Britain's new finance minister seeks to woo foreign firms

20th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's new Chancellor George Osborne on Wednesday pledged to cut tax on businesses and reform rules on foreign companies operating here in a bid to woo multinational corporations.

In his first major speech as finance minister in central London, Osborne told the Confederation of British Industry he wanted to "send a new signal that Britain, is, once again, open for business."

"I want people around the country and all over the world to know that if you want to come here, invest here, and create jobs here, then we will be on your side," said the Conservative politician.

Under pressure to bolster his tax-cutting credentials, Osborne confirmed the final agreement with coalition partners the Liberal Democrats to be published Thursday would include a commitment to "lower and simpler" corporate tax rates.

The announcement confirmed a Conservative election pledge and quashed speculation that the promise had been abandoned after it was left out of a preliminary coalition agreement last week.

"I want corporate tax reform to be a priority for this government, and I can confirm that the final coalition agreement that we will publish tomorrow will commit us to lower and simpler corporate tax rates," he said.

The chancellor said part of the agreement would read: "Our aim is to create the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G20, while protecting manufacturing industries."

He said at he intended to use his emergency budget on June 22 to set out a "five-year road map" for a "big reform" of the levy.

The Conservatives came first in the May 6 general election, but failed to secure enough seats in parliament to govern alone and were forced to form a coalition with the third-placed Lib Dems.

Rules governing how foreign companies operate in Britain would also be reformed, said Osborne, saying the current regulations had "driven businesses overseas."

"I want multinationals coming to the UK, not leaving," he told the business leaders.

"I want Britain to be the easiest place in the world to start a business."

"Let us work together for the long term, because ultimately all of Britain's businesses will be winners if we succeed," he added.

Osborne also raised the prospect of emerging markets around the world, from China and India to Brazil, providing a new generation of consumers to give a boost to British manufacturers.

"As they become richer, they will become nations of consumers, just as we did after our industrial revolution."

© 2010 AFP

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