The Government are very supportive of small businesses. We demonstrated this support again at Budget 2013 through the introduction of the new £2,000 employment allowance for small businesses and charities from April 2014.We have extended the small business rate relief from April 2013. We have increased the small business research and development tax credit to 225% and the lifetime limit on entrepreneurs relief to £10 million. In addition, we have launched a £1 billion British business bank to improve access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the fact that the new employment allowance will mean that 450,000 small businesses pay no national insurance contributions at all. Is this not a positive help to small businesses such as those in my constituency as they seek to take on more employees?
I entirely agree. That £2,000 for every business will feed through by helping businesses take on new staff, invest in their business or pay higher wages. It is a positive contribution, which contrasts with the proposals that we inherited for an increase in employer’s national insurance contributions.
Why since 2011 has SME investment and lending to SMEs fallen by £30 billion?
Why should we believe from the Minister that the present scheme for dealing with national insurance contributions will be any more successful than his previous scheme, where take-up was extremely poor and did nothing to increase jobs?
I do not know whether Labour is opposing the scheme. That was not the impression I got. This is a very simple scheme. It does not require applications or involve any of the complexities that we saw with two of the Labour national insurance contribution schemes. We are confident that the current scheme will work. It has been widely supported by business groups and I think it will make a big difference to small businesses.