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Manufacturing Industry

Volume 616: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2016

The Government have taken steps to maintain a world-class business environment that helps UK manufacturers to thrive. That is why we have cut corporation tax from 28% to 20%— it will fall further, to 17%—and why we have supported £22 billion of research and development through tax credits for UK companies. This environment helps our manufacturers to grow as innovative, competitive companies.

I welcome the Minister’s response, but what message is he sending to international manufacturing companies with operations in Britain about this country’s future international competitiveness as we leave the European Union?

Our message is straightforward: Britain is open for business. As the Prime Minister has said, we are and will continue to be a confident, outward-looking country.

Manufacturing depends on long-term investment. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of our potentially leaving the European Investment Bank, and what progress has there been in any discussions about us maintaining our stake?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that reducing anti-competitive market distortions is both a great fiscal way to promote manufacturing and a way of ensuring our country is best placed for new trade deals?

I agree that removing distortions in the economy results in a more efficient economy. The UK Government have a record of doing that, by, for example, reducing corporation tax.

Apart from lowering corporation tax what other steps will the Chancellor and his ministerial team take to incentivise manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland?

The freedom for Northern Ireland to set its corporation tax rate is an important measure in itself. We look forward to further progress on that. Of course, there will be an autumn statement next month in which the Government will set out their economic policy. I have mentioned corporation tax and R and D tax credits, which we have made more generous. Those measures will have helped manufacturing businesses in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

I welcome the Government’s ongoing commitment to the northern powerhouse given the impact that that can have on manufacturing, in particular in my constituency, and the allocated funds for the A64 at Hopgrove. Does the Minister agree that such investments must seek maximum economic benefit? The current proposal from Highways England will simply kick an existing pinch point down the road if we do not see the dualling of that carriageway on the A64.

That had an extremely tangential relationship with the matter of manufacturing industry, therefore meriting an extremely pithy response.

I look forward to examining the case for dualling the A64 and the benefit that would provide to manufacturing industry.

Last month, the Chancellor proudly dismissed his predecessor’s plans to cut corporation tax to 15%. This week, however, we hear of plans hatched by senior Government figures to cut corporation tax as low as 10% as part of a so-called Brexit nuclear option, despite the fact that both the British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors have stated that cutting corporation tax would not be at the top of their wishlist. Will the Minister put an end to his Government’s reign of chaos and confirm his long-term position on corporation tax, so that businesses have the stability they deserve?

I am not sure whether I would use the phrase “reign of chaos” if I was a Labour Front Bencher. Let me be very clear. The UK Government have rightly reduced corporation tax from 28% to 20%. We have legislated for it to go down to 17%. If there are any further announcements they will be at a fiscal event, whether an autumn statement or a Budget.

I am afraid that the Government chaos we have seen on corporation tax is sadly replicated on investment. The Chancellor promised to tear up his predecessor’s Budget and develop an industrial strategy, before denying he was planning a spending splurge. A recent Ipsos MORI poll showed that almost two thirds of Britons agree that the country is not doing enough to meet its infrastructure needs, and the Opposition agree. Will the Minister end his Government’s chaotic record on investment and confirm how much he plans to invest in infrastructure, on what, and where he will get the money from?

On the subject of corporation tax, I point out that it was not that many months ago that on one day the shadow Chancellor condemned the reduction to 17% while in Committee the Labour party voted for it. I will be clear that it is no good coming forward with incredible plans to spend £500 billion on infrastructure without any idea of how those plans will be paid for. The Chancellor will make a statement on 23 November on our policy on this issue. The Labour party really needs to change track if it is to have some credibility.