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It is no bad thing to mention Leeds and Man United at the present time, and it was in that spirit that I chose to debate the Leeds contribution the UK economy. I welcome my colleagues, and our regional Minister, who serves our region brilliantly. I thank her for her work, and for attending today.
I aim to spell out the huge contribution that Leeds makes not only to Leeds city and the regional economy, but to the UK economy as a whole, as that does not receive enough emphasis. I am known in the House and elsewhere for emphasising the poverty that still mars our city, and the statistics show that, sadly, Leeds is still in the top 10 of the most unequal cities in the country. It is still divided between those with the benefit of income, wealth, prosperity and property, while others-many of them in inner-city areas such as my constituency-lose out on good jobs, good housing and quality of life chances for themselves and their families. I am certainly not complacent about the needs of my neighbourhood and of people in Leeds. Every job lost means that we must work hard to obtain another to take people into the future.
My impetus for today's debate was a former colleague's comment. Boris Johnson is now the Mayor of London, and last October he was reported to have said in a keynote speech in London:
"No disrespect to Manchester"- obviously he thinks that Manchester is important-
"but if you want to stimulate the Manchester economy-and Leeds and Newcastle-you invest in London."
I say with no disrespect to Manchester, "No Boris, you are completely wrong. You invest in Leeds to ensure that London and the UK economy thrives." We turn it round.
I am pleased to intervene as a London Member, and I declare an interest, as my daughter is employed partly in Leeds, so the Leeds economy is important to me. Is it not important to London to bear in mind the fact that Leeds is the second financial centre in the UK, and that good investment, particularly in transport in, to and from Leeds is important to the UK economy as a whole?
I thank the hon. Gentleman, who is absolutely right. Leeds's role as a financial centre is vital, and we must remain connected, and link the country together economically, metaphysically and through transport links. If we do not have a high-speed link to London, that will jeopardise not only the Leeds economy, but the UK economy. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the spirit in which he made his intervention, particularly as I may have been interpreted as being anti-London, which I am not. However, the contribution of Leeds as a whole must be considered.
Leeds's great economic strengths lie in its economic diversity and adaptability over the years. The hard work and ingenuity of the people who live and work in Leeds blend past manufacturing and production with enterprise and commerce. That blending is unique, and I shall refer briefly to historical tradition, the story of Leeds, and the current statistics, but I also want to press the case for Leeds to continue as an economic powerhouse. We need a stronger future focus on skills and training for the 21st century and better public transport, as Mr. Pelling said-and I am sure that we all agree with his comment-to link us to the rest of Britain. Crucially, we need the high-speed rail link. Without Government intervention in those two vital infrastructure areas, Leeds's continued growth will be held back during the 21st century, as will the UK's prospects.
Some of my colleagues are historians and know the story of Leeds. They may want to slip out for a coffee break because they have regularly heard me speak about its history. Leeds has a long tradition of regenerating itself from within since the Romans crossed the ford on the River Aire, and the Venerable Bede mentioned the market town of Leeds and the little hamlet. Henry VIII's chaplain, John Leland, referred to the Leeds market on the bridge. It was a centre for trade and commerce in the region throughout the ages, and the city was built up around that bridge with various industries and trades. The root of Leeds's economy is in my constituency in the great Cistercian abbey of Kirkstall, which was built in the 12th century.
The abbey had a huge sheep farm, and a fulling mill, and employed the whole neighbourhood in wool production, from shearing to drying. It developed smelting, forging, tanning, weaving and pottery making. The template was set for a diverse economy, and over 400 years Leeds developed into the textile centre of Britain, linked to the continental cloth markets. It was recognised in places such as Florence, Italy, France, Belgium and Holland as the place for commerce and trade in the textile industry.
I agree with all that my right hon. Friend says, but does he agree that back in the early days, Rothwell was a more significant commercial centre than Leeds? It is now enveloped by Leeds, but that is also part of history.
I am tempted to say that debates on diversity and multiculturalism must stretch as far as places such as Rothwell, Garforth and Pudsey-places that were independent, and some of which were named in the Domesday Book before Leeds. Elmet was certainly there first, and my hon. Friend Colin Burgon is here today.
The notion that Leeds can blend a collection of urban villages around itself and could build on those strengths since its organisation into a metropolitan district is significant, because it adds range to that diversity of industries. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Leeds moved away from wool textiles, which shifted to Bradford. It then became a centre of engineering excellence with great names, such as John Marshall, Benjamin Gott, John Barran, Matthew Murray and Blenkinsop. The rail industry, and locomotives were also important. The textile industry grew up with new manufacturing, and Armley Mills in west Leeds was the largest factory in the whole world. With that shift to become an engineering centre of excellence, Leeds produced hundreds of engines and trains that are still seen throughout the world.
In 1892, Leeds had 900 factories and workshops, and was the workshop of Britain. The names of the great industrialists and engineers are on the walls of the town hall and the civic hall in Leeds. Leeds's great tradition involved not just production, but the trade link of commerce. In the 1890s, Leeds Illustrated said that it was in trade that Leeds began to shine, and that it was a town of a hundred different trades making everything from shoes to machinery, from furniture to Yorkshire Relish.
That diversity involved not just making, but trading. As we moved towards the turn of the 20th century, Leeds became known as the city of 1,000 firms. It had moved on from wool, textiles and engineering to the great diversity of a production economy. It was characterised as one of the most diverse economies in the world. It was not dependent on a single industry, company or mine, but was involved in textiles, clothing, engineering, printing, production of chemicals and toiletries, and financial services. The hon. Member for Croydon, Central referred to financial services. Price Waterhouse was founded in Leeds in 1865, so there was a tradition of financial services even in those early days. In 1911, printing employed more than 8,000 local people.
On the diverse economic base of a self-made city, small and medium-sized firms grew up locally. Leeds became a regional centre of business, and thrived on the interaction between diverse industries and firms, which enabled Leeds to develop new ideas, to be innovative and to move forward, providing employment not only for the city, but for the whole region. As we moved into the 20th century, Leeds had a strong manufacturing and production base, and a long tradition of commercial activity. It had a thriving economy of its own, but it was the hub of a wider regional economy.
By the time I was born in 1951, Leeds was a city of 5,000 firms. Today, it is a city of 29,000 firms, many of which are small and medium-sized, but that illustrates its energy for innovation and regeneration. In the '70s, there was a shift from manufacturing to services in both the public and private sectors. The universities developed-the huge Leeds university and Leeds Metropolitan university-as did hospitals such as St. James's university teaching hospital. Local government developed with that reorganisation.
In the mid-20th century, there was a shift from manufacturing to retail and the great stores. Indeed, the whole notion of town centres, high streets and shopping was not too far removed from Leeds. The first great general store in the UK was Leeds Industrial Co-operative Society in 1893. Marks & Spencer grew from the business of Michael Marks who, as everybody knows, had a penny bazaar in the market. Clothing was produced by Burton and Hepworth.
