Speech

Danny Alexander at the CBI growing business awards on investment

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury tells business leaders to ‘invest more to ensure economy hits top gear’.

Thanks John [Sergeant].

It’s a real pleasure to be here with you all this evening.

And to have shared a table with so many fascinating people.

One of my favourite pieces of modern political folklore…

Is the tale about the time George W Bush, Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac held a meeting…

Which covered – amongst other things – the decline of the French economy…

And emerging from the meeting, it was alleged that Bush turned to Blair and said…

“The problem with the French Tony, is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.”

As you can imagine, I was disappointed to discover that the story wasn’t true!

But I think there is – if you will – a lot of truth in the sentiment of it.

Because where economies become stagnant.

It is often because they don’t have individuals…

Like many of you here tonight…

With the ideas…

And the energy…

And the get up and go…

To drive them forward.

So I’m absolutely delighted to be here tonight…

At an event celebrating growth…

At a time when we can say that the recovery is under way.

There is a long way to go, but Britain is on its way back.

Back when we first came to office, we inherited a bleak economic outlook.

There was even a joke doing the rounds about the young entrepreneur who went into a bank, and said they wanted to start a small business.

‘My advice,’ the banker said ‘is to start a large business, and give it a couple years’.

But many of you are here today because you did go and see the bank.

And you did get the finance you needed – whether from the bank or not…

And not only did you set up businesses…

You set up successful businesses.

And because of the hard work you’ve put in.

The economy is growing.

So now the UK’s growth forecast has been upgraded by more than any other G7 country.

And the growth that you are helping to create is already making a difference.

Since early 2010, private businesses just like yours have created 1.4million jobs in the private sector, supported by the decisions the government has taken.

And over the last year, employment in the UK has grown faster than in France Italy, Japan…

And faster than the EU28 and the G7 average…

So there are now more people in work than ever before.

This growth isn’t an abstract concept or a dry figure in a spread sheet.

And neither does it happen by accident.

It’s what you, the businesses of Britain create.

Most people will never understand the efforts you’ve put in…

The ups and downs you’ve endured…

The sacrifices you’ve made to build up your businesses.

Government doesn’t create growth.

You do.

But we can create the right conditions for you to grow.

And that’s what we’ve been working hard for 3 ½ years to do.

Taking difficult decisions to build a more competitive and fair tax system.

Investing in skills and infrastructure.

Tackling regulation.

Reforming the planning system.

And taking very tough decisions to reduce government spending…

To maintain our international strength credibility…

So that as a country we can pay our way in the world.

Just like the growth that we’re celebrating tonight though…

The actions that we’ve taken, are the result of having a vision…

Making a plan…

And sticking to it.

But before we go into the celebrations of tonight, I want to ask something of you, and businesses across the UK.

Everyone in this room is working hard to make sure that UK growth continues…

But to achieve that, we need the economy to be even more productive.

So we increase the rate at which we are creating wealth.

Here’s a startling figure that is central to my ‘ask’.

£500 billion. I’m sure you would agree that is a large sum of money?

This is the amount of cash deposits currently held by non-financial UK companies.

It has risen by £14 billion in the last quarter.

£104 billion since pre crisis levels.

That’s a 26% increase.

£500 billion pounds.

To put it in perspective.

It’s enough to have 50 Olympic Games…

It’s enough to have 10 HS2s…

If instead of sitting on that extra £104 billion last year…

Businesses had increased their investment by just 10% in 2012.

Then the level of GDP would be £12 billion higher.

That’s almost a whole percentage point on GDP growth.

While you are here because during the tough times you decided to invest…

I know that over the last few years, economic uncertainty made investment harder for many.

And I know that there remains some international uncertainty…

But now that the public finances are on a stable path…

And with confidence growing…

And a brighter future ahead…

I hope you will agree that there’s never been a better time to invest.

We’ve done the emergency repairs…

The engine has had a full service and is getting going again.

But it won’t get into top gear until British business starts investing some of the half trillion pounds worth of cash it’s built up in reserve.

The recovery needs you and you need the recovery.

Your country needs you to invest.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted here…

Because as each of you built up your companies…

Product by product…

Employee by employee…

You will have been constantly reinvesting as much profit as you could.

To move to that larger premises.

Or to buy that new piece of machinery.

And we need businesses across Britain to follow the example of those in this room and keep investing.

The government is doing its bit.

We are investing on a massive scale.

In our physical capital.

In June this year, I announced a comprehensive, ambitious and long-lasting plan to invest in the arteries of connectivity and commerce that are the foundation of future success:

The largest programme of rail investment since Victorian times.

The greatest investment in our roads since the 1970s.

Fast online access for the whole country.

And a massive investment in cleaner energy, to power our economy forwards.

And we’re investing in our human capital too.

Raising standards in schools…

Massively expanding apprenticeships…

Helping to ensure that the young people of today….

Have the skills employers like you will need tomorrow.

I expect that when I’m invited onto television later in the week to comment on the latest GDP figures…

Most of the questions asked will focus on the politics of how to divide wealth.

But in order to divide wealth, first we have to create it.

And you’re the people who do that.

We will never forget that.

And if what we see tonight is anything to go on…

Then the growth that you’re helping to create is balanced across the regions and countries of our nations …

Just look at the list of nominees:

Care Homes in Scotland…

Coffee Machine Manufacturing in Birmingham…

Gas valves from a company in Cheshire…

Gastronomy from our farms in Yorkshire…

To name just a few…

And tonight we’re here to celebrate your successes.

You should all be incredibly proud of your work and of your businesses…

And everything you’ve achieved to be nominated this evening.

So I’d like to leave wishing the best of luck to all the nominees for tonight.

And the best of luck to all of you for the future.

Together we are building a stronger economy.