I congratulate my hon. Friend Sir Gary Streeter on securing the debate. I am sure that all of us here believe passionately in the south-west. The region is already an economic powerhouse, which can rival the northern powerhouse or the midlands engine. We now have a network of professional organisations whose job it is to promote aspects of economic growth in the region. I pay tribute to the local enterprise partnerships—especially the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, my local one. Mark Duddridge and his team have a clear vision:
“By 2030, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly will be the place where businesses thrive and people enjoy an outstanding quality of life.”
Those few words really sum up the joy and opportunity of living in the south-west.
I was born and bred in my constituency, and we all know what a brilliant quality of life people can have in south-east Cornwall. Apparently the rest of the south-west region is not that bad, either, apart from the fact that my hon. Friend Neil Parish insists on putting the cream and jam on to scones the wrong way. However, that amazing quality of life is no good unless it is built on a strong economic foundation. We need profitable, expanding, forward-looking businesses, to create value that earns profits and pays taxes. To support those businesses we need to be able to provide smart investment funds where they are most needed.
The LEP does a great job, but there are headwinds. For example, when we leave the European Union we can redirect the shared prosperity fund. I, like others, am keen to hear details of how that will be spent in a way that is tailored to suit the needs of Cornwall, instead of dictated by the European Commission. The most important thing is for funds to be directed to where they can most affect productivity. If productivity in the south-west matched current levels in the south-east, the region would add about £18 billion a year to the UK economy. In that regard I want to mention the farming industry, which I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton will be pleased about. It is one of the most productive sectors in the south-west. Farming brings a lot of money into the region, most of which stays in the local economy. It is vital that farming should be given prominence in the industrial strategy.