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Manufacturing Sector

Volume 543: debated on Tuesday 24 April 2012

The Government have taken a number of steps to support manufacturing industry, including: reducing corporation tax rates, with the main rate falling to 22% by 2014, which is the lowest in the G7; introducing a new above-the-line credit to support research and development in the UK; and introducing the patent box to reduce tax on profits from patents.

Was the Chief Secretary as shocked as I was to hear the shadow Chief Secretary say on “Newsnight” that she opposed the coalition Government’s corporation tax cuts? Will he set out what particular measures could help businesses such as Monument Tools, a manufacturer of tools in my constituency that is able to compete with Chinese competitors?

I was indeed shocked to hear the shadow Chief Secretary say on “Newsnight” that she opposed the cut in corporation tax. I would have thought that the Labour party would welcome such a measure, as it is designed to increase investment in British businesses and support economic growth—that is something that Labour Members say they want to see. The constituency firm to which my right hon. Friend refers could benefit from the national loan guarantee scheme and the credit easing scheme that the Chancellor announced at the Budget, and it could participate in the advanced manufacturing supply chain initiative, which the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced, whereby £125 million is being spent to help manufacturers improve their performance.

Manufacturing businesses in the black country are adamant that what will help them improve their investment is an increase in capital allowances, rather than cuts and cuts in corporation tax. Why do the Government not do that?

The hon. Gentleman will know that we have put in place enhanced capital allowances in a number of enterprise zones around the country, particularly to focus investment in plant and equipment in such areas. We announced in the autumn statement improvements to the short-life capital allowances regime, which had been a major request by manufacturing and, in particular, the engineering sector. I would have thought that he would have welcomed those changes.

The Budget identified a number of sectors for fiscal support. All Departments and all of us can think of deserving cases, particularly in our constituencies, but is it not the Treasury’s job to hold the line on industrial policy, remove the implicit subsidy from banking and other industries, and ensure that economic resources, through, for example, corporation tax cuts, flow to businesses that can succeed without state support?

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am sure that he would agree with me that the Vickers report on the banking sector does precisely the first thing he mentioned, and that our approach to corporation tax—reducing headline rates year by year to the lowest level in the G7 and one of the lowest levels in the G20—precisely achieves the objective that he set out.

Will the Chief Secretary tell the House whether he read the explanatory notes on his VAT on caravans proposal? If he did read them, why on earth did he support a proposal that reduces demand in manufacturing by 30% and hits tourist industries, such as those in my area, 100%? Will he now review it?

Of course I did read the explanatory notes. The right hon. Gentleman will know that we have listened to the representations in favour of extending the consultation period and have extended the deadline to 18 May to enable individuals such as him, and his constituents, to make representations as part of that consultation.