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SMEs (East Midlands)

Volume 630: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2017

5. What steps he is taking to reduce tax-related bureaucracy for small and medium-sized enterprises in the east midlands. (901363)

The Government are committed to reducing the administrative burdens for small and medium-sized enterprises, including in the east midlands. That is why we delivered £272 million of net reductions in administrative burdens between 2011 and 2015, and why we continue to reduce unnecessary interaction with the tax system.

We still have one of the longest tax codes in the world. I know that the Treasury is under constant pressure to bung extra pieces of money to particular interest groups, but may I suggest to the Minister that he sticks to his last on the Treasury Bench and argues the case for less taxation, simpler taxation and less debt? That is the best service we can give to the young and to businesses.

My hon. Friend raises an important point about complexity, which is why we continue to work with the Office for Tax Simplification to ensure that our tax code is as simple as it can be. But there is no doubt that, in upholding our exemplary record of clamping down on avoidance, evasion and non-compliance— £160 billion of revenue from 2010 to 2015—we make no apologies for having a tax code that works to support our public services.

Some 130,000 small and medium-sized businesses that export to Europe currently do not have to deal with any bureaucracy at our border to do so, but they could face such bureaucracy if the Minister’s colleagues have their way. Does the Minister think that that will be good or less good for British business?

As the hon. Lady knows, we are in the middle of negotiations with our European partners. I am confident that, as the Prime Minister has expressed at every turn, we will secure a good deal for this country. In the context of our borders, that will mean that the situation will be as frictionless as possible, which will be good for trade, our country and our economy.

Does the Minister agree that the Labour party’s plans to raise corporation tax would harm small and medium-sized businesses—

Order. Just for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman, may I say that the Opposition’s plans for taxes are not a responsibility of the Government? This is a lesson we all have to learn; in my case I learned it early in my first Parliament, and the hon. Gentleman has learned that lesson today.

Across the whole United Kingdom, and not just in the east midlands, small and medium-sized businesses have created not hundreds but thousands of jobs. Small and medium-sized businesses in my constituency tell me that they are over-regulated and that bureaucracy restricts their ability to employ more people. What is the Minister doing to address that?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the critical importance of small and medium-sized enterprises. We have more than 5 million small businesses in our country, and they are right at the heart of generating the wealth that generates the taxes that support the public services we all wish to see thriving. I have already explained that we are working closely with the Office of Tax Simplification to make sure that, wherever possible, the Government get out of the way of business, rather than standing in its way.