I am delighted to contribute to the debate and to add my voice of support to those who have already commended the Budget.
I applaud the measures brought forward by the Chancellor to support our high streets. As an MP who represents three towns—Long Eaton, Ilkeston and Sandiacre—and a few villages, all with their own independent shops, pub, cafes and restaurants, I know that the reduction in business rates from April next year and for the next two years will be a welcome boost to them all. With that measure, together with the £675 million set aside for the future high streets fund, the Chancellor recognises that we have reached a pivotal moment in our nation’s consumer history. He is quite right to recognise that we are no longer a nation of shopkeepers, but a nation of online shoppers.
As Ministers begin to establish the new high street taskforce, my plea is that they ensure that cities are not unfairly prioritised over towns. We need to make sure that towns are regenerated as much as city high streets. We also need to look forward and think about what else brings people to our historic market towns—the word is there: market—and support our street markets as well as high streets.
I welcome the plans to publish a refreshed midlands engine strategy next year. That will present us with a fantastic opportunity to cement the region as a hub of trade and commerce, as well to capitalise on the benefits that High Speed 2 will bring to our region. I want to make sure that there is more emphasis on the east midlands, because I feel that, to date, a lot of the emphasis has been on the west midlands.
I have always been clear that once it is built, HS2 will undoubtedly unlock huge economic benefits for the east midlands in the form of new jobs, as well as providing much-needed capacity on an otherwise Victorian rail network. However, I am not afraid to be frank with Ministers: residents and businesses in my constituency must be compensated in full for the considerable disruption and displacement caused by the construction of the new line.
After my interventions, the Government have already made significant concessions on the extension of the compensation zones, and in some cases they have fast-tracked the process above and beyond what is required by law. We must go further still, and I will continue to make the case to Ministers and to HS2 Ltd for a bespoke compensation package for Long Eaton that takes into account the unique impact that the project will have on my town.
The £2 million of new seed capital to create a new development corporation, announced by the Chancellor in his conference speech at the beginning of October, is the first step to ensuring that we get the project right for local people. I look forward to playing an active role, along with Sir John Peace, chair of the midlands engine, who will lead this new corporation, so that, together we can deliver a financial package to mitigate the impact on my constituents and develop the case for wider infrastructure investment from Government to support the Toton hub, such as a new motorway junction at 25A to relieve traffic trying to head to the M1 and to relieve congestion through Sandiacre and Long Eaton.
Given the action that my right hon. Friend has taken, I am convinced that he shares my ambition for our great region and that he will have heard the case that I have made for further investment to support the communities affected by HS2 and will consider my proposals carefully. None the less, the fact remains that none of these proposals would be possible without a strong economy. Under the careful stewardship of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and the Conservative Government, and after eight years of fixing the roof, what we see in this Budget is an optimism and a confidence for the future of our great nation.
It is a Budget that provides for lower taxes, higher wages, record employment, a growing economy and new investment in public services. That is what our party offers the British people, and that is what the Labour party would really put at risk.
I am proud to support this Budget on behalf of my constituents. I congratulate the Chancellor on the ambitious, yet pragmatic, approach that he has taken to our nation’s finances and I commend it to the House.