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6.45 pm

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): I am delighted that we have had so many firsts in this debate. It is the first in which I have participated with you and other new Deputy Speakers in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, and we very much welcome you. We have also heard the speeches from the new Chairs of the Select Committees that will take a close interest in our deliberations: I welcome the speeches by the hon. Members for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey) and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller).

Above all, we have had some very welcome maiden speeches in the debate, and I pay tribute to the excellent speeches from new colleagues, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee). He spoke as a doctor, and also with great passion for space and the importance of the space industry. That cause is also close to my heart, and I welcome him to the Chamber. I hope that we shall be able to work together on that important subject.

We also heard from the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), and I agree with her about the importance of unionlearn. It is an excellent and cost-effective way of spreading access to skills in the workplace. We heard from the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), who spoke of the importance of the coal industry to his constituency. We also heard from the hon. Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass), who explained that her predecessor had been Hilary Armstrong, and that Hilary Armstrong's predecessor had been Ms Armstrong's father. We therefore welcome this radical break with the hereditary principle, and welcome the hon. Lady to the House. She also referred to socialism
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in her speech. We do not hear the word "socialism" in the Chamber very often, but we enjoyed her contribution all the same.

The hon. Member for Barnsley East (Michael Dugher) spoke with great passion about brass bands. Just occasionally, the meaning of the word "socialism" is a bit fuzzy when used by Labour Members, but, having heard his speech about brass bands, we now know that a socialist utopia will have been achieved when the Arts Council devotes as much money to brass bands as it does to the Royal Opera House. We very much look forward to the hon. Gentleman's advocacy of that cause.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): We'll look into it.

Mr Willetts: I hope that all hon. Members heard that intervention.

We also had a maiden speech from the hon. Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Tom Blenkinsop). That was particularly touching for those of us who were here in the last Parliament, because he referred to the sad loss of Ashok Kumar, who was held in high regard on both sides of the House.

As I was listening to those maiden speeches, I recalled a maiden speech delivered in a previous Parliament by a newly elected loyal Blairite Back Bencher who had previously been a London taxi driver. Many of us regretted that, in his new role, he would no longer be able to share his political opinions with us. However, we now have new Members who are certainly going to share their opinions with us in a most vigorous and effective way. Indeed, some newly elected Members are so vigorous and dynamic that they have already made their second speeches, which must be some kind of record. Among my intake in 1992, we had a competition to see which of us would first be referred to in the press as a senior Back Bencher, and I think that we have heard from several candidates for that title here today.

There was a paradox, however, in that many of these new Members, who are changing the character of our House, and rejuvenating and refreshing it by coming from all sides to bring fresh angles to the issues of the day, defined their political loyalties by historic disputes, especially disputes about the performance of our economy. I should like to set the record straight, especially for those Labour Members who have given such a caricature account of this country's economic history.

In 1979-a year that clearly rankles with some Labour Members-manufacturing industry comprised 25.8% of the British economy. In 1990, when Baroness Thatcher lost office, as a result of the economic policies that Labour Members have been criticising today, manufacturing was down to 22.5 % of gross domestic product. In 1997, when we last lost office, it was 20.3% of GDP; and in 2009, it was 11.8% of GDP. So next time we have any sermons from Labour Members about what has happened to manufacturing industry, I hope that they will come to this House and be willing to accept the simple evidence from those statistics.

Perhaps I can give the House a second set of statistics on another important measure of the performance of our economy-business investment. In 1979, business investment was 13% of GDP. Business investment goes up and down, but there was a trend, and I regret to say that by 1997 that figure had fallen to 11.7% of GDP. In
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2009, the last full year in which Labour was in office, business investment was 8.8% of GDP. When it comes to investing in the future of our economy and when it comes to manufacturing and the significance of the manufacturing sector, I hope that Labour Members will recognise the comprehensive failure of their years in office.

Toby Perkins rose-

Mr Willetts: I have very little time.

