Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Catherine McKinnell Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Darren Henry Portrait Darren Henry (Broxtowe) (Con)
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Thank you for the opportunity to make this, my maiden speech, Madam Deputy Speaker.

It is a great honour and a great responsibility, joyfully accepted, to represent the people of Broxtowe with all the energy, determination and commitment of which I am capable. I say to all my constituents: “I will be your man. I will stand up for you. I will not turn from the challenges you face, but make them my own. While I have the privilege to serve you, you will not be forgotten in this place.”

I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor as the Member for Broxtowe, Anna Soubry. I may not have agreed with all that she said in this place, but I wish to set on record my acknowledgement of the good work she did for Broxtowe and for her constituents. I wish to thank her for her efforts on improving access at Beeston railway station. I admire her strong will and her determination to do what she felt was best for Broxtowe and for this country, and I wish her the best of British.

This week is the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush. The people of the Windrush generation came to Britain to help rebuild our great country, and my parents were among them. Dad, Harry, is from Jamaica, and Mum, Gloria, from Trinidad. Like many of that too long ignored generation, they worked hard to make a good life here. Dad worked double shifts, and Mum worked all day in a factory. They saved; they bought a house. They were ambitious, and they prospered. We were a traditional British working-class family: hard working, loyal, fiercely patriotic—and Conservative.

Opposition Members claim Windrush as their own, as if it is obvious that immigrants are somehow obliged morally and practically to be Labour supporters. Well, my family were not, and I am not. I stand here as evidence of what immigrants and their children can achieve in what my parents called the land of opportunity. I am proud to be the first Conservative MP of West Indian heritage—black, British with all my heart, immensely proud of my West Indian heritage and Conservative to my fingertips.

Before coming to this place, I spent 26 years in the Royal Air Force. Like others here, I knew that service to my country was the right and dutiful career for me. On my first day in the RAF, I had a splendid Afro hairstyle, and now, because of weeks of lockdown, I am delighted —my Afro is coming back!

The armed forces are known for getting things done, and that is what I will do for the people of Broxtowe. At Chilwell station, also known as Chetwynd barracks, we have seen service personnel assisting efforts to tackle the covid-19 pandemic as part of Op Rescript. As it is Armed Forces Week and Veterans Day today, I hope that this message is heard loud and clear by my fellow veterans: “If you are driven by public service, as I am, stand up and serve your community again.”

During my election campaign, I pledged to support investment in our local hospitals as part of my six-point plan for Broxtowe. This is a cause that is close to my heart. My wife Caroline spent 25 weeks out of her 34-week pregnancy in hospital. It is to Caroline and the NHS staff at Nottingham City Hospital that I say thank you for the blessing that is my twin children. That is why I am delighted that, after months of lobbying, the Government have provided seed money for the local Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust to develop and rebuild modular buildings and key sites, including a new women’s and children’s unit, which will benefit families in Broxtowe.

Parents do their best for their children. As the father of two children with autism, I recognise that those in Broxtowe who are on the autistic spectrum or suffer with mental health conditions have found it particularly difficult being cooped up during lockdown. In normal times, getting mental health support is a struggle. I am convinced that it does not have to be this way. The Government’s planned reform of the Mental Health Act 1983 must ensure that people subject to the Act receive better care and have a much greater say in that care. I will continue to fight to secure the needs of vulnerable people in Broxtowe. They will not be forgotten.

In today’s debate, we are considering support for UK industries in response to covid-19. In my own constituency of Broxtowe, enterprises as varied as the Boots headquarters, which opened the first non-NHS swab testing site in the country, and independent, family-run firms such as Fred Hallam grocers, who delivered extensively to help people during covid-19, have diversified to ensure that the needs of our community are met. With the HS2 east midlands hub set to be in Toton, and Stapleford soon to be revitalised by the town deal funding, Broxtowe will have a thriving future.

I will work to make that vision a reality for the people of Broxtowe—my constituency; my people. To paraphrase D. H. Lawrence, a local lad made good, I will be still when I have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves me, I will say, and say it hot.

Catherine McKinnell Portrait Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab)
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25 Jun 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Darren Henry) on an excellent maiden speech and on his very powerful story. I add to his tribute to his predecessor, who brought great passion to our debate in this House. I am sure that he will bring many insights from Broxtowe too.

Many businesses across the country are breathing a sigh of relief that they can start trading again. The level of Government support for businesses has been unprecedented, and that is undoubtedly to be welcomed; it has provided a lifeline to swathes of our economy at this incredibly challenging time. However, although the support is extensive, we cannot ignore those who have slipped through the gaps. We also cannot pretend that this is not going to be difficult for months for industries where normality is still a long way off.

Aviation is a key area in which recovery will be slow. Flights may be restarting and discussions on air bridges under way, but the sector does not expect demand to return to pre-crisis levels until at least 2023. The crisis will have a sustained effect on our aviation industry.

Newcastle airport in my constituency is an international and domestic transport hub, a strategic asset for the north-east, and central to our economic growth. It is a large regional employer but also supports many regional jobs, on site, off site and in the supply chain. Our airport supports manufacturing business, exports, and higher education through our world-class universities. It also supports the tourism sector, which was thriving before this crisis.

I have raised support for aviation in the Chamber a number of times, but there is still a concerning lack of appreciation for the special circumstances faced by the industry. There also seems to be a lack of understanding of how this crisis will impact the sector’s transition to being greener and cleaner, and of the longer-term impact on regional economies such as mine. As co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sustainable aviation, I believe passionately in the importance of a strong and stable aviation sector.

Newcastle airport has ambitious plans to become a net zero emissions airport by 2035. However, demand for new aircraft will take years to recover from its expected drop, which could mean manufacturing job losses and a decline in this strategic industry at a time when we need more investment in cleaner and greener aviation technology, not less.

The industry is asking for greater understanding and support in the difficult months ahead. It needs air bridges to be arranged as soon as possible. Twelve months of business rates relief, as has been provided to airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland, would level the playing field and support businesses through this period. A temporary suspension of air passenger duty is requested while aviation demand recovers, particularly when it comes to regional air connectivity. We urgently need action so that the industry can prepare and protect jobs.

I turn to the many smaller businesses in my constituency that face so much uncertainty about their future. We have a world-leading performing arts sector, which has been brought to its knees by this crisis. We could see devastation of the cultural and entertainment scene in so many communities. One of my constituents who works in the industry said:

“Over the recent period of lockdown I have watched as theatre after theatre has closed down, unable to remain afloat due to the incredible lack of funding already present within the industry and have watched so many of my friends and colleagues being made redundant.”

So many venues do not know when they will be able to reopen and are fighting for survival. I was contacted by a dance school that just wants to know when it might be able to reopen. We have seen what has happened to tourism businesses, self-employed people—I could go on; there are so many.

As Britain cautiously emerges from lockdown and some level of normal returns, we cannot allow those who have lost out most from this crisis to continue to be forgotten. We must do everything we can to make sure that as many as possible get through this crisis and continue to provide their services in the future.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. I am afraid that we will have to move to a three- minute limit if we are to have any chance of getting as many people in as possible.