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We devolved power then and we support the principle of devolving more power now, in the Bills that I mentioned, for two principal reasons—one economic and one democratic. I turn first to the economic case. Decisions on how to grow our economy are often best made at a sub-regional and local level. Local actors, whether policy makers, business people or trade unions and others, best understand the unique combination of history, geography, demography and institutions that give their area a niche—a competitive edge, a comparative advantage—in the global marketplace.
The fact is crucial because in this era of globalisation, nations and regions need to concentrate their efforts on producing the services and goods that they are best at and then to trade them to generate the good, secure, well paid jobs of which we want more all over the UK. That matters because we have a higher incidence of low paid work than other developed nations. Despite the fact that our people work among the longest hours in Europe, output per worker in the UK lags behind that of our competitors.
To address the issue and raise productivity levels, areas need to harness their specific local skills and strengths and use them to become clusters of expertise and innovation. The simple fact is that one-size-fits-all policies devised in remote departmental silos are simply incapable of nurturing specific local strengths. It is the different players in our local areas and regions that are best placed to do that. We have to give them the tools to be the masters of their own destinies.