Chancellor: We've got a plan to back the working people of the south-west

At a speech to Babcock employees in Appledore the Chancellor sets out the government's plan to back the working people of the south-west at every stage of their lives.

Banner at speech

Thanks for that introduction and great to be here in this fantastic yard; great to be with such a brilliant British company in Babcock.

Congratulations to everyone here in this workforce on what you do, because you are a fantastic example of great British engineering and of how the south-west’s defence industry is motoring ahead.

You were of course part of putting together those great aircraft carriers that are now getting ready to form an absolutely central part of our Royal Navy in the future.

You of course are building some great offshore patrol vessels that we are selling to friendly navies abroad; part of a great British export story, and I want to assure you that there will be plenty more work for firms like yours, as we continue to give Britain the most modern navy in the world, as we said in our manifesto and part of that, of course, is retaining our nuclear deterrent and building those four new submarines and of course your company is absolutely essential to maintaining that vital part of our national security.

But the reason I’m here is, I want to talk more broadly about how we are going to deliver for the whole of the south-west of England.

For too long, the south-west has been neglected by governments in London.

And I’m here to tell you: not anymore.

The people of the south-west have given this new government a major vote of confidence, which means I now come with – in two weeks of the general election – with a simple message: we will back the working people of the south-west at every stage of their lives.

We will attract the jobs here, make the investments here, bring the prosperity here. The south-west have put their faith in us and we will repay that faith.

How do we go about doing that? Well, first of all, you need an economy that works.

You need economic stability, because without economic stability, nothing is possible and the people who bear the brunt of economic instability are not the politicians, but the working people of this country.

And we have a plan that is delivering that economic stability and we will continue to deliver that economic stability.

But we’ll also need to do something else: for too long this country had relied far too heavily on the success of London, and in particular, the city of London.

And that was a mistake and we’ve paid a price for it, as a country and we’ve been determined to change that. And we are changing it.

And we’re rebalancing our economy and giving strength to the regions of our country, because, as I say, when the economy fails, it’s not the people in the City of London who suffer, it’s the working people in places like this who pay the price.

Now five years ago, 160,000 people in the south-west were looking for work.

Five years later, and – we’ve found the situation, where we’ve created 165,000 new jobs for people in the south-west.

That’s because we’ve taken difficult decisions to deal with our country’s debts, to make our businesses more competitive.

Five years ago, almost 400 businesses here were going bust every single week.

Now a new business is being created every 12 minutes.

These aren’t abstract numbers. It’s 165,000 more people with the security of a job. 165,000 more people, and their families, with the opportunity that brings to build for your future.

And that brings me to the second point I want to make today: you can only get people into work, if you back the businesses that create the jobs.

It’s not government that creates jobs, it’s businesses that create jobs. Businesses, who frankly these days, can set up pretty much set up anywhere in the world. Now we want them to come to Britain.

We want them to grow and expand in Britain, and in particular, we want them to come here to the south-west.

So we need to invest here to make sure that we’re offering the right package.

And that starts with the transport links here to the south-west.

Now, as everyone knows, the transport here in the south-west has been a weak link and it’s held this part of the country back from reaching its true potential.

And we want to transform the transport connections here.

Yes, the transport connections between the south-west and London and the rest of the country; that’s important.

But of course, most of the journeys, most of the journeys you would undertake, are actually here within Devon or Cornwall or Bristol or whichever part of the south-west you live in.

So we need to improve the connections within the south-west as well.

And we’re making an unprecedented £7 billion connection to do that.

We’re going to dual the A303, dual the A30, duel the A358 too. We’re going to work with local councils to improve junctions on the M5, like junction 25; upgrade the North Devon link road and improve the A391 in Cornwall.

And rail is also seeing massive investment.

We’ve set out our plans to electrify the Great Western mainline to Bristol; increase the number of train services to the south-west; upgrade that Penzance sleeper; and freeze rail fares for five years.

And we’re working on proposals for a new dedicated Devon and Cornwall rail franchise to improve services within the south-west.

And we’re also looking at funding new stations, including, for example, the proposal for a station between Castle Cary and Taunton.

As I say, in total we’re committing a record £7 billion to transport projects across the south-west.

You’re not able to do that, if you haven’t taken difficult decisions to control the public finances and get them into order and spend on the priorities that mean that we can create jobs in this country.

And as well as giving businesses and people those great transport links we need for the future, we’ve got to back the specific economic strengths of the south-west.

