Thank you. Thank you very much for that introduction Ian [Livingston, Minister for Trade and Investment]. And I think it’s a sign of how business‑friendly this government wants to be that we looked at the private sector, we found one of Britain’s most successful companies, BT, and we poached their Chief Executive and made him our trade minister and he is helping to promote Britain as a destination for inward investment and helping to promote our trade links and our trade policy around the world. And Ian it’s great to have you here today.
And it’s great to be back at Celtic Manor, this is my second visit in not too many months, because we had the NATO summit here. Thank you Ian, and thank you to all the exhibitors here today; people who are showing just how much Britain and Wales have got to offer.
Industry in Wales
We’ve got a bicycle that wasn’t built, it was printed on a digital printer; I’ve seen that happen myself, that extraordinary business, Renishaw. We’ve got a motorbike that doesn’t emit smoke, but emits water, and we’ve got concrete that bends so you can actually buy it by the roll.
And I think if you go beyond this hall, you really can see that Wales is coming back. People don’t just look at Pembrokeshire and think of holidays; they think of cutting‑edge energy. Cardiff doesn’t just mean rugby; it means aerospace, it means finance. In Snowdonia there are some great IT businesses. Caerphilly means hi‑tech.
This is the new Wales, this is the Wales we want the world to see, and if you look around, you can see people flying from Berlin to Bangkok in wings made in Broughton, our troops are using radios made in Caerphilly, and, yes, from the tip of Scotland to the end of Cornwall, shoppers are spending coins struck in Llantrisant, at the Royal Mint.
So Wales is doing exactly what we need to do to get our country back on track, and that is making things and selling them to the world. And this government has a plan to make sure that Wales does even better, and the plan is based on, very simply, the things that a nation needs to succeed in the 21st century.
You need fiscal common sense underpinning your economy with sound public finances; you need, as Ian’s just said, a business‑friendly approach that enables businesses to take on people and grow; you need modern infrastructure that supports those businesses – the roads, the railways, the ports – to help get people their goods to market; and finally, you need openness to investment, to trade, to partnerships. Those are the 4 things that I believe are vital, and I want to say something on each of them today.
Long term economic plan
First, on the fiscal common sense. Successful nations have got to have solid foundations. You’ve got to have public finances that are strong. And that is line 1 in our long term economic plan: reduce the deficit, because that is what will safeguard our economy for the long term. It’s already down by a third; we aim to have it down by a half. In the next Parliament we want to eliminate it altogether and run a surplus, because we want to make sure we use the good years to strengthen our countries resilience to future shocks.
This is what investors need to know when they sign on the dotted line: they want confidence in the future of a country. And that is how we’re securing the future for Wales and for Britain: taking the difficult decisions on government spending; getting the deficit down; keeping interest rates low; delivering the stability, the predictability, and the certainty that investors all around the world always tell me that they want.
Now a number of people said, ‘Well, what will be the effect of this on Wales, when you have to make difficult decisions?’ And I think we can see in Wales, with the jobs and the growth, that the Welsh economy has responded extremely strongly.
Business friendly Britain
Now second, modern, successful nations need to be business‑friendly because, after all, in the end it is not governments that create jobs, it is firms like yours. That is why we’re striving to make Britain the best place in the world to start and to grow a business. And I think our offer – and I would call it an offer; I’m not ashamed at all to say we should get out there and sell Britain – is very, very clear.
On corporation tax, the lowest of all the G7 countries, soon to be the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G20. On bureaucracy, we’ve heard the call loud and clear from business to get rid of unnecessary red tape; we’ve had the Red Tape Challenge, putting all the regulation up on the internet so you can tell us what to get rid of. We’ve got the challenge of – you cannot introduce in our government a new regulation unless you abolish two existing regulations, so we’ve already slashed £1.5 billion of red tape.
On research and development, another key ask of business, we’ve brought in attractive new tax incentives. If you’re a small or medium‑sized company, you can claim 225% corporation tax relief against the cost of your research programme. If you’re an innovator, with our patent box, you can come here, develop intellectual property, and as long as you exploit it here, you can pay lower corporation tax.
