The South West Regional Grand Committee met in Exeter yesterday to debate the Committees report on the subject “the response to the economic downturn: tackling unemployment.”
Cotswolds MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who is also the shadow spokesman for International Trade and Development, was the Conservative lead speaker in the debate and was deeply critical of the Government for their actions that have led the country into recession and for their response to the situation.
Mr Clifton-Brown noted that whilst figures suggest that total unemployment in the South West places our region in the bottom half across the country, in terms of the rise in figures, unemployment in the South West is increasing more than 50% faster than the national average.
He also used the opportunity to once again raise the issue of the redoubling of the Swindon to Kemble line by highlighting the important economic gains the line would bring and the need for action before other major railway works take place nationwide.
The MP also challenged Jim Knight MP, the Minister for the South West, to explain exactly what powers he has to tackle the problems raised in the debate. Mr Knight who is also a Work and Pensions Minister stated that although over 35% of his time is spent dealing with regional issues he has no actual powers beyond persuasion.
Mr Clifton-Brown proceeded to ask the Minister to try to use his powers of persuasion to produce one positive outcome as a result of the Committee within a month and write to him when it has been achieved, in order to prove that the Committee is more than just an expensive talking shop.
At the end of the debate the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats defeated the Government by 12 votes to 6 on the basis that this was a report produce by a Government dominated committee, despite the fact the Labour MPs are very much in the minority in the South West.
Source: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP (Cotswold)