Retail could be the “engine growth for the economy” if the Government helps reduce burdensome business rate increases next year, chairman of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Rob Templeman said in his debut speech.

At a parliamentary reception on Tuesday, Templeman addressed members of the BRC for the first time, saying that business rate increases next year based on the 5.6% RPI could “damage an already fragile recovery”.

The event celebrated community work carried out by retailers. Templeman, former chief executive of Debenhams, said retailers’ place in society has “gone beyond selling products”.

He said: “Retailers are responsible for 5% of GDP and employ over 3 million people, so they play an important role in the heart of the town.”

In a letter sent to the Chancellor on Monday, the BRC urged him to consider business rate increases, the swell in fuel duty, minimum wage rises in his Autumn statement scheduled for 29 November.