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Humber Economy (Fiscal Support)

Volume 554: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2012

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Hon. Members will have noticed new clock displays in the Chamber. The top display is the current time, as before. When a speech is not being timed, the bottom display will show the time it started, also as before. If it becomes necessary to introduce a limit on speeches, the bottom display will change to show the time remaining to the Member who currently has the floor. As in the House, the display can award an extra minute for each of the first two interventions in a speech, but there will be no time limit today.

It is a pleasure, Mr Amess, to serve under your wise and sagacious stewardship. On this miserable, damp morning, I thought we might begin with some poetry. One of my predecessors as MP for Hull was Andrew Marvell, who wrote the following line in his most famous poem, “To His Coy Mistress”:

“I by the tide of Humber would complain”.

I realise that I am addressing not a coy mistress, but the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid), and I am not here today to complain. This debate is not about disagreements with the Government—not that disagreements do not exist, but that is for another time and place. This debate is about the contribution that Hull city region, which is centred on the Humber estuary and embraces the four unitary local authorities of Hull, East Riding, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire, makes to the UK, and our determination to forge a new economic future for our sub-region. It is a debate about working with the Government’s stated policies, not against them.

MPs have worked across the political divide and the geographic divide of the River Humber to establish the Humber local enterprise partnership. We are extremely grateful to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), who is still the Minister for cities, for his assistance in securing a pan-Humber local enterprise partnership last year. Historical mutual suspicion had always divided the north and south banks, thus ensuring that the huge economic advantages of working together across the estuary were never realised. We failed in the past collectively to market the area, its capabilities and its opportunities, engaging instead in internal competition that meant that effort and resources were not used to best effect.

It was recognised a long time ago that the best way to build a bridge across the Humber was to build a bridge across the Humber, but the ever-increasing cost of using it undermined its benefits. We are grateful for the help we received from Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Department for Transport in our campaign to halve the Humber bridge tolls. The subsequent radical changes required to the composition of the Humber bridge board and the way in which future tolls will be set will be established in the Humber Bridge Bill, due to be published this week.

The Government have recognised the potential of our sub-region by establishing not one, but two enterprise zones on the Humber, one of which, at 534 hectares, is the biggest in the country. While I am in the unusual position of praising the Government, let me add that the Treasury is to be commended for abandoning its plans to impose a 20% VAT rate on static caravans. Given that 95% of the caravan manufacturing sector is based in East Yorkshire, that was a welcome decision, which almost makes amends for the trauma caused by proposing it in the first place.

We are determined to build on those advances, and to move away from a culture of dependency and to take on more responsibility for our own destiny in accordance with the Government’s localism agenda. We are fortunate to have secured the services of Lord Haskins of Skidby as chairman of our local enterprise partnership. He and his colleagues are in the process of producing a five-year plan for the Humber. However, Chris Haskins realises more than anyone that our success will depend on delivery rather than documents, and on tangible achievements rather than worthy aspirations.

Let me talk a little about our sub-region. The Humber is the largest trading estuary in the UK and the fourth largest in Europe, with a chemicals and processing sector worth £6 billion a year and international expertise in ports and logistics. It has a world-class university; it has an international airport, and, contrary to myths about its geographical isolation, it is within a four-hour drive of 40 million consumers and more than 60% of the country’s manufacturing capacity. Colleagues will no doubt focus on the many attributes of this beautiful part of the world and the opportunities that exist there, but I want to focus on four specific issues where the Government need to concentrate their attention.

First and foremost is the new economic opportunity presented by the emerging renewables sector. The Humber is at the forefront in developing biomass power generation. It has significant potential for tide and wave power, but offshore wind power provides the most significant and immediate advantages. Siemens chose the Humber as its preferred location to site a multi-million pound investment in a manufacturing and final assembly plant, primarily because of our strategic location within 12 steaming hours of the large round 2 offshore wind farms and the three huge round 3 zones at Hornsea, Dogger and Anglia.

Green Port in Hull has existing and planned port infrastructure with deep-water access next to large available development sites. If Siemens comes to the Humber, it will bring tier 1 suppliers and begin to populate the renewables manufacturing cluster that can transform our economy and that of the UK. With the added advantages of the Able marine energy park on the south bank, Grimsby’s well established operations and maintenance hub and the marine research expertise at Hull university make the Humber uniquely well suited to offshore wind and able to attract other manufacturing companies to the area.

