20. What estimate he has made of the number of people and businesses in (a) the north-east, (b) the south-west and (c) Lancashire which will not be covered by local enterprise partnerships following the implementation of his proposals for such partnerships. (24740)
Overall, the 24 partnerships agreed to date cover the majority of businesses and the economy of England. In Lancashire, local disagreements have prevented a credible proposal from being made. As I mentioned in my response to an earlier question, 30% of the population is covered at the moment in the south-west, but I can now confirm to the House that we expect full coverage in the north-east.
I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he accept that Lancashire county council’s LEP proposal is not a pan-Lancashire proposal, but a Swiss cheese proposal, designed to annex east Lancashire? The war of words, to which he has alluded, between the east and the west is extremely divisive. Will he come to a decision that reflects local interests, rather than those of what I see as the gang of six? The gang of four Maoists seemed to resolve such things rather more quickly, so will he come to a quick resolution regarding the east and west?
I am not sure that either the Swiss cheese metaphor or the Maoist metaphor worked well, but let me deal with the reality of the situation. Three conflicting proposals were made in Lancashire. At the moment, positive discussions are taking place about how those can be rationalised, and officials will continue to work with both business and civic leaders to find a sensible arrangement. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will play a positive role in that, so that we can move on.