The UK is one of the best places in the world to start a business, and a new business is being established every 75 seconds in this country. The Government champion entrepreneurship by keeping business taxes low and helping entrepreneurs to access the finance they need.
New and growing businesses in Colchester such as Ryza Media, Three Wise Monkeys, Heavenly Desserts and Beer Me Now are helping to drive our local economy. How will measures such as the start-up loans programme, cutting business rates by a third and entrepreneurs’ relief further encourage entrepreneurs in Colchester to thrive?
My hon. Friend has named some of the measures that we have recently brought forward to support entrepreneurship in all parts of the country. At the recent Budget, the Federation of Small Businesses declared it the most business-friendly Budget ever, and rightly so. We have extended the start-up loans scheme, helping an extra 10,000 entrepreneurs to get the capital they need, and with that—along with our reductions in business rates and with entrepreneurs’ relief, the seed enterprise investment scheme, the enterprise investment scheme and reductions in corporate taxes, including for small businesses—we are creating the most globally competitive tax regime to support those who create jobs and enterprise in our country.
Data suggest that new businesses struggle in areas where communities do not have free access to cash. As of this month, the mother town of the Potteries, Burslem—a town of 20,000 people—no longer has access to a free-to-use ATM. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we can work together to fix this?
I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady. We are continually pressing the Payment Systems Regulator and the LINK organisation, which manages the ATM network, to ensure a good supply of cash in all parts of the country. We recently issued a call for evidence at the Treasury to give greater consideration to how we can maintain that supply as we move to an increasingly cashless society and protect those who are vulnerable and harder to serve, perhaps including the hon. Lady’s constituents.
The Minister will know that Essex is the county of entrepreneurs. How are the Government supporting more small business creation, alongside new housing schemes such as the garden settlements that are proposed for the great county of Essex?
I concur with everything my right hon. Friend has said. This is of course a country of entrepreneurs. All of our most recent statistics have shown that the UK is attracting entrepreneurs from around the world. We are the third leading destination in the world, after the US and China, for inward investment. That is not happening by accident; it is happening as a result of the pro-business policies of this Government, creating the most globally competitive tax regime, and investing in our productivity.
The Government are making a range of plans to support businesses in the event of all Brexit outcomes. For example, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is increasing its guidance to firms online and by writing to more than 140,000 businesses across the country to ensure that they make appropriate plans. As I have already described, in the Budget we made a whole range of moves to support small businesses across the country—business rates relief, the future high streets fund—all of which have been Barnetted. It is for the Scottish Government to come forward with their plans for how they intend to support small businesses; at the moment, there is only silence.
I note that “Barnett” has now become a verb, and we are grateful to the Minister for his ingenuity.
In its report on small business, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee drew attention to the need for consistency of advice for small businesses and those starting small businesses. In Rugby, that is provided by the growth hub, as part of the local enterprise partnership. Does the Minister agree with me that it is important that these bodies are properly resourced?
We do agree with that. All the evidence suggests that small businesses would benefit from better quality advice across a range of areas. Recently in the Budget, we have supported extra funding for networks in order to bring businesses together, and we are working across Government to think about ways in which we can improve the quality of advice and increase competition within business advisory services.
The Minister should take some advice from someone who has been in the House a long time: bragging about being an “every 75 minutes” Minister is very dangerous. I have just checked and in Huddersfield it is cloudy but not cold, but the economic temperature is freezing: start-ups are not starting, the new creative businesses are putting everything on hold and until they have some reassurance about Brexit, they will not move.
If the hon. Gentleman wanted to give greater certainty to businesses in his constituency, he would support the deal. He did not do so in the recent vote, but I hope he will come forward and do so shortly. I would not be so negative about the business community and the state of the economy in Yorkshire. We have record levels of employment, the jobs market is the second best in the country and real wages are rising. In Yorkshire, real wages and household disposable income are rising above the national average.
Small and medium-sized businesses are the bedrock of Stirling’s economy and the engine of the UK economy. What is being done in practical terms to help those businesses find the funding that they need to scale up?
We have made a number of interventions in this space, because as my hon. Friend says, while the UK is generating record numbers of start-ups, there is evidence that we need to help businesses to scale up and achieve their full potential. We launched the patient capital initiative, and we put £2.5 billion behind the British Business Bank to help small businesses in all parts of the country, including Scotland, and it is making good progress.
I am pleased to let the Minister know that in the next financial year, 90% of businesses in Scotland will pay less in business rates than they would if they were elsewhere in the UK. Following on from the question from the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr), it is important that new firms have access to banking and lending facilities. What is the Minister doing to encourage banks to lend to businesses?
We are taking a range of steps to ensure that banks are able to finance small businesses. For example, as I have just described, we are establishing the British Business Bank, which is supporting tens of thousands of businesses across the country, including many in Scotland, and helping to ensure that finance is available. The venture capital sector is vibrant and maturing in all parts of the country—not just the areas traditionally associated with venture capital, such as London, Oxford and Cambridge—and helping those businesses to scale up.
The news that Santander is to close 15 branches across Scotland will leave firms across the country without access to basic banking services. When did the Treasury become aware of that news, and what action has it taken to protect those services and those jobs in our local communities?
We have taken action already to ensure that banks, including Santander, work more closely with post offices, so that there are always banking services available in all parts of the country. We give post offices over £50 million in financial support a year to help keep branches open, particularly in rural and harder-to-serve communities.