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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:52 pm on 19th March 2015.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 12:52 pm, 19th March 2015

I will certainly respond as you wish, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think I have taken at least 23 interventions, but I am happy to cruise to a conclusion on that note.

If we are going to lift real wages and living standards, that must be done through the growth of productivity. That is the only way it can happen. A whole set of measures in the Budget suggest how that can happen in the long term. It must come through skills and innovation, and there was a series of constructive initiatives—catapults, science capital investment, driverless cars, the internet of things, the energy research institution, and other things—in the Budget. Cumulatively, those will drive up productivity in British industry.

One announcement that perhaps did not receive as much attention as it should have done was about trying to improve the way funding flows through apprenticeships and a voucher system that enables employers—particularly small companies—to acquire the skills they need. The key, however, will be business investment, and I have already pointed to improving trends in that respect. One lesson of our period in office is that under the difficult conditions we have had, by investing judiciously through bodies such as the regional growth fund, the Green Investment Bank, and the British Business Bank, the Government can stimulate significant amounts of additional private investment.

I will finish with an announcement in response to a question that the Leader of the Opposition threw out yesterday about the Green Investment Bank. We have agreed that that is a successful initiative that stimulates private investment, and for £2 billion from Government there has been £3 billion extra from the private sector. We want to build on that success and are looking at a range of options for bringing private capital into the Green Investment Bank, and to give it greater operational freedom and enable it to borrow in capital markets. That will provide it with an alternative channel of funding, and ensure its future as a lasting and enduring institution.

There was a great deal of excitement earlier this morning about the alternative route to fiscal policy that my party was advocating, and it is right that in the run-up to the general election we should have a different approach to how we balance the budget. However, there was a lot of common ground, and this was a joint coalition Budget that we are proud to have been associated with. It was about economic growth—we are now the most successful in the industrial world having been in the worst crisis—and about rising business investment, exceptional levels of employment, and rapidly falling unemployment. All that is taking place at a time when the public finances have been approved, and we have moved from being a basket case to a successful economy.