The UK’s 5.8 million small businesses play a vital role in our economy. We have lowered corporation tax from 28% in 2010 to 19%. We have introduced the employment allowance, to reduce employers’ national insurance contributions bill by £3,000 every year, and we have reduced the business rates burden, so that more than 675,000 of the smallest businesses pay no rates at all.
The Treasury team love pubs, and we recognise the importance of pubs to the economy and to community life up and down this country; they provide a place to socialise and drink responsibly. That is why we have frozen the duty over six of the last seven years, which means that a pint of beer is 14p cheaper than it would have been otherwise, and we are now at a 30-year low in real terms.
We all know that small businesses are the driver of growth and prosperity across our country, but too many struggle because of high business rates. Can the Minister confirm that the Conservative Government will extend the retail discount of 50% later this year, giving a much-needed tax cut to millions of small businesses on high streets across the country?
I am delighted to confirm that the retail discount of 50% will operate from 1 April this year. We will also extend the discount to include cinemas and music venues, extend the duration of the local newspaper office space discount, and introduce an additional discount for pubs, worth £1,000, for up to 18,000 pubs up and down the country.
Most businesses in my constituency are microbusinesses employing one or two people. The biggest problem they have is larger firms not paying their bills on time. What measures can be put in place to ensure that larger companies pay small companies on time so that they can continue with their business?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that point. That is why we have the Small Business Commissioner. We are working closely with trade bodies to ensure best practice. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy leads on this, but we work closely with that Department so that more progress is made on this vital matter.
But small businesses will be affected by the news over the weekend that there will not be frictionless trade and that the Government are insisting on not sticking to a level playing field, which will affect small businesses, whether they import or export. So what is the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Department doing to prepare small businesses for the inevitable changes that that will bring?
We are working closely with the representative organisations to understand those concerns, but it is important that we move forward, secure a free trade agreement and give certainty to small businesses. Their principal concern over the past year is a lack of progress, and it is our responsibility to remove that uncertainty and reach a clear position.