May I congratulate all my hon. Friends who have made such excellent maiden speeches in this debate? I also wish to draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, which relates to my former employment, before I joined this House.
This is an excellent Budget both for business and for my constituents in Arundel and South Downs. I commend my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s delivery yesterday, but, more importantly, this is a Budget that will stand the test of time. Before the immediate events of the last week or so, this was an economy whose businesses had wind in their sails, straining at their moorings with a new captain at the helm—a Secretary of State who has personal roots that stretch beyond these shores, into the sort of overseas markets that represent an outsized opportunity to create growth and employment for generations to come. This is important; the only way we can truly level up the whole United Kingdom is with an enterprise and export-led renaissance. It is only business that creates the real jobs, opportunities and wealth that will make our school and university leavers of the future look askance at the idea of ever leaving our great northern cities to move south.
Our natural advantages as a location to start, grow and run a business are immense: a world-class legal system with a strong respect for the rule of law; our position between the Asian and American time zones; a flexible and educated workforce; and, of course, English as our own, but increasingly the world’s, language. This Budget sits alongside a world replete with opportunities.
In that context, I warmly welcome the proposal to increase the business rates discount to 100%, and to expand it to the leisure and hospitality sectors. But may I encourage the Chancellor to go just a little bit further? My constituent, Positive Images Design, is a world-leading supplier to the exhibition sector—which, as we might expect in the wake of the cancellation of events across the globe, is among the very hardest hit. As things stand, this sector and this thriving business in West Chiltington in my constituency would not benefit from the same relief, which I cannot believe was the intention. If it would help, I would be pleased to meet the relevant Minister and give him more details of the case.
I welcome the growing wide recognition that the current structure of business rates is a burden, particularly for small enterprises. These rates tax businesses before they have had the chance to make the first £1 of revenue, and unduly penalise those who remain anchored in their local communities, such as the high streets in the small towns of Arundel, Hurstpierpoint, Storrington and Petworth in my constituency. The measures announced in the Budget go a very long way to relieving the burden for the smallest businesses. I welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to a fundamental review and encourage the Business Secretary to be a strong and passionate voice for business in that review—as, indeed, shall I.
While we are on the subject of tax, I am on the record as having said that with the UK being such an attractive place to do business, we should be competitive but have the self-confidence not to compete on having the lowest rate of tax. I fully support the Chancellor’s proposal to maintain the rate of corporation tax at its current level of 19% rather than reduce it further. Indeed, I would go further on a future occasion and support an increase back to £1 in every £5 of profit as part of a fiscally neutral rebalancing of the business rates burden.
Business needs people and people need homes, so I particularly welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of a £400 million brownfield housing fund, and the renewed focus on creating more homes from the millions of acres of real brownfield land across the UK. This has to be the right way to proceed. We need the right homes in the right places, and for those homes to be sustainable. Absolutely the wrong way to proceed would be some of the unsustainable, large-scale housing development that is currently being advocated for my constituency and is blighting the lives and peace of mind of my constituents. Proposals such as those made by Mayfield Market Towns or at Buck Barn despoil some of our last remaining precious countryside, put native species at risk of extinction, and are fundamentally unsustainable due to the lack of supporting roads, rail, healthcare and social infrastructure. Local neighbourhood plans, democratically supported by residents, already contain provision for the sort of organic, sustainable housing growth that we need. Out of the EU, with a points-based immigration scheme, and with an ageing, if not actually shrinking, population, the types and locations of the dwellings our society will need in future are very different from those being proposed today.
This is a Budget for business, for growth, and for Britain. It seizes the opportunity and it gets it done. I believe we are at the start of a new renaissance of British businesses seizing and leading in all of the sectors that will define the economic winners of the future.