Many congratulations on your re-election, Mr Deputy Speaker. I also congratulate all the new Members who have made such excellent maiden speeches.
I support the Queen’s Speech because of its ambition and direction of travel. The Prime Minister has rightly stated that every part of this country has a stake in our economic success. Much good work was done by the previous Government, but there is a great deal more to do and there will be plenty of potential pitfalls along the way.
The Bills in the Queen’s Speech provide the framework for developing sustained prosperity right across the country and it will be important to scrutinise them closely as they progress through this House and the other place. In some cases, the devil will be in the detail; no stone should be left unturned in the pursuit of good legislation that works for the whole United Kingdom.
For too long, economic policy in the UK has been centralised and top down. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is correct in his assessment that the model of running everything from London has failed and created an unbalanced economy. It has become clear that the man in Whitehall does not know best. I support the ambition and determination to create a northern powerhouse, but it is important that all other parts of the country should have the same opportunity and access to the necessary funds.
For my part, I wholly endorse the words of my right hon. Friend Sir Alan Haselhurst in wanting an East Anglian powerhouse. British people talk about the weather; we East Anglians talk about infrastructure. That is because we do not have very much of it, and what we do have does not work very well. In my Waveney constituency, the nearest motorway is in Holland; our railways resemble an elephants’ graveyard where trains come to die; and there are some very rural areas where broadband coverage is spasmodic, at the very least. I commend the Prime Minister for stating:
“We will make sure everyone has the infrastructure they need to succeed.”
In the previous Parliament, he and the Government that he led put their money where their mouth was. In this Parliament, we have to deliver, and get these roads and bridges built and superfast broadband made available to all.
The projects for which funding has been provided must be built on time. The preparatory work for upgrading the A47 must be carried out promptly. The 16-month period that has been suggested before any construction work begins is not acceptable. We must use the opportunity presented by the rail franchise tender to deliver better railways with reliable, fast and comfortable trains that run on time. With the third crossing project in Lowestoft, locally we will complete the necessary studies that the Government have enabled us to do and then work with them to get this very important piece of local infrastructure built.
I shall briefly mention three industries important to Waveney that have the potential to contribute a great deal to the local economy but need to overcome a variety of obstacles. First, the oil and sector faces significant challenges created by the dramatic fall in crude oil prices. Jobs are being lost, including at AKD Engineering in Lowestoft, which closes this month. The Government have recognised the problem and came forward in the Budget with proposals that restructure the taxation regime. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that that should boost North sea oil production by 15% by the end of the decade. That is welcome, but I urge the Treasury to work closely with the industry to bring in further measures in next month’s Budget if necessary.
The offshore wind industry can bring significant benefits to the Waveney economy, and in the past five years work has been put in place to enable it to do so. We need to get those wind farms off the East Anglian coast built during this five-year term.
The fishing industry is also in need of support. My hon. Friend Richard Benyon helped to reform the common fisheries policy. We now need to ensure that the small fishermen who make up the Lowestoft fleet have fair access and a fair share of quota.
The proposals announced in the Queen’s Speech are welcome, but there is much work to do. No parts of the country must be forgotten. On infrastructure, we must press on to get roads and bridges built. There must be no no-go areas as regards policy, particularly in fishing.