When I served as a councillor in the '80s, I worked on the economy of Leeds and on economic and employment development, and I remember a very significant figure. Between 1977 and 1987, 17,500 jobs were lost in manufacturing, particularly in the traditional engineering sector. At the same time, 17,500 new jobs were created in the service sector for both public and private professional services. Banking, accountancy firms and lawyers moved into the city at that time, but there was a shift from the inventive skills of 19th-century engineers to the flair of retail and business services. Creeping through at the end of the 20th century, we find the new science, technology and creative industries of the digital age based in Leeds, as the city transforms itself, quietly, as if within a chrysalis, to move into the 21st century. Today's city of 29,000 firms is still a diverse, permanently changing economic base.
Such diversity enabled Leeds to avoid the worst of the depression of the '30s. There was economic intervention to help people in Leeds. The unemployed were asked to build the civic hall as a job project, and to invest in public buildings. Because of its diversity, Leeds survived the worst of that depression. That was also true in the '80s through the local council's intervention and focus on job generation. I will return to that issue shortly. Diversity has helped Leeds to survive, but it does not happen by accident. The city needs support, encouragement, fostering and investment.
In 1893, the Leeds chamber of commerce in its annual report recognised the
"good fortune of Leeds in having an economy based on a diversity of manufacturing and commercial activity.".
Its editorial suggested that by keeping the two activities together, Leeds would thrive. That is the city's real strength.
Today, Leeds is a city of over 775,000 people, and it is the fastest growing city in the country. It is not an ageing city; young people are moving into Leeds, and it is increasingly seen as a young city. The average age in Leeds is dropping, which is good news, because the ideas will remain. Leeds is halfway between London and Edinburgh, and is situated between Hull and Liverpool. If someone puts a dot on the map and says that they want to relocate Parliament because the River Thames is starting to flood, they could not find a better centre of Britain in which to do that than Leeds, but I shall not go down that route.
At present, Leeds employs 445,000 people in local manufacturing, commercial and public services. Every day, 100,000 people from the wider region of Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Halifax, Harrogate and York come to Leeds, and every evening, 100,000 people leave. Their work is in Leeds, which acts as a giant economic lung, breathing in the work of the people from roundabout. It is still the third largest manufacturing centre in the UK, the UK's largest provincial printing sector and the second largest financial sector. It has 90 private legal practices and 12 head offices. Five FTSE 350 companies are based in Leeds, including companies such as Northern Foods and Asda. Yesterday, Asda sent me an unsolicited note to say that its contribution to the UK economy is £13 billion per year-0.9 per cent. of gross domestic product. Of course, Asda's great operations are not only in Leeds, but it shows that some of the top companies are now based there.
Leeds employs 105,000 people in high-value, knowledge-based intensive industries of the future, which is good news. It also employs 29,000 people in the digital and media industry, which means that Leeds has that strength for the new computer age of the internet and new communications, and it is well positioned for the 21st century. Contributions to the UK economy are now measured in gross value added, rather than the old GDP. Latest estimates put the GVA figures for Leeds at £17 million, but once we add in the goods and services that the Leeds economy pulls in from the wider region, it is estimated that Leeds contributes over 1.5 per cent. of the country's GVA. It makes a larger impact economically than just that made by the local people. Bringing people into the city brings dynamism to the economy, not only for the region but for the country as a whole.
Per head of population, GVA was £22,387 in 2007, which is 112 per cent. of the UK average, and 134 per cent. of the regional average. Leeds was the only area in Britain where GVA per head was higher than the national average. In other words, Leeds really does punch above its weight. The economic impact of the city means that its economic footprint-that is the phrase-goes far beyond the administrative boundary of the Leeds district and includes Rothwell, Pudsey, Garforth and other areas of the city. That has been recognised recently by Government in the City Region project, which works on things such as the Aire valley project, and which will generate another 27,000 jobs over the next 10 to 15 years. That has been recognised by the Government and the Yorkshire development agency, but I wonder whether the economic impact is being fully backed up.
I want to stress that Leeds is in a strong position and is expected to generate 34 per cent. of the region's future employment within the next decade. That was spelled out this week in a report published by Centre for Cities, which undertook research analysis of the economic performance of 64 English towns and cities and the outlook for 2010. The report stated that in 2008, 62 per cent. of jobs in England were in cities and 39 per cent. of those were in just five cities-London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds. Of England's high-skilled workers, 62 per cent. are in those cities, which is a 40 per cent. concentration in top cities such as Leeds. In other words, the report recognised Leeds as one of the country's top economic powerhouses, well placed to thrive as the UK emerges from the recession. It will be one of the big hitters that will make a difference to whether there is a strong sustainable recovery, or whether we have a so-called double-dip recession.
I would like to quote from this week's Yorkshire Post, which mentioned the Centre for Cities report that underlined the role of Leeds as an economic driver. The chief economist of Yorkshire Forward, Patrick Bowes, stated:
"We welcome the news that Leeds is among those cities expected to drive the UK's economy out of the recession as we believe that Leeds is central to helping the region move quickly out of recession."
I could not agree more, but I would say that Leeds is central to the UK as a whole. Interestingly, the Centre for Cities report focused on two points-the need to boost local skills and the need to improve local public transport links. Those are the two key areas that now need underpinning in the Leeds economy.
I will briefly touch on skills and training. As I have mentioned, Leeds has a tradition of practical intervention-what we would now call "fiscal stimulus"-to make sure that it does not sink during a recession. I mentioned the building of the civic hall; during the '80s-in the face of the recession, cuts under Mrs. Thatcher's Conservative Government, and radical reductions year on year in public investment in the local authority-we had a visionary leader, my hon. Friend Mr. Mudie, who cannot be with us this morning. He understood that we needed to produce programmes for skills training to ensure that people were not left behind.
My hon. Friend Mr. Grogan is present; he worked with the next leader of the council, my hon. Friend Jon Trickett, who built up the partnership to see whether the public and private sectors in Leeds could work together. That was innovative work at the time. There was intervention to develop skills, and to build public-private partnerships, to ensure that the diverse economy of Leeds survived.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. Does not what he is saying about the impact of the rate of cuts in public spending show that it is important that if public spending is cut, it is cut only at a reasonable rate? What damage would be done to the Leeds economy if there was too precipitate a cut in public expenditure in that important area?
