As I start my new ministerial role I have the chance to really help UK businesses. That makes me happy. Without such ventures, no public services could function. All we hold dear depends on the tax revenue they pay. They are a catalyst to regenerating communities and improving quality of life. Business often sees itself as being down the pecking order for Government. It should be recognised and supported for the force for good that it is. In this uncertain and challenging world, we need to give business as much resilience and opportunity as we can.
The UK’s manufacturing sector has highlighted three key areas for it to be as resilient as possible.
Firstly, they have highlighted the need for infrastructure investment- digital and physical. We need much more capacity and efficiency to move information, freight and people.
Secondly, they rightly point to education and training. We have all been reeling from the knock-on effects of a lack of HGV drivers. However, there are prominent and historically permanent skills shortages in key professions in the UK. For decades we have failed to generate the healthcare professionals and engineers we need, to name but two professions. We need an education system that can deliver for the modern economy.
Thirdly, they point to robust energy supplies. New nuclear power can play a big role. Small units we could build for the future have been slowed up by previous governments and the nuclear regulator have not moved at the pace the developers of such technology have needed. Viable and credible renewable programmes have a key part to play.
In all three of these areas, Portsmouth and the Solent is leading the way.We are planning on establishing the Solent Free Port. We have world-leading tidal technology being developed here and the Royal Navy has entered into a pioneering partnership with industry to grow the scale of engineers we actually need.
Our city understands what it is to be resilient, which is one reason why we are all united against the AQUIND project. The Secretary of State is due to make his decision soon. To let the unwanted, unnecessary and unsafe project proceed would be a mammoth error of judgement. He can be in no doubt of the arguments we have made about how this scheme would damage both our national security and the resilience MakeUK and other businesses are calling for.
The arguments against AQUIND are so compelling it is hard to believe it will be permitted to proceed, but if the decision goes against our City’s and our country’s interests we must be prepared to continue to fight it. We must use every legal and planning route open to us. For the last few months, I have been taking advice to ensure we are best prepared as we can be. I remain optimistic that common sense will prevail. In case it does not we will be ready to continue the fight. AQUIND and their investors should know this, and that we will never give up.