Economic Growth: East of England

Part of Asylum Accommodation Contracts – in Westminster Hall at 5:16 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 5:16 pm, 10th October 2018

Governments have learned the importance of giving local areas control of local growth. I have seen for myself that we have to be careful about that. I studied economics A-level and, being from Leeds, we went to Newcastle to visit the National Economic Development Council there. Those bodies, which were known as “Neddys”, showed that localisation in itself is not enough. That was not a very effective system, but at least it was an attempt to regionalise. We have developed significantly beyond that as a society, which means we do not just send civil servants from London to work in Newcastle and say that is regional.

I hope we will see the benefit of devolution, with LEPs, Mayors and everything else. [Interruption.] I am cantering because I have only five minutes—I cannot really take any more questions about that. The Cambridge and Peterborough devolution deal builds on the significant commitments made to the east through previous city deals. I am very optimistic about the greater Cambridge city deal. It is delivering, and I really think we will see a lot more from it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich made many extremely helpful points. The Government are committed to dealing with local skills shortages, such as those in agriculture, through the establishment of skills advisory panels, which are being rolled out to all parts of eastern England and will help to ensure that training matches the needs of local businesses. That cannot be ignored, and I believe our policy will help to achieve it.

The east of England benefits from more than £700 million of local growth funding through growth deals, and the region’s business-led local enterprise partnerships determine how that funding is spent. I have seen different kinds of LEPs, but the range of products being delivered in this case—the aviation academy in Norwich, the STEM innovation campus at Stansted airport and the Watford health campus scheme in my constituency, for example—will lead to a more skilled workforce and are very important for the east.

Infrastructure was mentioned by many speakers, in particular my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham and my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, who stressed the importance of the A12. That is why, in addition to the devolution city deals I mentioned, we have invested £1.5 billion to upgrade the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, which is an important route, and £151 million in new river crossings. Those are just examples. The transforming cities fund will really help Cambridge and Peterborough, which have already received £74 million. I could go on, but time does not allow.

The Government are committed to working with local partners. Many Members mentioned transport, which is absolutely important. I intend to send a summary of the points they made about particular roads to the Department for Transport. I know Members have done that, but I feel it is my job—I am not in that Department, but I represent the Government—to ensure that those points hit home.

My hon. Friend Giles Watling spoke so well about no community being left behind. He feels that his community and others, particularly in coastal areas, have been neglected by the system. He stressed the importance of infrastructure in such areas. I will not forget the points he made about his experience on Tendring Council, and I am happy to chat with him separately about that.

We have had a wide-ranging debate in which we did not have time to consider some of the necessary detail. However, the east of England all-party group has set out a model for how such groups can focus their lobbying of the Government on specific points. I am happy to meet formally with the all-party group or with individual Members. I do not mean only those on the Conservative Benches, as I hope the hon. Member for Cambridge knows. These are important points, and I would like to see the successful implementation of many of the policies mentioned in the APPG’s report.