Alan Duncan outlines Tory support for manufacturing sector
Sep 29 2008 By Jonathan Walker, Political Editor
Manufacturing will continue to play a key role in Britain’s economy, Shadow Trade Secretary Alan Duncan has pledged.
A Conservative Government would support manufacturers to ensure they were able to recruit skilled staff and invest in new techniques, he said.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, Mr Duncan also paid tribute to Lord Jones of Birmingham, the Trade Minister, claiming he was one of the few members of the Government who understood industry.
And he pledged to reverse the Government’s planned increase in corporation tax for small companies.
The Government has increased corporation tax on small firms from 19 per cent to 22 per cent.
The rise will hit firms with profits of up to £300,000 a year.
Gordon Brown announced the tax hike, which comes into effect next year, in 2007. Corporation tax for larger firms has been cut from 30 per cent to 28 per cent.
Mr Duncan said: “They have deceitfully increased corporation tax on small companies, and I can say emphatically today, that this is an increase which we would reverse.”
Britain’s economy cannot be built on banking alone, he said.
“Manufacturing matters. It is actually a sector which has been doing rather well. It is rubbish to say that Britain is no longer a serious manufacturer. We are. And We must remain so.
“That is why we as a party have worked closely with Rolls-Royce, so that our understanding of their business can be concerned into the policies we need to make Britain the highly skilled, inventive, leading-edge manufacturer we have to be.”
Mr Duncan claimed that Lord Jones of Birmingham was the only person left in the Government who understood how business works - and pointed out that he was leaving soon.
Digby Jones, the former CBI chief, has announced plans to stand down as a Trade Minister before the end of the year in order to return to working in the private sector.
The only other Minister who understood industry was Lord Drayson, who had already resigned last year, he said.
But the Tory team of shadow ministers waiting to take over the Treasury and Department for Business and Enterprise had “real business experience,” Mr Duncan said.
“The only two on Labour’s side who do have both decided to go. Lord Drayson has left to drive racing cars, and Lord Jones - he of this great city, Birmingham - has said he’s going to leave.
“We didn’t think he’d last, because basically he’s one of the good guys.
“Digby - we think you have been doing a good job, and do know what - the Government front bench is going to look a little thin.”
He insisted the Conservatives did not support corporate greed or undeserved profits.
“Seek profit, yes, but never forget that a business is there to satisfy people’s need; it is not there to sustain their excessive greed.”
Mr Duncan accused the Government of running up huge debts and hiding them from taxpayers.
“What if, every year, instead of Gordon Brown tricking and conning the British people by fiddling the figures and cooking the books, had to publish the nation’s balance sheet which he has created?
“Debt figures running into tens and hundreds of billions would suddenly be unearthed, all of which are a claim on the income and prosperity of future generations.
“All of that PFI debt, and all of those pensions liabilities, instead of being hidden, would have to be declared in the open.”
Mr Duncan also said a Conservative government would look for new ways of generating power, including renewable energy and carbon-free coal.
This “may mean nuclear power stations too,” he said. Labour has criticised the Tories for failing to make a decision on nuclear power.