Finance (No. 2) Bill

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 3:28 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Conservative, Watford 3:28 pm, 1st April 2014

I thank my hon. Friend, who characteristically makes a very good point. The problem is that to give the kind of detailed personalised advice that people want, the fee has to be at a certain level to reward professionals for doing the job, but smaller pension pots make that very difficult. That is nothing to do with regulation; it is simply about being able to charge the correct amount for their time. I hope that there will be alternative systems, although they may not perhaps give quite the bespoke advice that is available for people with larger pots. In other fields, such as accountancy, there are ways in which people can get good advice without having to spend the vast amounts of money available to those with larger pots.

My second point about changes in pensions legislation is just a thought. Many billions of pounds will become available that would have been dealt with directly in the insurance market through the annuity system. Have the

Government given any thought to providing a facility involving national savings in which the Government or an organisation acting on their behalf deal with it on a managed fund basis? There is a similar system in Australia and New Zealand, where there is a kind of sovereign wealth fund that comes from people’s pensions pot, accrued together, with the necessary caveats about risk, a portfolio approach and all such matters. The Government thereby take advantage of the savings system, so that people can retire with a very good, solid and Government-guaranteed choice—of different types of products and risks—about what to do with their money. It would be very simple, with perhaps one or two choices; it obviously could not compete with the great panoply of schemes of the large fund management companies. It would be simple so that people could understand it, and I hope that it would provide a vehicle for funds that are safe and give a good return for the public, while also providing the Government with extra funds, as happens with National Savings & Investments.

On the Budget generally, which I support fully, my fear is that this country still lacks a business culture. Both this Government and the previous one quite rightly focused on small and medium-sized enterprises, businesses and apprenticeships, with different schemes and systems to try to help them. When I speak at schools in my constituency—as for all hon. Members, they are a regular feature in my diary—it is interesting to talk to young people about what they want in life, yet very few of the brighter ones seem to desire to go into a business environment. Those who do have such a desire tend to be interested in graduate schemes with larger multinational companies or the professions. There is nothing wrong with that—some of them, heaven forbid, want to be politicians—but these are the very people whose families often have small businesses in my constituency, and there are 1,600 businesses in Watford that employ between two and seven people. It seems to me that the establishment—schools, parents and everyone else—very much look for brighter young people to go into the professions and find alternatives to self-employment.

It is very hard to change that culture, but I want to commend the Government for what they have done to help small businesses and to help people to start up businesses. Wenta in Watford—the Exchequer Secretary may be familiar with it, because it is near his constituency —is an incubator for many start-up businesses. I saw several of them when I was there only a couple of weeks ago, including a small business started by James Morgenstern in which, in arrangement with Google, people who find an image of a building on Google Earth can then see a video of its interior. He started it in his bedroom and has now moved to an office at Wenta, and the business will expand.

To use James Morgenstern’s business as an example, his next big step is to have a first employee. I can speak with a little authority, because many years ago—I am probably about the same age as his parents or, depressingly, his grandparents—I was in that position. One starts a business and it is all great: one does everything oneself, being up 20 hours a day, and all of that—it is a great pity that the shadow Chief Secretary is not in his seat at the moment, because he would be very interested in this, so perhaps I should brief him fully outside the Chamber—and the next step is to have a first employee.

I am very pleased that the measures taken by this Government have helped somebody to take that step. There have been different schemes relating to national insurance, and in particular schemes that have made it very reasonable for small companies to take on apprentices, who are given a tailor-made programme. To get to employees Nos. 1, 2 and 3—after employing only oneself—is the biggest step for a small business. From the point of view of the economy, in reducing expenditure on welfare, while people benefit from earning money themselves and eventually pay tax, that step is most critical. Many of the measures in this Budget and in previous Budgets will help with that.

In the end, most people set up businesses for one reason. It may be a noble reason or a selfish reason, depending on one’s perspective, but people set up businesses to make money for themselves and their family. When I speak to students in my constituency, I always commend those who want to be teachers, social workers and doctors because when they graduate, they will give their lives to help other people in society. However, to those people who put their hands up and say that they want to become rich, live in a big house and get a Ferrari—there are a few of them—I say that, provided that they pay their taxes and employ people, they will benefit society just as much as the first group of people. I really believe that. I believe in everything that the Government have done in the Budget and the Finance Bill to help people to do that.

The tax cut for millionaires is a mantra for the shadow Chief Secretary. I am sure he is having his cup of tea and saying the same thing to anyone around the table who cares to ask. However, I do not believe that what he says holds water, because we want people to become millionaires. I want my constituents to want to become millionaires. By the way, on the first million, they will pay about half a million in tax and will hopefully spend another 200 grand on the Ferrari. Can we please let people become millionaires? The Government should help people to generate wealth and a lot of tax to support the people in this country who really need help.