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John Mann (Bassetlaw): I start by declaring an interest. Having been an entrepreneur for the past 10 years, I am a major beneficiary of the Chancellor's recent Budgets. My dividend payments and those of my co-directorsmine are of course declared in the Register of Members' Interestswill be higher this year, directly owing to the cuts in small business corporation tax. The potential that I am sitting on in shareholding terms is now at its height, as three years have elapsed since the Chancellor introduced the changes in capital gains tax. Although those changes have not received the amount of public debate that is necessary to encourage other entrepreneurs, they have been powerful in benefiting those who take a risk through entrepreneurship. Indeed, it is fair to say that although the entrepreneurs once sat on the Conservative Benches, they now sit on the Labour Benches. Perhaps Conservative Chancellors could once
On Friday, I ran a well-attended, positive and successful Budget briefing, during which I asked a small business consisting of three employees how much the extra national insurance charges would cost compared with taking out BUPA's medical insurance for each person. Such insurance does not cover accidents, emergencies or GPs, but it apparently has some benefit. Can hon. Members imagine the difference between paying national insurance charges and those of BUPA? One would gather from listening to Conservative Members and reading the newspapers that the employers' national insurance payments were significantly higher than BUPA contributions. That is not the case. It would cost a three-person small business in my constituency more than £800 a year more to take out BUPA insurance than to pay the increased national insurance contributions. That puts them in proper perspective.
Michael Fabricant: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps it would be helpful if you named the speaker for the benefit of the Annunciator operators. The hon. Gentleman's name does not appear on the screen.
John Mann: The phrase "five years in government" is often repeated. I therefore want to look back to 1984, when we had 2.5 million small businesses. Since the Government came to office, 1.3 million new businesses have been set up. That means that 55 per cent. more small businesses than existed in 1984 have been established since 1997. That is why employment and the economy are booming.
I asked the same business men in my constituency whether the cuts in corporation tax for small business more than outweighed the increase in national insurance. The profit account for this year alone shows that they do. There is a myth that small business has been continually hammered by red tape and taxes. That is not true. Hon. Members need not hear the message of small businesses in my constituency from me. Instead, let me quote Friday's Worksop Guardian, in which Phil Sibson, chairman of the Worksop chamber of commerce, described the Budget as
Let me give an example of the impact on small businesses of the changes in capital gains tax. Let us consider a small, family business, owned by two peopleperhaps a husband and wife who work togetherthat retains profits of £20,000, which is not a massive figure. On the basis of the formula 5.5 x the worth of a business, the changes that the Chancellor has introduced in the past three years mean that the business will make a net £27,000 in tax savings alone on a turnover of £20,000. The small business does not have to be older than three
Small business tax has been cut to such a low amount. Do hon. Members know what it was in 1984? For small businesses the entrance level was 30 per cent. and for large businesses it was 45 per cent. That shows the difference between the first five years of Conservative Government and our first five years in power.
The briefing that I held on Friday was attended by the chairman of the primary care trust. "With all the additional money going into the health service," he urged me, "don't let anyone get away with missing how much extra the NHS has been given over the last four years." That means that in my constituency alone, irrespective of the current Budget, there are costed plans for three new health centres. Bassetlaw has never before seen such a rate of progress in the NHS.
Last Tuesday, on the eve of the Budget, I went to a business forum held by the chamber of commerce at which the chief executive of the Bassetlaw NHS trust gave her vision of 2010. She described how the trust is knocking down the prefabs that have existed since the hospital was built to create land in anticipation of continued growth in the hospital's acute services, which will be funded by the state. Those are no longer pipe dreams as they were on Tuesday evening; they are real plans that can be brought to fruition for the benefit of my constituents. Bassetlaw hospital is improving and growing. It is a popular hospital and people use it. The beauty of the additional money is that it can be used to increase the range of services, specialisms and treatments that are provided.
I shall tell the House what else the money can do. Conservative Members talk of waste in the NHS. I am sick to death of people knocking Britain and its public services. Let me tell the House about waste. Waste is the postcode lottery, which means that people cannot get into Bassetlaw hospital.
