Julian Smith MP

25 Mar 2011 08:56:39

Budget debate, day two

by Paul Goodman

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) returned to Labour's debt legacy -

"The shadow Chancellor was wrong blindly to dismiss what is happening in the gilt markets. I read the yield curve this morning, just as he did, and it is clear that 10-year gilts yields are low at the moment. If the market believed that the Government’s debt reduction plan was going to change, those yields would undoubtedly rise and the cost of borrowing would rise substantially from £120 million a day, ruling out any prospect of more of the things that we really want to spend public money on. Labour Members shouted out, “Too fast, too deep,” yesterday, but they should remember that there are risks involved, and that theirs is an equally dogmatic strategy.

The shadow Chancellor, in contending today that the changes were too fast and too deep, once again relied on the Keynesian multiplier. He is an eminent economist, and he should know better than to rely too heavily on that mechanism. It has traditionally held out the prospect that public sector investment has an impact on the private sector, so there could be an element of crowding out and of limiting of growth potential. If the right hon. Gentleman has read the recent academic research, however, he will also know that the size of the multiplier in the growth phase of an economy is about a third of the size of the multiplier when an economy is going into recession. To rely on that thesis is therefore to rely on a very weak economic mechanism."

Sam Gyimah (East Surrey) drew on his business experience -

The hon. Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson) mentioned bank lending, but fast-growing companies’ revenues are often volatile and their cash flows can be unpredictable. Banks do not want to lend to them, so we need to be able to create an environment for equity lending. One thing we know in the UK is that, if people want to raise amounts below £2 million, they find it incredibly difficult to do so. Such risk capital, however, encourages businesses to take a risk—to take on the new plant, to hire new staff—so it is great that there are so many changes to the enterprise investment scheme in “The Plan for Growth”.

Increasing relief to 30% means that someone who is going to invest in a business knows that they can offset 30% of their investment against tax. It will encourage people to take sensible risks and invest in those companies that will drive growth. Raising the relevant annual limit to £1 million and to £10 million per company means that companies can seek capital from high net-worth and private individuals, not just from institutions. Anybody who is involved in small businesses knows that people often rely on friends and family to support their business in its early stages, so it is good to see the Government backing those who are ready and willing to take such risks.

Raising the limit on qualifying companies to 250 employees means that the measure will apply not just to start-up companies, where the failure rate can be quite high, but to well-established companies that need capital to grow. I would like to see what more the Government can do to allow connected persons to enjoy such tax reliefs, because connected persons—directors—cannot enjoy them at the moment, and that is where businesses get much of the expertise that they need. By making investment in small businesses easier, the Budget recognises and encourages people who are willing to take risks."

And Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) also spoke about business -

"The most exciting aspect of yesterday’s Budget was the direction of travel the Chancellor set in respect of the conditions for business that he wants in Britain, because growth will ultimately be achieved through the individual efforts of business leaders, not through Government. The 2% cut in corporation tax signals to companies that Britain is once again open for business. It is now clear to every potential investor, in the UK and overseas, that this Government are committed to putting in place the best corporation tax rates in the G20 by the end of this Parliament. Overnight, global companies such as WPP have said that that will make a difference to their decisions on where to invest. That is great news.

The Budget also encourages those who want to set up a business to go for it. It contains a big nudge from the Government for people to give entrepreneurship a go. There is a golden carrot to dangle before those thinking of taking a risk: a 10% capital gains tax rate up to £10 million. The profit motive is a motivator, and the Budget clearly says, “If you believe in your business, take the risks and are successful, you will be much better off financially.” Therefore the message is, “Unless you’re a cracking singer or can dance like the Business Secretary, forget `The X Factor’ and `Strictly’; this Budget gives you a golden ticket to join start-up Britain.”

The moratorium on new legislation for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees will be a big relief for entrepreneurs, who need to be fully focused on jobs and growth rather than the latest wheeze from Whitehall. When I was a small business owner, dealing with employment law took more time than any other management responsibility. Employment laws and regulations have been piled on British business since 1997."

Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks), a Party Deputy Chairman and Select Committee member, decided to make constituency points to illustrate his general ones -

I am struck in my constituency by how many companies succeeded in growing even under the previous Government, without direct subsidy or specific grants. I visited three recently. The Sevenoaks energy academy, which I had the honour of opening last year, trains hundreds of engineers in renewable energies, providing courses in fitting solar panels, rainwater harvesting and so on. One of Sevenoaks's most dynamic business women, Julie Walker, made a £1.5 million investment in that academy, and I welcome that.

Ian Lucas: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Michael Fallon: I will not, if the hon. Gentleman will excuse me. Secondly, Vine Publishing is a new media company in my constituency, which is heavily involved in all kinds of print and digital work. Its turnover now approaches more than £3.25 million and it employs 12 people. It was founded by three entrepreneurs, who dropped out of university because they preferred to go into business.

Thirdly, I attended the opening of the Ideal Waste Paper Company this month. It has built a major new recycling facility at Swanley-a £14 million investment, creating 60 new jobs and recycling more than 250,000 tonnes a year.

