Our potential must not go to waste

I have said on numerous occasions that as the town’s MP I want to encourage the enormous potential that we have in Hartlepool for modern manufacturing, particularly those industries based on energy.

I will do all that I can to promote the town, particularly in terms of how we can play a leading role in energy in the next century. That is why I invited the Conservative Energy Minister, Charles Hendry MP, to Hartlepool to see for himself the enormous potential that the town can play in modern energy production.

Hartlepool – certainly the West Hartlepool part of the town – was built on the back of engineering and manufacturing. The town’s past glories have been built on the excellent combination of location, infrastructure and workforce.

We have had since the 19th century the strengths of a good deepwater port, quick access to that port so that companies can transport their massive goods onto ships rapidly and relatively cheaply and good quality engineering skills, provided by a committed and professional workforce.

Although these points were virtues in the 19th century, I’m convinced that the same qualities will stand us in good stead for the 21st century and will provide the means for good quality jobs for our town in the next few years.

For location, we in Britain are blessed with an abundance of coastline and a place where it is windy quite a lot of the time. That means we can exploit the environment in and around the country more than other nations to generate electricity through wind and tidal energy.

We still have several decades of oil and gas, which will remain an important, although declining part of our energy mix.

In terms of infrastructure, the deepwater port means that massive components can be built and then exported by sea very quickly and relatively cheaply.

In terms of workforce, our excellence in engineering, forged over many decades, can be adapted for the modern age.

It is a huge matter of pride for me that we produce workers in engineering which are in high demand all over the world, and Poolies have gone to the four corners of the globe to work on prestigious engineering projects. I want to see them being able to work closer to home.

We have great companies in the likes of PD Ports, JDR Cables and Heerema Hartlepool who wish to see work come to the town, and I was very keen to get the Energy Minister to the town to allow senior managers of those first-class firms to talk about their concerns and articulate to the Minister some of the things that he and the Government can do to provide greater certainty and unblock some of the problems which are preventing investment.

The Energy Minister was hugely impressed, and I think a sign of this was news that his office wishes to put photos of the visit to Hartlepool on the Department for Energy and Climate Change website.

This also provides another promotional boost for Hartlepool in the energy field, showing potential customers and investors across the world that Hartlepool is the best for energy and is open to business.

I disagree fundamentally with much of what this Government is doing. But I can work very well with Charles Hendry. It helps that the Energy Minister, who can do so much to advance Hartlepool’s case, is a thoroughly nice and decent man.

I am pleased that he has seen for himself the enormous scale, potential and ambition of Hartlepool when it comes to energy and I’m sure from his comments to me this week he will use the town as a great example of Britain hopefully being the best place in the world to invest in renewable energy.

I’ve said before that I think Hartlepool has huge potential, and I would hate to see this potential go to waste.

The worst thing would be for us in Hartlepool to have regrets in 10 or 20 years’ time by thinking that the huge opportunities for jobs and prosperity have gone to the likes of China, Indonesia or even closer to home in the Netherlands or Germany.