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Amendment of the Law

Part of Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation – in the House of Commons at 6:41 pm on 21st March 2000.

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Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North 6:41 pm, 21st March 2000

Indeed. When I organised an event in my constituency so that girls from all the secondary schools could talk about what they thought the Government should do, that was the only point they mentioned—much to my surprise. They placed a high importance on it. I hope that the Chancellor is given credit for that farsighted support for women.

We have also ensured that work pays by taking steps to help families who, historically, have suffered from low wages. In my constituency and the surrounding area, about 2,700 families will be helped by the working families tax credit.

However, many large challenges continue to face the local economy. The Budget will help to address them. Last week, the east midlands agent for the Bank of England visited Northampton and met members of the local business community. It belied most people's impression of the Monetary Policy Committee to see one of the agents who provide the regular information on which interest rate decisions are made out and about, meeting all sectors of the business community. He met people from small and large manufacturing firms, as well as people from services industries and—for the benefit of the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings—the farming community.

There was a sense of a dual economy; the service sector was buoyant, while some parts of the manufacturing sector were held in check by the strong pound, depending on where their exports went. The farming industry faced difficulties, but it was recognised that they would not be resolved by short-term fixes of financial aid. Its problems are very much deeper and more structural.

I am sure that many of the people who met the agent from the Bank of England will welcome the measures that are in the Budget. Those measures will encourage long-term investment and provide stable patterns for existing investment plans. They will encourage innovation, which is important if we are to develop businesses in the new sectors and encourage sound investment in new technology. Everyone in the meeting that I organised agreed on the fact that one of the biggest problems facing the local economy was the difficulty of recruiting skilled employees.