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I thank all right hon. and hon. Members across the House who have contributed to this wide-ranging debate. The shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury managed the unusual feat of opening the debate without mentioning a single measure in the Finance Bill, although he did brandish a very thin pamphlet, which we were told contained all the answers to the Labour party’s spending commitments. A number of important issues have been raised across the House tonight, and I will do my best in the time available—and as swiftly as possible—to respond to as many as I can.
Two weeks ago, the Chancellor was able to present a Budget that followed five years of economic growth, with the deficit cut by four fifths, the lowest levels of unemployment, the highest levels of employment in my lifetime, real wages rising and real wages rising fastest among the lowest paid. It was a Budget in which, as a result of responsible management of the public finances—meeting the serious challenges we inherited in 2010 in a serious way—we were able to invest the highest levels in our economic infrastructure for more than 40 years, including £460 million more a week than the last Labour Government for our roads, railways and broadband. The Budget increased funding to the NHS by £20.5 billion a year in real terms; froze fuel, beer and spirits duty once again as a result of sustained lobbying and support from Members on the Government Benches, including my friends from Scotland; and—above all—provided a tax cut for 32 million people.
My hon. Friends the Members for Croydon South (Chris Philp) and for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and many other Government Members welcomed our action to support the high street and to enable town centres to adapt and evolve to new circumstances and continue to be the cornerstones of thriving communities. That action includes a reduction in business rates for 30% of smaller retailers, investment in transformation and infrastructure through the £675 million future high streets fund, and planning reforms to make it easier, cheaper and quicker to create businesses and work places in town centres and to create homes—planning reforms that are now, it seems, opposed by the Labour party.
My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South made an interesting suggestion about the seed enterprise investment scheme. In the Budget, we reaffirmed our commitment to the world-class incentives we have as a country to encourage investment, promote wealth creation and make this country the best place in the world to be an entrepreneur, such as continuing entrepreneurs’ relief and continuing EIS and SEIS, as my hon. Friend suggested.
My hon. Friend Charlie Elphicke and many other Government Members welcomed our sustained commitment to reducing corporation tax again—now to 17%—and noted that our decision to reduce it from 28% had not, as was suggested, reduced receipts to the Treasury, but had in fact increased them by 55%. My hon. Friend Colin Clark made the case, as he regularly does, that we want to grow the economy and support the people out there who are creating small businesses. This Budget and this Finance Bill are for them.