It is an absolute pleasure to follow Jo Cox. I spent many a happy night out there in something called the Frontier club. I do not know if it is still going—and that misspent youth is perhaps a conversation for somewhere else. In the Evans household Friday night is fish and chips night, or, as my kids call it, chippy tea night.
I am absolutely delighted to speak in support of the Gracious Speech and the measures to promote growth in my constituency, in particular those in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill. Growing up on a council estate, the value of a job is not lost on me. A job is not just nine to five, a cheque at the end of the month or a statistic on a press release. A job is so much more than that: a job provides a sense of identity and worth, fostering self-confidence and nurturing God-given talents. The moral case put forward by the Government in striving for full employment is every bit as strong as the economic case and every bit as important.
Apart from a short spell of stacking shelves in my local Co-op, prior to joining this House I spent my entire adult employment life in manufacturing and industry. We have seen a real renaissance in the past five years, stimulated and encouraged by the Government’s vision for a northern powerhouse, for rebalancing our economy and for putting the north—specifically in my case, Weaver Vale in the heart of Cheshire—back at the heart of Britain’s economic engine room. Analysis by the Treasury has shown that realising the ambition to rebalance the UK economy would be worth an additional £44 billion in real terms to the northern economy—or £1,600 per person. The northern powerhouse will be underpinned by a fast and efficient transport system operating hand-in-hand with the roll-out of superfast broadband and matched with investment from the private sector.
The northern hub rail plan is key to a fast, efficient and effective transport system. The northern hub will improve dramatically connectivity between northern cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield. It will make life considerably easier for huge numbers of commuters across the region, improving the rail network and easing road congestion—the hon. Member for Batley and Spen will know all about the M62 and getting over the Pennines. Such improvements do not just make our cities more attractive places to do business and encourage external investment; they help to improve the quality of life for many of our constituents.