HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By John Hayes MP
West Germany’s former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once quipped that ‘a politician who says they have a vision should see a doctor’.
For cynics, it is all too easy to suppose that politics is merely the management of minutiae; an assumption that things can’t get better, which leaves the state only to tinker with bits and pieces here and there.
Such pessimists regard government as just one of several competing sources of power and, as politicians feel hamstrung by the limitations of state action, ambitions fall in sync.
The cynics’ argument has been bolstered by the emasculation of democratically-elected representatives by those who should know better.
The anarchic views of those who destructively denigrate government and politicians – and the unwitting complicity of their counterparts across the political spectrum who persist in the naive notion that quick money can fix anything – fails to recognise that, in many areas of policy, only the state can take the long-term decisions necessary for our national good.
Nothing illustrates this better than infrastructure, which is both the beating heart and the arteries and veins of our economy as it generates power and allows people, goods and services to reach chosen destinations via road, rail, plane or water.
This Government is already undertaking the largest programme of investment in our railways since Victorian times and the biggest road improvement scheme since the 1970s.
In last week’s autumn statement, the Chancellor announced £1.1 billion extra investment in local transport networks in England.
More important still is the willingness to plan for the long term; to resist the here and now politics of electorally-driven short-termism.
A key part is £220 million targeted specifically at reducing traffic pinch points.
We all know the misery that delays from congestion cause – so it’s right that, where possible, we do more to reduce this.
To take a notable example, I’ve been arguing for improvements at the A1’s ‘black cat’ roundabout – used by so many of my constituents – since I was first at the Department for Transport, so it’s a delight that something is now being done.
There’s also the networks we can’t see, such as the internet; with services still patchy in some areas, including Lincolnshire.
The Government, therefore, has pledged £400 million to boost broadband speeds.
Small firms in rural areas will also benefit from an increase in rural rate relief – effectively a tax break worth up to £2,900 per year.
Those who disparage big Government projects must ultimately answer - who else would build the new railways and roads that millions of Britons depend upon each day?
It’s by identifying national priorities for keeping people moving that those in power can invest in major schemes which give businesses the certainty needed for investment.
It seems a view I’ve long held is coming back into fashion; that a government can, through its vision, be a force for good.