The Conservative spokesman for small businesses has said the Party would "give independent retailers back the power to compete" if it comes to power in next year's general election.

Mark Prisk MP, tipped by many as a likely minister in a future Conservative government, told retailers attending the ACS Heart of the Community seminar that if elected his party would "reverse the tide of red tape" which sees small businesses operators like them spend several hours a week filling in forms.

"The cost of red tape strangles good businesses," he said. "We will change the culture of government regulations should be the last resort. We will demand a 5% reduction in each department's regulation, and ask the regulators to justify their existence. They will be made smaller or closed, and they will cost you less."

Prisk promised to "reduce costs, stop meddling, and let you get on and grow your business.

"The current government does not understand that businesses need clear, stable, long-term direction. We do."

He said the Tories would reverse Labour's 2% increase in Corporation Tax and make the small business Business Rates relief scheme automatic for qualifying companies. "This could save you up to £11,000 a year, with no forms and no red tape," he said.

Local councils would also be given the power to discount business rates to meet local need, he added.

On planning, Prisk said the current government had undermined what was a robust policy, and that a Conservative administration would preserve the "full effect" of the need test.

He told retailers: "These are difficult times on the high street. We will bring about change so you can take on the big boys.

"We don't plan to tinker at the edges. We will make significant changes. You simply want the chance to compete, and we will give you that chance."