Matthew Hancock is MP for West Suffolk – in this week’s reshuffle he was promoted to be Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, Minister of State for Energy and Minister of State for Portsmouth.
No-one should be in any doubt that the Conservative Party is the party of small business. That’s why we are leading the historic Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill through Parliament – so it is easier for businesses to start up and grow.
We know that the economic recovery is being built in the garage offices, business parks, white vans and workshops of small business Britain. We get what it takes to run a small firm. It’s where many of us come from. We understand what it’s like waiting on a late payment or dealing with unnecessary bureaucracy. Small businesses want lower taxes, a workforce with the right skills, access to finance, and a government that is on their side.
When I was growing up my parents started and grew a small software firm near Chester, so I’ve seen first-hand the stress and worry of meeting monthly bills and the constant search for new finance. It’s these personal insights that power our determination to make Britain the best place in the world to start up and grow a business.
That’s why we’ve built one of the most competitive tax regimes in the world, with the lowest corporation tax in the G20, enhanced capital allowances and great incentives to invest in start-ups. Our Employment Allowance means around 450,000 small firms and enterprises don’t have to pay any National Insurance Contributions at all: and a £2,000 cash-back for all businesses.
We’ve made it easier to access finance. Our Start-Up loans scheme has helped 18,000 entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground so far, while the new British Business Bank is seeding innovative new forms of finance and ending the monopoly of the high street banks.
And we’ll be the only government in modern history to leave office with fewer regulations than when we came in. We’ve restored common sense to health and safety law and scrapped or amended 3000 regulations, saving business £1.2 billion a year.
We know that every business relies on a skilled workforce so we are revolutionising vocational education and making the whole education system more closely linked to the world of work. Under Labour 350,000 teenagers were fobbed off with poor-quality qualifications and the UK was the only major country in the world where young people left school less numerate and literate than their grandparents. We are changing this.
We are making the whole system more rigorous and relevant. Good maths and English are essential for every job – from professors to plumbers, fighter pilots to firefighters. So whether they’re in a college, school, or workplace-training, every single young person will keep studying maths and English, right up to age 18, to at least a C at GCSE.
Our new vocational qualifications will give a young person the right skills to get the job they want. Take the new Tech Level in Motorcycle Repair. It gives specialist training to work on top-end bikes: how to fine-tune the engine and fix the electrics, for example. So garages know they’ll get a good staff member and a young person leaves school with a solid grounding in the basics.
We have put rocket-boosters into apprenticeships: we’ve seen 1.8 million new apprenticeships created so far. By giving the pen to employers to write the new training framework, these apprenticeships will be designed by employers for employers, and by abolishing employer NIC’s for under-21s it will be easier for firms to give a young person that all-important first job.
But we know there’s much more to do, particularly for the fifth of small businesses who say they want to grow significantly. In cafes, market squares and manufacturers, in every village and town, Britain’s owner-managers never rest in pursuit of their ambitions – and neither can we.
The Small Business Bill is the first time a UK government has ever legislated specifically for small business.
We will ensure all business regulations are reviewed regularly, and lock-in future governments to publish their regulatory targets. By forcing large companies to publish their payment practices our small firms will have the ammunition they need to negotiate fair terms. By allowing technologies like cheque imaging we help faster payments too – a firm can cash a cheque on the very same day.
We’re opening up business credit data, tackling one of the main barriers to entering the market for high street business lending. And that’s not the only market we’re opening up. The Bill will make it easier for small businesses to access the £230 billion market in public sector procurement, ensuring the taxpayer can benefit from our most innovative small firms.
Our record in Government should speak for itself, but we are not complacent. Now they’ve lost the economic argument, Labour are attempting to rebrand themselves as a ‘pro-business’ party. No one should be fooled.
Under Labour corporation tax rose from being 20th highest in the OECD to 10th highest. They spawned six new regulations for every working day they were in government, costing British businesses £77 billion. And by losing controls of the public finances they put millions of successful businesses at risk when boom turned to bust. They haven’t learned. Labour would take Britain backwards, creating more uncertainty at a time when the sacrifices of the British people are beginning to pay off. Their only policies are to spend, borrow and tax more – exactly what got us into a mess in the first place. Conservatives are, and always have been, the party of those who work hard every day of their lives to create livelihoods and opportunity.
We back Britain’s small businesses and are forging a new path for them in Parliament this week, one which guarantees them a better and brighter future. We know that only when small business Britain is secure, growing and thriving can Britain stand tall in the world again.