The Minister will know that, although local institutions and politicians have done all they can to finalise the Siemens investment, we have yet to move from memorandum of understanding to signed contract, the main stumbling block being a perceived lack of commitment by the coalition Government to the long-term support that will be necessary if substantial sums are to be invested by companies that operate globally and have plenty of alternatives to manufacturing in this country. If Siemens does not come to Hull, it will not come to the UK, and Germany or Denmark will be the likely beneficiaries.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change takes the lead on energy policy, but the Treasury has been extolling the virtues of shale gas to a degree that has concerned potential investors in renewables and led them to believe that a dash for gas will downgrade the commitment to renewables. We understand from press reports that the Energy Bill will be published this week. We hope that its contents will give the necessary reassurance to Siemens and other potential investors. We suggest that its publication be accompanied by a high level of engagement by the Chancellor and his ministerial team personally to reassure the sector in general and Siemens in particular of the Treasury’s commitment to the goals set out in the climate change legislation and to providing the means to ensure that they are realised.

The second specific issue relates to the fact that the problems facing us in the Humber area are more economic than social. It is true that since the collapse of the fishing industry, Hull and Grimsby have struggled to cope with the social consequences, but it is equally true that few companies came to the Humber to take advantage of the large pool of surplus labour that was created. It is also the case that, as far as I am aware, not a single Department has ever been relocated to the Humber sub-region.

As the recent, splendid report by Michael Heseltine proposed, more Government work needs to be relocated to the north, and our city region should be a prime destination. However, as well as relocating Government work, the coalition needs to devolve public funds. If the commitment to localism is genuine, there must be a recognition that with the LEP in place we are better able than Whitehall to allocate financial support for skills, welfare to work, regeneration and other important issues, such as transport.

I understand the importance of city deals, and the Humber LEP will put forward a bid in the next few weeks, but the Government need to be more radical in their approach to localism. This is an over-centralised country and if regional development agencies are not to be the solution, LEPs are the only show in town. I believe that the best way forward is for the Government to conduct some pilot schemes for devolving money to those who know how to spend it more effectively to deliver the outcomes required for meaningful growth, and the Humber LEP is keen to be one of the pilot locations.

The third specific area is something that is of great interest to the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells in his capacity as cities Minister. For the city region to work effectively, Hull, as the 10th largest city in England, needs to be given the same opportunities as the other nine. The Core Cities Group is understandably reluctant to admit new members and thus dilute its effectiveness in lobbying the Government, but Hull and the Humber can benefit from the advantages afforded to core cities. Indeed, it would be perverse not to provide assistance on the basis of need, rather than on whether a city is part of a club, membership of which is outside the Government’s control. The tightly drawn boundaries around the city of Kingston upon Hull are one reason why it suffers in some comparisons with cities where the leafy suburbs are included in the city boundary—that is practically all of them—but that must never be allowed to become an excuse for poor performance, particularly in education.

As the Heseltine report rightly points out, a factor holding our economy back is the absence of a meaningful economic focus on the sub-region. That does not require our city boundaries to be changed; it requires a genuine commitment to the cities at the heart of all city regions, rather than just those in the Core Cities Group. We are keen to find innovative economic models, perhaps built around tax increment financing, that could create revenue streams to increase Hull’s economic asset allocation.

The final issue that we want the Government to focus on is the investment in our transport links that is so essential to economic growth. In 2010, the Government accepted that the case for addressing the problems on the A63 on the north bank and the A160 on the south bank had been made. Although those schemes were not affordable in the reduced highways investment programme announced at the last comprehensive spending review, we received assurances that they would be among the first to be addressed in the next spending round. Hull MPs were due to meet the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), regarding the A63 today, but the Department has cancelled the meeting for the second time. Given the importance of transport infrastructure, we trust that that meeting will be given sufficient priority and that it will be rearranged quickly.

As far as the rail network is concerned, the pressing need to electrify the line to Hull beyond Selby has been raised with Ministers and requires urgent attention. There may well be an opportunity for some private sector funding if we can get the prospect of electrification on the agenda either by devolving some of those matters to sub-regional level, as I have mentioned, or by moving more quickly to address those issues from Whitehall.

I have only touched on the Humber LEP’s potential to drive the kind of economic growth that our country needs. I have not mentioned, for instance, the huge potential for developing our strengths in digital gaming, content creation and the creative sectors. With the first 4G wireless network in the country, strong existing skills provision and expertise on both banks of the Humber, we aim to release that potential, and the Minister will be relieved to hear that there is nothing that he needs to do to help us.

