Unlike most MPs, I spent most of my 20s and 30s doing something in the real world.
For 10 years I ran a small manufacturing business with factories in Belfast, Morecambe and Leeds. We made paint brushes, rollers and other tools for decorating and supplied them to big national chains like Wilkinsons and B&Q as well as independent hardware stores and builders’ merchants.
I wasn’t a great businessman to be honest. But I have no regrets that I gave it a go. And I will always be glad I had that experience because it has given me is an instinctive understanding of the challenges facing manufacturing businesses like: Cummins Generator Technologies.
Investing in new machinery and tools is a constant necessity in a manufacturing business – but it is really hard to keep on top of the latest technology if you have to fund new investments out of after tax profits. So every manufacturing business in the country will be celebrating this week’s doubling of the investment allowance to £500,000.
In my experience, almost all business leaders accept the need for their company to pay its fair share of taxes – not least to support the schools and colleges that train their employees, and the roads and railways which they use to get our products to the marketplace.
But I remember that as an exporter I was at a constant disadvantage – because my competitors were often paying much less tax than the 28 per cent that we were being charged under Labour. This week the Corporation Tax rate fell to 21 per cent. This will help British export businesses compete – and will persuade international businesses to invest in major new plants in the UK, just as Siemens is doing in Hull.
When this Government came into office in 2010, we inherited an economy that had relied far too much on frothy financial services and debt-fuelled consumer spending.
We could see that we would only be able to engineer a sustainable recovery, and create new jobs and incomes for the long term, if we could find a way to help real businesses, in the Midlands and the North, sell high quality products that can be profitably exported round the world.
As a manufacturer-turned-MP, I believe passionately in Stamford’s factories and am very proud of what they are achieving.