Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. I grew up in a small family business and know from first-hand experience of the hard work business owners and entrepreneurs put in.

Throughout Essex, small businesses provide the overwhelming number of jobs and are vital parts of our town, villages and high streets. Supporting small businesses to flourish has been at the heart of Conservative Government policy since 2010. On taking office, we cut the small profit rate of corporation tax while abolishing the increase planned by Labour.

We introduced new business rate relief schemes to help small firms with these costs, and reduced the burden of national insurance contributions. Councils have also been given greater freedoms and flexibilities to introduce discretionary discounts at a local level to support growth and further reforms to business rates are on their way.

The introduction of Local Enterprise Partnerships and the promotion of Business Improvement Districts has led to the voice of business influencing policy decisions, including on infrastructure investment. I have been pleased to work with local businesses over the last six-and-a-half years to promote their needs and interests.

The investment in new rail services, the widening of the A12 and the feasibility study into upgrading the A120 have come about as a result of strong local support and the importance of these infrastructure projects to local businesses.

The Government is also taking firm action to support small firms across a range of sectors to thrive as the UK leaves the EU.

My colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are developing a new industrial strategy for the country. This will include measures to support business, supply chains and actions to ensure that businesses can recruit people with strong skills for the modern workplace.

The Government’s investment in raising standards in schools, skills and apprenticeships is already coming to fruition with a new generation of young people entering the workforce equipped with the new skills that employers need. In the regular visits to businesses I undertake around Essex, I am impressed with the investment firms put into upskilling their own workforces.

They also support our country in the global market place as exporters from Essex and the rest of the UK seek to sell goods and services into new markets. My colleagues in the Department for International Trade and the Prime Minister are already working on forging the new trading links with the rest of the world that our country will need once we leave the EU. The Prime Minister’s recent visit to India has reinforced the actions taken since 2010 to secure new trade opportunities in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

In the months ahead, the Government will be taking further steps towards establishing new international trading agreements.

These new deals will strengthen our economy and provide new opportunities for exporters of all sizes and the wider supply chain. Through our domestic policies and our focus on international trade, the Government is continuing to get behind our job-creating entrepreneurial small businesses.