The Liberal Democrats entered Government in 2010 at a time of economic emergency. The steps we’ve taken have got our economy growing again and helped businesses create 2 million new jobs – three quarters of them full-time – taking employment to a new record high.
What the Liberal Democrats have brought to Government is a combination of economic competence and fairness. That’s how we’ve been able to halve the deficit at the same time as cutting income tax by more than £800 for 27 million people on low and middle incomes and protecting spending on schools and the NHS.
We now need to move from recovery to renewal: building a stronger, balanced economy right across the UK.
We must equip our workforce with the skills businesses need to compete, from engineering and construction to digital coding and systems design. In Government, Liberal Democrats have made it a priority to heavily increase investment in apprenticeships. More than 2 million people have started one since 2010, and we now aim to double the number of employers offering them.
We must make sure that small businesses all over the country have access to the finance they need to start up, thrive and grow. We’ve set up the Business Bank, which has lent over £3 billion to SMEs, and plan to expand it. We’ll continue to offer grants through our Regional Growth Fund, which has already invested £1 billion and generated £3 billion more in private investment.
I’ve also brought in new rules to protect small companies from late payments, to stop unscrupulous large companies causing cashflow problems that can cripple their suppliers.
We must remain in the European Union, protecting access to its 500 million consumers for British businesses and giving companies the certainty to invest in the UK. We’ll reduce the burden of EU legislation on British business by curbing unnecessary red tape and exempting small companies from EU rules where possible. Only by remaining fully engaged with our European partners can we deliver these reforms and ensure British businesses benefit from open markets.
Over the past five years, we have begun to build a stronger, more sustainable economy. The worst thing we could do now is throw that progress away by borrowing too much as Labour would, or cutting too much as the Tories plan to do. Only the Liberal Democrats will balance the budget by 2018 while also ensuring investment in the public services and infrastructure our economy needs.
Lib Dem Economic Spokesman