Good afternoon everybody. Welcome to Number 10 Downing Street. I am really delighted to have you all here; so many representatives of small business organisations, so many small business men and women, so many supporters of enterprise, because you are an absolutely vital group of people.
This government’s mission can be very simply stated. We are in the business of trying to turn our economy and our country round and give us the very best chance of succeeding in the huge global race that is taking place in our world. And if we are going to compete and succeed and win in that global race, it is small businesses that are going to enable us to do that. And that is why it is so important that you are here today.
I want to thank David Young. Margaret Thatcher once famously said, ‘Other ministers bring me problems, David Young brings me solutions,’ and I am pleased to say, after all these years, that is still true. David has come up with some excellent ideas for supporting small businesses, including the Start-Up Loans, and we are celebrating the 5,000th Start-Up Loan today.
I am also assisted by 12 members of parliament who are going to be small business ambassadors, who will be out in every part of the country engaging with and listening to small businesses to ask what it is you want from us.
But let me tell you what it is I want from you. As I have said, we are in this global race – we have got to compete, we have got to succeed – and small businesses are vital to do that in three absolutely key ways.
The first is we want more good jobs in our economy. We want people to be able to get on and get a good job and make something of their lives. And all the evidence shows that it will be the growth of small businesses that provides those new jobs, those new opportunities and we hope, increasingly, those new apprenticeships for our young people. So I want to see small businesses grow and we will do everything we can to help you.
We also need to rebalance our economy. We need a smaller public sector and we need a bigger commercial and private sector, and it’s going to be the small businesses that will deliver that for us.
But, crucially, we need to rebalance in another way, and that is we need to export more, we need to sell more. And it is a figure that I am very fond of: today, one in five of our small businesses export. If we could change that from one in five to one in four we would wipe out our trade deficit at one stroke.
So we want to do everything we can – through UKTI, through our new finance products – everything we can to encourage small businesses to look at how they can export their goods and their services.
But I think the final thing I want to say, and it is so important in terms of the role of small business, is the pace of change in our world has never been faster. If you think about it, a decade ago a cloud was something in the sky – although thankfully not today – Twitter was something you might hear on a nice summer’s day sitting out in your garden; Skype was a typo. The world has changed so fast and some of the biggest and most successful companies in our world were barely even thought of a decade ago, but they have gone from nothing to being massive generators of wealth, of employment and of growth for our countries.
So I don’t think of small businesses just in terms of the entrepreneur starting out, setting up something, working for his or herself, but also thinking about the great engines of growth for the future that we will build.
So this government will do everything that we can. We have cut rates of corporation tax, we have cut rates of personal tax, we are trying to make sure there’s things like rate relief for small businesses. We’re trying to make it easier for you to take on an apprenticeship, easier to export, easier to grow.
We are going through every single regulation and seeing what we can scrap, what we can get rid of. This is a government that is absolutely on the side of business, on the side of enterprise, and particularly on the side of small business.
So thank you for what you have done, thank you for what you are going to do. We will not compete and succeed in this global race without your help and I am delighted to welcome you here to Downing Street today to say that your endeavour is our endeavour; it’s a shared endeavour and together we can win.