I am grateful but rather shocked to hear the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I warmly welcome it because he is right, but I prefer to consider the issue not in terms of the rate of cuts, but in terms of the areas that we ensure that we support, and I am suggesting support for skills training and transport.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, was leader of the council, he pressed for exactly the kind of fiscal stimulus that the Government are now applying nationally. We were doing it then. That was what my hon. Friend the Member for Selby backed, and I dare say that my hon. Friend Mr. Truswell did so, too; he was a member of Leeds city council at the time. They understood the need for that kind of fiscal stimulus. It was not a case of letting the economy sink and seeing what happened. The hon. Member for Croydon, Central, might talk to people from his own party much more about the strategy, because we had it working in Leeds.
I heard comments on the radio the other day about education. My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet was one of the top educationalists in Leeds when he was a teacher there. I still meet people whom he taught when he worked in some of the toughest schools in Leeds. The suggestion was that education and training was the way forward. There is now discussion about that. We are not there yet. We have had some investment in primary schools and a little more in secondary schools, but we need to consider the training of older workers; we need to consider the post-16 generation.
I know that the Government have helped Leeds. There has been a stimulus of £20 million from the future jobs fund, and that is Government action. There was no Government action in the 1980s; we on the local authorities acted on our own. Recently, 79 small businesses in Leeds got help worth £8.6 billion from the enterprise finance guarantee scheme. Seven of those are in west Leeds. Twelve businesses received investment of more than £17 million from the capital for enterprise fund equity scheme. With the pressure on Yorkshire Television, Screen Yorkshire and Studio 81 have helped to get the film industry going again. That is the kind of stimulating investment that I want to see. If I may make a jaded remark to the hon. Member for Croydon, Central, it is that investment that we need, not Tory tax cuts just for those families bequeathed more than £2 million; those cuts will be worth nearly £500,000 to them. My priorities are about investing in the skills of the future.
The Centre for Cities report emphasises the need for a clear skills strategy, and it suggests that it needs to be targeted better and based on an understanding of the city's role in the UK economy. I plead with the Minister to consider the need for local skills centres, because in my neighbourhood, through subcontracting, the skills centre has been moved to another district of Leeds, and is now not accessible by my constituents in the same way. That means that we cannot develop the links with local employers that we need to ensure local skills training, so some pockets end up without the training that they need. Can we look again at local skills training, advanced apprenticeships and, indeed, the whole lot to ensure that people are not left behind, as the Centre for Cities report suggests we should?
The report acknowledges that Leeds has a strong infrastructure. The infrastructure has been provided-primary schools, secondary schools, universities and hospitals. We have digital and fibre-optic networks. We have quality business, office and enterprise space. However, the area needs skills training to move us into the bio and nanotechnologies, the green technologies, the new jobs of the future in industrial biology, health care technologies and environmental technologies, as we now shift again from consumers to producers. We need to meet the new demands for products and services in response to not only technological innovation in the digital age, but changing social and living patterns in a fast-growing young city. We need to shift the skills training up a gear or two.
I shall briefly mention high-speed trains. I do not have time to go into internal public transport links, but if 100,000 people are coming into the city and 100,000 are going out, we need good public transport, and we are not there yet by a long mile. We need to do much more to ensure that Leeds has a proper system for bringing people in and out of the city. I tell the Minister that we need the link to London, as the hon. Member for Croydon, Central, said. Before a decision is made on high-speed trains, we need to be sure that there is a phased introduction of a network for the UK that does not jeopardise the east coast line. If we decide on the west coast, Leeds will be left out on a limb, so we need to ensure that there is a high-speed link between Leeds and London in the 21st century.
I seem temporarily to have been promoted to the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary-it is the highlight of my career. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a fear in Leeds and the wider city region, of which Selby is a proud part, that if a high-speed rail link were announced predominantly for the western side of the country, Leeds and the Leeds city region could lose out? Is it not unacceptable to produce a plan that does not clearly state that the east coast will have a high-speed rail link and, ideally, that there will be a high-speed link across the Pennines? If it is a case of putting Crossrail on hold and saving £5 billion, that would be well worth doing if it meant that Leeds got its high-speed rail link.
Amazingly, the same suggestion that we keep those connections to Leeds going was made in 1968 to the Secretary of State at the time. It took the Government until 1972 to accept the report, and then there was still no action. I agree with my hon. Friend. May I say to the hon. Member for Croydon, Central, that if there is pressure on budgets, Leeds should come before the Crossrail project? It should take top priority; otherwise Leeds is cut off. That is why, if choices are to be made, I am in favour of the Leeds high-speed link. Crossrail would have to wait, because Leeds is more important.
As the right hon. Gentleman must recognise, it is important that Crossrail have a role. I am not a member of the Conservative party-he attacked me as though I were a Conservative-but is it not to the credit of the Conservative party that it is the one party that is willing to consider a smaller Crossrail and to be mindful of the importance of value for money?
We could go down that road, but I am putting down a marker to say that Leeds has sometimes been left out because it has not been seen as being as important as London and the south-east. It is time to invert that ratio. That is what I am suggesting.
I thank the Minister for answering a wide range of written questions that I have tabled in the past few weeks on the Leeds economy. The subjects of those questions ranged from the effects of the recession on financial services in the city to an analysis of where everybody works in the city and the region, in terms of each of the standard industrial classifications. Those questions and answers have been helpfully set out in the Library debate pack. I am grateful to the Minister for her response, because it gives us a picture of where Leeds is up to now.
I also thank the chamber of commerce, which provided information, the city region project and particularly Yorkshire Forward. As I say, there is the city region project, but at least Yorkshire Forward recognises that Leeds is larger than the region; it is not to be confined to the Leeds city region. Its role in the UK economy is acknowledged by Yorkshire Forward, which is doing a brilliant job. I want it to go forward, not, as I think Opposition parties have suggested, be shut down.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Conservative party's proposal to abolish the regional development agencies would be very damaging? The agencies may need reform and improvement, but the city region of Leeds surely calls for a regional development agency to underpin its development, which is so important, as he said, to the whole country.
Most hon. Members would concur with that view; I certainly do. We need Yorkshire Forward. Like all organisations, it has to improve. It has to be more accountable and challenging. It should challenge us, just as we have to challenge it, but it must keep its focus on the fact that Leeds is an economic driver for the country as a whole. If Yorkshire Forward does that for Leeds, it will be continuing to do a good job. I am grateful for the work that it has done so far.
To continue to contribute to the UK economy, Leeds will need to be backed up, so that it remains a means of leading the UK out of recession into a more prosperous and sustainable economic future. That refers to the quality of jobs in the future, not just to the value that is placed on them. It refers to the work that people do in the service industries, which is undervalued.
I would have liked a fiscal stimulus that invested more in, for example, care for the elderly, which would put money into revenue. We should value such jobs, which will be the jobs of the future. The New Economics Foundation has published a report about the jobs of the future and their value. We should take them seriously, so that we do not weigh a care worker against a banker and say that the banker is more valuable. In the future, we might find that it is the other way round.
