I very much agree. Perhaps understandably, there was a certain amount of cynicism when the Chancellor of the Exchequer first talked about the northern powerhouse two years ago—he represents a northern seat, albeit in leafy Cheshire—but it is none the less important. I have battled with a number of colleagues in London on both sides of the divide on the issue. I think that we should be investing money in High Speed 3 well before we even consider putting money into High Speed 2. There is a strong case for building high-speed rail—indeed, high-speed transport— connections between our regional centres.
We could debate the broader issue of London’s dominance. I understand why there is a lot of hostility towards that dominance, but this country has a single global city of 8 million people and a cluster of cities with populations of about 1 million. In an ideal world, we would build another city from scratch with a population of about 3 million to be a global player, to try to counter London’s dominance within the UK.
A huge amount of the investment that comes into London, however, would not come to the UK if it did not come to London. It is not a zero-sum game between London and the rest of the UK. More importantly, a huge amount of the construction and contracting work that comes in for London-related projects often goes out to the regions, not only to the Oxfords and Cambridges of this world but to Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and many of the country’s second-tier cities—I do not mean that disparagingly—where huge amounts of work can be done.