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Government Support for Business

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:18 am on 26th February 2020.

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Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 11:18 am, 26th February 2020

It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith) and for North Norfolk (Duncan Baker). The quality of Conservative Back-Bench Members is clearly incredibly high. If the subs bench is of this quality, it keeps Ministers on their toes to keep performing. That is one great outcome of the general election where the Prime Minister Boris Johnson led us to that wonderful victory.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs on securing this debate. I assure the House that the Government are committed to supporting business. Of course, seizing opportunities now that we have left the EU is absolutely crucial to that. As my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, we will soon have a new relationship with our European friends, inspired by our shared history and values. We will have recovered our economic and political independence, which will enable us to control our own laws and of course our own trade—that is clearly what he is so passionate about. We will be able to strike new trade deals with partners around the world, helping our small and large businesses to export and grow on the global stage.

Hon. Members do not need to take my word for it, or that of my hon. Friend. The Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute ranks the UK as the second most entrepreneurial economy in Europe and the fourth most entrepreneurial in the world. We rank higher than all other G7 countries except Canada on the World Bank’s “starting a business” list, although I take on board my hon. Friend’s comments about the ease of taxation, where we do less well. As someone who has started and run my own business, I can say that the UK is a great place to do so.

As my hon. Friend points out, we should remove friction and barriers to doing business and support our companies and entrepreneurs to succeed. That is why no permission is required to establish a business in the United Kingdom, there are no minimum capital requirements, and new companies can be registered online within just 24 hours for as little as £12. That is why, as my hon. Friend mentioned, only last week we launched a new website, businesssupport.gov.uk, which brings together information, support and advice for small businesses. It is why programmes operated by the Government-owned British Business Bank are supporting firms with finance. As of December 2019, more than £7 billion has been delivered to support over 91,000 small businesses in the UK, including £730,000 to 76 entrepreneurs in my hon. Friend’s constituency. Given his energy and how assiduous he is, I am sure he will endeavour to meet each and every one of the 76 beneficiaries of that support.

We are working together across Government to create smoother processes and the best environments for business, and I am pleased to say that we have already gone a long way towards integrating the customer interface with Companies House and HMRC. The streamlined company registration service was launched in 2018; it allows new companies to incorporate and to register for PAYE and corporation tax through a single portal. As my hon. Friend rightly reminded us, there is undoubtedly more work to be done to reduce the burden of tax, but HMRC is making progress, including through establishing a new VAT registration service.

We have also committed to a fundamental review of the business rates system. My hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk quite rightly highlighted this issue, and challenge is important in this area. He is right to say that we need a holistic approach. The Treasury will provide more details about the business rates review in due course, but we have already provided reforms and reliefs to business rates worth £13 billion over the next five years. The Prime Minister has announced a towns fund of over £3.5 billion, including an accelerated £1 billion to support local areas in England to renew and reshape town centres and high streets. Through the taskforce giving expert advice on how to adapt and thrive, we are supporting local leaders and encouraging them to think differently about their high streets and to discover their unique selling points.