Now the result of these changes and our business‑friendly approach is that we’ve got 400,000 more businesses in Britain in the last 4 years; more than at any point in our history. But obviously business also needs people who can work for them, and that is why getting the country back to work has been such a key part of our plan. We’ve been capping benefits so no one can earn more on welfare than the average family does in work; we’ve slashed income taxes, offering one of the highest personal tax‑free allowances in the world. In Britain today, you can earn up to £10,000 before you start paying income tax; we want to make sure people are always better off in work.
And the result is that today there are 37,000 more people in work in Wales then there were in 2010, that’s 37,000 more people going out to work each morning, bringing home a wage each month, and we’re making sure the workforce has the training and the skills that they need, and that you need. So we put skills at the heart of our plan, we’ve revolutionised apprenticeships, we’ve got a target of 2 million apprentices to be trained in this Parliament; we’ve already done 1.9 million – so we’re on track.
We’ve only been able to do this because we’ve taken difficult decisions today, and that is what we believe will build a better future tomorrow, and a future that we really want you, the businesses here today, to be part of.
Now the third thing I mentioned is infrastructure. And businesses repeatedly say to us this is absolutely top priority for them. You need it to help grow, you need it particularly to expand in places like Wales. Now, when we came to office, we’d had the deepest recession in Britain since the War, we had one of the biggest budget deficits, not only in the West but actually anywhere in the world, and I think the last thing people expected us to do was to go on investing and in some cases to increase our investment in things like broadband and energy and transport infrastructure, but we did.
We believe that the long‑term decisions needed to be made. We thought the situation was grave, after all in the good years, between 2000 and 2007, actually the infrastructure investment in Britain had fallen below the average for developed nations, and actually was one of the lowest for developed nations. And I think this was totally wrong, because this is the country of Brunel, of Stephenson, and letting our bridges crumble, letting our railways fall into disrepair, is the wrong approach for Britain.
So we needed a road and rail revolution, and we wanted Wales at the forefront of that, and that is what you’re now getting. So we’re ensuring the Welsh government can upgrade the M4; it is the absolutely crucial artery for South Wales. We’re spending £500 million so Wales is better linked to Heathrow airport. We’re now electrifying the Great Western Main Line all the way to Swansea, which will be one of the biggest investments in trains in more than a century, and today I can announce that we are going to press ahead with the electrification of the Valleys railway lines.
After years of neglect, this part of Wales will finally get the infrastructure it needs: faster, more modern, more efficient trains, and I believe the impact will be huge. It will spread employment opportunities from Cardiff and beyond. It will transform communities throughout the Valleys, and it will help people from all parts of this great nation to get on.
There’s been a real partnership between the UK government and the Welsh Assembly government to bring this about. I want to pay particular tribute to Stephen Crabb, the Secretary of State, and the Welsh Office, for the hard, patient work they’ve done. This is a great deal for Wales. It’ll make a huge difference to those communities and to people across South Wales.
Now as we know, in the modern world, infrastructure can be a magic ingredient, and probably none more‑so than the internet and broadband, which, if you’re in a rural part of the country, like the constituency I represent in England, you absolutely need that as much as being connected to the road or rail network.
275,000 homes and businesses are now hooked up to superfast speeds; connections are 3 times as fast as they were in 2010. But we know that more needs to be done. So this is the infrastructure we’re building, it’s on offer to people who come here and invest, and we hope that you do.
Now the fourth thing I mentioned is openness: openness to trade, openness to investment, openness to partnerships. I’ve always made the argument that in the modern, competitive world, where no‑one is owed a living, you cannot rely on your past glories. Britain – all parts of Britain – have got to be hungry, relentless, forthright, about selling our products and making our living in the world. That is why, with Ian Livingston, I’ve been packing planes with innovators and I’ve led trade delegations from China to India, South Africa, Mexico – I’m ticking off the important markets one by one.
