While watching the Chancellor deliver the budget yesterday I think I felt the same as many of my colleagues. It was a budget delivered in difficult economic circumstances, but yet one that still delivered for business and the man on the street.
We all know the financial pain Europe is continuing to suffer. Cyprus shows how serious the crisis still is on the continent, and how much eurozone growth continues to suffer as a result. The news that growth forecasts have been lowered by the OBR should therefore come as no surprise.
And yet there are still positives. Despite this lowering of growth we are still predicted to avoid a second quarter of negative growth and a triple dip recession, and though less than hoped GDP growth is still steadily occurring. Our course remains firm, and we are succeeding in it; the structural deficit has been cut by a third, borrowing is falling and 600,000 new jobs are now expected by the end of 2013. That is news everyone can be happy about.
At the same time the OBRs prediction that our economy will grow faster than France or Germany in the coming year is testament to the economic plan this government has set out.
For me as an ex business owner and entrepreneur one of the most important aspects of any budget is how it helps our business sector grow. In my view the budget delivered yesterday by the Chancellor is one that is great for business.
This government has always been clear that we are a nation in a global race to attract business and that a competitive tax regime is key to this. We have seen the Chancellor strive towards this year on year, cutting Corporation tax from the 28% we inherited in 2010 to the 21% announced for 2014 in the Autumn Statement last year.
Now he has gone further with this important aim and announced it will be reduced again to 20% by April 2015. The joint lowest in any Western Country and what will be a huge boost in our drive to attract businesses and investment into UK plc.
The good news for business does not end here. The Chancellor also announced a New Employment Allowance, taking the first £2,000 off the employer National Insurance bill of every company in the country. For nearly half a million small businesses, around a third of all employers, that means they will pay no National Insurance at all from April next year. A move that shows just how much this government is pushing the growth of SME's in the UK.
For new businesses and those expanding there were moves on improving the treatment of equity finance over debt. This is something I've campaigned on previously and I'm delighted that the chancellor will be continuing help for seed investors and will be removing capital gains tax on AIM listed shares. This is a good move and shows the government understands that for some businesses bank finance is not the only answer.
Progress on growth may be slower than hoped but yesterday we clearly head that in the last twelve months we are seeing movement. We heard how our exports to the emerging markets of Brazil, India and China are up by a third, the highest it has ever been. Our automobile industry is flourishing, we now export more cars abroad than we import into the UK, something that we never saw under the last government.
I think the message of this budget was clear. Times are tough; the crisis in the eurozone continues to pound our shores and the record budget deficit we inherited from Labour is still being cleaned up. But we are weathering this storm and with George Osborne at the helm we have an economic strategy that though painful in some areas is one that will encourage investment, encourage business and encourage growth.
This is once again a budget for business and I am delighted to be part of the government that has delivered it.