Many Labour Members referred particularly to regional issues, and I have to say to them that of course we understand the concern about regional imbalances in our economy. In fact, another measure that deteriorated over the past 10 years has been the gap in GDP between different regions of our economy. If we are to tackle the problem of regional imbalances, we have to look objectively at the performance of regional development agencies. The report from the National Audit Office, published in March this year, made it clear that the NAO was

by RDAs

The report went on to refer to "weaknesses", which

It concluded that RDAs were simply not doing the job they were supposed to do. That is why Government Members believe that RDA boundaries do not reflect functional economic areas; we wish to enable local enterprise partnerships to reflect better the natural economic geography of the areas that they serve. We are committed to replacing RDAs with local enterprise partnerships and we will invite local groups of councils and business leaders to come together to consider how they wish to form local enterprise partnerships.

Mr Bailey rose-

Mr Willetts: I will give way to the Chairman of the Select Committee.

Mr Bailey: Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the query I posed in my contribution and tell us whether the money hitherto allocated to RDAs will follow through to the local economic partnerships?

Mr Willetts: We do believe that there are efficiencies to be made because of the very high overhead costs of RDAs. Government Members are committed to saving public money, and I have to say that one way in which we will do so is by saving money in the overhead costs of RDAs as we move to the new arrangements-and we make no apology for that.

We also believe that some roles currently carried out by RDAs can be scrapped to save money-regional spatial strategies, for example. We simply do not need them-full stop. There are other roles, including inward investment, that we believe should be led nationally and can be carried out elsewhere. We heard powerful examples from several of my hon. Friends of how individual RDAs were spending money around the world on regional offices; this type of function is better done at the national level. We believe that some RDA roles in sector leadership and taking responsibility for business support and innovation can also best be done nationally. That is the approach that we will take.

16 Jun 2010 : Column 981

Our challenge is to rebalance the economy, to rebalance it in favour of manufacturing, to rebalance it in favour of investment and to rebalance it regionally as well. That is part of the inheritance that we take on from the previous Government.

Esther McVey (Wirral West) (Con): I have listened to what has been said this evening, and I would like to raise the concerns of small business owners and family-run businesses in Wirral, Cheshire and Merseyside, as I have been part of the Merseyside Entrepreneurship Commission. What they say is drowning them is the burden and cost of regulation. Last year, in the north-west alone, it cost £8.3 billion and, since 1998, the overall figure has gone up by £11 billion a year. I want to know what we are going to do to help the small businesses across the north-west.

Mr Willetts: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. To indicate the challenge that we face, the previous Government introduced 20,938 new regulations. Between 1987 and 1997, 46 pieces of primary legislation affected the workplace. In the subsequent 10 years under the Labour Government, 92 pieces of legislation affected the workplace. In the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, working with the Secretary of State, we have already identified on our forward programme 200 proposed regulations inherited from the outgoing Government that would have cost more than £5 billion to British business. Every one of those will be scrutinised, and we will roll back the burden of regulation, which is fundamental.

We believe in "rebalancing the economy", and although those are the new words, I sometimes think that Winston Churchill, who served in the House as a member of the Liberal party and of the Conservative party, expressed it best when he said that he wanted to see finance less proud and industry more content. That is what the Government stand for. Getting a grip on the public finances is fundamental, because otherwise, as my hon. Friends the Members for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock) and for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) described powerfully, interest rates will rise, which is a burden that British industry cannot be expected to bear. We need to bring down the burden of public borrowing and of the public finances.

The Government are not alone in believing in that-former Ministers who are now on the Opposition Benches signed up to such plans in government. They have failed today to give us any information about their plans to deliver the savings to which they publicly committed themselves. Let me remind them of what was in last year's pre-Budget report with regard to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It said that £300 million would be saved by reducing funding for adult skills budgets, and £600 million would be saved from higher education and science and research budgets. I agree with Labour Members about the importance of science, although it is a pity that they fought the last election on a proposal to save £600 million from higher education and science but have never informed us of exactly how they would have made those savings. We will now deliver the savings, and they are in no position to criticise the savings that they planned for but never had the guts to share with us and explain.