And we’ve seen some real increases, more than doubling our investments – our trade with China; big increases in terms of other developing markets. Actually, our trade outside the European Union is growing four times faster than our trade inside the European Union, but clearly both are vital for this country. I’ve told our diplomats and our officials in the Foreign Office that they are salespeople for the UK as well as diplomats, and they’re there to help UK businesses at every turn.
And that’s I wanted to come to Celtic Manor today, to sell Wales around the world. And I believe it’s an easy sell, because between 2012 and 2013, foreign investment in Wales trebled and is still rising. Companies, I think, are clamouring to come here. We’ve got Hitachi set to build a nuclear power station in Anglesey. We’ve got Lend Lease, an Australian business, creating thousands of jobs when they start the prison in Wrexham. We’ve got our very own Pinewood Studios – and it was great you had Ivan Dunleavy here earlier – making the blockbusters of tomorrow in Cardiff.
And I think when people ask, ‘Why Wales?’, what makes this such an attractive base – what I get from CEOs is this is a win‑win situation. You’ve got a high quality of life; low cost of overheads; resource‑rich, rural locations; the urban hub of Cardiff; the proximity of cities, industries and universities; and the space to expand and grow; all of those things together. So, no surprise that when Amazon wanted to build its biggest warehouse – the size, apparently, of 10 football pitches – they brought it near to Swansea. Equally, that’s why 26,000 small businesses have followed suit and set up right here in Wales since 2010.
Now, that openness I think also should be openness on behalf of government to partnerships with industry and with business. And today, I can announce a really important partnership we’ve formed with Airbus, one of the most important, largest employers in Wales, making the wings of every Airbus plane that takes to the air. And today, I can announce that between Airbus and the government, we’re going to be investing £100 million in technology: £64 million on research and development at the Aerospace Technology Institute, and £48 million at Broughton to upgrade systems and technologies. And that should help to safeguard the thousands of vital jobs in this aircraft manufacturing facility that I believe Britain can be so proud of.
Now, I know that today, some of you as well as me will be thinking of politics as well as economics. And I think there is a clear challenge here for all politicians – perhaps for politicians right across Europe. And that is, after a long and deep recession, people want to know there will be secure jobs and growing incomes. They want the issues that worry them addressed properly. And above all, they want to know there’s a good future for their families, for their children here in Britain. And I’m certain that we have the right answers. And above all, it means a laser‑like focus on those things that will really deliver the economic security that people crave: sticking to our plan, creating jobs, cutting people’s taxes, helping people with the homes, the schools, the pensions, that they deserve.
But I also know what this challenge should not mean. No‑one should peddle the idea that there are easy answers or shortcuts to success. There aren’t. No‑one should try and fool people that you can win in the world by cutting yourself off from it. And I think all of this brings a big political challenge. What sort of government do we need to make this happen? It needs to be strong. It needs to be able to look to the long term. It needs to be able to make difficult decisions. I know what is needed. I know what it takes. And the result last night makes me even more determined to deliver it and to secure Britain’s future.
Investment into the UK
Now, the final thing I want to say is how we should use showcase events to try and show off the United Kingdom and attract investment. We did that with the Olympics in London; I think that was a stunning success. I think the success of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow also got people to look at the United Kingdom and Scotland again in terms of investment. I took the G8 to Northern Ireland, because I think that area of our country could use extra investment, and actually has got some fantastic skills and talents there. And of course, with NATO, coming here to Wales was, I think, a great showcase for Newport, for Cardiff, and for all of Wales.
It was actually the biggest summit ever held in the United Kingdom’s long history of holding these events, and it was the perfect opportunity to show Wales to the world. And the response has been incredible. We’ve had the sounds of the Welsh National Opera ringing out in Qatar, rarebit and Welsh cheese served in Washington DC, and Dylan Thomas’s verse echoing through Greek streets. All of that thanks to the great work of UKTI and the Great Britain campaign, and I want to thank UKTI who are here today.
But the point is, I don’t want that to be a one‑off. The legacy of NATO shouldn’t just be a safer world and a more united organisation; it should also be for more prosperity and opportunity for all our countries. That is why we’re all here, and that is why I want the message to go out from this hall: Wales is coming back. The country that gave the world radar is pioneering the technologies of the future. The nation that made its way in coal mining is now leading the way in aerospace. The people of Wales are getting back to work.
