Business Investment: Fiscal Measures

Treasury – in the House of Commons at on 6 February 2024.

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Photo of Flick Drummond Flick Drummond Conservative, Meon Valley

What fiscal steps his Department is taking to help increase the level of business investment.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Mr Speaker, may I add my comments to yours yesterday about His Majesty the King? I wish him and his family well, as well as saluting his courage in being so open about his condition.

At the autumn statement last year, I announced an ambitious growth package, which will boost business investment by about £20 billion a year. We are making full expensing permanent, which the CBI welcomed as a game changer that will fire up the British economy.

Photo of Flick Drummond Flick Drummond Conservative, Meon Valley

I also welcome those measures. Business rates are among the biggest issues for small businesses in Meon Valley, so I welcome the Chancellor’s £4.6 billion package of support in the autumn statement. However, following covid, there are a number of empty offices where landlords are still having to pay business rates. Does the Chancellor have any measures to support those who are struggling with a lack of income to pay business rates?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the pressures caused by business rates. That was why in the autumn statement we introduced the 75% discount for retail, hospitality and leisure. All I would say is that the reason we were able to introduce those large cuts in business rates was that we did not embark on a spending spree of £28 billion a year, which is Labour’s policy on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but not apparently on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

I will try to be nice to the Chancellor, but he seems to be living in a parallel universe. If he came to Huddersfield and talked to my businesses and manufacturers, he would find them at the lowest ebb that I can ever remember. It is time that the stimulus was there to make people invest and create jobs. Get on with it, Chancellor!

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

If that was being nice, I am relieved that I have not seen the other type of questions that the hon. Member asks. I agree that manufacturing is central to our economic fortunes, which is why it was good news that last year we overtook France to become the eighth-largest manufacturer in the world. But we have gone even further: in the autumn statement, we announced a £4.5 billion manufacturing strategy to give further support to make our manufacturers the best in the world.

Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of discussing the very many benefits from the autumn statement, including research and development grants and simplification of the tax code. However, I wonder whether the Chancellor might go a little further and see whether cutting VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector, perhaps by 10% over five years, would be advisable to help the economy across the United Kingdom.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is an assiduous supporter of the many pubs, restaurants and shops in Devon, and I commend him for that support. We will, of course, keep all those measures under review ahead of the Budget.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

Hair salons are a vital mainstay of our high streets, but many employers are worried about the sustainability of their businesses; a huge issue is their tax bills, with VAT a significant concern, making further business investment very difficult. Cutting VAT to 10% would make an important difference to local businesses, high streets and apprentice training. Will the Chancellor look at doing that to support all our local economies?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I will always look at anything that helps businesses to grow and expand. I set up and ran my own business for 14 years. Can I gently say to the hon. Lady that it is slightly incongruous to argue for lower taxes when the SNP has given Scotland the highest taxes in the United Kingdom?