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Business Competitiveness

Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2015

The World Bank recognises the United Kingdom as one of the best places in the world to do business, ranking us eighth. We committed in our manifesto to make the UK No. 1 in Europe and in the top five worldwide in the Doing Business rankings by 2020.

Does the Minister agree that for millions of small businesses that never export to the European Union, either because they simply serve the domestic market or because they export only to countries outside the EU, the regulations imposed by Brussels are a burden that damages their ability to compete?

I absolutely recognise, and the Government recognise, that EU regulations can hit small and medium-sized businesses particularly hard, which is not right or fair. A key priority of our European better regulation agenda is continuing to ensure that the European Commission honours its commitment to introducing lighter regimes for SMEs and exemptions for micro-enterprises where appropriate.

Surely the Minister realises that if we want our businesses to be more competitive, we have to look to skills. Has she seen Professor Alison Wolf’s report “Heading for the Precipice”, which is a damning comment on the lack of skills training in this country and the crisis in further education and adult skills?

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but that is a fact. He does not like to hear the facts. There were 2 million apprenticeships under the previous Government, and we are determined to achieve 3 million. That is the way we upskill in our country. He should look at the Labour party’s record in government; it was pitiful compared with ours.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) is supposed to be a statesman in the House—[Interruption.] Order. He should be setting an example. It is not a two-way debate. He blurted out his question and he must listen to the answer.