I will come to that later in my speech. I apologise, but I am having difficulty seeing today, so Members should shout loudly if they want to intervene.
I was saying that the Government’s commitment to making the UK the best place in the world to do business should be warmly welcomed by the House.
I have spent most of my life in retail and manufacturing, so I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by the sector, which are clearly not unique to the industry and can be seen throughout the business community. With the right foundations, business and industry can and will flourish; we just need to provide the right conditions, which the productivity plan rightly addresses. In doing so, it is essential for us to focus on improving the quality of our primary and secondary education to provide an adequate starting point for young people heading into further education, apprenticeships and employment. I welcome the Government’s recognition that improvements to basic skills such as numeracy and literacy play a vital role, and the fact that they are putting those skills at the heart of their reforms. It is skill provision in general that I shall touch on today.
The UK’s competitiveness in the open market is now more important than ever. Following the result of last year’s referendum, as we seek to find new avenues for investment and trade, the potential opportunities for and contribution to our nation’s productivity should not be underestimated. New capital, more competition, and new technologies will all be vital as we look to compete with the rest of the world.
From a Derby North perspective, the success of the midlands engine is incredibly important to me. The midlands engine strategy can be a vehicle to deliver policy that will not only increase productivity but support the vision for a successful United Kingdom. We have a strong offering in the midlands that can deliver growth that is not only balanced by sector, geography and trade, but also sustainable, in that it creates skilled, highly productive roles backed by private sector investment. The midlands engine must focus on elements that give us competitive advantage, central to which is our expertise in key sectors, especially advanced manufacturing.
In my constituency alone we have a high density of original equipment manufacturers—such as Toyota, Rolls-Royce and Bombardier—and a well-established supply chain that serves them all. It is essential that we have the training and skills that match local employers’ needs, which is something the productivity plan looks to address.