This Budget demonstrates yet again that careful stewardship of the economy and meeting serious challenges in a serious way, thereby creating an environment for wealth creators to succeed, is always the right course. Now, the hard work of the British people is paying off. We see that in the record numbers in employment, with 3 million more jobs since 2010. We see it in rising real wages, with the fastest rises in real pay among the lowest paid in society. Above all, we see it in our strengthening public finances.
We see in the Budget how a stronger economy enables us to support the NHS, which will receive, as my hon. Friend Vicky Ford said, that record-breaking £20.5 billion real-terms per-year increase. Furthermore, a stronger economy has enabled us to cut taxes and to freeze the important duties—whether on fuel, spirits or beer—so that millions of people throughout the country can enjoy more of the money that they have earned. Those achievements did not fall into the Government’s lap—apologies to the Chief Secretary—they were hard won by the people of this country, and we will not be complacent. This is an optimistic, future-facing Budget, and a Budget for economic growth.
Having listened to much of the past three days of Budget debate, I could summarise the contributions from Opposition Members as wanting more spending and higher taxes. With some notable exceptions, they have had very little to say about how we grow the economy and create wealth. When asked recently, the shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, could not name a single businessperson whom he admired. We on the Government Benches understand that behind every business is a story worth knowing—that cafés and gyms and restaurants do not come out of nowhere. We respect and admire these people, and this Budget is for them.
The Federation of Small Businesses, the CBI, the retailers, the convenience stores, the pubs, the oil and gas industry that supports so many thousands of jobs in north-east Scotland, the manufacturing groups such as the EEF all support the Budget. Of course there are challenges. Of course we are in a moment of high uncertainty as we enter a pivotal stage in the Brexit negotiations, but each of those groups—and more—that I have spoken to since the Chancellor sat down believed that we were listening to them and acting. We are delivering for businesses and job creation throughout the country.
As my right hon. Friend Sir Michael Fallon argued at the beginning of the debate, the Budget recognises that the UK has to pay its way in the world. It must be an attractive place for people to invest. To ensure that it is, we have cut corporation tax from 28% to 19%, and receipts have risen by 55%. We have reaffirmed the incentives for entrepreneurs that are attractive for people—including those in the constituency of Tulip Siddiq—who come here from all over the world. They are attracted here because it is a great place to create businesses, and that is driving the unicorns and tech businesses of this country.
We are extending the start-up loan scheme, and as we have already heard, we have increased the annual investment allowance from £200,000 to £1 million. We have listened to manufacturing businesses, particularly in the midlands and the north, that want to invest in plant, machinery and digital technology. This is about not just the sexy technologies that we heard about earlier but ensuring that manufacturing in this country can continue to thrive.
For working people, we are increasing the national living wage from April and thereby contributing to rising real wages, and we are giving a tax cut to 32 million people throughout the country by increasing the personal allowance and the higher-rate threshold. As we heard at Prime Minister’s questions, it is still unclear whether the Labour party supports that tax cut. The shadow Chancellor reluctantly says he agrees with it, the shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, says otherwise, and the Mayor of Greater Manchester says that shadow Chancellor’s views send a shiver down his spine—and that was before Halloween.
We believe that everyone in this country should pay their fair share of tax. There are measures, which we have heard about from right hon. and hon. Members in this Budget debate, to continue to close the tax gap. It is at a near record low, and lower than it was in any year of the previous Labour Government. This Budget does create the world’s first digital services tax.