I have set out some areas where we require the Government’s help. Lord Heseltine’s report could have been written for sub-regions such as the Humber. His visit to the area obviously influenced some of his thinking and his basic analysis must be right. With devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and with a mayoral system in London, the north of England needs significant devolution to local enterprise partnerships so that economic development is tailored directly to the individual challenges and opportunities of our communities. The Chancellor commissioned the Heseltine report, and we would like to bring a deputation from the Humber LEP to talk to the cities Minister.

Time is of the essence. The Prime Minister told the CBI last week that he wants

“every Department in Whitehall to be a growth department.”

He compared our current industrial situation to being on a war footing. I have never known a time when the business community on the Humber has been more willing to engage with the challenges that we face, or when local authorities have been more innovative in seeking solutions to our problems. Local MPs are working together, cross-party and cross-Humber, like never before, but that will all be in danger of dissipating if we do not move swiftly to turn five-year plans into actual projects.

I started with Andrew Marvell, and I will end with his plea in “To His Coy Mistress”, by Humber’s tide. It is famous for the couplet:

“But at my back I always hear

Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;”

The debate is a plea to ride the chariot rather than be knocked down by it.

The wind-ups will start at twenty to 11, and five colleagues wish to speak, so if my maths are correct, about 10 minutes each should do it.

As ever, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Amess. I agree entirely with the compliments that the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) paid to you.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing a debate on the Humber economy, particularly as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) and I have put in three applications for such a debate. The right hon. Gentleman was the lucky one, so well done to him on that score.

The debate is on fiscal support for the Humber region, and there is no doubt that the sub-region needs support if it is to benefit from the great opportunities that present themselves. Such support can come from the Government or from Europe but, most significantly, it can come from private enterprise. I do not mind where it comes from; I am eager to provide jobs and growth for my constituents and the area more generally. The infrastructure that would be key to the area’s development is vital and, to a great extent, support for that would come from the taxpayer.

The right hon. Gentleman rightly points to opportunities from green energy, especially the renewable sector. However, I add one caveat: if we are to succeed with that, there must be Government support, but there are limits to the size of bills with which households and existing business can cope. My constituency contains a number of very intensive energy users who are—I shall not say “crippled”—finding things extremely difficult as a result of energy costs.

We must consider how we channel public sector money, and the right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out the importance of the LEP. The two councils on the south bank showed good judgment by joining two LEPs. They recognised that although the Humber estuary may be key to the area’s economic development, considerable support is available by looking south into greater Lincolnshire, particularly in relation to food processing and tourism, which are important for the Cleethorpes area.

Lord Heseltine’s “No Stone Unturned” report, which has been referred to, highlights the role of LEPs. They will be absolutely key to future investment, but I have one or two concerns about them, in that they are, to a great extent, unaccountable. I strongly feel that public money should always be spent by accountable bodies, rather than anonymous quangos. Nevertheless, given that they harness the private and public sectors together, they have a key role.

I can speak only for the councils on the south bank, but I would make one criticism, particularly of North East Lincolnshire council, about consistency. There have been far too many changes of direction on what is important for the area’s economic regeneration. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Austin Mitchell) will know that we had the “Greater Grimsby” initiative, during which everything was promoted under that label, but that has been replaced by yet another initiative. We need a much more consistent approach. I commend the councils for working together much more closely. There were a few stumbling blocks when we were setting up the LEP, and I have to say that I have found it easier to work on a cross-party basis here than back in Humberside. Local rivalries need to be tamed if we are to work together.

I am concerned that Government initiatives place too much emphasis on cities. The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle pointed out the importance of city deals and city regions. They are important, and the idea of the city region and its trickle-down effect for the wider local economy is fine in principle, but I urge the Minister to consider the fact that provincial towns, such as Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Scunthorpe, Brigg and Goole, need support from the Government, because such support might be too concentrated on the core cities.

I have spoken on a number of occasions about the importance of local leadership, and I noticed that Lord Heseltine’s report spoke of its neutering. The LEP plan for the Humber says the region has experienced “under-investment” and “weak…leadership and governance”. I am in favour of broadening the talent available to local government through elected mayors, although I know that that notion will be cast aside by many. It was a mistake that cities did not take up the opportunity of encouraging their local communities to go for elected mayors because that has left a void, and the provincial towns and smaller cities might steal a march on the cities that rejected the concept—perhaps a brave local leadership might go for it, but I have my doubts. I note that Lord Heseltine is still a great advocate of that approach.

