Small Businesses (Hansard, 16 January 1997)
HC Deb 16 January 1997 vol 288 cc438-9
2. Sir Wyn Roberts

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what economic measures he is taking to encourage small businesses. [9516]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mrs. Angela Knight)

The main contribution that the Government can make to a successful small business sector is to provide a stable macro-economic environment, with low taxation, limited regulation, and support and guidance where necessary: this we are doing.

Sir Wyn Roberts

I welcome my hon. Friend's reply. Does she agree, however, that the economic stability and excellent prospects that small businesses now enjoy, and the help given to them in the Budget with business rates and corporation tax, will be put at risk if the electorate are foolish enough to take a leap in the dark and vote the Labour party into government?

Mrs. Knight

My right hon. Friend is right: he has made an important point. The major criterion that all small businesses want us to achieve is a stable economic environment, and they now have that. It is also important to note that we now have uniform business rates because, before they were introduced, too many Labour-controlled local authorities continued to put up rates, thus milking dry companies in their areas and inhibiting their ability to employ and foster. It is not surprising that small businesses are so worried about the Labour party's policies.

Mr. Foulkes

Is not one of the additional burdens borne by small business men the extra cost of value added tax on fuel? Will they not have been rather upset, if they voted Conservative at the last election having been assured that there would be no VAT on fuel, to find that it was immediately imposed?

Mrs. Knight

That just shows how little the hon. Gentleman knows about small businesses. They claim the VAT back. What they are very worried about is the question of the minimum wage and the social chapter, with which they know the Labour party is threatening them.

Mr. Tredinnick

Is my hon. Friend aware of any proposals to give control of business rates to local authorities? Does she think that, were that to happen, business rates would go up or down in councils controlled by Opposition parties, such as Hinckley and Bosworth borough council in my constituency?

Mrs. Knight

My hon. Friend raises the issue that worries so many businesses. When their local authorities were controlled by Labour, they felt that they were having to pay far too much for far too few services—and, what is more, statistics prove that they were absolutely right. The Labour party's promise that it would return small companies to local authorities for business rating purposes shows just how little the party knows about companies, and shows why companies justly fear its policies.

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