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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:53 pm on 20th March 2014.

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Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Conservative, Tamworth 3:53 pm, 20th March 2014

I agree with my hon. Friend. I hold an annual jobs fair, and last year 300 to 400 jobs were available to the 176 people who came to look for them. There were more jobs available in my constituency than jobseekers at the job fair, which is an indication of how our economy in the midlands, and particularly in Tamworth, is developing.

I agree with the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston about bingo and the change to gross profits tax. That tax was introduced in 2009 and created an anomaly because it meant that that soft gambling industry was taxed at 20%, compared with most of the rest of the industry at 15%. Added to the fact that bingo operators cannot reclaim VAT on their investment or refurbishment costs, it means that many operators have to carry a cumulative and punitive tax, equivalent to VAT of 32%. That was stifling the industry, with one bingo hall per week going to the wall. The Chancellor’s changes will mean more money for stakes, which is good for punters, and more investment in bingo halls and more jobs—a good thing that will also increase tax yield.

I am very pleased to see the changes to air passenger duty and start-up support for new routes. Birmingham airport, my local airport, will benefit from that. It is currently extending its runway so that it will be able to take long-haul flights to and from major markets in China and India. If the Treasury is listening, it can provide further support by adding Birmingham airport to the regional air connectivity fund list.

I hope the Treasury will work closely with the Department for Transport to consider the Whitacre link, a railway line axed by Dr Beeching. The line runs through Tamworth to Birmingham airport, and new track would reduce travel time from Tamworth to Birmingham airport from 40 minutes to just 18 minutes. That is the sort of local, sensible infrastructure development that business people in my constituency want to see. My hon. Friend the Minister knows my views on HS2. If it goes ahead, it will not be enough for it just to link our major cities. We need to improve the infrastructure around those major cities to realise the potential benefits of HS2. Building the Whitacre link would be one way of doing that.

I welcome the continued drive down of corporation tax. That will help to expand businesses and create jobs. I hope the Chancellor will not see the 20p rate as an end in itself, but as a means to an end: matching the Irish 12.5% rate of corporation tax. If we can get down to such a level, we will attract businesses to Britain that currently go to Ireland, and build a better and stronger economy. That is what business folk in my constituency would like to see.

Despite the rather gloomy concerns of Tom Greatrex, I support and approve of the Government’s determination to drive down the cost of energy on businesses. The carbon price support rate, at £18 per tonne of carbon, is a good move. I think the Liberal Democrats would prefer to see about £30 per tonne by 2020, but capping it at £18 will reduce about £50,000 of cost for small and medium-sized businesses in my constituency.

There is, however, an energy elephant in the room: the huge amount of infrastructure spend we need to undertake in the next 10 years to keep our lights switched on, our water warm and the wheels of industry turning. The big six, which are already highly leveraged, can probably add no more than £70 billion to the £110 billion cost. If we are to get the £40 billion we need from independent players, and not rely on the taxpayer or the consumer to foot the bill, we need to ensure that electricity market reform and the signals to investors are right, otherwise there will be a cash crunch.

In general terms, the Budget was good. It was a Budget for business. In my constituency, businesses are upbeat and they say that they expect to grow. BMW is coming to Tamworth this year with 100 new jobs. Let us have more of the same: let us have more Budgets for business.