There is a danger that we could talk ourselves down. I recognise that there have been major blows to the area: significant job losses on the north bank in recent times, and the announcement three or four weeks ago of the closure of the Kimberly-Clark factory in my constituency—in Barton-upon-Humber—with up to 500 job losses. Although there have been major setbacks, we must also acknowledge the excellent opportunities that exist, and not only those in the renewables sector.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the potential Able UK investment in the south Humber energy park. That alone could produce upwards of 5,000 jobs, but 5,000 jobs in two or three years’ time is a very distant prospect for someone who has just lost their job at Kimberly-Clark or Comet. Two years’ time is 24 mortgage payments away for someone who has just been put on the redundancy heap, so support is urgently needed. I welcome the Government’s energetic support for the various taskforces set up following announcements such as those from Kimberly-Clark and Tata Steel in Scunthorpe.

We must not lose sight of our potential, however. When measured by tonnage, the Associated British Ports Grimsby and Immingham dock complex is the largest in the UK. It is a major engine of the local economy and ABP has plans for future investment. I have mentioned intensive energy users, such as the oil refineries and chemical processers that also play a major part in the local economy.

The Minister might like to comment on the fact that biomass seems to be stalling. We had projects in the pipeline, and two in particular on the south bank: one in my constituency and one at Brigg, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole. Those projects promised a considerable number of jobs, but they seem to have stalled on the basis, the investors tell us, of Government uncertainty. That “uncertainty” probably means certainty, but just not certainty that those particular investors approve of. I hope that the situation will change in the not-too-distant future.

We have other major plus points, such as, in effect, £150 million of Government money through the reduction of the Humber bridge toll. We also have enterprise zones and, significantly, the Government announced last week that the A160 upgrade, which will improve access to Immingham docks, will definitely start in 2015. An important investment that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby and I have been pushing for is a rail link between the Grimsby-Cleethorpes area and King’s Cross, serving Brigg and Scunthorpe.

I appreciate that time is moving on, so I shall conclude by saying that although we all recognise the difficulties the Government are in, Humberside has taken severe knocks. We need a lift to kick-start private investment. I look to the Minister not only to list all the good things that have been happening, but to give us a positive direction on what he can do now and in the coming couple of years.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) on securing the debate and setting out, in his usual erudite way, an excellent analysis of the situation in the Humber, the possible solutions the Government should actively consider adopting and how they could secure the future of the Humber economy. I pay tribute to the contribution of the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers). I am pleased that we will, I hope, have contributions from both banks of the Humber—north and south—because, to coin a phrase, we are all in it together.

I was particularly interested in what the hon. Gentleman said about tourism. People on the north and the south banks of the Humber see great potential in developing a tourism strategy. I particularly note the proposals in my home city of Hull for a Hockney gallery. The da Vinci drawings at the Ferens art gallery are attracting huge crowds, which is welcome. East Riding has the Yorkshire wolds, and the south bank obviously includes the traditional seaside resort of Cleethorpes, so there is much to recommend the area for tourism.

I shall focus my remarks on the proposals in Lord Heseltine’s report, “No Stone Unturned”. It has many sound recommendations for the Government, especially if they are serious about their commitment to rebalance the economy, and that means between the north and south, as well as the public and private sectors. The report points to what can be achieved in regeneration locally and regionally, if there is the will, the determination and a sustained effort for the long haul to make it happen. Lord Heseltine draws on his experience of the regeneration of areas such as Liverpool and London docklands. I want consider the regeneration of London docklands and compare it with Hull and the Humber area over the past 30 years. I know both areas well, having been a councillor in the docklands in the 1990s and a Hull Member of Parliament for the past seven years.

If Members will bear with me, I want to set out the context. In the 1980s, traditional employment in the docklands ended, which was paralleled with the decline of Humber-based industry in the Hull area. The divergence in fortunes of the two areas is particularly marked. Docklands has now had more than 30 years of determined regeneration, largely due to its proximity to the City of London, but clear lessons can be learned and applied to Hull and the Humber. Hull has had far less attention, tucked away in a corner of east Yorkshire. It has an excellent university and is home to such world-renowned companies as Smith and Nephew. We have the Deep—an outstanding museum quarter and one of the busiest port complexes and estuaries in the country.

