I have noted those comments, but equally my hon. Friend and the House will have noticed that there have been representations from other quarters suggesting that to increase substantially the threshold would result in a distortion of competition. Indeed, during consideration of the Finance Bill my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar) suggested in an amendment which was not selected, that the threshold should be reduced for the construction industry.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware, however, that many small businesses in Suffolk and throughout the country would regard a substantial increase in the threshold at which they became liable to register for VAT as the single most useful step that the Government could take to try to assist their development, and that they regard such a move as long overdue?
I note the comments of my hon. Friend regarding East Anglia, but he and the House may be aware that there are already 300,000 traders who are trading at below the threshold but who have not chosen to de-register. This may indicate some evidence the other way, in that it does not quite reflect the hardship that my hon. Friend's question indicates.