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Economic Growth (South-East)

Volume 513: debated on Tuesday 13 July 2010

We will continue to ensure that we can support economic growth through the United Kingdom, including the south-east. As was made clear earlier, we have an ambitious package that contains a road map for reducing corporation tax year on year. I should point out that had the last Government remained in power, they would have left corporation tax as it is. Indeed, corporation tax for small companies would have risen at the very time we should be allowing companies to retain more of their profits to invest in their businesses.

As my hon. Friend will know, there is a regional growth fund that will help regions throughout our country to grow. We are also complementing the national measures that we are taking by seeking to ensure that local authorities working across various local partnerships can stimulate their own economies.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Is she aware that certain areas of the south-east have very high levels of public sector employment? I am thinking in particular of the town of Hastings in my constituency, where we have 43% public sector employment. What steps can be taken to help such areas of the south-east to benefit from the national insurance advantage proposed in the Budget?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. If we are to get our economy back on track, particularly in areas such as that which she represents where there has been a growing imbalance and instability—and unsustainability as well—in the local economy, we must have a package of measures in place that can stimulate the private sector. I have set out some of those in terms of corporation tax, and my hon. Friend is right that the regional growth fund is another key investment fund that hopefully can help her area.

Should businesses in the south-east be concerned now that the Office for Budget Responsibility has made it clear to the Treasury Committee that the Budget increases the chances of a double-dip recession?

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is right about that at all. The OBR clearly set out that it expects our economy to grow over the coming years. It expects unemployment to fall and employment to rise, and the hon. Gentleman should welcome that.