Private sector solutions will never get rid of the postcode lottery. The solution is additional money for the NHS, and people in this country believe that. People who were brought up on the NHS are proud of it. They want treatment on the NHS; they want the drugs and the doctors to be the best available, and they want them paid for by the NHS.
Two or three days before my father died, the consultant asked him whether he wanted to go privatefor the sake of a few flowers and a colour television. What my father said to him echoes the views of the overwhelming majority of my constituents. He said, "I was born and brought up on the NHS, I've lived on the NHS and I'll die on the NHS." Nobody in my constituency should ever be given the option of going private to get better service than they would get by going public. We demand an NHS of which we can be proud. The Opposition offer a privatised alternative. We should let the people choose. The people will say, "It is our NHS. Invest in it. We applaud the decisions in this Budget."
Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): Today's debate has been particularly revealing, not least because it has shown that the Conservative party is determined to prove to the nation that it has not changed and has learned nothing since the 1997 and 2001 elections. Above all, it has been particularly interesting to hear the manifest cynicism of Opposition Members. They reek of cynicism, if such a thing is possible, about the NHS. The words "Stalin" and "Stalinism" have been used time and again. It is as if the Opposition are determined to force their cynicism on the rest of the country.
It was particularly fascinating to hear the beginning of the debate, in which the Conservatives have been led by the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale). He first showed his cynicism in his maiden speech on 6 July 1992. Then, of course, he was trying to persuade his Government, who had engineered one of the biggest recessions that this country has ever seen, to adopt his solution for getting out of the recession and mounting an economic recoverywe have not had to debate that under the Labour Government, because we have managed to run the economy well. He argued:
It is good to see that the Conservatives have not changed. They are still absolutely obsessed with lower public spending, whatever the need in society. It is interesting that they are still barely concerned about cutting unemployment; to them, unemployment still seems to be a price worth paying, as was mentioned earlier. I asked the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford whether he was pleased that unemployment in his constituency had fallen by 55.5 per cent. since the 1997 general election. He seemed to cast that aside as a mere bagatelle, yet his party was not able to achieve that in government.
The second interesting thing about today's debate is that, basically, everyone has agreed that Labour has managed the economy extremely well since 1997. We have achieved low inflation. Again, it is interesting that, in his maiden speech, the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford said that, in staging an economic recovery, getting inflation down was perhaps the most important thing that a Government could do. A Labour Government have been doing thatwe have been keeping inflation low for longer than any Government have managed in the last 30 years.
The third interesting thing that has been revealed today is that the vast majority of Members have agreed that this is an excellent Budget for businesses, especially those in disadvantaged areas. The cut in corporation tax will undoubtedly benefit businesses in disadvantaged areas disproportionately compared with the rest of the country. The cut in VAT administration will also be very welcome to many small businesses, especially sole traders, in my constituency. As someone who was a sole trader for several years, I know that that is a complicated matter, and I am delighted that it is changing.
The company law review that was announced by the Secretary of State earlier is very welcome, as many businesses would like to consider more efficient ways of structuring themselves. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) mentioned that nothing had been done for disadvantaged areas. The stamp duty changes, however, will have a dramatic effect on disadvantaged areas, and they are very welcome. Above all, if changes to the national health service produce a more efficient system in which employees are able to see a doctor at a time of their choosing and swiftly, we will have a more productive work force, which, in the end, will be in the interests of business.
It has also been interesting to see that the Tories still want to lecture the Labour party about how to run the economy and about what is good for business. The history behind that is fascinating. In 1992, when the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford first came to the House, there were 62,767 business failures in this country; between 1992 and 1997 under a Tory Government, there was an average of 46,796 business failures a year. Under a Labour Government, the figure has fallen dramatically to 40,949. The Government do not need any lectures on business-friendly policies; they are business-friendly, unlike the Conservatives.
The Conservatives have said ad infinitum that the increase in national insurance will be a tax on jobs. They wheeled out precisely the same argument against the national minimum wage, saying that 1 million jobs would suddenly disappear if we introduced it. However, 1.5 million extra jobs have been created in the economy.