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Private Parking Enforcement (Regulation)

Mrs. Brooke accordingly presented a Bill to make certain enforcement activities in relation to parking on private land subject to regulation under the Private Security Industry Act 2001; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 8 April, and to be printed [Bill 96].

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Orders of the Day


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [16 March.]


Motion made, and Question proposed,

Question again proposed.

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

2.3 pm

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Patricia Hewitt): I am delighted to be able to open this final day of debate on the Budget 2005, which extends and entrenches the Government's commitment to economic stability. It also puts in place and reinforces the measures needed to enable British business and workers to cope with the challenges presented by the global economy, and to seize the opportunities that arise.

Our country is doing well. We are enjoying the longest period of unbroken economic expansion on record. Inflation has fallen to its lowest in 30 years, and interest rates are among the lowest for more than 35 years. Unemployment is at record lows and the number of people in work has risen by more than 2 million since 1997—the highest level of employment in history. There are 300,000 more businesses than in 1997, and 1,000 new businesses start up every working day. The rate of business failures is at its lowest level since 1993.

There is no doubt that Britain leads Europe in competitiveness. I hope that hon. Members of all parties are proud of what our entrepreneurs, working people and business leaders are achieving.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Amid all that pride, will the Secretary of State tell the House when was the last quarter of negative economic growth in Scotland? Will she point to two measures in the Budget that would boost Scottish economic performance?

Ms Hewitt: The economic stability and public investment delivered by this Government, and confirmed by this Budget, are good for Scotland and
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every other part of the UK. If the policies espoused by the Scottish National party were ever put into effect, Scotland would be the first to suffer.

However, we know that more needs to be done if Britain is to be and to remain a leader in the world's knowledge-driven economy. For example, China is set to be the world's largest economy inside a generation, and India already produces 3 million highly skilled and well-qualified graduates every year. The challenges set by those countries make it clear that there is more for us to do.

Other developing countries are growing fast, but India and China have growth rates three times higher than Europe's. Their populations, and potential consumer markets, are five times bigger, while the wages paid in both countries are a tenth of the rates paid here and in the rest of Europe. However, we can be confident about our ability to compete. Our high-technology manufacturing industries have made great achievements in aerospace, pharmaceuticals and the new and fast growing field of biosciences. Our financial services sector has also done very well, and our knowledge-based business services in general have delivered more than half of the job growth enjoyed in this country in the past decade. In addition, our creative industries sector is one of the most successful in the world.

All that shows that Britain is poised to compete in the knowledge-driven economy. We lead the EU in the share of value added that comes from our technology and knowledge-based businesses, whether they be in manufacturing or services. It is increasingly clear that Britain is making the goods and services that people around the world want to buy.

Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge the great contribution to job creation made by the Dundee company Cyclocel? It is the fastest growing and most highly financed spin-off venture to come out of any university in Europe. Is not that a tribute to the work being done in Scotland to contribute to the UK economy?

Ms Hewitt: My hon. Friend makes an important point, and I readily congratulate the company on its extraordinary achievements. It is just one of the successful spin-off companies that we have helped to support. I am sure that he—if not the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond)—will welcome the fact that the profits made by the top 300 Scottish companies increased by 292 per cent. last year alone.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge) (Lab): I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be as pleased as I was with last week's announcement by the Chancellor of changes to Government procurement rules for small businesses. They will do a lot to benefit the small firms in my constituency, but does she agree that they need a very thorough overhaul? At present, they are designed to get the best value from the purchase of paper clips and large IT systems, and are not suited to the purchase of research and development. Will she look carefully at my Procurement of Innovative Technologies and Research Bill, which I presented to Parliament today? It contains some good ideas about how that overhaul can be achieved.
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Ms Hewitt: I agree strongly. My hon. Friend has been at the forefront in promoting the cause of science and of innovation in science-based companies. The Budget measure to which she refers will give a direct boost worth £100 million to small companies, which now know that they can bid with real confidence for research contracts funded by the public sector. I shall certainly look with great interest at her Bill, and I take this opportunity to congratulate her and her co-author, David Connell, on the excellent White Paper that they published to accompany her Bill.

The examples given by both my hon. Friends illustrate well the point I want to make: our success in Britain, in the face of the extraordinary technological and competitive challenges of globalisation, requires action by the Government as well as by business and industry. That is the fundamental point of difference between Labour and the Opposition parties. We recognise that the scale and speed of the changes that are taking place in our world demand as an absolute imperative that Government, business, the work force and unions, our universities and colleges, the regions and local communities all need to work together and that the Government, in particular, must make the investment and take the actions that only they can undertake—in science, skills, infrastructure and much else—if our businesses are to be enabled to thrive, grow, compete and succeed.

The Opposition parties simply do not get it. Like many of us, I was astonished that in the debate on my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's Budget statement last week the Leader of the Opposition had nothing to say—not one practical, positive proposal—about what the Conservative party would do to help British business deal with globalisation. In fact, we know what they would do and I am not surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not care to mention it last week. We know that the Conservatives would slash spending on science, just as they starved science of investment when they were in power. We know that they would cut the support that we give businesses that are making investment in growth, and we know that they would cut support for British exporters. So it is hardly a surprise that the Leader of the Opposition chose not to mention any of that last week.

We know, too, that the Liberal party would not be content merely with slashing the budget of the Department of Trade and Industry, but would abolish us completely. Both Opposition parties have fallen into the old ideology, believing that businesses can succeed if Governments simply leave things to the market. No successful country does that. The United States does not do that. France, with its investment in technology, does not do that. Germany, with its investment in research and development, does not do that. Finland and Israel, two of the most innovative economies in the world, do not leave things to the market. China certainly does not. Wherever there is success in the knowledge-driven economy, we see modern partnerships between Government, the public sector, the universities and our entrepreneurs and the business community.

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