There has been some regeneration and economic growth, but not nearly enough. I certainly do not want to be accused of talking down the area, but we must recognise that in recent years, as the hon. Member for Cleethorpes said, the Humber area has taken severe knocks. Under the current Government’s policies, Hull is now suffering a huge loss of local spending power. Public sector cuts have been deeper in Hull than in wealthy areas of the south. Hull city council has had a cut of £163.50 per head, compared with £2.70 per head for West Dorset district council, and only yesterday it announced more than 170 job losses. That has to be linked to announcements in the past month that 1,200 private sector jobs are going or are at risk, and the fact that 50 people are chasing every job vacancy in my constituency—the highest figure in the country. Social housing investment has been cut, and the £160 million Orchard Park housing scheme has been axed.

Against that background, what would be a successful regeneration strategy for Hull and the Humber? First, we need to attract private investment by having a clear plan of what we want to achieve and by signing up all key stakeholders. It is interesting that the Government and the London Docklands development corporation courted Canary Wharf investors Olympia and York and others in the 1980s. There was a clear plan for developing a centre for banks, finance, the media and legal and support services, and measures were put in place, while the plan was also encouraged by big tax incentives.

What is the plan for Hull and the Humber? As we have already heard, the Humber LEP has recognised renewables as a key area for economic growth. Hull’s geographical position is its great strength, with its proximity to the North sea and the largest offshore wind farms in the world. The North sea has been described as the Saudi Arabia of renewables, and the Humber area has the potential to be a world centre of excellence for renewables. As hon. Members have already said, potential green energy investors have identified Hull and the Humber as their preferred location, but such investors need long-term reassurance that the coalition is committed to renewables and has a coherent energy policy across the whole Government.

There is serious international competition for the new green energy jobs. If companies such as Siemens do not come to Hull, they will be lost to the UK altogether. This is about potential growth not only for the Humber but for the whole UK economy. The coalition needs to be as interested in attracting Siemens and green jobs to Hull as it is in attracting jobs that benefit Surrey or London. Although various big tax incentives were offered to investors in London docklands, MPs in our region have had to fight off plans to introduce the caravan tax on an existing industry and to fight for enterprise zones to attract future industries to the area. We are still waiting to see the effectiveness of such enterprise zones.

My second point is about the importance of local decision making. Lord Heseltine has stated that LEPs need to be more powerful and better funded—more like Labour’s regional development agencies, possibly. The role of city region status has already been raised, and I hope that we all support an approach that ensures money is best allocated and spent at the sub-regional level. I support the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle about the use of pilot schemes to deliver at that local level, and the Humber area would be ideal for such a pilot.

Questions still have to be answered about the impact and value for money of some of the Government’s policies—for instance, of the regional growth fund and its ability quickly and effectively to provide support on the ground in places such as Hull and the Humber. As we know, the green investment bank is to be located in the two already prosperous financial centres of London and Edinburgh. Might it not be possible to establish a branch on the bank of the Humber, either in Hull or somewhere in the Humber area? That would establish a formal link between the bank and opportunities involving renewables and the Green Port Hull development.

Thirdly, transport infrastructure is a vital part of any successful regeneration policy. London had the docklands light railway, the Jubilee line extension, London City airport and so on. In Hull, we have Hull Trains’ daily train service to the capital, a new transport interchange, a local airport and, of course, the important reduction in Humber bridge tolls. Although we have had good news about the A160, major investment is still needed for the A63 upgrade. If Hull is to reach its fullest potential, we need rail electrification all the way to Hull and not for that to stop, rather bizarrely, at Selby.

My fourth point is about the important role of education and training. Docklands showed that, with initiatives such as SkillsNET, we need actively to equip local youngsters and others for them to get the jobs of the future; that cannot just be left to chance. In Hull, we have three excellent colleges, with fantastic records of providing lifelong education, particularly for people returning to education in their 20s, but 2012 has seen the withdrawal of funding for the Humber Education Business Partnership, the removal of comprehensive careers advice in schools, the axing of the education maintenance allowance and cuts in university and science funding. University of Hull applications have fallen by 18% this year. There now needs to be not only a stronger national strategy, but a local one for vocational skills relevant to the green jobs of the future that we hope to attract locally. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) for the work that he has done on that with the LEP.

