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Support for Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 6 November 2018

This Government are determined to make the UK a great place to do business, so we are keeping taxes low and helping businesses and entrepreneurs to access the support they need. We have cut corporation tax to the lowest rate in the G20, we have made changes to business rates worth over £13 billion by 2023, we have introduced a £1 million annual investment allowance, and we are helping exporters by increasing UK Export Finance’s direct lending capacity by up to £2 billion.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the BEST enterprise growth centre at Hythe in Southend, which provides free advice for businesses to grow and prosper, and has so far helped over 3,000 businesses in Essex, through start-up centres, to increase their profitability?

I am pleased to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the BEST growth hub on its support for Essex businesses. That is a clear example of how England’s 38 growth hubs are helping businesses to start up and grow. Businesses in Essex, like those across England, will benefit from the further measures that I have announced on management training, mentoring and local peer networks, which will help businesses to grow by learning from our leading business schools and companies, as well as from one another.

Shops in Grimsby tell me that the biggest issue they face at the moment is shoplifting and antisocial behaviour, and local residents tell me that they are too scared to go into the town centre. We need to make sure that we have a strong police presence. What assurance can the Chancellor give me that the additional pension costs that Humberside police is facing will be covered by central grant funding, to prevent the loss of 200 additional police officers?

As I have told the House before, the 2016 pension changes were notified to Departments in 2016 in their settlement letters and have been factored into departmental calculations since then. The 2018 increases in public sector pension contributions will be covered in full by the Treasury in 2019-20 and then looked at in the round in the spending review.

16. I am grateful for the Chancellor’s recognition in his Budget speech of the work that the all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking has done on dispute resolution between banks and businesses. The Financial Conduct Authority’s report into that matter recommends“a role for both an extended ombudsman service and a tribunal, as they meet different needs.”Will my right hon. Friend give further consideration to the introduction of a tribunal? (907485)

The Financial Ombudsman Service can make judgments faster and at a lower cost than a tribunal, and the Government therefore think that that is a better way to go than the creation of a tribunal, but I am happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the matter in more detail.

The £150 million investment in the Tay cities deal is welcome, but it short-changes my city and the surrounding area by £50 million—the Scottish Government have committed £200 million. Given the serious news of the proposed closure of Michelin in Dundee, with 850 jobs at risk, will the UK Government urgently commit further funding to the Tay cities deal and work constructively with the Scottish Government to protect those jobs?

My understanding is that, after negotiations, including negotiations involving the Scottish Government, the Tay cities deal is almost agreed, and we hope to see it signed very shortly. Of course, where there are large-scale redundancies in any area, there are other mechanisms by which we can provide support.

21. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on maintaining entrepreneur’s relief. Does he agree that that not only helps to support people starting their own business but sends a strong signal that this Government are on the side of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and social mobility? (907490)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As I said in my Budget speech, after considering representations to scrap entrepreneur’s relief, I reached the conclusion that, unless we support entrepreneurs, we will not have a dynamic and vibrant economy that can support our first-class public services. Those two things go hand in hand.

Is the Chancellor aware that the businesses and entrepreneurs I speak to look back fondly to the time of the global economic collapse—not a Labour recession, but a world economic collapse—when a man called Alistair Darling, who was a real Chancellor, led us through that crisis? [Interruption.] At a time when everyone is totally depressed about Brexit, our businesses and entrepreneurs want a real statesman and a real Chancellor to lead this country.

The hon. Gentleman’s synthetic anger, which I have been enjoying for the best part of 20 years, is always a spectacle worth observing. I thank him for another episode. If he really thinks that businesses look back fondly to the financial crisis, he needs to get out a bit more.

In his Budget speech, the Chancellor failed to make one single mention of climate change, yet by scrapping enhanced capital allowances for small and medium-sized enterprises, the Government have again cut vital support for energy efficiency and decarbonisation. Given the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate change report and given this Government’s support for fracking and their abysmal failure on tidal, onshore wind and solar, do the Conservatives realise that not only will they fail to meet their climate change targets, but they have breached their quota for hot air on this issue?

The hon. Gentleman might have been too busy preparing his question for today and in the process have missed the industrial energy efficiency fund that we have committed to introduce.