Dr Liam Fox MP makes a speech in the Kings speech debate
I also welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott) to her new post. Her promotion is richly deserved.
One thing on which I am sure we can all agree in this House is the need to create non-inflationary growth in this country. The question is how we go about it and, to some extent, how we define it. I say to my hon. Friend that gross domestic product, as a measure of growth, is becoming an increasingly less relevant index in our economy because, although economic growth has been low across the western economies, balance sheets and net worth have tripled; there is a dislocation there.
GDP needs to take domestic unpaid labour, such as child or elderly care, into account. It excludes a huge proportion of what happens online, as well as intangibles such as intellectual property, and is much less suited to a service economy than to a manufacturing economy. It also has the perverse incentive of making us want to encourage immigration, rather than discourage it. When we have the wrong analysis, we are likely to have the wrong targets and, ultimately, the wrong policy. That needs to change. We need to concentrate on wealth creation, which happens when we take unique IP from any of us and turn it into a good or service that does not currently exist, or into a better good or service than exists today.
We have a problem that, in a capitalist economy, we cannot get that sort of wealth creation if there is not sufficient access to capital. One problem in the UK is that 85% of company scale-ups here are done with bank lending and 15% are done with private equity, whereas it is 80:20 in the other direction in the United States. We need to have deeper and wider access to private equity
and venture capital in this country if we are to maximise the benefits of our hugely creative and innovative population, and if we are to stop the IP leakage, especially to the United States.
We also need to create more wealth by improving our share of global trade, by which I mean the share of global markets that are expanding fastest, and not our obsession with the European Union. The latest Institute of Economic Affairs report shows that trade continued to grow between 2016 and the conclusion of the Brexit transition in 2020, indicating that Brexit had no main effect on trade. UK goods exports rose by 13.5% to EU countries and by 14.3% to non-EU countries between 2019 and 2022, so we need to put that issue behind us and instead focus on the world’s growing markets. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecast said that Brexit barriers would result in a 15% drop in trade volumes, contributing to a 4% lower GDP in the long run, and that is already clearly wrong. I ask those on the Government Front Bench to request from the OBR a much more updated and realistic assessment of where our trade sits at the present time.
Contrary to what many people will perceive, and certainly to what the Labour party will tend to suggest, 82.5% of all the jobs in this country are in the private sector and only 17.5% are in the public sector. From listening to our media and politicians, we would often think this was 50:50. Some 61% of those private sector jobs are in small and medium-sized enterprises. I know that if we are able to cut taxes, many of my colleagues will want to see personal taxes cut, but our priority should be to cut taxes for small businesses, because they are the ones that create prosperity and employment. They are the mainstay of our economy. In particular, I would like to see more Government action on late payment, particularly by local authorities; this is taxpayers’ money that should be getting through to SMEs on time, and the fact that it is not is a scandal. I would also like to see the retail, hospitality and leisure business rates discount extended to give many of the companies struggling in that sector the help they require.
We also need to look at other elements, including the broadband infrastructure in our country. Constituencies like mine still contain places with no broadband. It is ridiculous that we are putting public money into the programme and yet leaving parts of our economy without any of the advantages they require to participate fully in our economy. We were told that we would get that broadband at the end of 2022 and then we were told it would be in spring 2023. It was then to be October 2023, and now we have no idea when we will get it. I say to the Minister that the Treasury needs to give a kick up the proverbial to other Departments to make sure they are carrying out the promises that the Government made at the last election to stop some of the limitations in the rural economy and to get that infrastructure in place.
Finally, I want to say a quick word about the Bank of England. It has operational independence, but where is the accountability? We were told that inflation would be transitory and that there were external influences involved. I looked at the letters between the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chancellor, and not once did they mention monetary stability or the fact that we had had an expansion of our money supply for far too long, at far too great a level. These are not rounding errors. If we get extra inflation created by monetary expansion that is too fast, it will affect the poorest in our society and the balance of our public finances, and it will cost taxpayers money. I have no problem with the Bank of England having operational independence, but what I want to know is: when it gets it wrong, who is it accountable to? Ultimately, it is the taxpayers and the people of this country who pay the bill, not those who are well paid in the Bank of England.