I led the inaugural midlands engine trade mission to north America in September. I am leading a second mission to China this month. Establishing a mayoral combined authority within the west midlands will help to bring about even more trade and investment opportunities for the midlands engine.
The black country economy and the west midlands have had a substantial revival over the past few years. In the last year alone, there has been a 46% increase in foreign direct investment in the black country. Does the Secretary of State agree that we need to do all we can to take advantage of the devolution settlement in the west midlands, in the context of the midlands engine, to drive the growth of trade and investment into the west midlands from around the world?
The black country and the wider west midlands have seen strong performance of inward investment and exports. Our historic west midlands devolution deal includes an investment fund of £1 billion to drive growth, and what we also need to drive growth is strong local leadership. There is no doubt in my mind that Andy Street will bring that to the west midlands.
We note the sedentary approval for that proposition from Michael Fabricant.
There are many great businesses in Stoke-on-Trent, such as engineering firm Brown McFarlane, that want to grow through trade and investment. Thus far, however, we have had very little engagement from John Peace and the midlands engine. We are not part of the combined authority of the west midlands and the black country. Will the Minister tell the House when John Peace will be visiting Stoke-on-Trent, and what plans the midlands engine has for north Staffordshire?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there are many excellent businesses in his part of the world, and I think that Sir John Peace is a fantastic choice to chair the midlands engine. The hon. Gentleman rightly makes the point that the midlands engine is not the same as the west midlands devolution deal. I am sure that Sir John Peace will take a great interest in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and I will make sure that he hears the hon. Gentleman’s case.
Another key part of the midlands engine will be the Lincolnshire devolution deal. Will the Secretary of State join me in encouraging the eight out of 10 councils that have voted for it already to work with the Government to make sure that we get the best devolution deal for Lincolnshire and that Lincolnshire does not turn its back on half a billion pounds of Government money?
My hon. Friend highlights the importance of these devolution deals, including that for greater Lincolnshire, in bringing about more growth and better productivity in all regions of the UK. As my hon. Friend said, eight councils out of 10 have accepted the deal—I hope the others will as well—which will make a great difference to jobs and growth.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
One cannot help but notice that all the talk these days is of the midlands engine. Suddenly, the northern powerhouse is about as popular on the Conservative Benches as its originator, Mr Osborne. Although I am not against investment in the midlands, will the Secretary of State give a cast-iron guarantee that manifesto commitments to invest in the north, including in High Speed 3, will not be delayed or diluted by new commitments to the midlands?
I know that the right hon. Gentleman has significant ambitions, but he must not talk down the north at every opportunity. He will know that the Government are as committed as ever to the northern powerhouse, and that applies to all our commitments around investment and growth.