Absolutely. Real growth and true wealth creation have to come from the private sector: that is how we generate the wealth needed to provide the public services that Members on both sides of the House welcome and want to help our constituents.
The Institute of Directors has described the Budget measures in the Bill as “responsible and imaginative” ones that will
“promote growth, exports and investment”.
It says that
“doubling the annual investment allowance…will bring forward a significant amount of investment…with knock-on effects across the economy”,
“increasing the cash value of Research and Development credits…will benefit many new businesses immediately”.
That will create the jobs we want to see and tackle the challenges of youth unemployment that Opposition Members have mentioned. Yes, we have had to consolidate the nation’s finances, but we have also signposted clearly the future direction of lower taxes. Although cutting air passenger duty, for example, has not been affordable in recent years, the Bill will very generously cut the two highest rates from 2015. This Government do not shirk from the difficult decisions that need to be taken to restore order to the national balance sheet. It is precisely this approach of taking long-term decisions that has allowed us to double investment allowances to £500,000 and to cut APD, which we have been able to do responsibly and affordably. I hope that business will respond by investing in export potential and taking advantage of lower flight taxes to get out and sell to the world. The barriers are down, and the pathways to achieving export potential are getting clearer. That is a clear priority of Members on this side of the House.
We are moving forward with corporation tax, too. Cutting it to the lowest level in the G20, the Bill will further improve our competitiveness in the international market. The new employment allowance will slash the cost of taking on a first-time employee. These are pro-enterprise, pro-competition measures that will create long-lasting benefits for the economy, for jobseekers and for our consumers. By making it easier and less expensive to deal with the state and to pay its taxes, the Bill also makes it easier for first-time entrepreneurs to become first-time employers and first-time exporters.
The Chancellor has promised to do all he can to boost our export performance. The CBI has noted that the increasing export finance stream announced in the Budget should “strengthen our armoury”, although it also agreed with something that Lord Young and Lord Green have already acknowledged, when it stated:
“The Government must now work much harder to promote these schemes, since many fast-growing firms are unaware of the support available.”
I know that the Government are acutely aware of that fact, but it is critical, now that we have the plans in place, that we do a better job of communicating with SMEs and telling them what support is available.
When customers are free to choose, businesses are required to innovate, to offer better service and to control their prices. When the state stands in the way of that market competition, prices are skewed and, in the longer term, the economy deteriorates. We have only to look across the channel to see where that path could lead—to plan B, as we might say—and to see what that strategy has delivered for France: rising unemployment and a budget deficit higher than had been predicted. We do not need to look across the channel to learn who would bring similar economic woes to Britain; we need only to look across to the other side of the House. Thank goodness that we on this side of the House chose to stick with the right plan. We now want to finish the job.
I was fortunate to attend the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference this morning. It was a positive start to what I am sure has been an excellent day for chambers of commerce across the country. The theme was “State of the nation—good to great”, highlighting the need for what was called “great growth”— growth that is sustainable and for the long term. It was a timely reminder of the most pressing economic priority facing the country. I am proud that this Government are firmly committed to meeting that challenge head on. The Budget and the Finance Bill are both further evidence of that commitment, and that is why I will support the Bill tonight.