What are they? Well, of course, here of all places you know this: the defence and the security industries. But there’s also agriculture and fishing and of course, in this beautiful part of the world, tourism.

The south-west gets over 2 million overseas visitors every year, which is no surprise, when you look at the beauty and the unique cultural heritage here.

Our goal is to make it even more successful; to increase the number of overseas visits to 3 million by the end of this decade.

That creates jobs here; jobs in hotels; jobs in restaurants; jobs in shops.

Over 7,000 more jobs will come.

Indeed I’ll be going to Cornwall just after this.

One of the new attractions we’d like to see is a stadium for Cornwall.

There’s long been a campaign for that, and that’s why next week we’re going to start talks with the council there to make sure the stadium gets built.

And the Prime Minister and I are absolutely committed to this, and our new Secretary of State for Culture is going to make sure it happens.

Now the third thing I’ll say to you is this: those jobs are only going to come here, and businesses will only invest here, if people here in the south-west have the right skills to get those jobs.

So we’re going to give young people the skills they need to get on and get up the career ladder, with investment in education and skills here in the south-west.

In the last five years we’ve created over 600 academy schools here; there are 83,000 more children getting an education in a good or outstanding school compared to five years ago.

But I think we all know we’ve got a lot more to do to improve the skills of our young people.

So we’ll push ahead with our education reforms so that, over the next five years, we create another 60,000 great school places for your children here in the south-west.

And of course, we’ve got to make sure we go on training people through their lives.

Now, companies like Babcock of course lead the way; you’ve got a fantastic apprenticeship scheme here, and you’re currently giving 22 people the opportunity to learn their trade and secure that better future.

And I suspect many of you were apprentices back in the day.

We want to make sure we go on providing that: hugely expanding the apprenticeship programme, creating a further 300,000 apprenticeships here in the south-west.

So that, as I say, when the jobs are created, local people have the skills to go and get their jobs.

Of course, once you’ve got the job we believe you should keep more of the money that you work hard to earn.

And that’s why we’re committed in this Parliament, over the next five years, to raising the tax free Personal Allowance – the amount you can keep of your income tax free – from £10,600 to £12,500; £12,500 you earn before you pay any income tax.

And we also want to support people who want to own their own home.

That’s why we’ve introduced the new Help to Buy scheme, so that people who don’t have big deposits, can’t afford big sums of money to put down against their house, have real support.

So we’ve got a new Help to Buy ISA coming later this year to help you save for that deposit, to get your home.

Indeed, our Help to Buy scheme has already helped over 3,000 families in the south-west, many of whom were first–time buyers.

And we’re also, for those who are tenants of housing associations here, going to extend the Right to Buy to them as well.

And last but not least, I want to support the mums and dads who want to get back to work.

It’s not right that the cost of childcare is a block to many parents who want to work, so we are going to double the amount of free childcare on offer, increasing it from 15 hours a week for three and four year olds to 30 hours a week; in effect, full time.

And that will be a real help to many, many families.

So, fixing the economy, backing business, boosting skills, supporting working people; this is our plan for supporting you at every stage of your life.

And I also want it to be part of a plan that puts power back into the hands of the people of the south-west.

The old model of trying to run everything in our country from the centre of London is clearly broken; it’s led to an unbalanced economy, it’s made people feel remote from the decisions that affect their lives.

And you, the people who live and work in the south-west, know far better than I do what’s right for your local area.

So my door is open to the towns and the cities and the counties of the south-west who want to take more control over their own affairs; from giving you more control over local taxes like business rates, to new enterprise zones that will encourage local businesses to start up here, to new city mayors for the cities here that want them.

And I’ll consider all the proposals that people have to hand power back to the people of the south-west.

So, two weeks ago the people of the south-west put your trust in us to deliver for a part of the country that has lacked the strong voice 200 miles away in the centre of Whitehall.

Now, the Prime Minister and I promise to be part of that strong voice here, because we know that working people here in the south-west have exactly the same aspirations as those everywhere else in the country: to be able to get a good job, to buy your first home, to make sure your children get a great education, to make sure your family has great healthcare, to have a decent retirement, and perhaps to leave something at the end of it to your children.

And we’re absolutely determined you have the same chance to achieve these aspirations as anyone else.

We’re one nation, and we’ve got a plan to back the people of the south-west at every stage of your lives.

Thank you very much.

Published 22 May 2015