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Local Enterprise Partnerships

Volume 516: debated on Thursday 14 October 2010

4. What steps he plans to take to ensure that businesses in deprived areas receive support through local enterprise partnerships. (17255)

First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his promotion to the Opposition Front Bench as a shadow Transport Minister.

Local enterprise partnerships will be a vital element in our new framework for economic development. At the same time, we are planning to modernise business support to improve both access to information and the quality of advice. That will be especially important to firms in remote or deprived areas.

I thank the Minister for that answer and for his kind words. Does he accept that the recovery is currently very fragile? What interim measures will he put in place while the regional growth fund is being established and will he commit to funding the vital marina project in my constituency?

The hon. Gentleman has astutely got on to the record his local project and I commend him for that, but he will understand that a week before the comprehensive spending review I am not going to pre-empt such matters. I will say, however, that the combination of making sure that we have genuine economic development partnerships that are rooted in the communities and ensuring that they are a genuine partnership between business and civic leaders will enable local areas such as Barrow and Furness to set their own priorities and not have Whitehall telling them what they should do.

Although South Thanet is in one of the richest regions in the south-east, it is the 64th-most deprived district in the country. Does the Minister agree that LEPs must be there to support the most deprived districts even within richer regions?

One of the great advantages of moving away from the one-size-fits-all general regional development agencies is that local enterprise partnerships can respond to local needs. I know that my hon. Friend, who fights her corner for her constituents well, will make sure that that happens.

Yesterday, PricewaterhouseCoopers warned of half a million lost private sector jobs with the Government’s scrapping of schools, hospitals and road contracts. Meanwhile, Ministers from the Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills and for Communities and Local Government continue squabbling about what local enterprise partnerships can do, blocking resources that the private sector says it needs now. Why should businesses believe that the Minister and his colleagues have any plan for local growth or jobs when they are in such a shambles and chaos over LEPs?

We have inherited a situation in which the funds have run out, as the Labour party has said. That is why we are focusing on the things that really matter—tackling the public deficit to keep interest rates lower for longer, making sure that small businesses see their corporation tax go down and tackling red tape. The Labour party failed to deal with all that, but we will.