It is a pleasure to follow the fine speech by Sir Edward Davey, although I do not agree with his conclusion. At the start of March 2020, Telford, the town that I am so proud to serve, was coming of age. We had just celebrated our 50th birthday as a flourishing new town with a great future. Historically, Telford is a town that has been among the hardest hit by previous recessions, and it was once an unemployment blackspot, particularly for young people not in education, training or employment. We had the closures of the pits in the east Shropshire coalfield and the deep recessions that followed. Telford has always struggled, but it has always survived and, against the odds, in 2020 it was flourishing as never before. The new Southwater centre had been created, there was a thriving night-time economy with new restaurants and bars, and with new factories and new skills in advanced manufacturing jobs, unemployment was at an all-time low. The town centre’s iconic Plaza office blocks were fully let for the first time, and our huge retail sector was bustling.
Set against this backdrop, it is desperately sad to see that those who had been hit the hardest in the past—those who had struggled the most and triumphed over the odds—have been hit the hardest all over again. Overnight, Telford became a ghost town, a wasteland with bits of litter blowing around the empty streets. The Telford dream was now a nightmare of lost livelihoods, lost opportunities and lost hopes for the future. The futures that people had nurtured and nourished were swept away in an instant. When people stop buying cars, it is not just the showrooms in Chelsea and the production lines in Solihull that suffer; it is also the supply chains, including the people making wheel arches in Telford, as well as their families, their household incomes and the local shops where they spend their wages. They all suffer.
However, Telford has always found innovative ways to survive—adapting, evolving and embracing change, from the coke ovens of the industrial revolution to the state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing robots of 21st-century post-Brexit Britain. We know how to do change in Telford: fundamental change, step change, revolutionary change. Let us be in no doubt that the covid crisis is the stimulus for a new, accelerated revolution involving a new economy with new jobs in tech, data and the life sciences. In the town that was the birthplace of the very first industrial revolution, we understand that by embracing change we embrace opportunity.
Post-covid, none of us can keep doing what we used to do. The world has hit reset, and we must evolve to meet the new normal. We are all being forced out of our comfort zones and doing things differently, and that process is now well under way in Telford. Our history in Telford shows us that by embracing revolution and finding solutions through innovation, all change is an opportunity to be seized. Because of this, we in Telford will survive and flourish once more. I want to take this opportunity to thank the Treasury team for the incredibly agile and responsive support that they have given to workers and businesses throughout the pandemic, and to young people across Telford today. Telford’s economy, and the economy across the UK, could not be in better hands than those of our nimble, responsive and emotionally intelligent Chancellor. My message to the Chancellor is: keep doing what you are doing, because we know you are with us every step of the way. We in Telford thank you for that.