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Local Enterprise Partnership (North-east)

Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 13th January 2011.

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Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 10:30 am, 13th January 2011

What assessment he has made of the prospects of establishing a single local enterprise partnership in the north-east; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

We have received two proposals for establishing local enterprise partnerships in the north-east-one to cover the Tees Valley, which was cleared to proceed last October, and a second that was received recently for one to cover the remaining local authority areas. I can tell the House today that the second proposal meets the Government's expectations, and we are today writing to the partners to confirm that. This means that just 16 weeks after we sought applications, there is complete coverage in the north-east.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

I welcome that announcement and thank the Minister for that information. The Business Secretary controversially abolished our regional development agency, One NorthEast, and the Government parties have cut funding for regional development by two thirds. I welcome the good news for my area, but there are concerns among Opposition Members that in the transition period between the RDAs going out and the LEPs coming in, there will be a problem or a vacuum, and we will not be able to encourage investment or secure the regeneration jobs that we require.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that we are working very closely both with the outgoing RDA teams, to whom I am grateful for their co-operation and collaboration, and with the incoming local enterprise partnerships. There might be stumbles along the way, because this is a complex path, but I am determined to ensure that we do our best to encourage growth and remove the barriers to growth, especially in the north-east.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, National Policy Statements Sub-Committee

I warmly welcome the Government's announcement today that there will be an LEP for the whole north-east apart from Teesside, which already has one, but will the Minister discuss with the Minister responsible for tourism and heritage the transitional problems facing the tourism industry? Its promotional work, uniquely in the north-east, was directly operated by the RDA, One NorthEast, and the business-led alternative will need some transitional help.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Given my right hon. Friend's expertise in the area, I would be happy to talk not only to the Minister but to my right hon. Friend himself, in order to ensure that we get the balance right. There is a good opportunity before us, and managing the transition needs a little care and patience, so I shall be happy to work with my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

My area, in Lancashire, still does not have a local enterprise partnership. Does not that process just confirm that the Secretary of State is still losing the plot on business and growth in England's regions? On 11 November he told the Lunar Society in Birmingham that his LEPs process was "Maoist" and "chaotic", and he repeated that confession to reporters from The Daily Telegraph on 20 December. Meanwhile, the Department for Communities and Local Government has just put in a takeover bid for his European money, which is meant to boost regional businesses and growth. Is not his business and enterprise Minister now left like the boy standing on the burning deck, whence all but he have fled?

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

That was a very stretched literary metaphor, if I may say so. [ Interruption. ] No, in spite of the question, the reality is that the Government are working very closely in that area, and as we have demonstrated in the north-east, we are making good progress. I work closely with my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government, as I do with other Ministers, and I am sorry that Opposition Front Benchers have nothing positive to say on this subject.