Second reading - Finance Bill 2020

The importance of R&D investment to UK business

Getting up to speak in a Westminster debate from my home in South Yorkshire, I reflected on how different our context was than that which we faced as the Budget statement was made on the 11th of March. We face significant economic challenges, and don’t yet know the full financial impact of COVID-19 – but the reasons for introducing the measures in the Bill have not changed.

We must make Britain the best place in the world to set up and run a business, and we must level up our economy with more innovation outside London and the south-east so that we facilitate the growth of high-skilled, well-paid jobs in areas that have been left behind.

It’s been wonderful to see the outpouring of gratitude across the nation to our NHS and care workers, who are on the frontline of the battle against covid-19. And it’s absolutely right that we recognise their bravery, but I also pay tribute to the millions of businesses in this country whose hard work and innovation have generated the tax revenue that funds the NHS as well as our schools, our roads and our railways.​

When we emerge from this pandemic, we need our businesses to recover, to grow and to be profitable. That’s the only way in which we will be able to continue to afford to invest in our NHS and public services.

We must also make sure that growth and innovation are spread equally across the country. As my Right Hon. friend the Prime Minister has said, talent is spread evenly across this country, but opportunity is not. In my constituency of Penistone and Stocksbridge, there is a lack of skilled, well-paid jobs and too many young people are forced to leave the area to seek opportunities. This Government’s plan for infrastructure investment, a towns fund and investment in further education will help to rebalance our economy and make sure that skilled jobs can be created across the UK. In the past, manufacturing in the north of England was the powerhouse ​of the UK economy. Every manufacturing process, cottage industry and new factory was born of innovation and risk.

In the North, we need a revival of this drive to start new, innovative businesses, and the measures in the Bill — particularly the support for research and development — will be crucial to our economic recovery.