Levelling-up Agenda — [Mrs Maria Miller in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:15 pm on 15th June 2021.

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Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes 3:15 pm, 15th June 2021

It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I join others in congratulating my hon. Friend Bob Seely on securing this important debate. The Government have shown clear signs in recent months with the levelling-up fund and the towns fund that they intend to make sure that the future is, indeed, better than the past, to quote the opening speech. On this occasion, I come not to criticise the Government but to praise them.

In the past, there have been certain times when I have been critical, but the levelling-up agenda is benefiting my constituency and, I hope, will continue to do so. When the Government published their industrial strategy four or five years ago, they introduced the concept of town deals. The Greater Grimsby town deal, which includes the town of Cleethorpes, was the first one to be established.

The important point is that, rather than focusing on one-off projects, valuable though they are, applicants need a comprehensive programme that will continue through and therefore attract the different funding streams that Governments introduce. Key to that is getting a team together that knows its way around Westminster, understands local government and has entrepreneurial flair. We created a town board chaired by the local entrepreneur made good, David Ross. We also had the former resident of Grimsby and former Chancellor, Lord Lamont, on our board and the former head of the civil service, Lord Kerslake. We assembled a team that understood the workings of Government and the needs of the area, and they put together a comprehensive plan.

Coupled with that, the Government recognised our freeport bid. The bid for the Humber port was successful in every category and scored high, above all others—congratulations to the team that put the bid together. The Humber is the energy estuary of the UK: we have carbon capture, hydrogen and the offshore renewables sector. The development of the marine energy park by Able UK at Killingholme, close to Immingham, has attracted £75 million of Government funding in the last year. That has taken 10 years to achieve. When I was first elected in 2010, one of the first calls was from Able UK. It has been a long, hard road, but we are getting there.

Connectivity is vital. Sir Edward, you will know of our campaign to get the through train service from Grimsby and Cleethorpes through your constituency to London. We are making progress with that. LNER has pencilled it into next year’s timetable, but we need to keep up the pressure.

On local government reform, at long last in Lincolnshire the three top-tier authorities have agreed on a scheme that I hope the Government will push through over the next year or two. If we can align local government with the town board and a comprehensive plan, I think the successes of recent years will continue.