It is perhaps not well known in Leeds that I am not actually from Leeds. I have hidden that fact, not too conspicuously, from my constituents, but my passport says that I was born in Bradford, which is true-I was born in a hospital there. I did not grow up in Leeds either, but in a place called Batley Carr in Dewsbury. For me, Leeds was the big smoke; it was like London, and if I went there for a ride on a tram, it was like visiting London. For about a third of my life, I thought that Leeds was where the Queen lived. However, I have spent my life working in Leeds and I am proud to be part of the golden economic triangle there. That is because of the people who work there and because of their imagination, energy, commitment and damned hard work.
In my region of Yorkshire, which covers Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Dewsbury, we really have something going for us, which we have protected through the centuries. We have made a massive contribution to the UK economy over the centuries and we are well positioned to take the country into the 21st century. However, we need the Government to be a bit more focused on skills, training and transport so that we can continue to play that role.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend John Battle on securing the debate. I want to speak for two reasons. First, I am a Leeds MP. Secondly, I am proud to say that I was actually born in Leeds-I am quite a phenomenon-and I have lived my whole life there.
Over the years, I have watched the changes that have taken place in the city, and it has changed quite dramatically in my lifetime. I was brought up on the Gipton estate in east Leeds, and my father was a tailor at Montague Burton, at a time when it employed 10,000 people under one roof. Although I was not aware of this at the time, there was a certain social cohesion in Leeds, which, if I am honest, I cannot detect today. Leeds is in danger of becoming two cities, with thousands of people left out of the so-called economic miracle that we keep hearing about.
Obviously, some of the changes that have taken place have been good. As a teenager, I would never have dreamed of going into the city centre, which was quite a rough place. If people go there now, the only danger they face is being bumped into by groups of mainly young women who are having a nice drink and a nice time. So the city centre has changed for the better. However, the collapse of the manufacturing industry in Leeds has had an impact. I taught in east Leeds in the mid-70s and that was when the decline really started. The city's manufacturing base in engineering, textiles and clothing began to collapse and its place was taken, for the youth of Leeds, by what I can only describe as pathetic youth training schemes, which have left their mark on the whole notion of training in my city.
I do not want to appear like someone out of the Monty Python sketch about the Yorkshire men living in a shoe box, and some things have changed for the better. I compliment the regional development agency on its work and I compliment the Minister, who has been a proud champion for our region. The figures-they are just rough figures-show that the city has about 100,000 jobs in the financial sector, 40,000 in manufacturing, 20,000 in construction, 80,000 in catering, distribution and related trades, and 130,000 in public services. Of those jobs in public services, 33,000 are in Leeds city council and about 14,000 are in the NHS, and I will draw a political lesson from that when I conclude my remarks. I do not want to go on too long, however, because other hon. Members want to speak.
We also have 60,000 students in our city, which is excellent, and they are based at two universities with worldwide reputations. The paradox, however, is that we also have 12,000 younger people who are labelled as NEET-not in education, employment or training-and that is 2.8 per cent. above the national average. Why are 12,000 of our young people in that category when about 400,000 jobs are generated in the city? There has been a failure to focus properly on the youth of Leeds, to give them proper training and to create the economic conditions in which they can find work, and we must address that. By April 2010, the local authority will have got funding from the Learning and Skills Council to address the problem, and I assure Leeds city council that many of us will be closely monitoring the effectiveness of its work. We need to know now what plans are being put in place to get our 17 and 18-year-olds into employment.
While I am on youth unemployment and wider unemployment, I should say that I detect a tightening of the social mobility that I experienced. I very much doubt whether a kid in Gipton today would become, or think about becoming, a Member of the House of Commons. There has been a tightening of social mobility as significant sections of our city have been left off the map of economic development, and I refer particularly to my old stamping ground of east Leeds. That really concerns me because social mobility has virtually come to a stop in places such as east Leeds, where people used to move up the social ladder and out into places such as Garforth in my constituency. That has real implications for the cohesion of the city. Unless we address the poverty in our city, all the fanfare and all the statistics showing how much progress has been made will sound pretty hollow to many Leeds citizens.
I would not like to give the impression that the skills in Leeds were all lightweight. One thing that made a difference in the '80s was the skills centres-the east Leeds skills workshop, the Harehills tech project, the Tech North project and the Seacroft skills project. The problem is that they have been allowed to decline. Although they did not tackle the whole problem, there was a focus on skills and training, and we need to refocus on that. These were not just lightweight jobs; some real jobs came out of those skills centres. That was a council programme and it should be replicated. Does my hon. Friend agree?
Yes. I am all for the intervention of councils, RDAs and the Government, because the market will not deliver for the citizens of Leeds. The Conservatives in our city may well practise free-market capitalism, but if we are subjected to it, it will be bad news for the citizens of Leeds.
On the wider question of poverty, the RDA has produced an excellent briefing, which says:
"On average 25 per cent. of households are living below an acceptable standard of living and in Leeds the proportion is 29 per cent.", which means that approximately 92,000 households in my city
"are surviving on less than the minimum income needed to achieve an acceptable standard of living."
The briefing goes on to say:
"More detailed analysis shows that over 55 per cent. of households in Gipton and Harehills ward and 41 per cent. of households in Leeds Central constituency are living below this acceptable standard of living."
We have to face up to that. The shining image of Leeds city centre has to be reflected right across our city.
Two years ago, we failed to get national renewal funding, even though 150,000 people were living in deprived conditions at the time-I dread to think what the figure is today. That illustrates the fact that this is almost the tale of two cities. I do not want to be too negative, because we should point the way forward. However, my intuition says that the financial sector, despite the image that it has given of itself, will not address the needs of 10,000 young people or of others who are in semi-unemployment or poor employment conditions. Only a strategy of returning an expanded manufacturing base to our city will address their needs.
In that respect, Leeds is uniquely placed to develop green-collar jobs. We are told that low-carbon industries in Britain already employ almost 900,000 people and represent 7.4 per cent of the UK's GDP. I would argue, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West did, that the historic manufacturing base of Leeds, alongside its world-class universities and its proximity to the North sea offshore wind farms, for which huge expansion is planned, means that it is well placed to benefit from growth in highly skilled and semi-skilled green-collar jobs. Those are precisely the jobs that the young-and middle-aged-people in Leeds who have been left outside the city's economic regeneration can plug into. I make a plea for Leeds city council, the regional development agency and the Minister to develop a strategy to get those green-collar manufacturing jobs into the city.
The significant part played by the public sector in our city has been remarked on, and I warn my fellow citizens of Leeds that if a Conservative Government are elected in June, with their 10 per cent. cuts across the board, the people of Leeds will feel the full harsh effects of Conservative free-market economics. I urge them not to go back to the dark days of the 1980s. I am proud of my city and want it to march forward united-that is not a pun on the football team. I realise that the market will not deliver for the citizens of Leeds. It is Government intervention that will underpin the development of my city. I hope it goes on to great things.
