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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April, 2005, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK
Labour and Tories same - Branson
Richard Branson
Mr Branson is a fan of Gordon Brown
There would be little difference for businesses between a Labour and Tory government, says Richard Branson.

Asked which party would be better for business, the Virgin tycoon said: "Arguably, it doesn't matter."

He told the BBC Gordon Brown had been a brilliant chancellor, but said Labour had continued Tory policies.

"The difference between having a Labour government for business to having a Tory government has been fairly negligible," he told Newsnight.

Mr Branson said he liked Mr Brown a lot, but said much of what he had done could have been expected if the Tories had controlled the Treasury.

He also had admiration for some in the Conservative party, he said in an interview with EasyJet boss Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

"Labour have introduced things for big business that we should be doing anyway - better paternity leave, more protection for individuals who will be fired.

Maternity pay

"For little businesses, that may be difficult as they're trying to get going. But for businesses the size of yours and mine, they're important pre-requisites of running a business. I suspect the Tories wouldn't have gone as far as that."

Labour has pledged to give new mothers an extra three months' paid leave and is looking at whether it could be transferred to fathers.

The Conservatives plan to match Labour's pledge to raise maternity pay, while allowing mothers to receive higher payments and return to work earlier.

But businesses have complained that small firms could be hard hit by the proposals.

The Liberal Democrats have promised working mothers would get a guaranteed 170 a week in maternity pay for six months after the birth of their first child, if they won the general election.

The full interview can be seen on the Newsnight Election Special on BBC Two at 1730 BST.