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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Foreign languages are one key component, but the challenge in areas such as the Black country is to raise education performance levels more broadly. Standards need improving at primary and secondary levels, and we need to focus on technical education. The west midlands must face outwards and take advantage of the global opportunities that are currently presented.
Critically, the Black country and the west midlands are too often talked about as though they are a relic of Britain’s industrial past, but that is wrong. The Black country is increasingly in the vanguard of our industrial future. It is a leading player in high-tech manufacturing and has an increasingly competitive, productive economy. We do not need to focus on managing decline. The Black country is not some kind of industrial museum to look back on with fondness as part of Britain’s industrial greatness. The area is becoming a world leader in critical parts of our economic future.
As we take a forward view of global Britain, it is important not to focus just on London and the south-east; part of our long-term strategy should be the rebalancing of the economy. It is taking a long time, but we have made a lot of progress towards achieving that rebalancing. We must redouble that effort, invest in the appropriate skills and in the future of the businesses in the west midlands, and take away the barriers to growth, which include our transport infrastructure. It is simply too hard to get around the Black country and the wider west midlands, and the evidence is that transport bottlenecks make it increasingly difficult for the west midlands to realise its economic potential and achieve productive growth. As I said, we are not managing decline or nostalgically looking back to a mythical golden age; we seek to embrace the future of the Black country and of our young people in a global Britain.