Maggie Throup – 2023 Speech on the Budget

The speech made by Maggie Throup, the Conservative MP for Erewash, in the House of Commons on 20 March 2023.

I would like to add my name to the growing list of Members with a science degree. My hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg) will be pleased to hear that it is from the University of Manchester.

Since I was last able to make a contribution to a Budget debate from the Back Benches, the economic outlook, both at home and abroad, has shifted dramatically. The aftermath of the pandemic, compounded by the effects of the war in Ukraine, has left many of the world’s leading economies battling a combination of high inflation and mounting debt.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor is to be commended for the measures he has brought forward to meet the target of halving inflation by the end of the year, to continue to support people with record high energy bills and, crucially, to avoid a recession. That is not just my assessment, but one reflected in the feedback I received on the doorsteps from my constituents across Erewash this weekend as we were out canvassing. They described the Chancellor’s statement as measured, confident and logical.

I want to focus on tech, and specifically the support for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Everyone will remember the important role the MHRA played during the pandemic. It was the first medicines regulator to authorise a vaccine against covid-19. Its worldwide reputation is second to none. Many other regulators quickly followed in its footsteps in authorising vaccines, as they trusted its decisions. It was not just the fact that it was first on so many occasions in approving new vaccines—including the bivalent vaccine, effective against the original Wuhan strain and omicron—but the way it did it.

Traditionally, the different stages of clinical trials are carried out sequentially, but whether it was a vaccine or a therapeutic, the acceptance that regulation could be made on data generated by stages of clinical trials carried out in parallel was a real and significant breakthrough. Yes, on most occasions the MHRA was first to authorise a vaccine from the variety of suppliers available, but on some occasions it was able to base its approval on Food and Drug Administration or European Medicines Agency approval.

That type of linked-up working for a wider range of medicines is now being facilitated by the allocation of funding in the Budget. As has been acknowledged by Dr June Raine, the MHRA’s chief executive, the £10 million funding will be used to fund its ongoing innovation work and accelerate the development of groundbreaking global recognition routes. That will undoubtedly give UK patients faster access to the most cutting-edge medical products in the world.

A few weeks ago, I was invited by the former chief executive of the British Bankers Association and one of my predecessors as the Member of Parliament for Erewash, Angela Knight, to speak to a delegation of senior business leaders, during which we discussed the importance of public health and the value of health tech to the economy. It is estimated that the private sector alone loses over 100 million workdays each year to sickness absences, greatly impacting on productivity and hindering wealth creation.

To fully capitalise on the creation of new investment zones, as well as the expansion of UK civil nuclear, led by Derby-based Rolls-Royce, we must ask ourselves: how do we keep the UK workforce healthier for longer? The answer is through a combination of targeted public health measures aimed at prevention, such as tackling obesity and reducing levels of smoking, together with innovative health tech partnerships, such as the one signed by the Government and Moderna to invest in mRNA research and development and build a state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing centre here in Britain.

Returning to the targeted public health measures announced in the Budget, I especially welcome the £60 million for public swimming pools. I trust it will be distributed fairly to ensure that swimming pools such as those at West Park leisure centre in Long Eaton and Victoria leisure centre in Ilkeston can continue to be used by my constituents to support both their physical and mental health.

This Budget is designed to inspire confidence in the British economy and will continue to provide the stability that has so often been the watchword of the Conservative Government led by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. My constituents stand to benefit greatly from the measures introduced to curb inflation, help with the cost of living—we heard about many aspects of that, including the change to prepayment meters and protecting energy payments—and safeguard vital public services. I am sure that many of my constituents will raise a glass or two to the Chancellor for again backing the British pub. I therefore look forward to backing the Budget in the Lobby tomorrow evening.