Economic Growth: East of England

Part of Asylum Accommodation Contracts – in Westminster Hall at 5:03 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham 5:03 pm, 10th October 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies, and to join the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend Peter Aldous and all colleagues who have spoken on being strong advocates for the east of England. In so many areas, we have common ground. I agree 100% with many of the comments and points that have been made today.

We have heard that the economy of the east of England is vibrant and dynamic. It is an engine of economic growth that contributes enormously to the Exchequer. It delivers on housing and jobs, and we have pioneering industries and manufacturing bases, and quality research and innovation throughout the region, with global connections through ports and airports. We have a world-class array of institutions ranging from Cambridge University to Essex University and many other educational establishments, as well as our traditional industries, in particular agriculture, which we have heard about.

Cumulative economic growth figures for 2010 to 2016 show that, in terms of gross value added, the east of England region hit 13%, behind only London at 22% and the west midlands at 15%. In 2016, our region’s total GVA was £147 billion. The regional population of more than 6 million is also growing fast, at 8.9% for the decade to 2024—the fastest rate after London’s.

In the county that I represent as the Member of Parliament for Witham in Essex, we have first-class airports at Stansted and Southend, and the London Gateway, Tilbury and Harwich ports, which all offer world-class global trading connections. They are keen to expand and grow, not only as we leave the European Union, but to diversify what they do to boost global trade and to secure future growth and job creation.

Since 2010, the number of enterprises in Essex has risen by 25% from 52,000 to 64,000. The county now contributes around £40 billion in GVA to the UK economy. Essex is highly aspirational and ambitious, and that is shown by the jobs being created. We have heard plenty about infrastructure today, and I want to touch on how vital it is not only to economic development, but to economic prosperity and growth in the region—that cannot be taken for granted. We have heard about public expenditure in the region, which is £1,000 per capita less than the UK average, and our infrastructure has suffered severe historic underfunding. That has to change. My hon. Friend Giles Watling touched on the issue of the A120. I agree with him 100%—we need that road investment to come fast.

On top of that is another awful conundrum. I have spent many debates in this Chamber talking about the A12, which we also heard about today, but the development scheme for that road is being delayed. Any delay costs money and jobs, while the congestion and extra business costs continue. The Government committed to widening the road between the Boreham and Marks Tey interchanges, but Colchester Borough Council caused delay by changing its housing and development proposals. That scheme needs to be actioned quickly, as does further widening up to the junctions north of Marks Tey.

We have touched on rail. The Great Eastern main line taskforce, which I chair, is all about a key infrastructure route that we absolutely need to invest in. A few years ago we proposed a package that could deliver £4.5 billion in economic benefits to the region, unlocking 50,000 new jobs. We need those urgent improvements.