In conclusion, London docklands had a long-term effort to attract big employers in the skilled industries of the future, which boosted spending power and created further employment and a broad-based local economy resilient enough to weather the credit crunch of 2008-09. Meanwhile, Hull has continued to lose skilled and other jobs. Unfortunately, that has accelerated since 2010. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle has stated that we will work constructively with the Government to use LEPs and city region applications to help regenerate the sub-region. However, what is also utterly true is that we cannot create a vibrant, resilient and prosperous local economy for Hull and the Humber around Starbucks, McDonald’s and Cash Converters, with people in low-paid jobs often now being forced to go to charities or food banks to feed their families. We need a strong, focused regeneration plan that links transport, education and local decision making for our region of Hull and the Humber to have the future that it deserves.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Amess. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) for securing the debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) stated, he and I tried to get such a debate, so this is another example of cross-party working.

I apologise for missing the first three minutes of the speech of the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle. He started and ended with Andrew Marvell, which reminded me of walking past Marrell’s statue every day during my schooldays. We did not pay much tribute to him then, because his left hand was broken; it was restored only in 1999. Marvell was important to us, but not enough to have that fixed for a couple of decades.

This is an important debate in which I have a couple of asks of the Minister as well as some words of thanks. I take on board the point of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) about not wanting to talk down the Humber; we all have a responsibility not to talk it down, because this region is not just struggling today. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes, I was born and bred in the Humber. My family has lived on both sides of the river for the past couple of centuries; we do not like to move far. [Interruption.] Nowhere too far anyway. I feel very invested in the region and also very proud of it; it is a fantastic region. None the less, it is a region that has struggled not just in the last two or three years but over the past few decades, due partly to the fall-off of the fishing industry and other industries. People forget that there used to be an awful lot of foundries in Hull. My dad worked in one, but he lost his job when it closed its doors in the early ’90s. There has been a lot of change over the past few decades in the profile of our local economy to which we have not responded particularly well. Even today, we are still faced with many of the challenges that go back a number of decades.

It is important to remember that there are a lot of positives in our region, and some of them are happening as we speak today. I want to be positive about the things that have happened already before making my requests of the Government. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North mentioned the caravan tax. Sadly, it is a measure of all Governments that they sometimes do things that are not good for our local area; we are not alone in doing that. However, the first thing that our Government did when they came to power was to scrap the ports tax, which would have had a similar effect on our local economy as the caravan tax, and I thank them for that. As a result, 62 businesses in Hull, 59 businesses in Goole and 44 businesses in Immingham have been protected to the tune of about £30 million.

Back in the 1980s, the biggest land grant in the history of this country was given to Hull for the Victoria dock by the Thatcher Government, and of course we had the housing action trust money in the early 1990s. Anyone who was around at the time will remember how that funding was used for the mass regeneration of places such as the North Hull estate. We have done well in the past, and also done well locally. For example, we secured £150 million for the Humber bridge. Again, that was something that had never been delivered before and was due, in part, to the strong cross-party campaign from all of us in the region. The number of vehicles crossing the Humber has now increased significantly. On Saturday, I was in the Brigg tourist information centre, asking the staff about how things were going since the tolls came down. They showed me the postcode list; there were not just the DN postcodes from the south bank but many HU postcodes. The investment is having a real impact on tourism, which the hon. Lady mentioned.

We are also grateful for the infrastructure funding that we have received. The A164 is important for connectivity from the Humber bridge to Beverley. Similarly, the announcement of the funding for the A160 is welcome. I am keen to support work on the A63, which is some miles from my constituency. When an MP who does not have a constituency interest in a project comes and demands the money for it, perhaps their view should carry a little more weight. Infrastructure on to the A63 is key to unlocking the docks, which would have a huge impact on our whole economy. It is odd to argue for a road scheme that is outside one’s constituency, but we do so because we can all see the bigger picture in the Humber. I urge the Government to do everything they can on that road, because it a problem that has plagued the city, the docks and the local economy for a very long time.

We have had terrible news recently with regard to job losses. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes, I pay tribute to Jobcentre Plus and the local councils, which have responded positively to the situation. I met Jobcentre Plus last week to talk about Scunthorpe and Lloyds TSB, and was informed that the majority of people who had lost their jobs there have now found alternative employment, thanks to the hard work not only of those people but of Jobcentre Plus staff.

We are also grateful for the regional growth funding in both east Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. To date, the funding in northern Lincolnshire has created 344 jobs and is well on target to create 500 jobs, and only about half of that money has been allocated. I pay tribute to the councils that have worked so hard on that matter and the businesses that have come forward.

