CENTRAL to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last week were measures to address Britain’s longstanding productivity gap.

The issue, in the simplest terms, is that British workers produce less per hour, or shift, than workers in some other countries, notably France, Italy and the US. A German worker, for example, takes four days to produce what a British worker will turn out in five.

It doesn’t mean British workers are lazy. Far from it, they are just working harder and longer – and for less pay - to match our competitors’ output.

The problem can be fixed by giving British business and workers the skills and the infrastructure theyneed to produce goods and services more efficiently. That’s exactly what Philip Hammond did last Wednesday with his commitment to invest in the nation’s productivity.

The £1.3bn for roads improvements will go a long way to sorting out some of the nation’s most congested and dangerous routes. Traffic congestion costs British industry billions every year in wasted time.

For us locally, the pledge to start work next year on dualling the remaining single carriageway sections of the A66 is great news. Dualling the A66 for the businesses who rely on this strategic transpennine link to distribute their goods around the country and also the North Richmondshire residents who take their lives in their hands at the many sub-standard junctions.

Two other routes in the constituency – the main north-south and east arteries of the A684 and A167 – will also be in line for safety improvements with North Yorkshire County Council being invited to bid for a share of £175m set aside by Mr Hammond for improvements to the 50 most high-risk roads in the country. Together with the (almost complete!) upgrade to the A1 and completion of the Aiskew/Bedale/Leeming by-pass, this all represents a significant investment in the road infrastructure of our area.

I have campaigned for better broadband and mobile coverage since first elected so I was delighted by the announcement of a further £1bn to pump-prime investment in 5G networks, backed up by 100 per cent business rates relief for new fibre broadband projects.

As ever, I shall fight to ensure this welcome investment is spread fairly across urban and rural Britain. We should not forget that some parts of the Richmond constituency haven’t got 4G yet.

There was more good news for rural businesses in the shape of an increase in rural business rate relief to 100 per cent in April next year. That could be worth up to £2,900 a year to a village shop, post office, petrol station or pub where it is the only one in a community of less than 3,000 people.

Along with £2bn for R&D and £2.3bn for housing infrastructure, this substantial investment in the nation’s future is our best way forward to a high-wage economy delivering higher living standards for working people.

Back home from Westminster at the weekend, Christmas really got underway with family visits to the excellent Great Ayton Christmas Fayre organised by the village’s new business forum and the Osmotherley Angel Festival, put together by the village community group, the village hall and the church. These were wonderful community occasions which saw whole villages come together to enter into the Christmas spirit.