16 Jun 2010 : Column 982

The Government are committed to a strategy for growth that involves an enterprise-friendly tax system, support for science, support for free trade and competition, a belief in investment in skills and training, and rolling back the burden of regulation, setting British industry free. As every contribution to the debate has revealed, there is a simple difference between the Government and Opposition. The Government believe in freedom, enterprise, initiative and competition, and the Labour party still believes in state control, higher public expenditure, more regulation, more RDAs, and more interference in the wealth-creating sector of the British economy. That is not the way we will recover from the recession in which the Labour party left the country.

The Government will commit ourselves to bringing down the burden of borrowing and managing the public finances prudently. In the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, in which it is a privilege to work with the Secretary of State, we are determined to have a more flexible and dynamic industrial sector because of our commitment to free trade and free markets.

Question put (Standing Order No. 31(2), That the original words stand part of the Question.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr Deputy Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 238, Noes 322.
Division No. 8]
[6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob
Alexander, rh Mr Douglas
Alexander, Heidi
Allen, Mr Graham
Anderson, Mr David
Austin, Ian
Bailey, Mr Adrian
Bain, Mr William
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barron, rh Mr Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Berger, Luciana
Betts, Mr Clive
Blackman-Woods, Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blenkinsop, Tom
Blomfield, Paul
Blunkett, rh Mr David
Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr Nicholas
Brown, Mr Russell
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, rh Andy
Byrne, rh Mr Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr Alan
Campbell, Mr Ronnie
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Mrs Jenny
Clark, Katy
Clarke, rh Mr Tom
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Crausby, Mr David
Creagh, Mary
Creasy, Stella
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John
Cunningham, Alex
Cunningham, Mr Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curran, Margaret
Dakin, Nic
Danczuk, Simon
Darling, rh Mr Alistair
David, Mr Wayne
Davidson, Mr Ian
Davies, Geraint
De Piero, Gloria
Denham, rh Mr John
Dobbin, Jim
Docherty, Thomas
Donohoe, Mr Brian H.
Doran, Mr Frank
Dowd, Jim
Doyle, Gemma
Dromey, Jack
Dugher, Michael
Eagle, Ms Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Elliott, Julie
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill
Evans, Chris
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Fovargue, Yvonne
Francis, Dr Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gilmore, Sheila
Glass, Pat
Glindon, Mrs Mary
Godsiff, Mr Roger
Goggins, rh Paul
Goodman, Helen
Greatrex, Tom
Green, Kate
Greenwood, Lilian
Griffith, Nia
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr Peter
Hamilton, Mr David
Hamilton, Mr Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr David
Harris, Mr Tom
Havard, Mr Dai
Healey, rh John
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Mr Stephen
Heyes, David
Hillier, Meg
Hilling, Julie
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr Jim
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr George
Hunt, Tristram
Illsley, Mr Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs Siân C.
Jamieson, Cathy
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Diana R.
Jones, Graham
Jones, Mr Kevan
Jones, Susan Elan
Jowell, rh Tessa
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Kendall, Liz
Khan, rh Sadiq
Lammy, rh Mr David
Lavery, Ian
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leslie, Chris
Lewis, Mr Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr Andrew
Lucas, Ian
MacShane, rh Mr Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr Khalid
Mahmood, Shabana
Mann, John
Marsden, Mr Gordon
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McClymont, Gregg
McDonnell, John
McFadden, rh Mr Pat
McGovern, Alison
McGovern, Jim
McGuire, rh Mrs Anne
McKechin, Ann
McKinnell, Catherine
Meacher, rh Mr Michael
Mearns, Ian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Morden, Jessica
Morrice, Graeme
Morris, Grahame M.
Mudie, Mr George
Munn, Meg
Murphy, rh Mr Jim
Murphy, rh Paul
Murray, Ian
Nandy, Lisa
Nash, Pamela
O'Donnell, Fiona
Onwurah, Chi
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Pearce, Teresa
Perkins, Toby
Phillipson, Bridget
Pound, Stephen
Qureshi, Yasmin
Raynsford, rh Mr Nick
Reed, Mr Jamie
Reeves, Rachel
Reynolds, Emma
Reynolds, Jonathan
Riordan, Mrs Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr Geoffrey
Rotheram, Steve
Roy, Mr Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, rh Joan
Sarwar, Anas
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr Virendra
Sheerman, Mr Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shuker, Gavin
Skinner, Mr Dennis
Slaughter, Mr Andy
Smith, rh Mr Andrew
Smith, Angela (Penistone and Stocksbridge)
Smith, Nick
Smith, Owen
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spellar, rh Mr John
Straw, rh Mr Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Tami, Mark
Thomas, Mr Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr Stephen
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek
Twigg, Stephen
Umunna, Mr Chuka
Vaz, Valerie
Walley, Joan
Watson, Mr Tom
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williamson, Chris
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodcock, John
Woodward, rh Mr Shaun
Woolas, Mr Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr Iain
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr Dave Watts and
Helen Jones

