Finance Bill - Virtual Parliament Sitting

Finance Bill Debate - 27th April 2020

Suzanne Webb:

The Finance Bill is presented at a time when the UK is fighting a destructive, invisible force, which is, of course, covid-19. The Government are operating and developing policy in unparalleled times and at unprecedented speed. Co-operation and collaboration are key to overcoming covid-19, and to making, and keeping, people safe.

That co-operation and collaboration are evident nowhere more than between the Government, the Treasury and the Bank of England in their financial response to tackle the consequences of covid-19. The Chancellor acted swiftly and decisively, with a profound level of financial support for individuals and businesses, to cushion them from the economic impact of policy to tackle covid-19, with a keen eye to preserving employment and productive capacity. Our Prime Minister is orchestrating the limbs of Government, demanding that they stretch every sinew to ensure that the engine rooms of our great economy have the support that they need to recharge our return to economic normality.

Of course, given their heroic efforts, it is those on the frontline and operating in the care community to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. They are our life-support system at this time of extraordinary need. It seems that we are a country with a deeper and perhaps more visceral understanding of the vital role of the NHS in our lives—a sense of rekindled communion. It is with that same sense of communion that we must, as a nation, seize new opportunities and new ways of doing things as we emerge from this immense time of uncertainty.

The economy is a vital component of that. One of the biggest discussion points has been how far policy should go in constraining the economy in order to beat covid-19. Just as the NHS and other key workers have been instrumental in safeguarding us through lockdown, we must now look to unleashing the entrepreneurial endeavour and innovation of businesses that will, with the support of the Government, be the next stage of delivering us out of these astonishing times. I therefore welcome the Government’s clear plan of investment in research and development, which will stimulate growth, drive technological change and attract foreign direct investment.

The Bill provides companies with the ability to push ahead and invest in world-leading research due to the increase in public investment in the area to £22 billion per year by 2025. It is a landmark investment, doubling the amount previously spent supporting world-leading research and infrastructure, investing in experimental research and supercharging public investment in science. It encourages innovation, with research and development tax credits set to rise, creating an environment where private companies will have the fiscal confidence to invest in new products, people and new ways of working, which will be vital during this national crisis.

Investment is essential if we are to maintain international competitiveness and deliver economic sustainability, wellbeing and prosperity to constituencies such as mine in Stourbridge. Advancement in research and development has never been more crucial than now, in combating covid-19. However, we can do more. The Government should consult on widening the definition of research and development tax credits, qualifying expenditure to include data cloud computing. As we enter a world of augmented reality, the next technological revolution is paramount to making a success of post-covid-19 Britain.

We do not need to be experts to understand that the economy is contracting. Less trade is being shipped, productivity is down, and there has been severe disruption to global supply chains. It is, of course, a simple consequence of people not working. People want to be responsible and to contribute to the foundations of society. The welfare state is a safety net that has caught so many people who are in need at this time, but it should never be a long-term solution. We must look at getting people back to work. After all, we have some pretty big bills that will have to be paid.

We must orchestrate our way out of covid-19 together. This is a Finance Bill by a Government taking decisive action towards long-term opportunities using the great evangelism of entrepreneurialism—opportunities that will bring real benefits not just to businesses, but to people in my constituency. I urge the businesses of Stourbridge to take note of the measures outlined in the Bill. It is imperative to have one eye on our collective recovery, as well as navigating through the immediate challenges in these difficult times. The jewel in the crown of this Government is that they put people first. The Bill puts people first. At its heart, it is about getting people back to work, but lifting lockdown only when it is safe to do so.

Suzanne took part in this debate virtually and you can view her speech here.