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16 Jun 2010 : Column 936

I was privileged to be present at the unveiling of a memorial by the steps of the town hall in Barnsley to mark all the men and boys who were killed or injured while working in the pits in and around Barnsley. Mick Clapham spoke movingly, and without notes. In this place, he was able to use his tremendous experience to considerable effect, especially in helping to secure much-needed compensation for former miners. I know that he will continue to use his experience in his capacity as chair of the Government's important review committee on the regeneration of the coalfield communities.

Mick embodied one of the finest traditions of this House in being one of the large number of former miners who have served here. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) represents this tradition extremely well, as do others, including my fellow new Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery). The number of former miners in the House is, sadly, reducing and it is my view that the House of Commons is the poorer for it.

The area I represent remains a community built on coal. I myself grew up in Edlington, the site of the main Yorkshire colliery, and the house I grew up in overlooked the pit. My brother and his family still live in the same house. In not-too-distant history, coal mining in Barnsley accounted for more than 30,000 jobs, with many more dependent on that employment. My constituency has had more than a dozen pits at one time or another. Today, the number is zero, and we are still dealing today with the consequence of the closure of those pits.

My constituents are proud-very proud-of their industrial heritage. They remember the jobs of the past, but they want the jobs of the future. The question today, then, is how we continue to give people the opportunities they need and how we can continue to transform lives and life chances. The context was set out very well by the leader of Barnsley council, Stephen Houghton, in the "Tackling Worklessness Review" of March last year. How we use the power of Government, working with the private sector and with local government to promote employment in areas like my own is extremely important.

I have to say that the policies of the new coalition Government are not encouraging. There seems to be complete hostility towards the public sector, and complete hostility towards the role of Government: it is always the Government who are the problem, and they can never be a force for good. That was certainly the Prime Minister's and the Chancellor's rhetoric. We heard, I thought, a slightly different tone from the Secretary of State in his rather baffling performance today, but I am sure that we will get to the bottom of where he is coming from.

The abolition of the future jobs fund, which was pioneered in Barnsley, was a major blow and a matter of profound regret for me and my constituents. We are also seeing the beginning of the hidden cuts in education that are affecting schools across Barnsley right now. This is not new politics, but old economics. The mistakes of the 1920s are being repeated today-the sort of deflationary policies that we are now seeing repeated nearly a century later. By itself, the private sector cannot possibly deliver all the decent jobs in areas like mine that have fundamental structural problems.

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To finish, George Orwell spent some time in Barnsley when he was researching "The Road to Wigan Pier". He once said, in a rather critical way:

That might be slightly uncharitable towards southerners- [Interruption.] I emphasise the word "slightly". Despite the serious threats we in Barnsley face from the new Government and despite the challenges that lie ahead, I am convinced that the greatest asset we have in Barnsley are the people of Barnsley. It is their talent, their skills, their hard work, their ingenuity, and their pride in themselves and their compassion for others that make me so very proud to represent them here today.

4.14 pm

Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con): I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Michael Dugher) on his confident and well-spoken maiden speech. I noticed that he mentioned in the early part of his speech that he had worked in the Labour Whips Office, so I suspect he will be extremely useful to his new colleagues in helping to explain to them exactly how this place works. He also mentioned the need for jobs for the future; I entirely endorse what he said and agree with him on that.

I think it was the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills who set out earlier the basic difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition regarding the spending of money, and that is reflected in the Government's amendment to the Opposition motion. The previous Government tested to destruction the theory that if we throw money at a problem, we will resolve it. We all know now that that is not the case.

All Members should welcome discussion in the Chamber of the importance of manufacturing, and of the need for a balanced economy. I might have misheard the shadow Secretary of State earlier, but he seemed to imply that only Labour Members of Parliament understood the needs of manufacturing because it was based in their constituencies. Perhaps Labour Members have missed this, but there has been an election, and some seats have changed hands. I for one represent a seat with a significant amount of manufacturing, although there will be less when AstraZeneca closes its site at the end of 2011. However, my constituency has a large amount of high-tech manufacturing, including a wonderful engineering department at Loughborough university.

Matthew Hancock: Does my hon. Friend share my bafflement that all the speeches that we have heard from Labour Members seem to ignore the fact that over the past 13 years the share of manufacturing in our economy has halved? It is entirely contrary to the facts for them to talk about the brilliance of the Labour Government as regards manufacturing.

