The Government are committed to helping firms to harness the benefits of new technologies, and we are taking action to do so. For example, we have set the annual investment allowance at £200,000 a year, its highest-ever permanent level; we have announced a 10-year action plan to unlock more than £20 billion to finance growth in innovative firms; and we have delivered the biggest increase in research and development investment in 40 years.
Britain is becoming a world leader in technology businesses at the cutting edge of the fourth industrial revolution. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that our tax system remains competitive, to maximise the support that we give to our business entrepreneurs?
Yes. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his commitment in this regard, especially in his role as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the fourth industrial revolution. Science, research and innovation are areas in which the UK has huge strengths. Our challenge is to provide the right environment—including the right tax environment—to ensure that that potential stays in the UK, and is developed here. We have introduced a range of incentives through the tax system, such as R&D tax credits and entrepreneurs’ relief, as well as the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7.
We have a globally competitive offer for businesses seeking to locate in the United Kingdom, and, of course, Northern Ireland will have corporation tax flexibilities of its own in due course. However, we seek to make all parts of the UK attractive to foreign direct investment, and Northern Ireland has done extremely well from that.
Will the Government please explain what is being done to help firms in places such as west Oxfordshire to harness 5G and broadband, making them more competitive, making them raise more money, and creating the capital that will enable us to fund the public services that the Labour party wants to overthrow?
This is partly about public investment and partly about private investment to encourage the roll-out of full-fibre broadband technologies and give companies access to the funds that they need to make investments and take advantage of the public infrastructure. We will make further announcements about our forward broadband strategy during the summer.
The Scottish Government’s Budget included a 70% increase in investment in business R&D. To prevent that investment from being undermined by the Government’s approach to Brexit, will the Chancellor commit himself to maintaining the EU levels of R and D funding beyond the current cycle?
Once we have left the European Union the money that was reaching the UK from EU sources will be allocated to the UK shared prosperity fund, and over the course of this year we will consult on both the distribution and the application of those funds and the size that that fund should be.