My Contribution to the 2020 Budget Debate

I begin my contribution, as my right hon. Friend Chris Grayling did his, by acknowledging that this debate takes place under the shadow of the crisis that we all face.

I particularly welcome the commitments in the Budget to delivering on our manifesto commitments, which, certainly in Lincolnshire, were overwhelmingly endorsed by the electorate. It was a pleasure earlier today to hear the maiden speech of my immediate neighbour, my hon. Friend Lia Nici, who I am sure will make a considerable contribution to debate in the coming years.

As I said, the debate is overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis. On Friday, I visited my local hospital—Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby—for one of my regular updates from the senior management and medical professionals. I pay tribute to them for the work they do, not just in the current crisis but throughout the year. The hospital is approaching 40 years old, and it will need considerable capital investment in the medium term if it is to sustain its work at acceptable levels. Nevertheless, I pay tribute to the staff there for the work they are doing to respond to the present crisis.

Police funding, in particular, has been widely welcomed by my constituents. In recent years, Humberside police has managed to increase its numbers by more than 200, and there are a further 97 pending in the next phase. Like constituents up and down the country, my residents in Cleethorpes want to see visible policing. I was in discussion with the superintendent only last week, and I received assurances that that will be the case. I want in particular to mention the retail trade, which it is fair to say has been badly scarred by the £200 limit with respect to shoplifting. I am delighted that my local force does not take that as written in stone but uses some discretion in the way it meets that challenge. I hope that is taken on board.

I also met the principal of Franklin College on Friday. It is important that we have additional funding for that further education college in my area of northern Lincolnshire, and I am happy to say that the principal was well pleased with the way things are moving.

Of course, public services are not all provided by the public sector; we need private sector involvement to deliver some of our essential services. The area I represent was designated by the Government as the first town deal area, and I hope investment in the Greater Grimsby town deal continues. Only 10 days ago, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government was in north-east Lincolnshire and announced another £3.5 million boost for the town deal, which is very welcome. I also welcome the renewed enthusiasm among councils throughout Lincolnshire to revisit the Lincolnshire devolution deal, which unfortunately did not materialise a couple of years ago. The area will be heavily dependent on the offshore renewables sector, and I am delighted that Government support for that continues.

Good transport connections are essential to all local economies. I have campaigned for many years for the restoration of the direct train service between Grimsby, Cleethorpes and London King’s Cross. Only two or three weeks ago, along with neighbouring MPs, I met the London North Eastern Railway chief. I am pleased that LNER is prepared to operate a service if the Government tell it to. That needs no capital investment; it is one of those easy wins that can be achieved. I hope the Minister ensures that his colleague the Secretary of State hears my renewed plea.

The hit that the global economy will take over the next year or two as a result of the current crisis is going to reverberate throughout our country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby mentioned, it would help my area considerably if Immingham and Grimsby ports were given free port status. Carbon capture and storage, which was mentioned a few minutes ago by Alex Cunningham, will also play a vital part in the economy of northern Lincolnshire.

The resort of Cleethorpes is doing reasonably well, but of course it will take a significant hit—particularly to small businesses, such as bed and breakfasts, guest houses and small hotels, and the leisure sector—as a result of the current crisis. I echo colleagues’ requests for Ministers to ensure that those small businesses are taken note of as we continue to react to the current circumstances. I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement in respect of business rates, which certainly will help, but, inevitably, more measures will be needed. I will conclude at that point and give an extra 33 seconds to someone else.