cannot base tax cuts on mere hopes of efficiency savings this year that are not specified or detailed at all. No firm would do such a thing.

“My fear is that the Conservatives would fill the gap with a VAT hike, which would be disastrous for jobs and the high street.”

All the main parties this week released their manifestos as the general election campaign got under way.