Those are examples of companies of the future, in the new technologies, the new energies and the new media. We should all ask ourselves how we get more of them. Of course, getting the long-term climate is right, but we must also address how to make it easier for people to set up such companies."

As did Jessica Lee (Erewash) -

"I was particularly delighted to hear the announcement about the establishment of an enterprise zone for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. My constituency is right in the heart of that area, and I will do my best to ensure that we are its beating heart; I will fight for an appropriate level of investment. We also have some of the centres of innovative manufacturing that were announced yesterday, at Loughborough university and the university of Nottingham. Again, many young people in my constituency could benefit from that training and help, and I will do all I can to make those facilities available to them.

The enterprise zones will follow the structure set out in the local enterprise partnerships. We were lucky to have a strong LEP application for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire from the outset, and it was one of the first to be accepted. That group is already taking great steps towards being up and running, so that it can take in bids and bring in investment and jobs. I think that the enterprise zone will assist in that even further.

Finally, the freezing of council tax will benefit hard-working families in my constituency. We are lucky in Erewash because this is the second year running in which the borough council has frozen council tax. That will really help people."

15 Oct 2010 07:00:46

Julian Smith uses his maiden speech to make a plea on behalf of small businesses for less employment legislation

By Jonathan Isaby

Smith Julian Monday this week saw the maiden speech from Julian Smith, the new Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon. He delivered it during the proceedings on the Government's second Finance bill of the session, containing a variety of technical measures that could not be included in the first Finance Bill before the summer.

As is usual, he paid tribute to his predecessor, David Curry, and went on to suggest that his constituents in the vast Yorkshire Dales constituency are a living, breathing epitome of the "Big Society":

"My constituency is also remarkable for the character of those who live in it. They are independent, driven, hard-working and proud of their Yorkshire roots. The big society has been operating here for years. Doctor's surgeries, councils and charities are all working extra hard to deal with the challenges of operating in the most rural county in England. Apart from the Skipton building society and Wolseley, agriculture and small businesses provide the vast majority of employment."

And the thrust of his speech then concentrated on the problems encountered by people wanting to set up those small businesses:

"Skipton and Ripon is not like the south-east, Leeds or Manchester - many people have no choice but to make it on their own. Under the previous Government, the small business owner - the individual - as I was when, aged 27, I set up a business from the front room of my flat, has been given much more than his core business to worry about.

"Let us hear from two budding, if older, entrepreneurs, who are into property-let us call them Basil and Sybil, as they want to set up a new hotel in the heart of the dales. They reach Companies House in London, where it is recommended that they set up the company online. They go online, but the forms cannot be downloaded as only dial-up speeds are available in Littondale. They want a waiter, a new Manuel, so they start some interviews, but because of the new equalities legislation they worry about asking candidates how they would cope with the very steep and rickety steps around the property. They read a business book to get up to speed on the new rules, but Basil's eyes glaze over as he learns how to calculate employers' national insurance, employees' NI, pay-as-you-earn, student loan repayments, and maternity and pension payments. And when they need an injection of cash they call the bank, but are told that despite their excellent business plan, the bank is not lending to the hotel sector.

"We have to do better. We are desperate for private sector jobs. Contrary to what the shadow Minister said, the coalition has made a great start on addressing this issue by lowering corporation tax, scrapping the jobs tax and waiving national insurance for new small businesses setting up in Yorkshire. Initiatives such as the venture capital provisions in this Bill are also important steps, but there is more to do to create better conditions for small business - there is more to do beyond finance and, in particular, in the area of employment law.

"There has been an explosion of employment law in the past 10 years, from the previous Government and from Brussels. As a small business owner trying to do the right thing, employment law took hundreds of hours of my time. People should try disciplining an employee with the three-step written process when they share the same tiny room with them - it feels ridiculous. Imagine, having started your business, you hire a graduate and four days in she asks for the free eye tests that she understands are her legal right because she uses a computer. Outrageous EU discrimination laws with limitless liability mean that even the most innocent mistake can leave a business owner broke. Additional paternity leave plans by Labour will be introduced next year and the coalition has plans for further reform, so business will get organised for one change and then have to change again in the near future. In addition, has anyone really worked out the impact on very small businesses of both men and women now being able to take up to six months off after having a baby?

"Other legislation coming down the track in the next year includes the agency workers directive, the pregnancy workers directive, the removal of the default retirement age and a new right to request flexible working and training. Who is representing the challenges faced by the hard-pressed owner-manager as this legislation is developed? For BP or HSBC all of this kind of legislation is manageable, because they can pay for human resources professionals and they can afford their lawyers. People who run small businesses, such as those in Skipton and Ripon or the one that I ran, are their own HR department and they have to manage these things themselves.

"We have to do something now to stop new employment legislation for the next two years - these are two years when we need small business to feel as free as possible to take on staff. In the longer term, we need to consider more exemptions for small business, acknowledging that it cannot cope with the same burdens as bigger firms."

This was the penultimate of the maiden speeches from the 2010 Conservative intake: we await the last, which will be delivered by Jonathan Lord, who was elected MP for Woking in May.