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I want to start by expressing my gratitude and admiration for the dedication and professionalism of all in our health services at this extremely difficult time. It is a challenge that none of us wanted to face, but it is important that we are united in doing so.
I congratulate the Chancellor on his determination to take mitigating action against the challenges of covid-19 in his ambitious Budget. It is a responsible and reassuring message from the Treasury, which has stepped up promptly and resolutely, echoing the Prime Minister’s assurance that no one should be penalised for doing the right thing, and delivering unprecedented levels of investment in our public services at this crucial time. I stood on a platform of delivering more investment in our public services, and the record investment across the health service will undoubtedly ease the pressures on our much loved NHS. I will continue to press for a resolution of the PFI legacy at Royal Stoke University Hospital as we approach the spending review.
I am a strong believer that the key to delivering the best possible public services is to develop and adopt new technologies, while ensuring that we maintain a free-at-the-point-of-use, world-class health service. Those technologies range from innovative new medical devices, treatments and applications at hospitals and health centres to smart apps that maintain an individual’s independence by monitoring their health in their own home. The current needs in responding to the coronavirus make the latter particularly pertinent.
Stoke-on-Trent is a world leader in the development of advanced ceramics, which has many applications, including across health. I am extremely keen to see the establishment of the advanced ceramics campus at Staffordshire University, to encourage the fusion of education, research and public sector innovation with leading private sector partners such as Lucideon.
I welcome the £1.5 billion in capital spending to refurbish further education colleges and the commitment of £2.5 billion for a national skills fund to improve adult skills. As it says on page 4 of the Red Book,
“The government is committed to giving everyone the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of where they are from.”
In Stoke-on-Trent, that could—and should—mean that the excellent facilities in local colleges could be used more fully to offer evening courses for local people in work who wish to gain new skills. That is very much part of the levelling up agenda, offering people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to gain qualifications, move up the employment ladder or look at the possibility of self-employment.
This Budget keeps us on the right path, with opportunities to secure better public services locally. It provides assurance that, no matter how difficult the weeks and months ahead may be because of the coronavirus pandemic, this Government will pursue the positive agenda that we were sent to this House to deliver.