Speech to the International Fiscal Association
by the Paymaster General, UK
Four years ago we set our central economic objective of high and stable levels of growth and employment. The two pillars of the Government's approach are delivering macroeconomic stability, to allow firms and individuals to invest for the future, and impletuenting microeconomic reforms to remove the barriers which prevent markets from functioning efficiently.
In the last Parliament, we put in place reforms to achieve macroeconomic stability and to promote work. The UK has now achieved the highest employment of almost any OECD country and the lowest inflation in the EU.
Building on this platform of stability and employment creation, we must now direct our energies to radical reform and modernization of product, labor and capital markets, so that the UK's productivity will rise faster than that of its industrial competitors as we close the productivity gap.
On Monday, the Chancellor announced the next steps we will take to deliver this ambition. These include major reforms to the competition regime. This is at the heart of the Government's strategy. Vigorous competition between firms leads to increased innovation and greater efficiency—and in turn to increased productivity growth.
So we are modernizing "complex monopoly" powers, providing a strong legal basis for competition authorities to promote competition across the economy, giving them full independence backed by additional resources and consulting on the introduction of criminal penalties for those involved in cartels.
The Chancellor also announced a series of measures aimed at helping small and medium sized enterprises. We will cut the Capital Gains Tax rate on business assets, creating a regime for entrepreneurs that will be more favorable to enterprise than that of the US.
We are proposing the doubling of the assets limit for Enterprise Management Incentives, so that more growing companies can attract the high-quality employees they need to realize their potential. We have also announced a new Small Business Birth strategy, including a commitment to extend the width of the 10 per cent corporate tax rate.
SMEs are important because of their significant contribution to the UK economy. Unless this sector delivers growth, the economy as a whole will be held back. However, this focus on small business does not mean that the Government has ignored the position of large business. Indeed, large successful enterprises are the bedrock of the world's leading economies.
Globalization and the increase in internationally mobile capital have led to benefits from the growing integration of national economic systems, including greater trade in goods and services, movements of labor, and movements of capital and the integration of the financial markets.
Over the past decade gross capital flows have increased dramatically. The UK ranks second largest in the world in terms of inward and outward direct investment with multinational companies now playing an especially important role.
There are substantial benefits, in terms of higher investment growth efficiency gains and the transfer of innovations and best business practices across national boundaries. But it has to be recognized that these changes mean that problems which were formerly seen as domestic have become international ones. Business is mobile, particularly multinational business, and naturally wants to minimize costs, including tax. And tax policies in turn may be designed primarily to divert mobile capital. These are changes which give rise to concern that anti-competitive tot practices elsewhere may distort business decisions and prove counterproductive in the end, whilst underlining the need for tax competition between countries on terms which are "fair".