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I welcome today’s debate because the UK Government’s industrial strategy is hugely significant and could be transformational for all parts of the United Kingdom. It is fair to say that the industrial strategy has been welcomed by a huge variety of organisations, including organisations that are not common bedfellows. The CBI is positive about the strategy and the TUC calls it “an important step forward.”
There is cross-sector acknowledgement that the industrial strategy is a serious piece of work that is genuinely trying to identify and address the challenges that our economy will face in the next few years. It is the role of Government to support and develop industry and to pursue economic growth, and I am broadly in favour of the non-interventionist but highly engaged approach. With this industrial strategy, we have gone right back to basic principles, and the UK Government have identified five foundations that are essential for a successful economy. These five foundations show how in Scotland the industrial strategy will need to be implemented by both the UK and Scottish Governments. Devolved government has control over significant parts of the five foundations, including skills, transport and housing. I am pleased that the UK Government understand that point and have repeatedly acknowledged that it is vital to work with the devolved Administrations in order to implement the industrial strategy. I hope that the Scottish Government—I note that Scottish National party Members are currently absent from the Chamber—are able to accept this commitment at face value and work constructively with their counterparts here at Westminster.
I would like to focus my remarks on what has been identified as the fifth foundation: places. I think we all accept that in order to have a productive economy, we need prosperous communities, but what does that mean in practice for the United Kingdom? The industrial strategy identifies four challenges that need to be addressed in order to put the UK at the forefront of industries of the future. These are understandably forward-looking, but I do think it omits a current challenge: the dominance of London in the UK’s economic output. I would like to make it clear that the success of our nation’s capital is something of which we should all be proud. London is a truly global city, an economic powerhouse and a cultural masterpiece. Its contribution to the UK goes well beyond the fact that it accounts for 22% of our GDP. We will not drive our economy forward by holding London back, but it remains the case that London dominates our economy in a way that is almost unique.
That matters because it has resulted in an imbalance in our nation’s economy. The domination of London has created a self-perpetuating cycle where new investment flocks to the city because that is where everyone else is. This has created wealth and economic growth, but it has also been centred on the one city.