Northern Lincolnshire has had a 68% increase in apprenticeships, and I pay tribute to the council for investing significant resources into creating apprenticeships within its authority and for trying to identify other local businesses to take on apprentices.

I briefly want to echo the concerns that have been raised about renewable energy. I make no bones about my position on onshore wind, which is a huge concern to my constituents, but on offshore wind, there is complete and utter unanimity in our region about its potential and about our support for it. My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes and I recently wrote to the Prime Minister urging some consistency on the matter. I was heartened by the response that we received:

“I will continue to voice my strong commitment to the growth of the low-carbon sector…and agree that Government has to continue to act coherently and consistently to put green growth at the top of its priorities.”

Those are excellent words; we now want action. Offshore wind is hugely important to our region. We can develop the skills base to support that sector, which will help not only our region but UK plc.

I have a couple of asks of the Minister in relation to biofuels and bioethanol production. We have two plants in the Humber; one planned on the south bank and one on the north bank. There is uncertainty over whether the Government are committed to bioethanol. The fact is we must have it in our fuel, and at the moment it is coming from Germany or elsewhere. We should be growing that industry here, so I make a call for as much support as possible.

On biomass, places such as Drax and Eggborough, on the edge of my constituency, have coal-fired power stations that wish to co-fire with biomass. Again, uncertainty exists. I met representatives in Eggborough who were concerned about the subsidy system. They have asked us to raise contracts for difference, which the Minister, I am sure, will be fully apprised of, so I will not give him a great deal more detail—obviously, I am not saying that because I do not fully understand it. None the less, it is something the sector is keen to unlock for co-firing biomass. I will end now because I have had my time.

Oh, I am not at the end yet. My hon. Friend is meant to pass me a note when I am.

We are trying to unlock significant European regional development fund money for the Capitol Park project in Goole, which will bring thousands of jobs to the logistics sector in the region. I am heavily involved in that project at the moment, and I seek an assurance from the Minister that, if we do not progress that matter in the next couple of days, he will add his considerable weight to solving some of the issues. The development is really important for our local area.

I end by saying that more needs to be done, especially on broadband delivery UK funding, which is particularly important to many of our small and medium-sized enterprises, and on the A63. Furthermore, we must have certainty on offshore wind and renewable energy for our region.

Let me first express my almost inexpressible pleasure at serving under your chairmanship for, I think, the first time ever, Mr Amess, and also my pleasure at participating in this debate secured by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), who is a doughty fighter for his constituency. The attendance today symbolises the close co-operation that exists between all MPs of all parties in the Humber area. It is a new and welcome thing, and I hope that it speaks well for our development in future.

I just want to say that I shall be referring to “Humber” —which is a river, not a group of people—or to “Humberside”, as I and other members of the old-fashioned generation call it, rather than to “the Hull city region”, a term that tends to create antibodies on the south bank of the river. Before I came into Parliament I always used to crack jokes about the two banks of the Humber being united in mutual antipathy. However, that was about the rivalry over fishing, which is now gone. Now the future lies in co-operation and working together, in the Humber and through the local enterprise partnership. The hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) said that North East Lincolnshire is hedging its bets by also participating in the Lincolnshire LEP, but our eggs are really in the Humber LEP basket, because that is our future. The two banks of the Humber will develop together and flourish together or not at all, because falling apart would weaken the magnetic power of both of them as part of the country’s last undeveloped estuary, which has enormous potential for development.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, I welcome the Heseltine report, which is a prime indication of what our future should be, involving more localism, more power for the LEPs and more power for the regions, and enough money to compensate for the loss of the regional development agencies under this Government. In an interview with The Guardian yesterday, Lord Heseltine was rather modest when he said that he was not proffering his report as a plan B. I think that he is saying that to make his report more popular with the Government, but effectively it is a plan B for the Government. I hope that we shall see signs that the Government are taking up the very wise advice that Lord Heseltine gave them, because from our point of view it is “the Heseltine, the full Heseltine and nothing but the Heseltine” for regional development. That involves more power and more backing for our LEP. At present, it is under-resourced; it needs a bigger staff and better organisation to carry through its policy. I am delighted that we have a development agency for the Humber, but it needs to be strengthened and resourced in the way that Lord Heseltine says in his report.

