The Government’S Productivity Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:38 pm on 28th February 2017.

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Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Chair, Education, Skills and the Economy Sub-Committee, Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee 4:38 pm, 28th February 2017

I reiterate what I said earlier about welcoming this debate on the Government’s productivity plan, and I thank all hon. Members who have contributed to it. It seems curiously appropriate that, as we were debating this, news came through that Sir Philip Green is providing up to £363 million to sort out the pensions debacle that he himself created. Many Members of the Committee worked very hard to achieve that result—the hon. Members for Horsham (Jeremy Quin), for Bedford (Richard Fuller), for Cannock Chase (Amanda Milling), for Derby North (Amanda Solloway) and for Edinburgh West (Michelle Thomson). They were forensic and professional, and they put aside party politics to all work as one in order to continue to put pressure on Sir Philip Green. They should be very proud of themselves today.

I find it appropriate that a great, great parliamentarian and a fantastic co-Chair, my right hon. Friend Frank Field, is also in the Chamber. He especially provided leadership of the Joint Committee and put pressure on Sir Philip to do the right thing—to right the wrongs that he had put in place. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, who is also a great friend of mine.

We can see a theme in all this, which is that the economy does not work for everyone. There was a disconnect: at a time when BHS workers were facing redundancies or cuts to their pension entitlements, Sir Philip Green was getting ownership of a third yacht. There is something profoundly wrong, and structural weaknesses need to be addressed. I hope that that was the purpose behind the productivity plan and the Government’s new industrial strategy. However, this cannot last just for 12 or 18 months. It must be long standing to ensure that we get permanent change and address the problems of inadequate investment in infrastructure, skills deficiencies and appalling regional imbalances in productivity and high growth. That is the challenge. I hope we can have a long-term view to ensure that the industrial strategy becomes embedded. The productivity plan seems to be last year’s thing, frankly. I hope that the industrial strategy can persist and last for decades to come so that we can really have an economy that works for everyone.

Question deferred (Standing Order No. 54).