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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:57 pm on 20th March 2014.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 1:57 pm, 20th March 2014

That is not actually true. All recoveries tend to start with consumer spending, but lack of investment is a deep-rooted problem in the United Kingdom, and it is a problem with which we are trying to deal. However, if the hon. Gentleman studies the figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility, he will see that business investment increased by 7% last year, and the CBI projections for this year are higher than that. Business investment is beginning to take serious shape.

I think that, when we speak of growth, recovery and productivity, it is worth our while reflecting on some of the 18 Budget statements to which I have listened and responded in the past. For more than a decade, Budgets were introduced by the present Opposition, and there was a very positive story every year until we reached 2008. We had 2% growth, and there was enormous triumphalist cheering about the wonders of the brilliant Government economic policy that had produced that achievement. Comparisons were made with the past which suggested that this was the greatest economic performance, if not since the Victorians, probably since the Georgians, the Tudors or even the Romans. However, we had to go back to the Greeks to find the word that captured the spirit of those early Budgets. It was the word “hubris”, which encapsulated the Opposition’s simple inability to understand that weaknesses were building up during that growth.

Our Government are confident that we now have recovery. We are positive about it, and proud of our contribution to it. However, we acknowledge that there are some deep-seated historical weaknesses that now need to be addressed, and the Chancellor did address them in a systematic way in the Budget yesterday. The first and most important way of dealing with those weaknesses—and the driver of productivity—is, of course, higher levels of investment. That is why the extension of investment allowances, which will substantially increase the incentives for small and medium-sized companies, particularly those in the manufacturing sector—over time and in terms of scale—is such a big step forward, and is so welcome.