It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham. I congratulate Stewart Malcolm McDonald on securing the debate.
The relocation of Channel 4’s headquarters and the locations of the new creative hubs is an important issue, and although the debate is perhaps turning into something of a beauty contest—no doubt we shall be seeing much more of each other in the next few weeks—it provides the House with a valuable opportunity to consider the merits of the bids.
I must declare an interest in that I speak not only as the Member proudly serving the people of Barnsley Central but as the Mayor of the Sheffield city region. As part of my recent campaign I pledged to establish a more vibrant, successful and co-operative economy in South Yorkshire. Those plans are founded on a three-part economic strategy—to build on our strengths, invest in our future and develop a well-paid and highly skilled workforce. The first step on that road would be the establishment of a digital inclusion taskforce, which would pave the way for the development of Sheffield as a regional hub for the creative and digital industries. That is a vision that I share with the leader of Sheffield City Council, my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield, and hon. Members across South Yorkshire. I believe that that vision is attainable, not just because digital employment in Sheffield and South Yorkshire stands at more than 21,000, the top 25 tech companies in Sheffield employ more than 12,000 people and bring in more than £2 billion a year and Sheffield digital companies boast one of the highest growth rates of any cluster in the UK, but because we now have the potential to supercharge that transformation with the relocation of the national headquarters of Channel 4.
The public service remit for Channel 4 focuses on important issues including quality, innovation, experimentation, creativity, diversity, public service, character and education. If someone were to read out that list of eight words to me and ask me what I was thinking, my answer would be simple: Sheffield. I say that because Sheffield not only has a proud history of high-quality and diverse manufacturing and business: it has a proven track record of promoting public service, prioritising education, and constantly demonstrating innovation, experimentation and creativity in the face of new challenges and opportunities. It is home to ZOO Digital, which works from Hollywood to Bollywood with some of the biggest names in TV and film; Joi Polloi, a home-grown digital design agency demonstrating that kids from council estates can win BAFTAs; and two world-class universities. It should also be remembered that Sheffield is the UK’s first city of sanctuary, and thus embodies much of the diversity and inclusivity that Channel 4 strives to represent.
Mindful of all that, I put a simple question to the Minister: can he think of a place in the United Kingdom that reflects the values of Channel 4 better than Sheffield? With the greatest respect to those making other bids, I cannot.