George Freeman welcomes Budget and industrial strategy

28th November 2017

George Freeman welcomes the Budget, in particular that the Government is listening on public sector pay, the industrial strategy and skills and infrastructure investment in particular the east-west rail. 

It is a privilege to rise on behalf of my constituents to welcome this Budget and the industrial strategy announced by the Business Secretary yesterday. In the past week, the Chancellor and the Business Secretary have sent a strong signal that this economy and this country are in the hands of safe grown-ups in the Treasury—[Laughter.] I would not laugh yet. This country knows that what we need is a sensible, one nation Conservative Administration, not a Marxist shadow Chancellor committed to the overthrow of capitalism. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) thinks that is funny; I do not. We do not need Labour’s £500 billion spending spree, which would put more debt on to the backs of our young, and we do not need dangerous talk of requisitioning private property and exploiting the crisis we face to fulfil Labour’s Marxist fantasies.

I wish to highlight three particularly encouraging aspects of the Budget. First, on public sector pay, I welcome the fact that the Government have shown they are listening carefully to the concerns of those in the public sector who feel that, after seven years of the pay cap, we need a different model to inspire our best. I welcome the easing of the pay cap so that those on the frontline of our public services—the heroes who run into burning buildings and take bullets for us—can get the pay rise that they deserve that is appropriate and affordable. I also welcome the signal that those in the public services who are responsible for management and delivering productivity are rewarded for, and on the basis of, that productivity.

I particularly welcome the announcement of a public sector leadership academy, which my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and others have been instrumental in pushing forward. In the next few years, we need to go further and signal an ambition for our public services to work in partnership with the private sector to drive a recovery. We want an innovation economy in which the public sector embraces innovation, and is a partner for innovation, to modernise our public services. I call that public sector enterprise. Let us be bold and unleash the power of the NHS to work with our life sciences sector to pull innovation through for modern healthcare. Let us be bold in procurement so that the public sector drives innovation in our economy, and let us incentivise our best public sector leaders to be part of that.

Secondly, I warmly welcome the industrial strategy. I am proud to have done my bit over the past few years, working with the former Chancellor and Member for Tatton; Lord Willetts, who was in the Gallery earlier; Lord Heseltine; and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Do not take it from me that a Conservative generation has led the way on industrial strategy; take it from Lord Mandelson, who said at Davos a few years ago that it was a new generation of Conservatives who were setting the pace on 21st-century industrial policy. Do not take it from me; take it from the life science sector, which yesterday announced £1 billion of inward investment to create new jobs in the economy. That is the vote that I care about—the vote of business and of the wealth and job creators, not the vote of the wealth and job destroyers on the Opposition Benches.

Thirdly, on skills and infrastructure, I strongly welcome the east-west rail announcement. For too long we have seen investment in our commuter lines, but not enough in the east-west lines. I relish the prospect of an innovation express from Norwich to Cambridge to Oxford to Reading to Southampton—an arc that links our east and west clusters. I also relish the announcement of a new Victorian-model rail company that undertakes development to fund rail infrastructure, allowing garden towns and villages to be built by a modern railway company—the first to be created in such a way for more than 150 years.

On skills, we need a response to the industrial strategy from each locality. That is why I have been working with Cambridge, Norwich and Ipswich to put together the “accelerate east” skills gateway. I would like us to offer every school and college leaver a skills passport into the 21st-century economy.

This was a Budget for business and for Britain, but the big B is Brexit. We need to make sure that in the next 18 months we negotiate and deliver a Brexit deal that supports our modern economy.

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