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I first met the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) when I was a local authority leader and he was the Local Government Minister, and I was struck by the tributes that were paid to his work on
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behalf of local government by two of my hon. Friends today: my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) and for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland). Those tributes reflect the wide respect for the right hon. Gentleman's work as the Local Government Minister. It was characteristic that he spoke about local government today, as well as expressing a view on policy on Europe that was somewhat dissonant from that of some of his hon. Friends.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge drew attention to the dramatic regeneration that is under way in the north-east, including the announcement of the new electric car being built at Nissan and today's announcement by Siemens of a big investment in offshore wind manufacture in the UK. He was right to draw our attention to those achievements.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) called for the deficit to be eliminated faster, but it was striking that he did not answer the question put to him in an intervention by the hon. Member for Taunton about how that would square with today's announcement from the shadow Front-Bench team of an almost £6 billion reduction in national insurance income to the Exchequer. That would leave a gaping hole in the Conservative party's calculations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) supported the proposals for separating the different functions of the banks-as, to a degree, did the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon. My hon. Friend wanted to see greater ambition in the proposals for a green investment bank. I know he will welcome the imminent commencement of the feed-in tariff arrangements for renewable energy. I pay tribute to him for being one of the first in the House to have called for that change. His campaign was successful, and he was an early champion of those arrangements, which will take effect in the next couple of weeks. I echo the tributes that have been paid to him today.

The right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr. Kennedy) made a number of points about his constituency. I particularly agree with what he said about the importance of investment in broadband. The Government's commitment is, first, to ensure that at least a basic level-2 megabits per second-of broadband service is universally available by 2012. I expect his constituency to be among the major beneficiaries of that investment, and we have identified some £200 million to support that commitment. Beyond that, we want to extend next-generation broadband services to every part of the UK. That is the reason for the 50p a month levy on phone lines, which I think he supports. He is right to do so, because that levy will generate £1 billion of investment between now and 2017, enabling us to ensure that at least 90 per cent. of UK households have access to next-generation services by that date. It struck me forcefully when I visited Scotland how strong the support for that programme was. There is widespread recognition of its importance to the rural businesses in Scotland-and, indeed, in England-that will benefit from its services, just as urban areas are already starting to do.

Mr. Charles Kennedy: I am grateful to the Minister for returning to my point about broadband. He mentioned his recent visit to Scotland, and he is quite right to say that there is a great deal of enthusiasm for broadband there, for all the obvious reasons. I do not want to get
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into partisan point scoring, but has he found that his relationship with the Scottish Government in Edinburgh is constructive on this matter, or are they occasionally using this as an excuse to blame Westminster? Are they being co-operative and collaborative in pushing this issue forward?

Mr. Timms: Broadly, I think they are. I must say that my disappointment is with the Conservative party, which professes to support rural areas but does not will the means to do so. The levy will allow us to achieve that.

I enjoyed the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe who drew attention to investment in Sheffield Forgemasters and in Siemens. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his point about Government support for the computer games industry. We announced a new tax relief for computer games companies, recognising the inherent strengths and creativity of UK developers, while also recognising the impact of subsidies given to firms in Canada and elsewhere. I visited Abertay university in Dundee recently. In order to illustrate one aspect of the commercial significance of its work, I was shown how visualisation technology for games could be used for complex soil analysis. We are backing that kind of brilliant innovation being developed by companies and universities, including in Sheffield, as my hon. Friend rightly said.

The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) made an intemperate and, I thought, rather inaccurate attack on the Prime Minister. I know there is a market for that sort of perspective, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will take it from this straight soldier that what he said is inaccurate.

I very much enjoyed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt). Along with the whole House, I wish her well when she returns to her previous vocation. She made some forceful points about Thameslink and she was right to underline its importance for her constituents.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) spoke about his role as Chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee, although I know him better as his party's former spokesman on education-a role that he filled with distinction.

The hon. Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson) was among those who supported the Budget's measures to support new, small and growing businesses. He mentioned agreements with RBS and Lloyds to provide new lending, nearly half of it to small businesses.

There is also the launch of UK Finance for Growth, which is responsible for overseeing the Government's stock of more than £4 billion of SME finance products. To incentivise business investment and to help small businesses expand in the recovery, the threshold for the annual investment allowance will be increased to £100,000 from next month, which means that in the first year 99 per cent. of businesses will be able to deduct from their taxable profits all their investments in plant and machinery. We are doubling entrepreneurs' relief for capital gains tax.

The economy we are now seeing is showing encouraging signs of improvement, but there is absolutely no room for complacency. We need to work hard to secure the
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recovery, to rebuild momentum and to build on the return of growth at the end of last year. The Budget sets out a clear plan to achieve those aims, and I commend it to the House.

9.27 pm

Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned .-(Mr. Mudie.)

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.


Policing (Croydon)

9.28 pm

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): I am pleased to present these petitions- [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Will Members leaving the Chamber please do so as quickly and as quietly as possible?

Mr. Pelling: The petition states:


Traffic (The Glade, Croydon)

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The petition states:


Traffic (Orchard Avenue, Croydon)

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The petition states:


Potholes (New Addington, Croydon)

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The petition states:

29 Mar 2010 : Column 605


Tram Overcrowding (Croydon)

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The petition states:


Central Parade (New Addington, Croydon)

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The petition states:


Pear Tree Farm (Croydon)

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The petition states:


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Featherbed Lane Pinch Point (Croydon)

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The petition states:


Mayday Hospital A&E (Croydon)

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The petition states:

Night Buses (New Addington, Croydon)

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The petition states:


29 Mar 2010 : Column 607


Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. -(Mr. Mudie.)

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