It is a pleasure to take my place at the Dispatch Box for the first time.
Our recent devolution agreement with Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire will see a directly elected leader take decisions on transport, skills and housing in the region, as well as a new 30-year investment fund totalling more than £1 billion. On the levelling-up White Paper, we also named Leicestershire as one of the places invited to negotiate a county deal. We remain committed to continuing discussions with Leicestershire and the remaining White Paper areas, because we want to see them benefit from the brilliant opportunities that devolution provides.
I thank the Minister for that answer, but it has been apparent that since the west midlands has had a Mayor, it has economically outperformed the east midlands. Due to the Labour Mayor of Leicester’s veto, Leicestershire and Rutland cannot join Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in an east midlands devolution deal. Will the Minister look again at how we can overcome Sir Peter Soulsby’s unreasonable objections and unleash the true economic potential of the whole east midlands?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for his passion for delivering devolution in his local area. It is a shame when some local stakeholders do not back this project to deliver all its incredible opportunities. I will certainly work with my hon. Friend and local stakeholders to see what we can do to make that happen.