Several hon. Members want to get into the debate, and I intend to try to allow that. I can, under the rules, limit the Front-Bench contributions to five minutes, instead of 10. I know that the Minister is keen to speak for more than five minutes. However, because of the specific issue I want to give Leeds Members every opportunity. I hope that the Front-Bench spokesmen will concede that; I shall allow them as much time as I can.
I am getting an indication from the Liberal Democrat spokesman that she will settle for five minutes. If we can proceed in that way we shall be able to achieve what we set out to.
I shall try not to go on too long, Mr. Hancock, or to lower the tone in any way after two powerful contributions to this important debate.
I wanted to intervene earlier about the London love affair. I notice that Lorely Burt is not here now-[Hon. Members: "Croydon."]-I mean Mr. Pelling. It is not too difficult for me, being from the north, to mix those places up. We should not confuse London, the great metropolis, with the City of London. It is the neo-liberal policies that we have unfortunately fallen into the trap of following so enthusiastically that have done so much damage, as my hon. Friend Colin Burgon made clear.
I said that I did not want to lower the tone too much, and I do not think it is lowering the tone to refer to Leeds city council under its present management. Coincidentally, it is meeting this afternoon, and I thought I would avail myself of the agenda, to see what issues it is pondering at this important time. I am sure that as usual the Leeds Members will receive a letter from the chief executive informing us of the resolutions that bring us back into line. Some important issues are being discussed, and one of them relates to £7 billion of public expenditure in Leeds, of which £2.6 billion is spent by the city council, and the rest by the health service, the universities and the whole range of services. A motion calls for more democracy in the control of those moneys. That is probably a fair call. We could indeed make a start on more democracy by having the largest party on the council taking control of it. That would be a good step away from its present problematic leadership. People in the business community have told me that the Tweedledee-Tweedledum leadership arrangement in Leeds does the city no good at all.
Another motion congratulates the Leeds Labour MPs, quite correctly, on their support for the Leeds Arena. We all welcome the fact that nearly £10 million has been approved for expenditure on that. It will boost the city and is long overdue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet has already referred to the green economy; I am being totally non-partisan in my approach to that matter, because the motion that most attracts my attention has been put forward by a member from a different, minority party on the council, and it calls for it to accelerate the rate at which the city cuts its carbon dioxide emissions. Leeds as a whole now emits about 6 million tonnes of carbon a year, and the motion calls for a 10 per cent. annual cut in that. That would be an enormous stimulus to the economy of Leeds. I hope we shall receive a letter from Leeds city council telling us that that is the policy approach we should adopt.
Cutting CO2 emissions always seems a great burden, but in fact it is a great generator of jobs, and Leeds is well placed to capitalise on that. Even if, as we have heard, our manufacturing sector has diminished over the years, it still employs about 40,000 people-10 per cent. of the work force. Many of those people are in engineering. We have already heard about the hoped-for boom in offshore wind in the North sea, off the Humber, and I am sure there will be other marine technologies. That is where the RDA can step in and make a big difference. We need those turbines to be manufactured in the UK, but so far all the press coverage of that great bonanza suggests that many of the jobs will go to Germany and Denmark.
As well as the wind farms, Leeds is also developing some excellence in what are called the geo-biosciences; we might call them the clean-up technologies, for waste management and so on. There is potential there for future new green jobs in Leeds.
I agree. We tend to think of climate change in terms of renewable energy, but there are many other potential solutions and other things that can improve our energy efficiency. The university of Leeds is one of the country's leading research and development universities, and earns £113 million a year in research grants. Sadly, however, because of the cuts agenda that we seem to be facing, it could lose, even on the existing estimate of proposed cuts, up to 8 per cent. of its work force-nearly 700 jobs. That will be a big blow to the university's prestige and its ability to deliver economic drivers. The university has a marvellous record of setting up new entrepreneurial, inventive businesses that are right up to speed with the new technologies. I hope we can look again at the range of proposed cuts and say that we do not need them. What we need is investment, because it will produce longer-term growth and higher tax revenues. That, and not cutting the public sector, is the way to get out of recession.
I referred in an intervention to the role of the RDA. It does a good job, but could do a lot better. It fully accepts the green agenda, and tried hard to ensure that Yorkshire would benefit from the carbon capture and storage competition. I think that work will continue and there will be work on CCS in Yorkshire. The whole point about Leeds as a city region, and the green economy, is that the Aire valley, which is also known as "power alley", stretching into Selby, produces about 25 per cent. of the UK's electricity generation: the green economy is an enormous opportunity and an enormous threat to the area. If we are to lose technologies because of European directives on emissions, and because manufacturing jobs go to Germany and Denmark, we could lose jobs in the old fossil fuel economy and not get the new jobs in the green economy. I urge the Minister to take that seriously. It is a big opportunity and I hope that we can review RDA strategies to ensure that they fully deliver for the area.
Unemployment in my constituency of Morley and Rothwell is still less than in 1997. By and large, it is a bit different in other constituencies. It may be similar to the rate in Pudsey. Across the city, however, unemployment has fallen dramatically since 1997. I was looking at the figures yesterday and I see that in some constituencies unemployment has dropped by many thousands. In my constituency, the reduction since 1997 is only about 4.7 per cent. One way to reverse that is by going for green-collar jobs.
I shall mention three local companies. Ravenheat, a long-established company that makes central heating equipment and so on, is looking at making efficiencies. Integrated Technological Systems Ltd installs things such as solar photovoltaic roof tiles across Europe, and not only in the locality. InfraNOMIC Energy Solutions, another innovative company, is developing low-cost energy-efficient radiators that can be used in all-electric homes. That covers a significant segment of the housing market for the fuel-poor.
Those are small local companies; the largest employs only 20 or 30 people. However, they are the building blocks for the new economy. The green economy is reckoned to be worth £106 billion in the United Kingdom, and about £3 trillion in the world. That is where we should be headed. We would like to see more incentives for new technologies and new sources of employment.
To a great extent, I shall follow what was said by my great friend, my hon. Friend Colin Burgon. The pair of us sometimes feel as though we have been consigned to the Jurassic Park wing of new Labour-[Interruption]-and perhaps my hon. Friend Colin Challen.
When my right hon. Friend secured this debate, I looked at the answers to some of the parliamentary questions that he had tabled. I realise that by its very nature, this is a wide-ranging debate, but I shall focus on a statistic in one of those answers to which reference has already been made. It is that 43,000 people in Leeds are employed in manufacturing. It sounds like a large number; indeed it is. However, for a city such as Leeds, with a proud manufacturing tradition-as was mentioned by my right hon. Friend and others, it includes tailoring, textiles, light and heavy engineering, and printing and pottery; a whole raft of manufacturing trades-it is an indictment of the untrammelled market forces and neo-liberal economics that have gripped the UK, sometimes by the throat, over the past 30 years.
