Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of Provisional Collection of Taxes – in the House of Commons at 2:09 pm on 20th March 2013.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield 2:09 pm, 20th March 2013

I do not agree at all, and I will come on to address the substantial part of what the Business Secretary said in a moment.

I was talking about the importance of engendering growth in the economy through local activity, and mentioned specifically the work that Lord Heseltine has done in respect of Birmingham. He underlined the importance of the local enterprise partnership and the importance of stimulating growth in an area that remains at the heart of this country’s industrial base. I am reminded that it was only three years ago that I visited the Jaguar factory just outside my constituency in Castle Bromwich. At that stage, two of the three production lines were lying idle and employees were unable to continue to secure work. Now, just three years later, all three production lines are in operation. We see a company that is storming ahead and cannot produce enough cars to satisfy market demand. Last year, it exported more than £10 billion worth of cars made in Britain and paid in to the Exchequer more than £1 billion of taxation. That real transformation offers hope at a very difficult time in the area of the country I represent. The announcement that we will have a single pot of central money to support local initiatives is enormously important, as is the emphasis that Lord Heseltine places on more effective governance to address the fragmentation and lack of coherence of the business voice, which he has been loud in commenting on.

On the stimulation of growth nationally, today we have heard the Chancellor announce the excellent news about cutting taxes on jobs. I can think of few measures that could be more effective. Prioritising the changes that make growth easier, cutting business taxes—not easy, and not the popular thing to do—and facing down the vested interests that the Chancellor has to wrestle with every day, are all important measures if we are to ensure that growth is supported nationally. Making life easier for entrepreneurs and businessmen is not the route to easy popularity, but it is the route to long-term economic success and growth.

The way the Government have sought, with single-minded emphasis, to boost trade with the BRICs—Brazil, Russian, India and China—and the other countries with growing economies has had a significant effect. I wonder whether my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench think that all the lessons from around the world on how to boost growth and entrepreneurialism have been learned. Encouraging entrepreneurship, improving links between schools and business, and making sure that all the lessons from these emerging markets are learned are all very important. For example, I wonder whether there is more to learn from Singapore, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands, which consistently top the global competitiveness report issued by the World Economic Forum. I wonder whether the lessons from New Zealand, Denmark and Canada, which are consistently identified as the best countries in which to do business, have been learned, or whether there is more that we can learn from the Nordic and Asian economies that have been so successful in harnessing information and communications technology for economic growth. The Chancellor deserves great credit for the brave steps he has taken today to secure growth.

The Scylla of debt has hung around our neck, and hangs around the economy’s neck, for the reasons that are well known across the House. Anyone who doubts its scale and the anxiety it causes, as my hon. Friend Mr Tyrie set out, needs only to look at the absurd proposition, coming out of the crisis in Cyprus, that one can confiscate arbitrarily people’s deposits. That underlines the extraordinary difficulties that overweening levels of debt, which we and other countries face, cause.

It is irksome to repeat so regularly the irresponsibility of the previous Government in the levels of debt they left and the measures they took during the good times, but that needs to be repeated so that people understand the sheer scale of what happened. I remember studying the papers on the National Security Council when we were conducting the defence review, and noting that there was, allegedly, from the previous Government a £38 billion black hole in their accounts. I was unable to believe that that was possible and sent back the papers on the assumption that there was a decimal point in the wrong place. But no, it was confirmed on the Monday morning that there was indeed, under the previous Labour Government, a £38 billion black hole in the defence budget. We should never allow them to forget the appalling difficulties that their stewardship of the economy and their legacy have left for the coalition to clean up.