Last week , Burnley and Padiham MP Gordon Birtwistle spoke in the House of Commons about the economy. Gordon focused primarily on Burnley and Padiham, along with the future we want to leave to our children and grand children. See what Gordon said below:
The performance of the economy is a great debate for today. As a brief history of the problems that we face, we all accept that in 2009 the country suffered a catastrophic heart attack in its economy. We can blame the collapse of the banks or the incompetence of the previous Government—I think that both were responsible for the problem. But that is past. What we have to do now is repair the economy.
My belief is that the economy can be repaired only by prosperity. We have to create prosperity, but Governments do not create prosperity—they create the environment for prosperity. Prosperity is created by the thousands of companies that are creating jobs and the millions of people working in those jobs. There has been more prosperity created in a nanosecond outside than there has been in the Chamber since this debate started. Prosperity needs investment by companies. The Government do not invest, but they do provide the environment and the confidence for companies to invest. That is what has been happening over the last four and a half years.
Four and a half years ago, the country was basically bankrupt. We cannot turn that round in four and half years—it will take longer. As long as we create the environment to ensure that the turnaround takes place, I am confident that it will happen. Look at my constituency. When I became the MP in Burnley and Padiham, unemployment in Burnley was almost double what it is now. There has been massive investment by the Government and the private sector. Almost £100 million has been invested in the small town of Burnley. The hon. Ladies in the Chamber might know Boohoo, an online ladies fashion company. Boohoo came to Burnley in 2009 with 46 people. It now employs more than 700 people and is investing £20 million in a brand new factory. Hopefully, it will have 1,500 people by this time next year. It is so confident in the Government’s economic plan that it realises it can afford to invest £20 million of its own money, while giving the whole work force a 15% increase. It is investing for the future.
The Government, thanks to the Business Secretary Vince Cable, are managing to rebalance the economy. It was way of out of sync when the coalition came to power, relying on the banking and service sectors while forgetting about manufacturing. What have we done? We have backed the aerospace industry with vast sums of money. It is the most successful industry in the country, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.
I did not say that Governments do not create jobs; I said that Governments do not create prosperity. Prosperity is delivered by the people who are working outside this building.
We have rebalanced the economy. We have backed aerospace and there are now hundreds of thousands of people working in the aerospace industry. In Burnley, we have invested millions of pounds in the old Michelin tyre factory, which is now serving an advanced aerospace supply chain. Lots of new American and British companies have come in and created high skills jobs with higher salaries. We backed the automotive industry. As has been said earlier, we now export more cars than ever before. In fact, we are in surplus on exports—we used to import more cars than we exported, but we now export more than we import.
The problem with the prosperity coming along through the aerospace, automotive, textile and chemical industries is that we have a desperate lack of skills. There has been no investment in skills for the past 25 years under various Governments. The previous Labour Government were culprits as was the Conservative Government before that. However, this Government have recognised the problem; we are working on it and are approaching 2 million apprenticeships. I am proud to be the Apprenticeship Ambassador for the Government. I travel to all sorts of different companies including Starbucks, Next and Rolls Royce—every aspect of business—to talk to young people who believe that they can create prosperity for themselves, the companies they work for and the country they live in. They are proud and pleased to be doing that. The Government have done a major thing in recognising the shortage of skills and giving those young people a chance.
University Technical Colleges were mentioned earlier. The new UTCs are fantastic. In secondary schools in my constituency the teacher used to say, “If you don’t work hard and pass your exams you won’t be able to go to university and you’ll have to go to the factory.” Let me tell hon. Members, if pupils do not work hard and pass their exams, they will not get a job in the factory. They will have to go to university. The skills we now need, particularly in my constituency and across manufacturing, are very high tech. I hope that the prosperity being created by the people of this country will deliver a future that I want—I am getting on a bit—my children want, and my grandchildren want. They do not want to be saddled with debt. They want to work their way out of our debt by delivering prosperity across the country. The young people of the future will be the ones to deliver that prosperity. We have to train them to be able to do that.
This text is a written version of Gordon's speech to the House of Commons on Wednesday 26th November.