UK Economy (London)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:02 pm on 10th March 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister, Shadow Minister (London) 3:02 pm, 10th March 2004

It is fair to say that we have done significant trading with many of those nations, but let us be honest: the power of the English language is an important part of that. The power of relatively deregulated employment markets—they were certainly very deregulated before 1997—has also made a difference in that regard.

London's historical trading is at the forefront of fostering and developing the links with some of the future economic powerhouses of the world. Equally, London's pre-eminence means that, as a city, we are estimated to contribute £15 billion to £20 billion to the rest of the UK, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet pointed out. I am not arguing that London should hold on to what might be considered our money, but I should like to make some observations and I hope that the Minister will consider them in summing up the debate.

We must remember that London is the showcase for the entire country, not only for tourists but for all overseas visitors, people who want to come and live here, and a significant number of businesses that wish to invest in the UK. Many businesses that invest outside the capital have representative offices in London. Therefore, investing in London's infrastructure is of key importance.

I entirely endorse the comments of the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North. I was going to say what she said—that there is a risk that we will kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Indeed, I was going to use those very words. Failure to invest in the capital's infrastructure might have serious medium-term consequences. I hope that the Minister will take this matter to the Chancellor because what we are debating is the need for a vision about a wide range of economic and spending priorities for decades to come.

The debate addresses local government funding as a whole. I impress upon the Minister the need to keep more of business rates in the hands of London's local government. That would help to fund vital services, such as the underground, Crossrail and health and education. The contribution of Dr. Cable leads me to state that national pay bargaining helps to discriminate against London's poorest workers; we need to have a realistic London weighting regime.

The lesson of this debate is that all Members—not only London Members—should seek to praise, not to bury, our capital city. Now is not a time for self-congratulatory complacency, but we must also not subsume London's economic success by introducing ever more tax regulation and Government obstruction. London's initiative and innovation is key to our economic welfare in the years ahead.

On regulation, I take on board what the Minister said about the debate around the Penrose report on Equitable Life; I listened to that in great detail with my City of London hat on. I suspect that Jeremy Corbyn wishes to say a few words on that.