Adams, Nigel
Aldous, Peter
Amess, Mr David
Andrew, Stuart
Arbuthnot, rh Mr James
Bacon, Mr Richard
Bagshawe, Ms Louise
Baker, Norman
Baker, Steve
Baldry, Tony
Baldwin, Harriett
Barclay, Stephen
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr John
Barwell, Gavin
Bebb, Guto
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr Henry
Benyon, Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Berry, Jake
Bingham, Andrew
Binley, Mr Brian
Birtwistle, Gordon
Blackman, Bob
Blackwood, Nicola
Blunt, Mr Crispin
Boles, Nick
Bone, Mr Peter
Bottomley, Peter
Bradley, Karen
Brady, Mr Graham
Bray, Angie
Brazier, Mr Julian
Bridgen, Andrew
Brine, Mr Steve
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Bruce, Fiona
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Buckland, Mr Robert
Burley, Mr Aidan
Burns, Conor
Burns, Mr Simon
Burrowes, Mr David
Burstow, Mr Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Byles, Dan
Cable, rh Vince
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr Alistair
Carmichael, Neil
Carswell, Mr Douglas
Chishti, Rehman
Chope, Mr Christopher
Clark, rh Greg
Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Coffey, Dr Thérèse
Collins, Damian
Colvile, Oliver
Crockart, Mike
Crouch, Tracey
Davey, Mr Edward
Davies, David T. C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Glyn
Davis, rh Mr David
de Bois, Nick
Dinenage, Caroline
Djanogly, Mr Jonathan
Dodds, rh Mr Nigel
Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen
Dorries, Nadine
Doyle-Price, Jackie
Drax, Richard
Duddridge, James
Dunne, Mr Philip
Edwards, Jonathan
Ellis, Michael
Ellwood, Mr Tobias
Elphicke, Charlie
Eustice, George
Evans, Graham
Evans, Jonathan
Evennett, Mr David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr Mark
Foster, Mr Don
Francois, rh Mr Mark
Freeman, George
Fuller, Richard
Garnier, Mr Edward
Garnier, Mark
Gauke, Mr David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr Nick
Glen, John
Goldsmith, Zac
Goodwill, Mr Robert
Graham, Richard
Grant, Mrs Helen
Gray, Mr James
Grayling, rh Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, rh Mr Dominic
Griffiths, Andrew
Gummer, Ben
Gyimah, Mr Sam
Hague, rh Mr William
Halfon, Robert
Hames, Duncan
Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Matthew
Hands, Greg
Harper, Mr Mark
Harrington, Richard
Harris, Rebecca
Hart, Simon
Harvey, Nick
Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan
Hayes, Mr John
Heath, Mr David
Heaton-Harris, Chris
Hemming, John
Henderson, Gordon
Hendry, Charles
Hinds, Damian
Hoban, Mr Mark
Hollingbery, George
Hollobone, Mr Philip
Holloway, Mr Adam
Hopkins, Kris
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, Mr Gerald
Howell, John
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, rh Chris
Hunter, Mark
Huppert, Dr Julian
Hurd, Mr Nick
Jackson, Mr Stewart
James, Margot
Javid, Sajid
Jenkin, Mr Bernard
Johnson, Gareth
Johnson, Joseph
Jones, Andrew
Jones, Mr David
Jones, Mr Marcus
Kelly, Chris
Kirby, Simon
Knight, rh Mr Greg
Kwarteng, Kwasi
Lancaster, Mark
Lansley, rh Mr Andrew
Latham, Pauline
Laws, rh Mr David
Leadsom, Andrea
Lee, Jessica
Lee, Dr Phillip
Leech, Mr John
