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Industry (Government Support)

Part of Opposition Day — [1st allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 3:58 pm on 16th June 2010.

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Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi Conservative, Stratford-on-Avon 3:58 pm, 16th June 2010

I congratulate Pat Glass on her passionate speech about her constituency, and I am pleased to hear how attracted she is to the big society-she is always welcome on the Conservative Benches.

We all know that we are in times of deep economic hardship, but we are now heading in the right direction. A key reason is that we have already begun to fix the wrongs, and our first focus has been on balancing the books. For anyone in any doubt about whether this is the right strategy, I need only point to the commendations that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor received at the G20 summit in South Korea for his efforts in this area. However, although we have made an important start, there are of course many things that we need to do, and for me the importance of business cannot be underestimated. From my experience at YouGov, and from talking to businesses in Stratford, small or large, I know that there are three main areas that people want us to focus on: getting rid of bureaucracy and red tape, simplifying the tax system and giving small and medium-sized businesses tax incentives and easier access to funding. All those areas must be addressed, and I shall endeavour to discuss them today.

It is no coincidence that after 13 years of a Labour Government, business in this country feels bogged down by bureaucracy. I am delighted that one of the first things that we have done is introduce a one-in, one-out policy on regulation. That will change the culture of Whitehall and help those stuck in red tape to free themselves and get on with their business. Next, we need to focus our efforts on the need for a simpler and fairer tax system for business. It is not in our country's interest for businesses to waste time and resources on decoding the hugely complicated tax system. Someone running a small business is the chief executive officer, the salesperson, the receptionist and the accountant, so the more time they spend on bureaucracy, the less they spend on building up their business.

The abolition of the employer's contribution to national insurance must be commended. It is an excellent policy, and there are already businesses in my constituency, such as GreenMech, DCS Europe and the brilliant Purity Brewing, applauding this initiative. Even Lord Digby Jones, the previous Government's adviser, warned against that anti-jobs policy in the other place.

One of the most difficult areas to address is the funding available to SMEs. The previous Government made steps in the right direction, but they did not work. The RDAs have clearly not worked, and they have wasted an enormous amount of taxpayers' money on bureaucracy. Banks want to lend only when the sun is shining. The previous Administration failed to fix the roof during those times, and it was SMEs that paid a heavy price. However, I am pleased that we have already pledged to ensure that a flow of credit is available to viable SMEs, both by considering a national loans guarantee scheme and by the use of net lending targets for banks. In the future, we must continue to do more to help in that area.

I want to address another matter that is key to strengthening our business sector in this country. We must ensure that our employees of the future are equipped with the skills that can help them and their employers succeed. I for one always looked at the skill and expertise of a potential candidate, rather than just their university education. That is why I am such a strong believer in apprenticeships and the skills that they offer. In a previous life, I did a lot of work with a fantastic charity called Edge, and I applaud the Government's focus on apprenticeships.

Making things and selling things to the world are going to be vital for our future. That is why we need to support engineering, whether it be mechanical, civil or software engineering. Engineering needs to be seen as an aspirational qualification again. We need only look at Germany, a nation proud of its engineers, to see what can be achieved. For me, we must focus on specific areas of business, in order to create a niche for ourselves as a nation.

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