I direct Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. As a former apprentice in Teesside’s chemical industry, I welcome my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s statement, as he takes the necessary steps to restart our economy by supporting, creating and protecting jobs.
Four months ago, as a country we all sat down and watched the Prime Minister announce the national lockdown. Businesses closed their doors, not knowing when they would reopen. Employees went home, not knowing whether they would have a job to return to. Families sat with their children, not knowing when schools would return.
The Government recognised the scale of the sacrifice and delivered an unprecedented level of support for workers throughout Britain. In Redcar and Cleveland alone, more than 20,000 people were helped through the coronavirus job-retention scheme and the self-employed income support scheme. I accept that the system is not perfect and that some people were not able to get the same level of support, but those two schemes alone are recognised as some of the most generous globally.
If we consider the cut in business rates, the mortgage holidays, the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, the bounce-back loans, the uplift in universal credit, the future fund, the sick-pay rebate, the tax deferrals and the £30 million-worth of small business grants given to Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, we can see that this is a Government who are determined to support businesses and working people with whatever it takes. Now is the time to get things back on track.
Following on from the plan for jobs that my right hon. Friend announced earlier, there are three areas in which I think we can start a jobs revolution. The first is focused decarbonisation. Before the lockdown, between January and March this year renewables soared to make up 47% of all UK electricity generation—up from a mere 6% 10 years ago. Our new normal is greener, but there is still more to do. The announcement on the green homes grant is a fantastic first step, and in the Budget earlier this year the Chancellor had already committed £800 million to support carbon capture, utilisation and storage, but I urge him to go further in his autumn Budget. Investment in hydrogen technology can decarbonise our hard-to-abate sectors such as transport, domestic heating and industry, creating and securing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the sector.
Secondly, the Chancellor and I share a love for free ports. However, the process for developing our free port strategy could end up being long and complex. By fast-tracking Teesside as a free port pilot, without the need for the lengthy competition process, we will start to create new jobs now and benefit from free port status immediately after
Thirdly, we need to reform public procurement to help to support local businesses and ensure that UK jobs are supported. We are embarking on a decade of build, build, build, and one of the largest pieces in the jigsaw will be HS2. However, we already see parts of HS2 being made in France when British fabricators have the capability here. This is not a cry to buy anything with a Union Jack printed on it—we should of course protect the public purse and strive to deliver value for money—but we must always consider the economic, social and environmental impact of choosing to support UK jobs. By seizing such opportunities, we can be at the forefront of a global transition and lead the way to a new, healthier post-covid economy.
To conclude, the last time this country was asked to make a national effort on this scale was during world war two. After so much destruction, the areas that the Government needed to rebuild then were obvious—roads, infrastructure and buildings—and left little room for innovation. This time it is different: this time we have the ability to decide our own spending priorities on the back of this crisis. I know that everyone in this House will seek to play their part in helping the country to rise to this challenge of new proportions and ensure that no one is left without hope.