Nicky Morgan: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Manufacturing has fallen at a faster rate over the past 13 years than in the 1980s. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) spoke about the need for a balanced economy, but the previous
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Government had 13 years to achieve that. I welcome the fact that the Conservative-Lib Dem Government's coalition agreement says that there is a need for a balanced economy.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): My hon. Friend makes a powerful case. Was not the entire strategy of the former Labour Government predicated on three things: the housing market, the growth in financial services and public sector expenditure increases? All were found wanting, and manufacturing and other sectors were neglected.

Nicky Morgan: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I noticed a certain amount of eye rolling when an earlier speaker mentioned that she had worked in the financial services industry. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, however, the financial services industry's growth over the past 13 years was huge. We will not take lessons from Labour Members in that regard.

In referring to industry, I think that Labour Members have been talking about larger companies-perhaps I will be corrected-but most people in this country work for smaller businesses, and in some cases very small businesses. They are the backbone of our economy, and their growth will drive the economy out of the current situation.

I want to talk about three aspects of support for business, some of which have been referred to already. First, more bank lending to businesses is necessary. As chamber of commerce research shows, small businesses are being penalised with higher rates of interest. In my constituency, two gentlemen running a small industrial company who rightly took out a mortgage to buy premises in 2007-when lenders were falling over themselves to lend their company money, as it was a very sound bet and had never failed to make repayments-have suddenly been told by the building society in question that the property has fallen in value and that the ratios are therefore wrong, so they will have to renegotiate the mortgage and pay higher interest rates that are clearly beyond them. That is exactly what banks should not be doing at this critical time in the economic cycle when businesses need support.

Mr Watson: Will the hon. Lady suggest how Government might intervene to stop that?

Nicky Morgan: Obviously I am not running the Treasury, and I am not the Chancellor of the Exchequer. [Hon. Members: "Not yet."] That is too kind.

I contacted the chief executive of the building society I mentioned and asked for an explanation, but I sometimes wonder whether decisions are made at a lower level of management and without any real thought or understanding. We heard a statement earlier about the directors of banks. I should like to know whether all directors are fully informed of the way in which their bank is running its business, and whether they realise that they are putting the squeeze on businesses which, although sound, cannot afford to make higher repayments at this stage of the economic cycle while they are also trying to stay afloat and keep people employed.

Much has already been said about the increase in regulation. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, small firms spend seven hours a week dealing with red
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tape. I welcome the Government's decision to introduce a "one in, one out" system. I do not know whether other Members have been receiving surveys, but I received one recently asking what law I would like to introduce. Actually, I do not want to introduce any more laws. I should like to see fewer laws. I should like laws and regulations to be simplified, both for businesses and for individuals.

Members have mentioned the gold-plating of European Union legislation, which goes on all the time. I sincerely hope that following the change of Government, we shall see an instruction that regulations are no longer to be gold-plated.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): May I commend to the hon. Lady the most recent report of the Regulatory Reform Committee, published in the last Session? Evidence was taken from a wide range of sources, including the London Business School, which said that it was not true that Britain was in the habit of gold-plating EU regulations.

Nicky Morgan: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I shall certainly look at the report, but I know from my business experience that that is not the case. Some regulations may not have been gold-plated, but I understand that in one instance that has been brought to my attention-the agency workers directive-the Government have gone further than was intended in the EU's original drafting.

I visited a local business recently, a recruitment company. I was told that it employed one individual to help it to deal with its accounts. In one month, he has to fill in four different forms for a business register and employment survey, an annual business survey, an annual survey of hours and earnings, and a monthly wages and salaries survey. The annual business survey asked how long it took him to fill in the form. It had taken him one hour and 25 minutes-one hour and 25 minutes that could have been spent earning money for the business. Who is using all this information, and what is it being used for? Is it just going into some big black hole somewhere? We are making our businesses spend far too long on red tape and form-filling.

Before I return to the subject of regional development agencies, I want to say something about skills and apprenticeships. I was delighted when, earlier today, the Prime Minister said that there would be support for them in the Budget, and I welcome the 50,000 additional places that are mentioned in the amendment to the motion. We have a terrific college in Loughborough, which I visited again recently. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Universities and Science has visited it with me, and his colleague the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), has visited it as well.

The college provides a variety of courses, but its building plans-like those of the college in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Margot James)-have been hit by the chaos in the Learning and Skills Council. Having committed £30,000 to the planning process for its new buildings, Loughborough college found that the LSC had massively overspent, and that it would receive none of the money. It now tells me that, although it does a tremendous job and its courses are
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well over-subscribed, its buildings will not be fit for purpose for much longer, and it does not know how it will find the money to fund the new ones.

