I am pleased to say to my hon. Friend that thanks to our economic record there are 90,000 more small businesses in the west midlands since 2010, that the national living wage is giving more than 170,000 people a pay rise in the west midlands this year and that employment in the west midlands has risen by 252,000 since 2010. I can also tell him that we will continue to support the region by investing more than £430 million as part of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise partnership.
As ever, that is great news for the west midlands and it shows our firm economic policy, but will my right hon. Friend now welcome the new Birmingham airport masterplan, which addresses its growth in services for businessmen and holidaymakers for the west midlands? Will she also commit the Government to work with the airport to help it to expand its long-haul route network, which is so important for the businesses and holidaymakers of Lichfield and beyond?
We are certainly supporting airports beyond Heathrow, such as Birmingham, to make the best use of their existing runways. I am happy to welcome Birmingham’s decision to publish this masterplan because I understand that, as my hon. Friend says, it aims to attract new long-haul routes in addition to the routes that it already runs. We are also committed to improving access to Birmingham airport. For example, by 2026 the airport will be served by HS2, which will significantly reduce journey times to London and dramatically increase the catchment area of the airport.