Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:49 pm on 23rd March 2021.

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Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Conservative, Don Valley 4:49 pm, 23rd March 2021

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Paul Howell.

This is the second time I have been able to speak on this programme, the first being in the Budget debate, and it is safe to say that as a proud Conservative and businessman, I am extremely excited about this initiative. This Government have spent much on supporting this country as it has battled against coronavirus, and that has been hugely appreciated by many in my constituency, but now is the time that we look at ways in which we can raise revenue and transform our economy for the better.

The ability to borrow money comes only through being a responsible debtor and showing your creditors that you are serious about paying the money back. If we are to maintain our position as a fiscally prudent country, we have three choices: spending less, taxing more, or growing our economy, primarily through exports. We must not forget that, as predicted by the Office for Budget Responsibility, spending will reduce through the roll-out of the vaccine and the subsequent opening up of the economy. Furthermore, we now know that the books will not be balanced through one-off wealth tax grabs that were predicted; instead, the Chancellor rightly decided to introduce a tiered system of corporation tax while still encouraging investment through super deductions.

Today I want to touch on growth through innovation and exports. This innovative and export-led growth will of course only be possible if the UK has the best products and services to sell. This is possible now, more than ever, as we are no longer constrained by Brussels red tape. By establishing the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, we can finally fund our budding scientists, inventors and visionaries properly. The high-risk, high-value objective of the agency will ensure that the very best talent that the UK has to offer can solve problems, introduce ideas and create technological wonders that would not otherwise be possible. That is not just for show: this new approach will help to create wealth, jobs and prosperous futures for decades to come. After all, similar projects are what led to the creation of the internet and other transformative technologies that we once considered unimaginable. As highlighted, if we are again to become the workshop of the world, research and innovation projects must not be hindered by bureaucracy and slow decision making. Only then can the real risk-takers go ahead so that our innovators can be set free and get on with formulating and envisioning the next great technological changes of the 21st century. With the budget being offered to ARIA, I know they will be able to.

We have seen through this pandemic what talent our country has at its disposal. ARIA will unleash this talent and no doubt help to catapult our great industries on to the world stage, thus bringing our trade deficit and national debt down and supercharging a green industrial revolution right here in the UK. Yet the Advanced Research and Invention Agency can only unleash this talent if its chief executive is forward-thinking and a real visionary, for we are embarking on something truly revolutionary in the world of innovation and technological advancement. In other words, this initiative is far too important to be left in the hands of someone who does not share the stated aim of supercharging scientific discovery. I hope the Department advertises this position widely and is meticulous in appointing the right person who can lead this aspirational agency forward.

As someone who prides themselves on being a constituency-focused MP, I say to the people of Don Valley: “Do not think that what we are discussing here today will not affect you. Quite the contrary; the establishment of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency is as much for you as it is for anyone else in this country, for I know that future innovators, scientists and entrepreneurs from Don Valley will all benefit from this forward-looking, exciting programme.” Finally, if the Government truly want to demonstrate their commitment to levelling up the north, there will be no better way of doing so than by establishing this agency right here in Doncaster.