Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Conservative, Tonbridge and Malling 5:50 pm, 8th March 2017

What we have here is a Budget that sets out a transformational moment in our history. As many people have mentioned, we have spoken a lot about Brexit—about leaving the European Union—not just today, but over many of the weeks and months past. The idea that the Chancellor has somehow dodged the question is therefore frankly a little odd, in the same way that it would be odd to describe how we speak about democracy in that way—of course, the whole element is democratic. It is absolutely absurd to pick out bits and pretend they have not been picked on.

There are a few areas of the Budget I would like to pick out, which I am particularly keen on. The digital infrastructure budget of £740 million—much of it going into 5G and broadband—will be absolutely essential in constituencies such as mine. Rural communities such as mine have huge amounts of innovation and enterprise but little of the infrastructure to hold them together, and this money will allow them to communicate with not just each other but the world. As we open ourselves up to the world, and as the Department for International Trade makes such extraordinary efforts to link us very much to communities on the other side of the planet, it seems quite absurd that I could get 3G and 4G signals very easily in Kabul and Khartoum, but that, in Kent, getting a phone call at all is pretty tricky.

That money is very welcome, and so too is the spending on national roads infrastructure, because, of course, we do need to communicate internally. However, one area I have not heard enough about, which I would like to hear more about, is rail. So often, we focus on the economics of rail as though rail paid for itself through the ticket prices, but, of course, it does not. Trains pay for themselves not through the ticket prices paid by the travelling public but through the economic development they allow. I therefore hope very much that we will look again at rail infrastructure and look very seriously at how much more we can put in.

There are, of course, other areas. As an investor in a few start-ups in this country—I refer you to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, Madam Deputy Speaker—I am pleased to see the £100 million for the global research talent pool and the £250 million of talent funding going to PhDs and suchlike. Attracting the best and the brightest to our community is about starting those businesses and generating that enterprise and innovation that will turn us into not just a more advanced, better and richer society but the think-tank and the start-up capital of the world, and I think that we can get there.