PROSPER MAGAZINE: DIGITAL EDITION
BLACK COUNTRY APPG MEETS VIRTUALLY…
The recently launched All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Black Country (APPG-BC) hosted its second meeting earlier this month, bringing together Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum virtually.
Meeting via Zoom, regional MP’s including Mike Wood MP (Chair), Rt. Hon. Pat McFadden MP (Deputy Chair), Rt. Hon. John Spellar MP, Stuart Anderson MP, Suzanne Webb MP, Marco Longhi MP, Nicola Richards MP, Shaun Bailey MP, and Jane Stevenson MP, joined forces to discuss and focus their attentions on the regions ability to recover from COVID-19.
With many reports of organisations glad to be back working, there is still much to be done to get back to levels pre-COVID, with business organisations on the call describing that cashflow, implications of the Government-backed Job Retention Scheme (furlough) and supply chain resilience needing to be addressed to stimulate the economy.
During the meeting, it was agreed that the Chamber would provide a shared briefing paper on behalf of the business organisations detailing key priorities to support the economic recovery in the region, whilst the Parliamentarians invited business organisations, operating across the West Midlands region, including the Chamber, to submit evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on their business.
Representations were provided by the Chamber of Commerce, CBI, MAKEUK, RHA and Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership and Black Country Growth Hub.
The Member of Parliament for Stourbridge, Suzanne Webb MP, stated that “Localism is the new globalism, we need to buy local, supply local and procure local”, a sentiment echoed by many on the call.
The APPG Black Country will meet again on the 10th July in response to reports of a Treasury announcement in early July.
10 QUESTIONS WITH
SUZANNE WEBB, MP
Black Country Chamber, Policy and Lobbying Manager, Matthew Lowe talks to Suzanne Webb MP – Member of Parliament for Stourbridge and Parliamentary Private Secretary for Rt. Hon Liz Truss MP.
Tell us about yourself? What got you into politics and what did you do before becoming an MP?.
My politics was pretty much defined having witnessed first-hand the winter of discontent, a period marked by spiralling inflation, powerful trade unions followed by high unemployment and a reliance on the state. After leaving university, however, I went on to spend 29 years working in Global Logistics.
The last ten years working in the Audit and Security Department reviewing large multi-million-pound project investments. In 2018, I passed the assessment board to become a Parliamentary candidate and one year later I was elected as the MP for Stourbridge. For me, it was important to have real-life experience and I can't think of a better place than in global logistics which has expanded at a rapid rate since 2008 and will be key as we embrace the global opportunities in a post Brexit era.
COVID-19 has changed the world we all now live and work in – and parts of the West Midlands are going to be particularly affected by an economic recession – what are your thoughts on preventing the collapse of certain sectors e.g.; the automotive and aerospace sectors?.
We need to look towards both inward investment and export opportunities. As we move to a more sustainable, greener and more productive economy, we need to be thinking about our whole industrial strategy and how the UK's posture will change from being EU centric to now Global. I have no doubt that it will involve continued investment and support for research and development and digitalisation in all its manifestations across the UK.
The Chancellor announced a package of measures on March 20 to support people, jobs and businesses. What did you think of the measures?. Were they the right interventions at that time? Were there any other support schemes you would have liked to see?.
The measures introduced by the Chancellor such as the Job Retention Scheme, Bounce Back Loans and supporting 3,300 self-employed in Stourbridge were wide-ranging and a comprehensive package of support. The timing of the Treasury's interventions was important as they have cushioned the immediate economic impacts of COVID-19.
I am sure that we all recognise the remarkably stable unemployment figures released on June 16th, which are a testament to the huge amount of support that the Treasury has put into retaining employment. As we look to the economic recovery the focus must be on creating jobs, including encouraging inward investment and supporting SME's.
With your new role working closely with the Secretary of State for the Department for International Trade - how will you help to support businesses to export and reach overseas markets?.
More trade is essential in helping the UK overcome the unprecedented economic challenge posed by coronavirus. We need to ensure, those who move goods, have the capacity to do so and that for SME's there are no barriers to global trade– whether regulatory or cultural, such as language, or indeed psychological.
Your new role also sees you work within the Government Equalities Office – what are your thoughts on inclusive workplaces and diversity and how can businesses help to drive inclusive growth?.
Inclusive growth must be organic, not just due to a tick in the box and compliance to a quota. I would like to see us working better on disability and having more disability-friendly workplaces. Of course, we've had success in terms of getting more women employed than ever before in the UK, but it's nevertheless the case that women are significantly behind comparative countries in terms of setting up businesses and entrepreneurship.
What is it like to be an MP?. How have you found the job so far?.
The job so far has been challenging, as it has for every MP, due to the impact of COVID-19. In 2020 I expected to be chatting in the Westminster lobbies and in the tea rooms about the pros and cons of any new piece of legislation. Instead, I found myself working from home and the confines of my kitchen signposting my constituents to the latest COVID-19 guidelines and new measures that were being introduced rapidly to keep both the economy afloat, protect people's livelihoods, save lives and protect the NHS. It was not quite where any MP expected to be when we were elected in December 2019.
If you could change one thing about Westminster what would it be and why?.
Air conditioning! It is a fantastic building steeped in history, but it comes with the disadvantage that during the summer the building is like an oven. Having only been here for six months and part of that during the lockdown, where 700 years of procedure was turned on its head, I am sure I will find Parliamentary related things that could be changed as I spend longer here.
As a woman in politics and the 4th female MP to represent Stourbridge, what are the main challenges you have faced since being elected?.
We all face challenges in both work and in our lives. For me, it has always been what we do about them. Challenges are always opportunities and that has always been my approach whether as a woman working in the private sector and or now as an MP. But without doubt, the main challenge since I have been elected and one that may define much of my first term in office have been COVID-19.
What are three things you love about your job?.
My constituents, being able to use my twenty-nine-year career to help facilitate change and part of a government that saw us deliver Brexit and therefore open the global opportunities that this will bring to my constituency and the wider West Midlands.
COVID-19 aside what are your priorities for your time in Government?.
My priorities will vary during my term in office, but my immediate priority is jobs, jobs, jobs and I will be working closely with the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, the Job Centre and local businesses to ensure we have a robust and tangible response to the damage that Covid-19 has inflicted on peoples livelihoods.