Last week’s GDP figures showed that the economy had recovered to the level it was at before the major recession hit. Whilst there is still more to do to recover from the recession it was a welcome piece of news.
The recovery is the result of much hard work by individuals and businesses up and down the country. Here in the North East we have made a major contribution to economic growth especially through the investment in oil and gas production.
The foundations for recovery were in part laid by the decision to establish the coalition Government. Given the result of the election the markets would have panicked at the instability of a minority Government leading to another General Election.
The coalition, also, led to the delivery of the Lib Dem manifesto commitment to make the first ten thousand pounds of earnings tax free. This has ensured people take home more of their pay to help to tackle some of the rising cost of living.
There is still more to do, so it is crucial to maintain the stability of the approach so far with a commitment to build on the fairness of this tax cut. At the same time we need to maximise our investment in the North Sea oil and gas industry.
I kept the focus on that local industry at Prime Minister’s Questions following the reshuffle. There is now yet another energy minister as well as a new minister in the Treasury taking over the North Sea tax regime. Both I am sure are able ministers, but it will take time for them to get up to speed.
It is important that the tax consultation encourages more exploration and that the new licencing regime delivers on the recommendations made by Sir Ian Wood. I am very grateful that my Lib Dem colleague; the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change had the foresight to engage Sir Ian in this crucial task to maximise the work we get from what is left to recover from under the North Sea.
The day after PMQs we had a debate on the future of the Universal Postal Service. This ensures wherever we live in the UK we pay the same and get regular collections and delivery. The profitable urban business helps pay for the more expensive rural service.
Under the last Government competition was introduced too quickly, which threatens that cross subsidy. I pointed out in the debate that Royal Mail had had to face competition from other European postal companies whilst they were unable to compete in those companies’ home markets.
The debate focussed on the important role the regulator has to protect the universal service. The regulator Ofcom have agreed to meet with concerned MPs to discuss how they will use their powers to protect this vital service.
Another service where the regulator needs to act is on the delivery of phone connections to new residents. We can shop around for many different telephone and broadband service providers. In the vast number of cases they all have to use the phone wire provided by Openreach. I have a series of cases, especially in new developments, where Openreach are failing to deliver a connection.
I am pursuing these cases and the regulator is bringing in stricter rules to ensure lessons are learnt. I am keen to hear from any other residents suffering poor service on their phone connection to ensure all necessary lessons are learnt.
The warm summer weather has been very welcome, but I suspect it was a bit too much for the animals at the Banchory Show. It certainly was enjoyed by a good turnout from the public. I had a very enjoyable day there myself.