I may be genetically programmed to support manufacturing and to recoil at such statistics. In one way or another, the whole of my family have been employed in manufacturing. My father worked in a dirty little foundry as a moulder and core-maker. When I visited it as a child, the place seemed like something from Dante's "Inferno". I do not look back on that through rose-tinted spectacles.
We hardly need rehearse at length how global recessions in the early 1980s and 1990s, compounded by Tory slash-and-burn policies, dramatically undermined our manufacturing base. One of the worst problems was the self-induced disaster of the early 1980s, inspired by the tragic and dogmatic monetarist experiment when Margaret Thatcher was seduced by the siren calls of von Hayek and Milton Friedman. It is often said, I think rightly, that between them they did more damage to the British manufacturing base than the Luftwaffe.
It was not only bloated and inefficient industries and companies that were destroyed by that failed monetarist experiment. Many fell victim to the triple pincer of high exchange rates, which made exports prohibitively expensive, high interest rates that made investment extremely difficult, and cuts in public spending that effectively destroyed demand in the economy. The Tories removed not only the fat, but the vital organs-and even the soul-of manufacturing industries.
To my mind, it was refreshing that the Labour party in Government was able until recently to point out the callous economic crime that had been perpetrated against our communities. From the lessons learned, the party was able to justify the reflationary package rightly embraced by the Government. As a result, many of us, including my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet, got the wind in our sails and were able to go out and sell it to our electors.
Why should we now be changing tack? Is it because the vacuum left by the reduction of our manufacturing industry has, as we have been told, been filled by the financial services sector, which has its own set of rules and imperatives to which we now feel obliged to genuflect? I hope that that is not the case.
I do not decry other sectors, but I wish to concentrate on manufacturing for a moment. My hon. Friends the Members for Elmet and for Morley and Rothwell cannot be caricatured as languishing in the past by harking back. My constituency still shows the vital relevance of manufacturing. I shall mention a handful of companies. Each, in its own way, is a UK, if not world, leader. There are others, but time prevents me from mentioning more.
ATB Morley, which was visited on Monday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West, was established in 1897. It produces sparkless motors for use underground in various mining industries across the world. It is a world leader. Last year, the company was given the Queen's award for international trade.
A. W. Hainsworth, which was founded in 1783 and is one of the few textile companies remaining in my constituency, is still in the hands of the same family. It manufactures specialist fabrics, including flame-resistant fabric for firefighters' uniforms and baize for billiard tables; it weaves the cloth for the Woolsack-part of the furnishings in the other place; and its uniforms graced the field at Waterloo. Its most recent innovation is the wool coffin. Some have made the pun about "resting in fleece". The wool coffin has been embraced by the funeral industry, not only in the UK but across the world.
Airedale International is the largest UK manufacturer of chillers and computer room equipment in the UK. It may not be the cheapest, but because of its durability, it provides value-for-money kit-something that the Government ought to take into account in their procurement policy. We should focus not only on the bottom line but on the value for money that we could often get from UK manufactured equipment.
Those firms, the majority of them with long histories, do not want special treatment or featherbedding. However, it is not sufficient to pat them on the head and congratulate them on their resilience and innovation. My right hon. Friend was right to point out that they need the Government and their agencies not only to ride to their assistance in difficult times but to identify their value and to provide them with the support and expertise that they need to continue to prosper in difficult circumstances and beyond. For example, we should ensure that they can benefit from events such as the 2012 Olympics.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell rightly said, we need to assist those industries to expand in order to meet the green agenda. Several of those companies have started to meet that agenda and have the capacity to do even more. However, we need to remove some of the bureaucratic obstacles that they have to surmount. For example, Leeds and Bradford Boiler Company is the exclusive manufacturing partner for a new process called resomation, a more environmentally friendly alternative to cremation. That is my second mention of death and burial. Perhaps I have an obsession with them. It was Benjamin Franklin who said:
"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
Obviously, the death part provides some commercial opportunities. Leeds and Bradford Boiler Company has been waiting 18 months for the Ministry of Justice to approve the process for use in the UK.
As my right hon. Friend rightly said, we need to provide support through training and skills, to assist manufacturing industry to get away from the greasy rag image and to promote manufacturing to young people who have left school or university.
I am aware of the time, so I will conclude by saying that I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister can give us an assurance that manufacturing industry will not play second, third or fourth fiddle to other sectors, such as the financial sector, and that it will remain at the forefront of public thinking when it comes to the development of our local economies.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing the debate and bringing us together. In his many years as an MP, he has spoken out for Leeds and shown that he is proud-as we all are-both of the city and its achievements. The development of Leeds' economy has been a real success story over the past 15 years. It has become a leading financial centre as well as a real driving force in the communications, marketing and advertising industry. Moreover, the online economy is now hugely important to Leeds. Despite the real and serious concerns that have been outlined by some hon. Members, we still have a strong manufacturing industry; it is the third largest in the country. None the less, there have been problems, which have been well documented.
We are also very proud of our sporting success. I am delighted to be the MP for Headingley where the current super league champions Leeds Rhinos play, as well as the premier league team Leeds Carnegie. I will be at Elland road to watch Leeds Rhinos hopefully win back the world cup challenge against Melbourne Storm on
Of the five parliamentary colleagues present today from Leeds, I am the only one who will be standing at the next election. So, this is a snapshot of what the eight Leeds area MPs have achieved and championed over the course of this Parliament. It is important for the eight Leeds MPs-whoever they are-to work together. We will have some disagreements and differences, but that is democracy. None the less, despite the comments of Colin Challen, we have shown that we can work together when we need to, and work with the Government, the council and the business community.
I have to mention the Leeds Arena. Notwithstanding the many comments that I have made both inside and outside the House, the Minister will be pleased to know that I am delighted that the project is now going ahead. I tabled an early-day motion, which I hope she has noticed, that said well done for allowing the project to go ahead. It is worth mentioning that Yorkshire Forward showed great leadership as a regional development agency, that Leeds city council consistently pushed the case for the development, and that the city's newspaper the Yorkshire Evening Post led an excellent campaign entitled "Leeds needs an Arena".
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that is not a problem I have very often.
Let me remind Members why it was so important to go ahead with the development and provide the funding. The Arena will provide an estimated £28 million a year extra to the local economy as well as allowing us to have the kind of acts, bands and performances that we currently cannot have. It will really fill a gap and give us something else world class in the city to match the many other things that we have.
