Regional Investment
Chancellor of the Exchequer
2:30 pm

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Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan, Conservative)

What assessment he has made of the effect of fiscal policy on the level of investment in the regions.

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Danny Alexander (The Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Liberal Democrat)

The Government continue to support investment across the United Kingdom, including through the £6.3 billion boost to infrastructure spending over this spending review period. As a consequence of this decision, the autumn statement made available to the Welsh Assembly Government a further £216 million of capital funding. I urge the Welsh Government to consider how best to direct that funding towards growth-enhancing priorities

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Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan, Conservative)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. The regional growth fund is having a significant impact in Newcastle, Teesside, Cornwall and other parts of the United Kingdom, yet the inaction of the Labour Welsh Government means that little is happening there in spite of them receiving the Barnett consequentials. Will he agree to raise the matter with the Welsh Government to ensure that my constituents can benefit in the same way as other parts of the UK?

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Danny Alexander (The Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Liberal Democrat)

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and he will know that the additional £1 billion of funding to the regional growth fund announced at the autumn statement generated an extra £57.6 million of additional funding for Wales. I hope very much that the Welsh Assembly Government will use that money for similar growth priorities. I shall certainly raise the matter with my counterpart in the Welsh Assembly Government, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will do the same in his own constituency.

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George Mudie (Opposition Whip (Commons); Leeds East, Labour)

A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggested that the economy in London and the south-east will recover by 2014, but that Yorkshire’s economy will take until 2018 and that of the north-east until 2020. In view of those figures, does the Chief Secretary not regret abolishing the regional development agencies and giving the successor bodies less than half the money?

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Danny Alexander (The Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Liberal Democrat)

No, I do not, but I share the hon. Gentleman’s view that the unbalanced nature of the economy that we inherited from the previous Government is a serious problem, particularly for regions in the north of England. That is why in the autumn statement and the spending review we prioritised additional infrastructure projects—on the roads, on the railways, and so on—with a particular focus on his part of the world. I hope that he will welcome those sorts of developments.

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Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth, Conservative)

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Piran Trezise, Ian Jones and Steve Jones, who have today secured regional growth funding to regenerate the iconic Goonhilly earth station, which will bring hundreds of highly skilled jobs to Cornwall? Does he agree that regional growth funding should be used to enable businesses to rebalance our economy away from London-centric financial services towards sustainable jobs in science, technology and engineering?

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Danny Alexander (The Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Liberal Democrat)

That was an excellent point, and I wholeheartedly endorse what the hon. Lady says. I join her in congratulating her constituents on successfully acquiring regional growth fund support for that important project. The regional growth fund as a whole will maintain or support 325,000 jobs in the private sector across the country. That is something that Members on both sides of the House should welcome.

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Jenny Chapman (Shadow Minister (Justice); Darlington, Labour)

Given the very sharp decline in applications for education from adults in the north-east, how worried is the Minister about the supply of skilled labour to our economy?

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Danny Alexander (The Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Liberal Democrat)

We are seeking to address that through, for example, our policies on youth unemployment and the substantial increase in our investment in apprenticeships. All that is designed to expand skills in the economy, which business constantly raises and the Government are acting to support.