Gazette & Herald Column: We must deliver a stronger outward-looking country

There has been a lot made this week about Brexit divisions within the Government, so I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify what is going on at the moment. The question of whether to leave or remain in the EU was answered in 2016, and in Parliament we are now focused on the question of how we leave the EU. There is a unity of purpose within the Government to deliver a Brexit which leads to a stronger, outward looking UK. That is why Ministers continue to make international trips around the world, including the Prime Minister’s trip to China this week, strengthening existing relationships and forging new ones, to ensure that the UK remains a key player on the world stage. I am playing my part by participating in a number of international conferences and meetings to demonstrate Britain’s global leadership in achieving clean growth.

 

At home, the Government is also continuing to improve our economy and living standards, and figures released this week showed just how successful the Government has been in its domestic agenda. The number of first-time buyers is at its highest level since 2007, unemployment is at its lowest point in 40 years, and the attainment gap between disadvantaged secondary school pupils and their peers has narrowed by 3.2 per cent since last year, and 10 per cent since 2011. All of this means that the economy has experienced continuous growth for the last five years, meaning it has grown by almost 17 per cent since 2010, whilst at the same time, public sector borrowing in December 2017 was at its lowest level since 2000, showing that Conservative Government delivers the strong economy that this country needs as it steps up to its new role on the international stage.

 

There was more good news this week, as the latest broadband figures show that, nationally, superfast broadband is now available to 95 per cent of residences. The £1.7 billion Government rollout to areas deemed ‘not commercially viable’ by industry, has so far reached 4.5 million UK premises in rural areas. I know that there continue to be concerns in parts of the Constituency, where only 89 per cent have access to superfast broadband, and I will be continuing to work to ensure that we catch up with the national numbers, fulfilling the Government’s pledge to have 100 per cent on superfast broadband by 2020. I mentioned last week another local campaign I am launching – Refill – and this week I am officially setting my target of signing up 100 local businesses to the scheme by Easter. More to follow soon.