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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:29 pm on 29th March 2010.

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Photo of Laura Moffatt Laura Moffatt Labour, Crawley 7:29 pm, 29th March 2010

It is an absolute pleasure to follow Mr. Soames and, of course, it is not the first time that I have done so. I follow him in representing the fantastic constituency of Crawley, and I am sure that he will remember well the days when he did so. I was interested to hear him talk about the harm that the Government have apparently done to business. I remember that, when he represented Crawley during the recession of the early 1990s, companies were falling like ninepins and people were losing their jobs and homes day after day. They found that their homes were not worth half what they had been worth when they bought them. Nothing was done to help those people; no assistance was offered by the Government.

I support this measured, quiet Budget. It is taking us on a journey, with its support for business and families. It did not make huge promises that could not be met, but it understands that our communities need support. We are debating infrastructure and growth today, and they are at the heart of my constituency, whose many companies are demonstrating innovation and entrepreneurship and offering employment. It is important for those companies to know that the Government understand their needs.

It was interesting to hear the hon. Gentleman talk about red tape in the workplace. Many of the people I talk to feel that that red tape is about being safe at work, about having decent employment or about people having their disability recognised in the workplace so that they can give of their best. This is the argument about intervention versus leaving everything to market forces, and it is obvious from the debate that there are different views on that across the House. Most Labour Members believe that intervention is right, and that it was right, for example, to support the banks-although not the bankers. Mr. Ancram was absolutely right in his assessment of those who led us into this appalling problem and who have no understanding of what they have done.

Securing the economic well-being of our communities is achieved not only by the Budget but, day in and day out, by those who are keen to see their companies grow and keen to employ people properly. Those people understand how good companies can operate in our communities. That is why I was pleased to see the proposals for the development of the green investment bank. A company in my constituency, Ceres Power, is developing a fuel cell that will reduce our reliance on carbon energy by 50 per cent. It is important to support such companies and to help them to get investment, and it would have been helpful for that company to have had the green investment bank to turn to, because its only stated aim was to produce a product that would reduce our reliance on carbon and make the planet a better place. That was therefore an excellent Budget proposal, and I hope to see the project expand and grow.

As we are focusing on investment and infrastructure, it is important to say how good it was to see the investment in the Thameslink programme reinforced. That will involve more than £5 billion of investment to improve the line between Brighton and Bedford, and all the stations in between. That is a crucial route, in that it brings work and investment to the area. It allows people to live and work in an already overcrowded area by providing a decent means of travel and reducing their reliance on road vehicles.

Those of us who serve on the all-party group on Thameslink were upset to see that the decision to appoint a preferred bidder for the rolling stock had been delayed. Speaking as one of the signatories to the early-day motion calling for that decision to be announced before the Easter recess, I hope that we will hear about that soon, although I accept that we are cutting it fine. That would demonstrate a real commitment and let us know that the programme, which is so important to us, was safe. If we are to attract business, it is vital to invest in our major infrastructure centres such as Gatwick airport. The redevelopment of the train station there is crucial to our businesses.

That brings me to the reasons why I fully support the regional development agencies, especially the South East England Development Agency, which has done an enormous amount of good in attracting business to, and keeping business in, the south-east. There is often a tremendous pull to go elsewhere, and a business that is prospering can sometimes need help to remain in the area. SEEDA has been at the forefront of providing much of that support. I do not trust or support the notion that local authorities, alone or in partnership, will be able to do that work. I foresee all sorts of difficulties if a particular local authority were to take a leading role, to the disadvantage of others. The good thing about having a regional development agency that can take a step away from the political forum is that it can think about investment in a much more strategic way, and I hope that that will continue.

Supporting our businesses by giving them time to pay their tax has been hugely welcomed, in my constituency and elsewhere. Through my role as assistant Minister for the South East, I have discovered that other businesses throughout the region have found that support extremely helpful. Small interventions can give confidence to businesses and companies, which can make all the difference to their business decisions. We should not underestimate how much such initiatives have helped.

The use of programmes such as the mortgage rescue scheme might not always entail the buying of a home, but early intervention by the local authority is crucial. Crawley borough council, for example, has demonstrated that the system has been very helpful. It has not had to hand over vast sums of money to assist people, but it has intervened with good, early advice to mortgage owners to prevent repossession. We cannot underestimate the importance of that. We have all sorts of methods for promoting help and support in our communities.

I have listened to the argument that we have no right to sell our future, as it is only on loan to us from our children. I believe, however, that every child whose parent did not lose their job because their company was given time to pay its taxes represents an investment worth making; every child whose parents did not lose their home, thanks to the intervention of this Government, represents an intervention worth applauding; and every young person who was taken on by a company through the future jobs fund and given an opportunity in the workplace will be thanking this Government for ensuring that they have a future.

Of course, such intervention requires money. In this fragile economy, when we are gently coming out of recession and back into growth, and when companies are feeling just enough confidence to acquire new equipment and take on new staff, we have no right to put any of that at risk. We in this House have no right to throw caution to the wind in order to pay back debt, and to throw those people into turmoil once again. I hope that, when my right hon. and hon. Friends are back in their places on the Front Bench after the general election, they will understand that this investment needs to continue. The confidence and sense of security that the business community needs to do its job are greatly valued. I did not get lots of surveys back saying that people were fed up with red tape. The people in our communities are begging for more help and support. They are not saying that they do not want that to continue; they are asking for more to be done for them.

After the general election, when I have left the House, I am going to be testing-I hope so, if any trust will have me-whether investment in the NHS has been as valuable as I always hoped it was over the last 13 years, providing us with a health service of which we can at last be immensely proud and one that we can be sure is becoming a world-class system. I have decided to get back my registration from my nursing career and I intend to test that system to ensure that all that the Government and Labour Members have done and fought for in the NHS has been worth while. For me, supporting our health service in a way that makes me feel proud and delighted to rejoin it will be the true reward of having been in this House for 13 years.

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John Byng
Posted on 30 Mar 2010 1:37 pm (Report this annotation)

I am glad that in this speach Laura Moffat has acknowledged the importance of green investment in Crawley which is at present dangerously reliant on Gatwick Airport for employment.

There is an urgent need to diversify the local economy into more sustainable employment.

I hope that the new MP for Crawley will continue to encourage sustainable development rather than further expansion of Gatwick airport.