Corby and East Northamptonshire needs more investment in infrastructure

Andy speaking in Parliament debate on infrastructure

Andy speaking in a Parliament debate on infrastructure

Yesterday I spoke during a House of Commons debate on infrastructure. I argued:

– for more investment in the train services in Corby and East Northamptonshire

– that the new schools built by the last Labour government, like Tresham Collegen and Kingswood School, are improving the quality of education for thousands of children in Corby and East Northamptonshire

– that we have excellent local business, like Tata Steel, AGI Amaray and KwikScreen who are selling their products both nationally and around the world

– and that the new swimming pool is helping improve the variety of health and cultural activities in Corby and East Northamptonshire

I mentioned my 6 election pledges, one of which is to support a tax on bankers bonuses to pay for a Jobs Guarantee for young people and a one-year national insurance tax break for small firms taking on extra workers.

I also pushed Government ministers to fund vital improvements in infrastructure in Corby and East Northamptonshire. This includes the Chowns Mill roundabout, adding new lanes to the A45, the Rockingham Northern Orbital Route and re-opening the Geddington Road. I also argued that we must ensure Corby and East Northamptonshire has the best possible access to broadband and mobile internet services.

The full text from my speech can be found below. I am interested to know what local infrastructure you think we should be investing in – please leave your comments below or email me at andy.sawford.mp@parliament.uk.

Andy Sawford: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) on bringing forward this debate on what the Opposition know to be an incredibly important and urgent issue.

I disagree fundamentally with the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) when she says that we need to go slowly in bringing forward infrastructure in this country. Given the desperate state of our economy and the number of people who are desperately looking for work, we need a great deal of urgency from the Government, particularly given their appalling record over the past two and a half years.

It was interesting that the Financial Secretary chose to speak mainly about policies from the past. Most of his speech was actually about the last century. Some of the people who are now suffering, such as those who want school places in my constituency while the Government are failing to bring forward infrastructure investment, were not even born at the time of the decisions that he talked about.

The Financial Secretary took on the former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, in particular. I was at the opening of the new St Pancras station when John Prescott was praised by Lord Heseltine for his fantastic contribution to ensuring that the channel tunnel rail link went ahead and that that fantastic building was saved for the nation. The many people who arrived at that station ahead of the Olympics saw what we can do in this country when we commit ourselves to major infrastructure projects. I agree with the CBI and the many other people, including some of the economists who previously endorsed this Government’s plans, who say that this Government lack the political will to take forward major infrastructure projects.

When people get on the train at St Pancras, which John Prescott and the last Labour Government did so much to make possible, they can now come to Corby and see the new railway station that has been built there. If the Minister tells any one of the commuters or the people who use that line for leisure day in and day out that the last Labour Government did not do enough to improve rail services in my constituency, they will laugh him out of town on the next train.

We want to do more and to go further. We want to have northbound routes on that railway line. The other week, the Government made an announcement that was typical of their infrastructure announcements. They said that they were going to electrify the midland main line with £1 billion of expenditure. However, the figure was exactly the same as the amount of money they disastrously took out of the plans for infrastructure spending to which the previous Government had committed in this Parliament. They give us jam tomorrow.

Earlier, the Economic Secretary whispered to the Financial Secretary about the improvement to the A43 in my constituency. Ministers talk about that proudly, but nobody was fooled when that announcement was made—it was just weeks before a by-election. I was surprised there was no announcement today of an Eastleigh bypass or orbital route, a south coast Hampshire link road or some other such potential bribe. Perhaps the coalition parties cannot agree on what appropriate bribe to give.

Labour can give hope to the people of Eastleigh because we have a plan—a five-point plan for jobs and growth. We have talked—[Interruption.] You can laugh.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. I think the hon. Gentleman meant to say, “The Financial Secretary can laugh.”

Andy Sawford: Some young people from my constituency were here yesterday to learn about parliamentary etiquette —I should have taken more tips, Mr Deputy Speaker. If the Financial Secretary had laughed in front of those young people when I talked about the desperate need to invest in jobs and growth in this country, they would have given him very little credit indeed.