Colin Burgon mentioned the contribution of our universities. I represent many of the students who live in our city, as well as the staff. The Headingley campus of the Leeds Metropolitan university is within my constituency. It is extremely important to highlight the enormous contribution that our universities make, and to stress the huge concern that exists over the proposed staff cuts, particularly at Leeds university. That issue must be considered carefully if we are not to damage the institution, its reputation and the excellent way in which it is able to deliver its courses and teaching.
Although it is undeniably true that the universities bring a lot to the economy, we must be aware of the impact that a very large transient population has on any one area, particularly Headingley and Hyde Park, which I share with the right hon. Member for Leeds, West. May I nudge the Minister to speak to her colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government about the use class order consultation on houses in multiple occupation, because that was supposed to have reported already? Again, many of us-including councillors, the business community, the local community and residents associations-see that as very important, because it gives local councils the power to influence the balance in communities, which is what all of us want.
I am afraid that there is a moan. The Minister would be very surprised if there was not one from me. I must return to the issue of transport. Every time I speak to people from the business community, both inside and outside Leeds, they say, "Leeds is wonderful. It's a great place and I want to be based there." The problem is, however, that public transport is inadequate. We still have an unacceptable transport gap. We did not get our supertram in 2005, which we should have done. Will the Minister ensure that we get the funding for New Generation Transport, because things have gone ominously quiet? We want to hear that we will get the funding and can go ahead with the scheme. We also need better funding for Leeds Bradford airport, which is in my constituency. We need to expand that because we cannot get a train anywhere near the airport.
I will leave my comments there. Thank you, Mr. Hancock, for allowing me to speak. I wish my four parliamentary colleagues well in whatever they do. Whoever the eight MPs are for the Leeds area, I hope they will continue to stand up for our wonderful city and area.
I congratulate John Battle on securing this debate and on regaling us with the fascinating history of Leeds and its proud tradition of commerce and manufacturing. He talked about textiles and engineering. However, I must correct him on an historical point. The west midlands was the birthplace of industrialisation. Let me tell Colin Challen that Solihull is nowhere near Surrey; it is nothing like Surrey. The west midlands has a proud industrial heritage and it has a lot in common with Leeds. Leeds is rightly proud of its diversity and industrial heritage.
I agree about the comment by the Mayor of London that investment in London will stimulate Leeds and Manchester. Leeds contributes to the UK, not the other way around. It is important that we are all linked up. On that point, a number of hon. Members have mentioned rail, including high-speed rail, which is hugely important. The first stage will run up to Birmingham, but proper, fast connections are also important to the north-east, the north-west and Scotland, as is linking those connections to the continent. We are stronger linked up.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, West said that Leeds has a diverse and permanently changing economic base. When economic challenges change, the economy of Leeds responds. He discussed a move to the service sector, but we need to grow our manufacturing base. I agree totally with Mr. Truswell, who emphasised the relevance of manufacturing today. Metal-bashing, as he described it, is no longer, but innovation is hugely important to this country. I am sorry to hear about the postponement of the £65 million science park, which was to include bio-incubators and a creativity centre, because I believe that high added value is the way forward. We in this country are so clever, but we sometimes do not give ourselves credit for how well we perform.
On working together, a number of hon. Members mentioned the city region, which involves 11 Yorkshire councils working together and receiving in reward devolved powers from Government to manage infrastructure and economic situations and make their collective local economy work. The hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell thinks that Yorkshire Forward could do better. This is an opportunity. Why cannot the councils comprising the city region take the lead? They could make decisions and delegate to Yorkshire Forward. Surely the democratically elected representatives should be the ones to make decisions and exercise democratic leadership.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, West discussed investment, especially in local skills training and apprenticeships, bio and nanotechnologies and environmental technologies. My hon. Friend Greg Mulholland mentioned computer technologies, as well as sports entrepreneurialism, which is also extremely welcome in the area.
Industry creates the wealth to bring us out of recession. If we do not invest in industry, we will be in recession for a long time. I share the concerns expressed by hon. Members that the suggested Conservative cuts could set us back years. Colin Burgon said that the market will not deliver for Leeds city and that it needs a lot of intervention. To echo my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West, a balance must be struck. Markets generate wealth, but that wealth must be put to good use to create quality of life for people in Leeds and throughout the United Kingdom.
I am grateful to have caught your eye, Mr. Hancock. I feel that I need a little more than five minutes to defend the Conservative record against the combined onslaught of the Liberal and Labour parties. Be that as it may, I congratulate John Battle on securing this debate. My speech contains a little testimony: he is standing down at the next election, and I congratulate him on having served his constituency assiduously and often vocally. What I did not know until this debate is that his four Labour colleagues from Leeds are also standing down. I wish them all well in future.
I must chide hon. Members slightly. It is interesting how a cabal of new Labour MPs will adopt the old Labour tactic of rewriting Conservative history from more than quarter of a century ago. My only association with Leeds was when I spent a few weeks as a candidate's minder in the Leeds, Central by-election. We were never likely to win, so I spent plenty of time during those weeks getting to know Leeds.
What I saw was a city centre that had been absolutely transformed by Conservative policies under Michael Heseltine and the urban regeneration corporations, like the centres of Glasgow and Liverpool, Manchester Hulme and the London docklands. I could go on. The combination of Leeds city council, the private sector and the urban regeneration corporation transformed the city centre. Colin Burgon said that the city centre was smoke-filled before it was transformed by Conservatives in the 1980s.
However, let us move on, in the spirit of unanimity. What we have got out of this debate-the next Government, whoever they are, should pay attention to this-is that, if Leeds is to thrive as one of our major metropolitan centres and go from strength to strength in the future, two things are urgently needed: improved transport infrastructure, and improved skills to meet an ever-changing and more sophisticated world and export this country's goods to the rest of the world.
As many hon. Members have said, Leeds is the second largest metropolitan district in England. It is the UK's third largest manufacturing centre, with 1,800 companies employing almost 40,000 people. What I did not know until I researched this debate is that Leeds is the largest hub for financial services outside London. It would do well to publicise that fact. When I challenged somebody in the financial industry who should have known better, they thought that Edinburgh was the second largest. Perhaps Leeds has some work to do on that.
As has been said, Leeds has a thriving media, communications, advertising and online sector, which is growing at about 10 per cent. a year. The right hon. Member for Leeds, West quoted the Centre for Cities, which has highlighted how challenging recovering from this Government's recession will be for cities across the UK-
No. I am not going to give way to anybody, because I have only five minutes.
The Centre for Cities report states that there is a clear disparity between the cities that will find recovery easier and the others, based on a multitude of factors. The report highlights that our major cities will play a vital role in helping us to recover from the recession. I would have thought that new Labour Members would agree. The report says:
"Major cities in particular have the potential to reinforce their position, and generate jobs and growth as the global economy recovers."
