I spoke in an Opposition Day Debate on Productivity. It is clear that we have achieved a huge amount in the last 5 years in terms of increasing employment, reducing red tape on business, lowering tax for SMEs and increasing investment in infrastructure, research and development. However, Britain still faces a challenge of increasing productivity:
"Improving our country’s productivity is the key to raising standards for everyone, and our future prospects depend on it. Although I welcome this debate on productivity, I must say that the context of the productivity puzzle cannot be ignored. There is no doubt that the past five years have seen record levels of employment, with 2 million more people in work. In my constituency, local employers such as Lucketts Travel and Eaton Aerospace are contributing to the local economy through more jobs, more apprentices and increases in wage rates. Pay is now rising at its fastest rate since the economic crisis. But we need to be measured in our analysis, and I echo the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) in his analysis of the causes of the productivity puzzle. It is no coincidence that the productivity collapse happened at about the same time as the financial crash, leading to a sudden shrinkage in the financial sector. The decline in North sea oil output in recent years is another contributory factor to the fall in productivity.
That is the context to our productivity challenge. The solution is at the heart of this Government’s agenda. First, our massive investment in infrastructure will hugely contribute to productivity. On that, we may be talking about the £1.4 billion package of 18 new road schemes in south-east England, improving the A27 corridor, which runs through my constituency, and working on junction 10 of the M27. We are witnessing the boldest and most far-reaching roads programme for decades, which will unlock economic potential in the region. We may be talking about the £7 million Government investment in the Solent enterprise zone, just over the border in the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage), whom I congratulate on her efforts to get more investment from Government. The Centre of Excellence in Engineering and Manufacturing Advanced Skills Training—CEMAST—opened there last year, and hundreds more young people will be trained in technical and vocational skills.
We could also mention the reform to our tax regimes—to corporation tax, the jobs tax and to business rates. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses can now operate more efficiently. This investment, this package of reforms and the tax changes put enterprise, jobs and aspiration at the heart of our work in government, so that productivity will increase and brand Britain will continue to thrive."