There is a fanciful picture of how the Labour Government did not invest in infrastructure, but hon. Members should come to Corby and east Northamptonshire and drive past the schools that were built there, such as the brand new Kingswood school, which is a fantastic facility. My nieces get a fantastic education at the Corby business academy—[Interruption.] The Economic Secretary says that we will pay for those projects, but a combination of funding from the public and private sector—[Interruption.] He should listen to bodies such as the Monetary Policy Committee, which says that we need to find ways of investing in infrastructure in this country.

Gordon Birtwistle rose

Helen Goodman: Is the hon. Gentleman going to tell us about Eastleigh?

Gordon Birtwistle: No, I am not going to mention Eastleigh at all. Hon. Members are interested in the hon. Gentleman’s point on PFI—[Interruption.] No, he was talking about new colleges. Will he tell us when those massive infrastructure deals will be paid for? Will my grandchildren be paying for them?

Andy Sawford: The overwhelming majority of the investment in new children’s centres, schools and health improvement projects in my constituency was publicly funded. Government Members should remember that PFI was dreamt up by a previous Conservative Government, and that they did not oppose a single new school, children’s centre or hospital built by the Labour Government. If they were honest, they would have objected to them being built in the first place—or say they would close them down now. Let us have honesty on that.

Bill Esterson: My hon. Friend is right on the benefits of the new schools and children’s centres. A group of sixth-formers from Deyes high school were at an education event in the Palace earlier today. Their school building was due to be replaced under Building Schools for the Future, but they will not see it, and neither—more importantly—will their brothers and sisters. However, it would have been replaced under a Labour Government. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that that is the disgrace in what the current Government have done. They have cancelled the future in schools for many of our young people.

Andy Sawford: I absolutely agree. The planned rebuilding of Lodge Park school in my constituency under Building Schools for the Future was cancelled—one of the Government’s first acts. The Secretary of State for Education later apologised for his bungling and mishandling of that, but his apology means nothing to the young people whose education is suffering, or to the construction workers who otherwise would have had employment in my town. It is all part of the story of the past two years. This Government’s policies took Britain back into recession—one of only two G20 countries to go back into recession. The very people who counselled that Britain needed a plan to reduce its deficit over time—the previous Government set out a reasonable, sensible plan—are now telling the Government that they got it wrong and reduced the deficit too quickly, and that the plan has been hugely damaging to our economy. The Government’s economic arguments present a false divide between the public and private sectors. The public sector and the private sector are intimately interconnected in my constituency, as in any other. The Government create a false divide between the role of Government and Government spending and prospects for growth.

Corby and east Northamptonshire has a new railway station and new schools, and the new Tresham college building is a fantastic facility for young people. That investment helps companies such as AGI Amaray, which makes all the DVD boxes we have in our homes. It helps companies such as Tata Steel to recruit people with the skills they need. It helps innovative new start-ups such as KwikScreen—some people from that company were in Parliament yesterday and I visited them a few weeks ago—which is now selling all over the world. It helps them because we are investing in the young people they need to compete in the world. The Corby east midlands international swimming pool is an incredible investment of which the whole country can proud. The Leader of the Opposition went there with me to meet visiting international swimmers and to wonder at the facility. It is impressive to people looking to invest in the town and provides a wide range of facilities for local people, including ways of keeping them healthy, and we need a healthy population for the work force of the future.

All the good that Labour did for Corby contrasts with what is happening now. It is reasonable to contrast Government records, and important to do so when looking ahead. The slow-down in the market has had huge consequences for my community. We have one of the fastest growing populations in the country—it is set to double in the next 20 years. Little Stanion is a new development that, because the bottom dropped out of the housing market and the construction sector, has not yet reached the trigger point for the infrastructure it needs. I have talked to local people. They do not have the parks, play areas, public transport provision or the investment in schools and other facilities that they need. We need to get the economy growing. That is why, in my by-election, many people came out to vote for me on a cold, dark November evening. They voted because I made a pledge to support a jobs guarantee for young people, funded by a one-year national insurance tax break for small firms—I do not why the Government will not listen to that idea.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West is absolutely right to press the Government for action to get young people back to work. There are specific projects in east Northamptonshire and Corby, such as the Chowns Mill roundabout, investment in the A45, the Rockingham northern orbital route, getting the Geddington road reopened again and broadband. The previous Government promised 2 megabit broadband for every household in my constituency by 2012, but those plans were cancelled. We are now hoping that that might happen by 2015, but it is all part of a picture for my constituents of jam tomorrow—the investment was removed just when it was most needed. The Government really should listen.

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