I thank the Financial Secretary for pointing that out. I am tempted to remind everyone that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and then Prime Minister sold the gold at a record low and various other things, but I shall not be distracted—I simply record that—and focus on this Budget. I will not list all the measures in it, but I want to highlight one or two that the people of Mid Norfolk and I particularly welcome and then highlight three points that we need to think about as we seek to drive a powerful recovery.
I particularly welcome the measures in the Budget for the self-employed, who, in the first part of covid last year, were hit hard. Many of them were living at risk, hand to mouth and on each month’s proceeds, without the stability of a company behind them.
There is also the support for apprenticeships and traineeships. In Norfolk, when the furlough ends, we are expecting to see between 30,000 and 50,000 unemployed. The Government have rightly moved quickly to make sure that a very powerful skills and training pathway package is in place, so that people who have left old jobs that have not survived this accelerated crisis—it has accelerated much of the challenge on the high street—can quickly find jobs in the new economy that we are creating.
I want to highlight the £700 million package for the arts, culture and sport. In particular, we need to support the artists and creative people at the heart of those industries, not just the buildings. It is that genius—that creativity—which is so key to the British instinctive creative spirit, that we need to support. Rather too many of our great artists are working in all sorts of jobs and seeing their artistic careers disappear. We need to make sure that we keep them busy and get them back to work.
On levelling up, I highlight the Government’s phenomenal package of support, rightly making the crisis not just a moment to prop up the pre-covid economy but to drive growth out. The 45 town deals and the eight freeports are genuinely transformational for places such as Teesside that have been left behind by successive Labour Governments, who ought to have been representing them better. There is the move of the UK infrastructure bank to Leeds, the levelling-up fund, the community renewal fund, the Help to Grow for SMEs, the future fund and the substantial commitment to net zero and the green infrastructure that we need for a proper recovery. This was a Budget not just to repair the damage of covid, but to lay the foundations for a more sustainable and sustained economic recovery, creating jobs and opportunities for generations to come. I welcome it particularly for that reason.
That financial package is allied with the extraordinary success of the UK life sciences community, and perhaps at this point I could, as a former life sciences Minister, pay tribute to its extraordinary work. In particular, there are the scientists at Oxford and AstraZeneca, to whom we owe so much, and in Norfolk, there is the work of the Norwich Research Park and the Quadram Institute, which has done pioneering work in some of the genetic sequencing. At the same time, I welcome the work of the vaccine taskforce, led by the redoubtable Kate Bingham, with whom I know the Financial Secretary has a strong working relationship. I am tempted to channel my inner William Hague and remember the time when he commended Yorkshire for having more gold medals in the 2012 Olympics than France. In fact, he went further, saying that Mrs Brownlee had won more gold medals than France in those Olympics, and I do not think any couple has done more for the UK health economy than the Financial Secretary and the head of the vaccine taskforce.
I genuinely believe that this package is responsible, responsive and lays the foundations for a resilient set of public finances. The challenge now is to get the growth that we need from the private sector to build a really sustainable recovery, and I want to turn to that and make three key points. First, if we are really to escape debt—the debt legacy from the crash in 2007-08 and the debt legacy from covid—and to build a clean, green, smart economy, we need not just to get back to ticking over with 2% to 3% growth; to get to 4%, 5% or 6% growth, we will have to be able to host, or incubate, economies growing at 100% a year. That is the key to growth in this economy. We cannot escape debt by building over the whole of the south of England or building over any last rural area around Cambridge. To support growth, we have to make sure that we grow the economies that will grow our economy, building back better one local economy at a time and one sectoral economy at a time. To avoid the boom and bust of the City, housing and retail cycles that have left us in this state, the Treasury is absolutely right to commit to the deep infrastructure investment for tomorrow’s growth sectors. I am delighted that after my short period in the wilderness, the Prime Minister has asked me back to lead his taskforce on innovation, growth and regulatory reform to look at where, as we come out of covid and seek to lay the foundations for this recovery, free from the European Union’s regulatory frameworks but still able to trade with its market, we may be able to strike a blow for bold innovation and regulation for innovation.
I want to highlight some sectors that are growing spectacularly and that, if we were to invest strategically, would help to grow our national economy in the same way. The broader bioscience sector includes not just pharmaceuticals but the bioeconomy sector of food, medicine and energy, and, in particular, areas where those three support each other. In Norfolk I recently sat in a Lotus built at Hethel Engineering Centre that was powered by a Formula 1 low-carbon biofuel made by genetically modified bugs breaking down agricultural waste. That is what I mean by bioscience and the bioeconomy. In this century, it is biology and bioscience that will drive growth globally, just as physics did in the last century and chemistry in the one before. We are a phenomenal powerhouse in the biosciences, and if we invest in that, support it and commercialise it better, we will grow the industries of tomorrow.
Similarly, in nutraceuticals, where pharmaceuticals meet food and nutrition, there is a whole range of new crops that support growth and crops that are drought resistant and disease resistant, such as crops we export to Africa to help drive sustainable development. In biosecurity, and plant, animal and human health, we share much of the genomic sequence with most of the animals that we rely on in our agricultural system. There are huge opportunities for us to breed out susceptibility to disease and traits that will lead to huge suffering. There is a huge opportunity to harness genomics for the benefit of animal welfare, as well as progressive agriculture, in artificial intelligence, in immunotherapy, in space, in biofuels, in carbon capture and storage, and in biodiversity investment. These are huge sectors that this country is poised to grow into substantial industries, creating jobs and opportunities for tomorrow. If we get the regulatory regime for this right, which Brexit gives us an opportunity to do, and, as the Treasury is doing, we invest in the deep infrastructure and create the right commercial environment, I genuinely think that this is a moment when we could unleash a new cycle of growth, so that we look back at this, yes, as a crisis, but also as an opportunity, such that future generations will thank us for getting us off the boom and bust cycle of over-reliance on short-termism, the City, housing and retail booms, and laying the foundations for serious global growth based on technology transfer.
Secondly, from the perspective of rural Mid Norfolk—not 40 miles from Cambridge but at times feeling like 100 miles, or 100 years, from it—the small towns are fundamental. That is why I welcome so much the 45 town deals in the Budget. I hugely welcome all of them and the work that is being done. However, it is vital that as the Treasury launches these funds, we also think about how we can make it easier for the places and communities that have often been left behind because they do not have the resources of a metro Mayor or the big capacity to access multiple Government funds. Somewhere in the mix is a role for what I might call local regeneration corporations—small, fleet of foot, locally place-based public-private partnerships with powers to access money for multiple funds and deploy them over a five or 10-year plan to drive transformational local change and to pull in private finance alongside public. They would have the powers to do some compulsory purchase, to move in quickly and regenerate land left fallow after covid, to embrace some of the opportunities of land value capture and tax increment financing, and to raise infrastructure bonds and finance. Many investors around the world would love to contribute to and have a stake in this British recovery. Many places around our country will not be able to access on their own sufficient finance from the Treasury. We need to make it easy for them to drive local engines of growth that will go on in decades to come, in a similar way to the successes of the London Docklands Development Corporation, the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation and the County Durham development corporation in the ’80s and ’90s, which were so transformational.