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Small Business Sector

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2018

Corporation tax rates will be cut from 19% to 17% in 2020. We have doubled the annual allowance for people investing in knowledge-intensive companies through the enterprise investment scheme, and we are investing over £26 million through Be the Business. The Government’s British Business Bank is supporting over 70,000 smaller businesses to access £4.6 billion of finance.

Thirty-three jobs have been created and supported in my constituency through the small business loans platform, Funding Circle. What more can we do to encourage small businesses, particularly those that are female-owned, to look at wider ranges of finance options to help them to grow?

We want to ensure that all businesses get to know how to use the finance they need, including our 1.2 million women-owned businesses. Alongside the online finance finder and the business bank’s finance guide, the business bank is working with partners to understand the representation of women in venture capital firms.

Some small businesses in Cornwall have seen increases in their business rates. This is against a platform of increased online sales. What discussions is the Department having with the Treasury to ensure fairness in our taxation system?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Some people would argue that Ministers engage with the Treasury too often on many matters, but we engage with them regularly on this matter. The Chancellor has been clear that we need to find a better way to tax the digital economy. We are making progress on that before considering the implications for the wider tax system, including business rates.

Small businesses in Torbay could benefit significantly from a coastal enterprise zone, as part of a town deal for our area. What view does the Minister take of this type of arrangement?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he has done for Torbay businesses. I understand that the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), who has responsibility for local growth, recently had a positive meeting with him and representatives from Torbay to discuss their proposals for local economic growth. I encourage Torbay to continue to work with local partners as it develops its plans, including the Heart of the South West local enterprise partnership, which will play a central role in the local industrial strategy for the area.

Evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee on the operation of the minimum income floor for small businesses under universal credit stated that the percentage of small businesses surviving the first 15 months would fall from 70% to less than 20%. What representations has the Department had with the Department for Work and Pensions to support the growth of enterprise and small businesses?

We have many and regular meetings at all levels with the Department for Work and Pensions on that subject, but the hon. Lady is right: starting small businesses is very difficult and it always has been. Some of them survive and some do not, and some go on to be extremely successful larger businesses. She is right to be concerned about the amount of support that government, local and national, give them, and I can assure her that it is at the top of our agenda.

There may be a lot of discussion between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Treasury, but the reality is that there is no action on business rates. Our retail sector is closing down and 200,000 businesses have been taken to the magistrates court for non-payment, so when will we have a review of business rates and when will we see change?

I think that the hon. Lady is misinformed. There has been significant help for small businesses on business rates in previous Budgets and this is being looked at all the time.

The Scottish Government Budget provided £96 million to deliver the most attractive business rates package in the UK. How long do firms and entrepreneurs have to wait till the UK Government use their industrial strategy, put their money where their mouth is and follow Scotland’s lead?

The UK Government really do not need to take very many lessons from Scotland on how to help businesses with business rates and every other form of business support. Actually, the working relationship between the two Governments is pretty good and we aim to provide a good business environment for all businesses on both sides of the border.