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Economic Environment: Growth and Jobs - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:07 pm on 11th July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Kramer Baroness Kramer Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Treasury and Economy) 1:07 pm, 11th July 2019

The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, is being kind to me in raising the issue of business rates because, as she knows, my party supports a policy of abolishing them—they are part of a Victorian past—and replacing them with a commercial landowner levy. I do not want to try the patience of the House in the time allocated by taking noble Lords through the details, but it is one of the crucial ways forward. It gives businesses every incentive to grow because the tax is on the underlying land value, not on the additional value that they create by future investment. It also helps the regional distribution of businesses. I suspect we have found another supporter for that policy in the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and I appreciate that.

I agree with the noble Baroness that we have to tackle the issue of digital taxes. I am not sure whether I support the French proposal, announced today, of a 3% tax on digital revenues but it would be interesting to look at that issue because something has to be done, rather than just talking about it. I am concerned that the US is now considering that this would be an opportunity to retaliate against any European country that sought to tax digital companies more seriously. I hope any future Administration here would have the backbone to stand up to the Trumpian “America first”, which would make fair taxes impossible.

I believe in fiscal responsibility and investment. The old notion that you either support business or the ordinary people in the workforce is nonsensical. We are in a modern era where everyone must pull together. That is accentuated further by the fourth industrial revolution, and I hope we will begin to think about that new era rather than lock ourselves into the past.