Lefroy, Jeremy
Leigh, Mr Edward
Leslie, Charlotte
Letwin, rh Mr Oliver
Lewis, Brandon
Lewis, Dr Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian
Lidington, Mr David
Lloyd, Stephen
Llwyd, Mr Elfyn
Lopresti, Jack
Lord, Jonathan
Loughton, Tim
Lumley, Karen
Macleod, Mary
MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan
Main, Mrs Anne
Maude, rh Mr Francis
May, rh Mrs Theresa
Maynard, Paul
McCartney, Jason
McCartney, Karl
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick
McPartland, Stephen
McVey, Esther
Menzies, Mark
Mercer, Patrick
Metcalfe, Stephen
Mills, Nigel
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew
Moore, rh Michael
Mordaunt, Penny
Morgan, Nicky
Morris, Anne Marie
Morris, David
Morris, James
Mosley, Stephen
Mowat, David
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, rh David
Munt, Tessa
Murray, Sheryll
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr Brooks
Newton, Sarah
Nokes, Caroline
Norman, Jesse
Nuttall, Mr David
Ollerenshaw, Eric
Opperman, Guy
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr James
Parish, Neil
Patel, Priti
Pawsey, Mark
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Percy, Andrew
Perry, Claire
Phillips, Stephen
Pickles, rh Mr Eric
Pincher, Christopher
Poulter, Dr Daniel
Prisk, Mr Mark
Pugh, Dr John
Raab, Mr Dominic
Randall, rh Mr John
Reckless, Mark
Redwood, rh Mr John
Rees-Mogg, Jacob
Reevell, Simon
Reid, Mr Alan
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rudd, Amber
Russell, Bob
Rutley, David
Sanders, Mr Adrian
Sandys, Laura
Scott, Mr Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, rh Grant
Sharma, Alok
Shelbrooke, Alec
Shepherd, Mr Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris
Smith, Miss Chloe
Smith, Henry
Smith, Julian
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Nicholas
Soubry, Anna
Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline
Spencer, Mr Mark
Stanley, rh Sir John
Stephenson, Andrew
Stewart, Bob
Stewart, Iain
Stewart, Rory
Streeter, Mr Gary
Stride, Mel
Stuart, Mr Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sturdy, Julian
Swales, Ian
Swayne, Mr Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr Hugo
Syms, Mr Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Thurso, John
Timpson, Mr Edward
Tomlinson, Justin
Tredinnick, David
Truss, Elizabeth
Turner, Mr Andrew
Tyrie, Mr Andrew
Uppal, Paul
Vaizey, Mr Edward
Vara, Mr Shailesh
Vickers, Martin
Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa
Walker, Mr Charles
Walker, Mr Robin
Wallace, Mr Ben
Ward, Mr David
Watkinson, Angela
Weatherley, Mike
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr Mike
Wharton, James
Wheeler, Heather
White, Chris
Whiteford, Dr Eilidh
Whittingdale, Mr John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, rh Mr David
Williams, Mr Mark
Williams, Roger
Williamson, Gavin
Wilson, Mr Rob
Wishart, Pete
Wollaston, Dr Sarah
Wright, Simon
Yeo, Mr Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Zahawi, Nadhim
Tellers for the Noes:

Norman Lamb and
Jeremy Wright

Question accordingly negatived.

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