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Video and highlights from a speech by Alan Duncan during yesterday’s Opposition Day debate.

Unemployment is too high after more than a decade of growth: "When it comes to the problems that we want to confront, the starting point is not really one of which the Government can be proud. It is not a proud boast that after 10 or more years of economic prosperity, unemployment stands at "only" 1.7 million. Let us compare that with the situation in many of the years that speakers have mentioned tonight; it is triple what was seen as an absolutely unacceptable level of unemployment in the 1970s. The starting point is not a happy one, which means that what will follow may be extremely serious."

People could be hit in a way not seen for a century: "I fear that the prospects for employment are grim. We have seen institutional mayhem, and the concern is that even within a matter of weeks businesses, small, medium and large, will have their credit lines withdrawn and their overdrafts cancelled, that they will not be able to pay their bills, and that people who are paying them will take longer and longer to pay what they owe. The picture that we can therefore foresee of a credit squeeze going right to the high street, to households and into corporate Britain is potentially apocalyptic. If the bank problems that we face today are not addressed in short order, the mayhem in the business community will hit people in a way in which no one has been hit for nearly a century.

"We must address the matter carefully. The problem is that almost everything that the Government have done in the corporate sector over the past decade will make things worse. It is so easy to tax and put burdens on business as the economy is rising, but when the inevitable downturn comes, those burdens are like an albatross around its neck. The danger, therefore, is that those burdens on business will convert immediately into unemployment."

Stamp duty: "People can pay £20,000 in stamp duty on housing when the market is going up. When the market is going down, that renders it immediately stagnant, driving out of work estate agents and people who do up houses, and the whole collateral of many small businesses is diminished. We have seen tax for businesses rise. Corporation tax, particularly for small businesses, was raised at just the time when it needed to go down. There has been messing around with capital gains tax. We have seen a challenge to income shifting, which is exactly the underpinning focus for families and couples who run a business."

Fuel duty: "We have seen fuel duty interrupt the clear economics of business. We have seen regulation increasing. We have seen employment tribunals making it too intimidating for an employer to take on their first employee. We have seen business rates that are particularly punishing for small businesses and high street shops. The ports sector—some Members present may have one of the 56 ports in this country in their constituencies—is about to face national domestic rate demands backdated in an immoral way to April 2005."

Scrapping tax relief for empty properies: "Perhaps most immoral of all, taxing something that generates no revenue does enormous damage. Removing the tax relief for empty property rates is bringing to a grinding halt any kind of activity for preparing business premises or developing wrecked premises for future use. It is taking money from people who have not got it to the point where they have to take the roof off or demolish what they have just built."

Conclusion: "The lesson of this is that nothing has been set aside for a rainy day. Labour Governments always run out of money, and once this crisis is behind us the best prospects for an economic recovery will come only from a change of Government."

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