Adult learning is very important. The hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) spoke of aspiration. I think that we should encourage better careers advice, emphasising the importance of manufacturing to school pupils and informing them of the opportunities that are available in the engineering sector and, indeed, all areas of manufacturing. One practical suggestion from a manufacturer is to help employers to run in-house training courses.

I want to comment on RDAs because I did not get a chance to intervene on the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey). Some RDAs may have achieved their purpose, but I recently spoke at a conference organised by the Leicestershire Asian Business Association. There were 50 people in the room. Not one of them-I specifically asked the question-had a good word to say about their RDA, the East Midlands Development Agency. I am happy to listen but it is up to the regions to decide the best way to offer business support. The best way may be through local enterprise partnerships. It may be through keeping some form of regional structure, but I support the amendment to the motion.

Several hon. Members rose-

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. The conventions of the maiden speech apply.

4.25 pm

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your new position. I also congratulate the new Members-the hon. Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee), and my hon. Friends the Members for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), for North West Durham (Pat Glass) and for Barnsley East (Michael Dugher)-on their excellent speeches.

I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House for the first time as the Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, particularly during a debate on industry. I follow in the footsteps of my former employer, mentor and friend Dr Ashok Kumar, who tragically died on 15 March this year. He was a polite, courteous and conscientious local community leader with an exemplary knowledge of manufacturing, processes and industry in general. More than that, he was loved in our area not just for his tenacity and work ethic, but for the warmth that emanated from his every pore. The people living in the hills, valleys and suburbs of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, whom he served with a selfless and determined devotion, will miss him terribly. He will be a hard act to follow.

It is a great honour and a privilege to represent the constituency where I was raised, and that I call home. Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland is a microcosm of British society. It includes former mining villages such Loftus, Carlin How, Skinningrove, Brotton and Skelton, large estates such as Hemlington and Park End, market towns such as Guisborough, leafy suburbs such as Nunthorpe, Marton and Coulby Newham, and seaside resorts such as Saltburn, where I live today. Those are all areas where I have personal memories of growing up.

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Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland encapsulates some of the diverse and interesting communities that make our country great, and those communities are a reflection of their industrial setting. My area bore men and women who assisted a son of my seat, Captain James Cook, to build the Endeavour from local timber to sail and discover Australia. Centuries later, the descendents of those same people helped to build the Sydney Harbour bridge from East Cleveland iron ore and Tees river steel. Today, my constituency still provides and proudly manufactures steel components at Corus Skinningrove and at TC Industries-places I know very well-where, alongside fellow workers at TCP Redcar, whom I represented as their union official, and with our two local papers, the Evening Gazette and The Northern Echo, we have fought to keep our proud steel-making heritage. That campaign still continues.

Many of my constituents work in and around the Wilton and Billingham chemical sites. A proud tradition of mining still continues at the Boulby potash mine; it is still going strong. Important institutions such as TTE bring on and train apprentices to be our next generation of skilled workers.

My seat also has a rich and varied agriculture. It has begun to diversify into a bourgeoning tourist industry, and a rapidly emerging digital economy, supported by our local Teesside university. That rich diversity was represented excellently by Ashok, an Asian MP in a predominantly white seat, who in his own maiden speech reflected upon following in the footsteps of local Labour heroes who overcame prejudice to build a better and fairer country for the minorities of the future. He talked about Billy Mansfield, an East Cleveland ironstone miner who left school at 13, and from the pit face to Parliament, as Ashok said, fought for his class and his people. There was also Ellen Wilkinson, who represented the old Middlesbrough East constituency throughout the early 1920s. She proved, against the conventional wisdom of the day, that a woman could successfully promote the needs, aspirations and dreams of a heavy industrial region.

As Ashok always reminded me, without the Labour party none of these huge cultural shifts could have been achieved. I am proud and humbled to be following in the historic tradition set out by my predecessors. The voices of the people of my area are ringing in my ears when I enter this House every single day. I am thinking of voices such as June Goodchild, a local community activist, who has strived for her estate in Easterside for years and achieved great things for her community by working in partnership with her local Labour authority in Middlesbrough; and Robbie Middlemas, a Skinningrove steelworker and community trade union site official, who for the past 24 months has led his members through some of the most difficult days that they have ever witnessed at Skinningrove. There has been a similar situation down the road at TCP Teesside. I am thinking of voices such as that of Ian, a local entrepreneur who lives next door to my parents, runs a small chemical fabrication business and has been helped by One NorthEast. Their lives will not be improved by over-simplified ideological positions and a reliance on the invisible hand of market forces. Sometimes the reason why that hand seems invisible in areas such as mine is because it is not, in fact, there at all.

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