16. What steps he is taking to create greater equality in gross value added between the countries and regions of the UK. (98014)
Economic development policy is devolved, although the UK Government continue to work with the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as with the English regions, including on policies to maintain low long-term interest rates and provide 100% capital allowances in designated enterprise zones.
Latest European Union statistics indicate that GVA per head in inner London is £109,278 while the figure for the south Wales valleys is £10,654. Will the Chief Secretary include provisions in the forthcoming Budget to equalise wealth levels across the British state?
Budget announcements are a matter for the Chancellor, but I recognise very much the point that the hon. Gentleman raises. That is why we have asked the Silk commission to consider changes to the financial provisions within Wales—we look forward to its report—but he will also know that the autumn statement saw an additional £216 million of capital funding going as a consequence to the Welsh Assembly Government. I am sure that he, along with me, wants to press them to announce how they will use that money.
Ninety-three organisations in the north-east have been awarded almost £100 million from the regional growth fund. May I welcome the additional £1 billion being allocated to the fund, and will the Chief Secretary ensure that bids are supported that would route more of that money to small and medium-sized manufacturers?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The regional growth fund is making an enormous difference across the country, particularly in those regions that are most affected by public spending reductions. Many of those projects are creating jobs and boosting the economy in constituencies such as his. He is right to say that we need to find more ways to get those moneys to smaller businesses, and of course the next round will invite programme bids that can do precisely that.