New businesses are being started up. Apprentices are getting their training. And after some long, hard years, Wales is coming back. The Welsh dragon is roaring once more, so come here, invest, make the most of all that Wales has to offer. You won’t regret it. You’ll get a very warm welcome. And I know that’s the case for the Welsh Assembly government; it’s certainly the case for the United Kingdom government This is a great place to come and invest and grow, and I very much hope you’ll do so. Thank you very much indeed.
Thank you very much. I always like to keep these things interactive, so questions and points from our business and other guests. Feel free; any questions you’ve got, concerns about any economic or other issues, please fire away. Let’s start over here.
Prime Minister, you spoke about skills and apprentices. Could you set out your vision for the UK’s universities as attractors of global talent and developing that for the UK?
I think this is important, because I think there are some real advantages in our university sector, and also, there are one or two misconceptions that I think it’s important to correct. What are the unique sales propositions for Britain? What are our USPs? We’ve obviously got the language, we’ve got the time zone, we’ve got the membership of all these great organisations, whether the EU, NATO, G8, G20. We’ve got the industrial and scientific heritage. But I would put right up there with all of those things the universities we have right across the United Kingdom, including great universities here in Wales, and I think there’s more we can do to make them part of our future growth story.
We’re increasingly seeing enterprise zones and other enterprise parks around our universities. I think we’re trying to imitate the best in the world, in the United States, in terms of making sure we drive entrepreneurialism through our universities and create a lot of new businesses, and I think there are opportunities there. And so I’m very excited about that.
The misconception I’d like to correct is that – and this is particularly important, I think, with a number of overseas businesses here – is our universities are very much open for business; open for business in terms of collaboration with you, but also open to students coming from overseas. And this is important. There’s no limit on the number of foreign students that can come to a British university, as long as they have an English language qualification and a place at a bona fide university. So there’s no limit on that, and I think that’s a very good sales proposition for British universities.
And also, if people want to stay and work for your businesses in Wales or in the rest of the United Kingdom, they can do that if they’re in a graduate job. So, I think this is a very good offer too – of course, we want to train up and educate British people as well, which is happening, but growing businesses also need talent from overseas, as well, and I think our universities very much offer that, and I wanted to explain that point, because I think it’s important; it can sometimes get lost.
I’ve been working closely with Tech City, which I think has been a great success. And I just wanted to ask what your plans were for continuing to support technology start‑ups across the UK, and hopefully get your commitment to continue to support them, maybe through Tech City or other means.
Well thank you very much. So Tech City – for visitors to this country may not have heard about it – it is been a phenomenal success. This was basically in a part of East London where there was a growing hub of technology businesses that had started up, partly because they liked this bit of London. And a hub was being created. And what government saw was something that was happening and growing. We didn’t try to invent it ourselves. We just asked the question, ‘What can we do to get behind this successful hub?’
And the answer was, ‘We would like superfast broadband, we need more office space, we’d like entrepreneur visas so it’s easier to get other start-up businesses to come and visit. We want connections with universities and crucially, we want to make sure the Tech City can link up with other tech hubs around the country.’ So Britain, I think, is doing very well in this space. If you compare us with others in Europe, I think we’ve got one of the most exciting set of hubs of tech start‑ups.
Now what more can we do? I think there is a whole lot of stuff but let me just give you a couple of examples. First of all, we’re going to make it easier to start up and run a business. So we have to take the bureaucracy out of that. I want us to have a situation where it’s one click on the internet to start a business. Already we have managed to reduce the number of days it takes, but I want us to do more.
But I think one of the pressing needs is going to be more young people coming out of our schools and colleges that are able to code. And so we are changing the way we teach ICT and we’re making sure children as young as 6, I think, are now learning coding. And when I thought that was impossible, I asked to go and sit in on a class and find out how it works; and I’ve seen it with my own eyes, this can work.
And I think it will make us one of the long‑term digital tech start-up hubs in Europe, which I think is absolutely key to our future. It is where a lot of the future jobs are going to come from and we’ve got to make sure we are training young people to be able to take on those roles.
