Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of Orders of the Day — Ways and Means – in the House of Commons at 8:36 pm on 22nd March 1993.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , South Hams 8:36 pm, 22nd March 1993

That was a merry speech.

I do not know whether the 10-minute rule will apply to me, as I am the last Conservative Back Bencher who will speak this evening; hon. Members on both sides of the House may wish to hear a little more from the Conservative party, and I am happy to speak for a little longer. The 10-minute rule means that hon. Members cannot mention all the speeches that they have heard, although I know that they will be mentioned in the winding-up speeches. Some interesting speeches have been made—for instance, the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), who always speaks so brilliantly that his tour de force must be read very carefully if the reader is to understand all the finer points. I am sure that the House will wish to return to that subject.

In the nine minutes available to me, I want to speak about the Budget's interesting proposals for small businesses. Unlike its predecessors, which have tended to introduce fiscal measures of one kind or another, this Budget recognises that the administrative arrangements for small businesses are often equally important. It is no good giving companies tax breaks if there are so many rules and regulations that they are prevented from being profitable. I welcome the introduction of self-assessment for income tax purposes, the fact that self-employed people will pay tax based on current and not preceding year' estimates, and the fact that companies that are not incorporated will not be required to have a statutory audit.

The Budget, however, must be seen in the context of other initiatives to help small firms. The Government have abolished 5,000 business forms and 10,000 others. What did those forms do? How can the Government simply get rid of 5,000 forms? What were they all produced for, and what is the result of losing them? Why were they put there in the first place? What have we lost by taking them away? Will the number of civil servants and bureaucrats be reduced?

Does bureacracy in this country increase in direct proportion to the number of rules and regulations that are abolished? Is there a new Parkinson's law whereby the more things we get rid of, the more staff employed increase? The Palace of Westminster is a good example. I have my office in one of the outbuildings, where a very expensive security system has been installed. The door opens only after a card has been inserted. Before this high security system was installed, there were no security guards. Now, with the system, there are two full-time security officers as well as a very expensive security system. There seem to be more and more opportunities to duplicate our staff as well as our technology.