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I agree with my hon. Friend entirely. One of the great things about “The Plan for Growth” is that the Chancellor did not try to say that there is a silver bullet for creating growth in the economy, or that we can pick winners. No bureaucracy or Government can really pick winners to generate economic growth. I am reminded of a story—perhaps apocryphal, but certainly instructive—about McKinsey, the strategy consultancy firm, which produced an economic outlook for the 2000s that completely omitted the internet when identifying the key drivers of economic growth. Today the internet is a massive sector worth, I think, £100 billion and employing thousands of people. It is right that we have not tried to pick winners.
Looking at what the Chancellor has done, I note that it is we, rather than Opposition Members, who recognise that growth will come from the private sector, not from a state-led programme. That is why I agree with the four objectives that he laid out: to be competitive on taxes; to be one of the best places to start, finance and grow a business; to encourage investment in exports as a route to a more balanced economy; and to create a more educated work force.
I will focus on just one of those areas—starting, financing and growing small businesses—partly because I have an interest in it because my constituency is full of small businesses. Nationally, however, there are 4.8 million small and medium-sized enterprises, and they are responsible for 50% of private sector output and 60% of jobs. If we really want to create the growth that drives jobs, we should surely look to do so from the private sector.
Research by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts points out that 6% of the fastest-growing companies create 50% of the jobs, not just in the south-east, but throughout all regions and sectors. In other words, the start-up, survival and eventual success of small companies is vital for public policy and for creating growth.
Mr Robinson mentioned bank lending, but fast-growing companies’ revenues are often volatile and their cash flows can be unpredictable. Banks do not want to lend to them, so we need to be able to create an environment for equity lending. One thing we know in the UK is that, if people want to raise amounts below £2 million, they find it incredibly difficult to do so. Such risk capital, however, encourages businesses to take a risk—to take on the new plant, to hire new staff—so it is great that there are so many changes to the enterprise investment scheme in “The Plan for Growth”.
Increasing relief to 30% means that someone who is going to invest in a business knows that they can offset 30% of their investment against tax. It will encourage people to take sensible risks and invest in those companies that will drive growth. Raising the relevant annual limit to £1 million and to £10 million per company means that companies can seek capital from high net-worth and private individuals, not just from institutions. Anybody who is involved in small businesses knows that people often rely on friends and family to support their business in its early stages, so it is good to see the Government backing those who are ready and willing to take such risks.
Raising the limit on qualifying companies to 250 employees means that the measure will apply not just to start-up companies, where the failure rate can be quite high, but to well-established companies that need capital to grow. I would like to see what more the Government can do to allow connected persons to enjoy such tax reliefs, because connected persons—directors—cannot enjoy them at the moment, and that is where businesses get much of the expertise that they need. By making investment in small businesses easier, the Budget recognises and encourages people who are willing to take risks.