I’ve got to thank you for your support on supporting technology development in the country through the administration, not just for aerospace, but across the patch. But could you share your thoughts on how we’re going to maintain that momentum through to manufacturing exploitation beyond 2015?
Well I think aerospace is just a classic example where you really do need the things I’ve been talking about. You need great businesses that want to come and locate plants in Britain. You need universities that are turning out really skilled, brainy people that can come and help your businesses in the future.
And you need a government that is prepared to engage quite actively, sleeves rolled up, with businesses because your industry is a very long‑term industry. The technology and the future models you’re developing now, they need start up support and help because that could provide jobs and throughput for many, many years to come.
I think we’re the second biggest aerospace player after the United States and we must keep that up. And I think it’s long‑term partnership, making sure our universities and making sure these new technological institutes, our so‑called catapult centres, are delivering the technology for the future.
But I think we keep that partnership up, I don’t see any reason why we should fall behind in aerospace. Can we go on manufacturing here as well as inventing and creating? I believe we can. Manufacturing has been growing as well as services and construction. Our economy is rebalancing which is very important.
But we have to keep efficient, we have to keep our costs down, have to keep taxes down – all those things in order to make sure that we don’t just create intellectual property here, we exploit it and manufacture it as well.
You just mentioned in your speech that the trade and investment flows between China and UK is growing very fast, and also you are going to electrify the great Western railway in Wales.
And could you – I’m wondering, could you share with us your attitude towards Chinese high‑speed train technology and relevant investments?
Well thank you, thank you very – I think the figures are that exports from the UK to China are up over 100% over the last 4 and a half years and we’ve got a target with the Chinese that we’ve set for our exports and we’ve got to really make sure that we meet that. I’ll just make 2 points.
First of all, we admire what the Chinese are doing in terms of high‑speed rail. We wish we could build quite as fast as you do. We have some extra planning constraints, I think, that we have to deal with but we are very impressed by what is happening in China. But the real point I want to make is this: it’s that, obviously Chinese businesses look all over the world and think about where best to invest. And I would argue that in Britain, you’ve got real opportunities because not only have you got a growing economy, a business friendly government, low taxes, skilled workforce, excellent labour relations – all the things you look for in a place to invest. You’ve also got opportunities here in the UK that I don’t think you get in many other countries.
We are so open to overseas investment that we don’t see it as a source of sort of embarrassment that Chinese investors are invested in Thames Water or are invested in our major airports or are going to help us build our nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. We don’t see that as some national humiliation as some countries might. We say, ‘Good; that’s what we want.’ We’ve always been in Britain an open economy that welcomes overseas investment as a way of investing in our infrastructure as well as technology and manufacturing and the rest of it.
And I think it’s one of our strengths. Let’s take the example of our automotive industry. You know, Britain is now a net exporter of cars again and if you think back to the 1970s and the problems we were having, this is an extraordinary success story and part of it has been based on Japanese investment, at Toyota and Honda, but also part of it recently has been based on Indian investment into the Jaguar/Land Rover brand which is, you know, a phenomenal international success story. And probably since I’ve been Prime Minister, I think Jaguar Land Rover have created something like 5,000 high skilled jobs in the West Midlands.
So we really believe that our openness is one of our keys to our success and I think in terms of our message to Chinese and other investors is there are infrastructure, energy, road, rail opportunities that you might not find in other countries and we see that as a source of strength, not a source of weakness and so you are very welcome to make the investments that you do.
Can I wish you luck with the rest of the conference? Can I hope that many of you who’ve got businesses in Wales will look to expand? Those that haven’t yet invested in Wales will look to invest. You will always find a business friendly government, very much an open door to your ideas and if you’ve got particular issues and concerns, you’ve got here today, Ian Livingston, my Trade and Investment Minister. You’ve got Stephen Crabb, the Secretary of State for Wales; his door is very much open to ideas and thinking.
So please, tell us what it is you want to see and we’ll do everything we can to bring your business and bring success here to Wales. Thank you very much indeed.