The Economy and Work

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 26th May 2016.

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Photo of Jeremy Quin Jeremy Quin Conservative, Horsham 3:44 pm, 26th May 2016

It is, as ever, a pleasure to follow Roger Mullin, and I am grateful to him for his advice. As a neo-classicist myself, I now know that I need to keep an eye on my variables. I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying that it is an even greater pleasure for Conservative Members to know that there is now an effective Opposition in the Scottish Parliament, keeping an eye on his colleagues and what they are up to, up north.

I listened to every word of not only the hon. Gentleman’s speech but that of the shadow Chancellor. I do not know whether the shadow Chancellor rehearses his speeches in front of his colleagues, but, if so, he may have allowed himself a wry smile when he referred to the need to replace old worn-out infrastructure with something more effective. Having read “Labour’s Future”—a very Little Red Book!—I can only imagine that the shadow Chancellor’s advisers, Messrs Fischer and Varoufakis, have got their work cut out in the years ahead.

In the short time that remains to me, I want to say some positive things about what is a very positive Gracious Speech. I serve on the Financial Inclusion Commission, an honour that I share with George Kerevan, and I am particularly interested in the way in which the Government are setting out to improve financial inclusion and resilience. The scale of the problem, highlighted by an excellent paper published earlier this week by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Financial Inclusion Commission, is immense, but the Government are taking positive steps.

I welcome fee-free basic bank accounts, the lifetime ISA and the continuing successful roll-out of auto-enrolment, but I particularly welcome the Help to Save scheme, from which up to 3.5 million low-paid workers could benefit. I do not for one second underestimate the difficulty, for many families, of saving £50 a month, but from my experience of credit unions I know that some do, and if they do it through that scheme, they will be better off to the tune of £1,200. I welcome the scheme for its direct impact, but I welcome it even more for the culture of financial resilience that it could provide. Curbs on payday lending will get us only so far. Any step that helps to boost resilience, and thereby reduces demand for those crippling services, is to be welcomed.

Our main focus, however, must be on encouraging resilience by promoting national economic growth, and the Gracious Speech is imbued with policies that will enhance productivity. As has been mentioned a number of times during the debate, establishing a legal right to broadband connections will enhance productivity, and will also aid financial and social inclusion.

The Government’s commitment to transport is well founded. The performance of Horsham’s local rail operator, Govia Thameslink Railway—not helped by the current industrial action—is woeful, but I recognise the Government’s commitment to investment in the line.

In the context of transport and productivity, the Davies commission made an unequivocal recommendation in favour of Heathrow. It said that Gatwick would deliver half the economic benefit, that it had insufficient transport connections, and that it would fail to provide the hub airport that Britain needs. For the sake of our national productivity, let us get on with expanding Heathrow.

Finally, let me welcome fair funding for schools. It will assist the recruitment of maths and other STEM teachers in west Sussex, and it will help to drive future productivity, enable us to create a generation throughout the country who are better equipped to seize the opportunities that the Government are creating, and boost financial inclusion and resilience.