That is what we all want. Leeds is clearly a major city, as the report states. It notes that Leeds, Birmingham, London, Liverpool and Manchester have 36 per cent. of the entire population of the UK but 39 per cent. of the jobs.
If we accept the importance of Leeds to the UK economy, it is vital to establish first how badly the recession has hit Leeds and, secondly, how Leeds can respond in future. The right hon. Member for Leeds, West has assiduously asked a raft of parliamentary questions, but I must highlight one answer in particular, from the Economic Secretary to the Treasury:
"The Government recognise that the global economic downturn has affected all regions within the UK."
Well, that is earth-shattering; we knew that already. She went on to say:
"Yorkshire Forward, as the regional development agency in the region, has taken forward a number of initiatives to provide assistance to families and businesses in these difficult times."-[Hansard, 20 October 2009; Vol. 127, c. 1411W.]
Even Sir Humphrey would be proud of that answer.
I am glad to say that the Minister who is here today has provided the right hon. Member for Leeds, West with many answers more constructive than that one. However, in one of her answers, on recognising Leeds's importance to the economy and the strength of its financial sector, she seems proud to note that the effects of the recession in terms of loss to the sector
"could be around £820 million".-[Hansard, 12 January 2010; Vol. 22, c. 944W.]
Her pride seems to stem from the fact that the figure is approximately half that estimated in a Deloitte study in 2009. I am not sure whether that will provide comfort for the estimated 1,200 to 1,400 people in Leeds who have lost their jobs. As I suggested earlier, although the financial sector is important to Leeds, it is not the only important sector. The city has one of the most-if not the most-diverse economies in the UK.
The number of liquidations at the moment is worrying. There were 26,978 voluntary corporate liquidations between the second quarter of 2008 and the third quarter of 2009. The Minister should consider carefully that 241,000 businesses in the UK are on the Government's tax deferred scheme. At some point, that tax must be repaid and that will put more businesses in jeopardy.
My time is almost up, so I turn to the importance of Leeds to the future. The Centre for Cities report that I quoted makes it clear that Leeds has a clear role in the UK's future. Last March, a Leeds city council policy briefing note showed that during the last decade, manufacturing employment declined by 20 per cent. The socialist Members present are rewriting history. [Interruption.] As one of the socialist Members said, manufacturing actually started to decline under the Labour Administration of the 1970s. There has also been a big decline in manufacturing over the last 12 years under this socialist Government. [Interruption.] An incoming Conservative Government will be internationalist in their outlook; they will provide the infrastructure that Leeds needs; they will provide the skills that this Government have failed to provide; and they will give the people of Leeds a better future than this old-fashioned, tired Labour Government have managed to provide.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this Government have delivered four of the pledges of Keir Hardie, the founding member of the Labour party? We have delivered the national minimum wage, devolution rights, House of Lords reform and rights for trade unions. The only one of his pledges we have not managed to fulfil is banning alcohol.
My right hon. Friend makes an important point that highlights the interventionist approach of this Government, who have come into their own during the recent difficult economic times.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West, and other hon. Friends that Leeds makes a huge contribution to the UK economy. Through the regional strategies and the establishment of regional development agencies, the Government have set out the fact that we need a balanced economy that harnesses the industrial potential and competitiveness of every region. The country's economy cannot rely on London and the south-east. There must be a balanced economy and we must have a proper regional strategy to deliver that. That is why we set up regional development agencies. We recognised the need for Governments to intervene at regional level to target investment, strengthen enterprise and support job creation. That approach has worked. An independent study showed that for every pound invested by Yorkshire Forward, there was a return of £4.50.
That approach is one reason why the Leeds area has been able to diversify in the way that my hon. Friends have described. In many senses, traditional industries have given way to knowledge-led enterprises that are based on innovation, entrepreneurship and international competitiveness. Between 1998 and 2008, Leeds accounted for 51,800 of the 185,000 net jobs created in Yorkshire and the Humber. As my hon. Friends have said, it is now the largest centre outside London, not just for the financial sector, but for a number of sectors, including printing and construction.
Of course, the global recession had a huge effect on Yorkshire. The Government approach, which was rejected by the Opposition, has been to intervene during this period and to continue investing in the public sector. Many hon. Friends have described our investment in health and education. We have increased the number of people who work in the public sector. During the downturn, we have given specific help. Yorkshire Forward has carried out about 11,500 financial health checks for businesses. It has invested in the manufacturing advisory service and in local enterprise growth initiative funding to help manufacturing, which many hon. Friends mentioned, as well as other companies.
Looking to the future, we must consider what can be done in new technologies, which were mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen), and for Elmet (Colin Burgon). Under the growth strategy that has been published, we are considering what we can do to assist each region in promoting new technologies, such as low-carbon and green technologies. We must do that in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Hon. Friends have mentioned carbon capture and wind farms. There are huge opportunities in our region to exploit such technologies. We have the €180 million investment for carbon capture. I visited the ATB Morley factory in Pudsey that my hon. Friend Mr. Truswell mentioned. It makes manufacturing equipment for mining. If we harness carbon-capture and green technologies, we can increase our manufacturing base. That could also address the problem raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet of how we can cater for lower, as well as higher, skills in developing such technology.
There is the future jobs fund and the January guarantee for those not in education, employment or training. Those initiatives are about intervention not only at national level, but at regional and local levels. Many future jobs fund jobs come from local councils. Such intervention was aptly described by my hon. Friends, many of whom have been involved in council work. They know the importance of councils being on people's side, and of having support regionally and nationally.
The hon. Members for Leeds, North-West (Greg Mulholland), and for Solihull (Lorely Burt), and many of my hon. Friends, mentioned the importance of transport links. I have had a number of meetings with the Secretary of State for Transport and others to impress on them the importance of high-speed rail links to our region. My Labour colleagues have been pressing for those links. There has been more investment in commuter links. I am sure we all want more, but we should not underestimate the additional investment that there has been.
Many hon. Friends mentioned the relationship between universities and industry. Lord Mandelson called recently for RDAs and universities to work together to show how industry can be supported through a joint approach. Our region is lucky to have universities that work closely together, and that understand the importance of working with industry to consider how they can establish the knowledge economy and ensure that they are providing the skills and knowledge that industry needs to thrive. I am talking about a strategic approach. We should not abolish RDAs, as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have said they would do on a number of occasions.
Finally, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West, mentioned the golden triangle in the Leeds area. If we had followed the advice of the Conservative party in the past, and were to follow it in the future, we would see not a golden triangle for jobs, investment and growth, but a Bermuda triangle.
I thank hon. Members for their contributions. I am sure that we all know a lot more about Leeds than we did. I echo the sentiments of those who spoke about hon. Members who are not seeking re-election, and I also wish them well for the future. I thank the Minister for her courtesy, and ask those who are leaving to do so speedily and quietly. We now move on to the next debate.