Speech to the Great British Growth Rally at Conservative Party Conference

Thank you very much, Liam [Halligan]. Thank you for all you do and thank you for your work on GB News. In my view we need more economics journalism and we need more GB News – challenging the orthodoxy, broadcasting common sense and transforming our media landscape. Long may it continue.

What we need to do as a party and as a country is make life easier and better for families across our land. And the way we’re going to do that is by making Britain grow again.

We have made some progress: we’ve delayed the ban on installing gas and oil boilers; we’ve delayed the ban on new petrol and diesel cars. But we need to do more.

Because it’s Conservative solutions, it’s Conservative arguments that are not only popular with the public, but it’s also those arguments which are going to deliver.

What I want to talk about today is three things that we can do now as Conservatives to really change the agenda:

  • Axing the tax
  • Cutting the bills
  • Building the homes

Let’s start with axing the tax. We need to unleash business across Britain. We need people to want to invest in our country. We need businesses to be able to expand, to grow, to create new jobs, to create new ideas.

That’s why I’m calling upon the Chancellor at the Autumn Statement to put Corporation Tax back down to 19%. And frankly, if we can get it lower, all the better. Because when businesses are able to keep more of those funds, that is where the future comes from; it’s where the opportunities come from; it’s where the jobs come from.

At the moment, we’re seeing businesses not locate in the United Kingdom. We saw AstraZeneca choose to locate new facilities elsewhere. We’ve seen small companies struggling with the level of tax and regulation. We’ve seen a flight out of Britain of high net worth individuals – third only to India and China and, in fact, ahead of Russia. We need to be hungry to get those businesses back. We need to be hungry to attract business to our country.

And we need to make the Conservative Party the party of business again, because what we know is that economic growth and making Britain grow again is not going to be delivered by the Treasury. It’s not going to be delivered by more public spending. It’s not going to be delivered by more regulation.

It’s going to be delivered by giving businesses the freedom they need to succeed. It’s going to be propelled by that. And the fact is that over the last 25 years, we’ve had relatively low economic growth. We’ve had relative economic stagnation. And the only thing that is going to break through that is businesses and entrepreneurs being able to do things differently: being able to invest, being able to grow, being able to build new factories, being able to employ people. That is what is going to drive our country forward and, as Conservatives, we need to be prepared to make that argument for business. Because business shouldn’t be a cash cow to be milked; it’s the future investment in our prosperity.

The second thing we need to do is cut the bills. People in Britain are paying some of the highest energy bills in Europe. And our businesses are also paying high energy bills. And what does that mean? It means that we end up exporting jobs. We end up producing things overseas, because it’s too expensive to produce them in Britain.

So what we need to do is to cut those bills. And it’s possible to do that, because we can see what happened to the United States when they started using shale gas. We can see what’s happened in other countries when they’ve seen a greater production of energy and we can learn those lessons here in the United Kingdom.

Some environmentalists will say using our own gas is not environmentally friendly. But how environmentally friendly is it to rely on regimes abroad, often with very poor records, for our gas – and to ship that gas into the United Kingdom, often at massive environmental cost and financial cost? How environmentally friendly is that?

Currently, we are projected to be importing two thirds of our gas within 10 years. Yet we are sitting on 50 years of sustainable gas. Can you imagine if we unleash that, what that would mean for households and businesses? We can see from the United States that their energy bills are half what our energy bills are here. Can you imagine the impact it would have on the British economy if we unleashed that gas that we are sitting on at the moment into our economy?

The fact is that we have already made progress. We’re now licensing new fields in the North Sea, but we need to make more progress. We need to unlock our potential and develop our economic security to deliver cheap bills for people across the country – which they desperately need with the difficulties we have with the cost of living – at the same time as making our industries efficient, effective and competitive.

The third thing we need to do is to build more homes. The fact is we haven’t built enough homes.

It’s incredibly difficult when you’re a young person to get on the property ladder. It’s incredibly difficult to even rent a property in big cities like Manchester and London, it’s just far too expensive.

And whilst lots of Members of Parliament talk about building more homes, it’s very difficult to actually get them to vote for reducing the regulation that’s stopping the homes being built.

It’s all about protecting newts or installing a bat bridge. That appears to be the priority rather than building homes. So I think we need to turbocharge the incentives. We need to incentivise local areas to build more homes, giving them tax breaks if they’re prepared to get rid of that red tape. And I think we need to do it at a level so we are building something like 500,000 new homes every year. I think that is the state we are now in, the prices are so high. The cost of living is so difficult for families that we need to build around 500,000 homes every year.

That won’t just mean people will find it easier to get into a home. People will find it easier to start a family because there will be more affordable housing. Employers will find it easier to employ people somewhere because their workers can afford homes.

It will also save the government money because we will cut our housing benefit bill. We won’t need to intervene so much in the housing market because we are making the prices cheaper. That is fundamental to what these reforms should be about.

:So there are three things we can do. We can axe the tax, we can cut the bills and we can build the homes. But I’m under no illusion. I don’t think this is necessarily easy for us to do – it’s difficult, but we need to be prepared to do the difficult things because that is what will make Britain grow again.

And all of the people in this room – maybe minus some of the members of the media – need to be out there making those arguments because people need to hear those Conservative arguments again.

The way we are going to bring the price of housing down or the price of energy down is not through a rent cap or price controls. It’s through more supply. That’s what will bring prices down. That is a free market Conservative argument. People need to hear the arguments again.

We must also acknowledge where we are now. Some people have been claiming that we live in some kind of free market paradise in Britain; that somehow the problems we have are a result of too much neoliberalism. But look at the facts: government spending as a proportion of GDP is now 46%. It was lower for most of the 1970s apart from 1975 – that is the only year throughout the 1970s where government spending as a proportion of GDP was higher.

So we need to acknowledge that government is too big, that taxes are too high and that we are spending too much. That’s very important.

And the final thing we need to do is actually bring these arguments home to people. What does it actually mean for people across the United Kingdom, that we haven’t grown as much as we could have? If we’d grown as much as America, if we had the same GDP per capita as America, the average Brit would be £9,000 better off per year.

Think what that means for people: the ability to buy a new car, the ability to go on holiday or the ability to buy something for your children. That would make a huge difference to the average person in Britain. And that is what we have to talk about: the results of this policy.

So let us stop taxing and banning things. Let’s instead build things and make things.

Let’s be prepared to make Conservative arguments again. Even if it’s unpopular. Even if it’s difficult. I want everybody in this room to unleash their inner Conservative.

Finally, my friends, let us make Britain grow again.

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