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Volume 525: debated on Tuesday 22 March 2011

Manufacturing is now expanding after years of contraction. In order to support it, the June Budget contained four reductions in the main rate of corporation tax and a cut in the small companies rate from 21% to 20%. The manufacturing sector is expected to gain over £250 million annually when the package is fully implemented. We have committed ourselves to 75,000 more apprenticeships and nine university-based centres for manufacturing. Tomorrow’s Budget will set out further details of the Government’s plan for sustainable, private sector-led, balanced growth.

On Friday I visited Kirk Environmental, a company in Nelson that specialises in turning waste into electricity and usable biogas. It is experiencing rapid sales growth internationally, is recruiting more locally, and is at the forefront of the United Kingdom’s transition to a low-carbon economy. What incentives is my right hon. Friend providing to encourage such companies to invest more in Pendle and in the United Kingdom?

As I am sure my hon. Friend knows, in the spending review we allocated £860 million to the new renewable heat incentive, and earlier this month, in the House, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change announced the introduction of the first phase of the scheme. It provides financial incentives to support a range of technologies and fuels, including those involving the use of biogas. I hope that that will help excellent companies such as Kirk in my hon. Friend’s constituency.

Does the Chancellor regret the fact that manufacturing declined by 50% under the last Government? What plans has he to reverse that trend as we rebalance our economy, so that companies actually start to make things again in the United Kingdom, as they are already doing in South Basildon and East Thurrock?

My hon. Friend is right. The share of manufacturing in our economy halved during the years of the Labour Government. However, there is good news today: the CBI industrial trends survey shows that total order books are growing for the first time in three years. We are determined to move from an unbalanced economy that placed all the bets on the City of London to an economy that grows across the regions and in all sectors.

The trade-weighted exchange rate has fallen by 20% in the last few years. Manufacturing has not increased as much as we expected, and there are even worse figures for the investment industry. What is the Chancellor doing to ensure that we gain the advantages of that exchange rate depreciation?

I do not know why Opposition Members want to talk down the British economy. What the chief economist at the CBI said contrasts with the hon. Gentleman’s remarks about manufacturing. The chief economist said:

“The outlook for UK manufacturing output growth is very encouraging.”

We are going to support manufacturing. We have the corporation tax cut that I announced in last June’s Budget, and we have the new centres for innovation and manufacturing. We are going to help manufacturing, whereas Labour shrank manufacturing.

Talking of making things, a small manufacturing firm in my constituency is investing in the development of a new engine. If it moved into production, hundreds of jobs would be created in the 15th most deprived area in the country. Will the Chancellor tell us why the Government have cut Labour’s investment allowances, which would be just the thing to help and support a small and vital manufacturer like the one in my constituency?

Manufacturers, including the one to which the hon. Lady has referred, benefit to the tune of £250 million from the reductions in corporation tax that we announced in the June Budget. That is what we have done to support British industry. As I have said, under the Labour Government British industry shrank: while the share of the economy taken by financial services grew by a third, the manufacturing share halved.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as we see signs that business confidence in the economy is being restored, tomorrow’s Budget presents a key opportunity to support the high-technology entrepreneurs who put their own wealth at risk in starting the businesses of tomorrow?

Yes, we will support enterprise and innovation in tomorrow’s Budget, but my hon. Friend will have to be patient and wait until then to hear about the precise measures that are involved.

Manufacturers up and down the country and the whole House are awaiting the Chancellor’s long-delayed growth strategy to be published tomorrow, but I have a copy of that document with me today. It says:

“Growth comes first for this Government”

and that their strategy will

“underpin private confidence, investment and job creation.”

The Chancellor has no need to worry however, as I will not be handing this document to the press. I read it last night and, frankly, there is nothing in it worth leaking. Has this document been audited by the Office for Budget Responsibility? Is the Chancellor really clear that getting rid of maternity and paternity rights and enterprise zones will boost jobs and growth in our economy? Is this going to be enough to stop the Budget growth forecast tomorrow being downgraded for this year and next?

I am not sure that that is the document in question—but if the right hon. Gentleman hands it over, I will have a look—because we are not getting rid of maternity and paternity rights, so I do not know where he got that from. Besides, I have a copy of his document, and it contains all the spending commitments he has been making. If he cannot control his own Front-Bench colleagues, how on earth is he going to control the nation’s finances?

Is this really the best the right hon. Gentleman can do? I bet he will have Treasury officials scrabbling around all afternoon trying to deliver a further 1p cut in corporation tax tomorrow and a further tax cut for the banks. Let us wait and see. The fact is that a year ago inflation was low and unemployment was falling, and a year on, as we see today, inflation is up to 4.4% and borrowing is higher than a year ago, not to mention unemployment. If the Chancellor will not listen to me, will he listen to his colleague who said:

“We must not cut Government spending too soon and risk plunging a fragile recovery back into recession. Cuts without economic growth will not deal with the deficit”?

The Business Secretary was right. Why will the Chancellor not listen?

The right hon. Gentleman really needs to brush up on his question practice, but let me say this to him: the idea that we were somehow left a fantastic economy by the Labour party is quite the most ludicrous claim in the country, and the only reason he makes it is because he was responsible for the economic mess that left this country on the brink of bankruptcy.

One of this country’s great manufacturing success stories is world-leading subsea engineering that has grown up on the back of investment in the North sea oil and gas industry, based in my constituency but working throughout the United Kingdom. What reassurance can the Chancellor give my constituents that the Government will build on their constructive relationship to ensure a fiscal regime that maximises investment in North sea oil and gas production and exploration and that boosts the manufacturing that supports that?

Of course we want to ensure that we prolong the life of the North sea fields. One area on which we can work with the industry is ensuring greater certainty about decommissioning costs and about the tax regime that was operated under previous Governments and how that will apply over the next 10 years. I hope to work with the industry on that.