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Local Enterprise Partnerships (South-west)

Volume 518: debated on Thursday 18 November 2010

8. What proportion of the population of the south-west is not covered by local enterprise partnerships. (24728)

To date, in the south-west two partnerships have been asked to progress—namely, the West of England partnership and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly partnership. They cover approximately 30% of the population of the south-west. The Government are engaged in further productive discussions with other proposed partnerships, which we hope will be concluded successfully.

That is a pitiful record. It is no wonder that the Secretary of State described this as a Maoist and chaotic process. May I urge the Minister and the Secretary of State to deploy some Stalinism, and to get those council leaders in a room and tell them to get their act together and stop excluding Exeter, the main economic driver in the region, from the process? If they will not do that urgently, will they just let the business community get on with it themselves?

I know that the right hon. Gentleman used to be part of Stalin’s last Government, but the most important thing is that he and I, and others, encourage those businesses and local partners that are not engaging in the process. We are making progress, and I hope that we can do that. The prospects are good, and I hope that he will engage with the process in a positive way.

It seems that the bid for a local enterprise partnership including Wiltshire involved such a great leap forward that it has not even landed yet. Will the Minister please tell the House which of his requirements for these bids it has yet to meet?

Without wishing to stretch the metaphor too far, this involves quite a long march for some. The key is business engagement; that is the crucial part. That is what we are looking for, and I am sure that that will be achieved shortly.

My constituency, like that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), is currently sitting in one of the Maoist black holes for local enterprise partnerships. The Department’s new skills strategy says that local enterprise partnerships will lead the transformation of their local economies, yet the Minister is so embarrassed by them that he failed to mention them once when he wound up the debate on growth last Thursday. If he really wants to help local enterprise partnerships, why will he not allow them to retain the assets of the regional development authorities?

As the hon. Gentleman knows all too well, the White Paper sets out a clear, sensible path for the transfer of assets, and liabilities, from the RDAs. Such transfers might in part be to the local enterprise partnerships, where they exist, and in other parts they might not. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman needs to look more closely at the White Paper; the process is crystal clear.