Political parties have been urged to rule out any more increases in business taxes in the next Parliament.

The call came as the Chancellor and the leader of the Opposition prepared to be quizzed by industry leaders.

The British Chambers of Commerce said ahead of its annual conference in London that firms were fearful of "damaging" tax rises after the general election.

A survey of 550 BCC members showed that 90 per cent were worried that business taxes were set to rise.

President Bill Midgley said: "Gordon Brown and Michael Howard should not expect an easy ride as they face businesses at the conference today.

"Taxation is one of the biggest issues of concern. The continuing debate over whether taxes will have to rise under a future Government is a major worry and employers now need a firm commitment that business taxes will not go up.

"In recent years, businesses have had to contend with rising National Insurance contributions, which have simply increased the cost of employing people.

"On top of these costs and other higher indirect taxes, the continued speculation about the future of business rates only serves to increase business fears.

" A future government should strongly resist any call to return the setting of business rates to local authority control. Whilst taxation is top of the agenda, employers remain concerned about a range of issues that really matter to the day-to-day running of their firms.

"From the rising burden of regulation which has cost an extra £39 billion since 1998, skill shortages which continue to act as a barrier to raising productivity, to congestion on our roads and rising pension costs - businesses will be seeking answers today," he added.