A major part of our development prospects must be wind generation at sea. The aim must be for the Humber to become Britain’s cluster of wind energy facilities, industries and development. We started on that path with the Siemens contract in Hull, which has been hovering, and I hope that the new clarity of the Government’s energy policy and the support that the Government will give to wind energy at sea, if not to wind energy on land, will cause Siemens to finalise the contract in Hull, because we need it. We also need the development that is going on in Grimsby to provide service and maintenance for the wind turbines out at sea.

That is not all that is involved in the development of wind energy. We have the prospect of developing a cluster on the south bank of the Humber as well, in the Able UK development, which will also be an industrial facility—a factory area for the creation and assembly of these huge wind turbines. They will be absolutely enormous. It is difficult to visualise them. They certainly would not pass under the Humber bridge erect. We need that factory facility, but we also need the dock facility that could be provided by Able UK, which holds out great prospects for the south bank area. However, it has been held up by all sorts of things. It has been held up by the birds, which seem to hold up most developments in our area; by Natural England, and by planning problems. Now it is being held back by a kind of rearguard action that is being fought by Associated British Ports. I must say that I deplore that action. ABP has a monopoly on the port facilities in the Humber—in Goole, Hull and Grimsby. It is not reasonable for ABP to try to frustrate the development of a competitive facility by Able UK. I hope that ABP’s action can be stopped; we are making representations to the Government to stop that delaying activity.

We need to have those development prospects in the Able UK development on the south bank if the wind energy sector is to flourish as a cluster. Michael Porter’s work suggests that the best form of development available is to cluster an industry, with the research, the ability and the management in one area. I hate to see firms such as Areva going to Scotland. Areva is a French firm, and probably does not understand this country, which is why it is going to Scotland rather than to the much more attractive and alluring situation that is available in Humberside.

I emphasise that we do not need to put all our eggs into the basket of wind energy; we need other renewables too. We need the Government to support and encourage biomass development, which right hon. and hon. Members have referred to. There is the prospect of a biomass development at Barton. What has happened to that? Why has it been held up? Indeed, why has it disappeared from the horizon? The development at Immingham to produce ethanol from grain has been held up, partly by European decisions and partly by Government inertia. We want to develop alternative energies as a cluster development, rather than just having wind energy production, although wind is clearly the major part of alternative energy development, so I put in a footnote for those other alternative energies.

I am reaching the end of my speech, Mr Amess; I know that the look in your eyes is not boredom but enthusiasm that I should continue. All good things come to an end and my speech will come to an end eventually.

In Hull as in Grimsby—the towns are very similar, in their problems and in their make-up—we need a policy of urban regeneration, which could come mainly through housing. The pathfinder project in Hull was aborted by the Government. The housing authority in Grimsby, which is now a housing association, has received no financing for new building this year. It is one of the few housing authorities to miss out on such financing.

We need housing development, because it is a stimulus to the economy. The obvious thing to do when a homelessness problem is building up and a housing crisis is developing is to invest in housing to stimulate the economy in the way that it did in the 1930s. We need that stimulus, in Hull, Grimsby and the whole area. We need more support for the local authorities, which at present are cutting back because of the draconian insistence that there should be a 26% cut in local authority spending before 2015. That is a folly at a time when local authorities could be a big stimulus to development.

As the hon. Member for Cleethorpes said, we need a direct rail link to Cleethorpes and Grimsby. Hull Trains has done wonders for Hull, and we need the same development and stimulus on the south bank of the Humber, which could be created by a direct rail connection to London. That would help industry by making the area more attractive for investment, and it would help communications. We are a bit too isolated for our own good on both banks of the Humber, and a direct rail link would help to alleviate that problem.

Unfortunately, I cannot stay for the Minister’s brilliant summing-up of our case and his total acceptance of the need for development in Hull, because I have to attend a meeting of the Public Accounts Commission that starts in two minutes. However, in a spirit of unctuousness towards the Minister, I must say that we have had a good deal so far from this Government. I welcome those concessions that have been made: for instance, on the Humber bridge tolls; on the cancellation of the historical dock charges, which was carried through; and on the development of the A160. I hope that that progress can continue, because the Government now need to develop and implement the Heseltine report in full.

I can say with some certainty that it is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Amess, because, although I am a relatively new Member of the House, I have served under your chairmanship on numerous occasions already.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) on securing this important and timely debate. I am delighted that the Economic Secretary to the Treasury is here to respond, and I urge him to listen carefully to hon. Members’ remarks and, perhaps more importantly, to act on them. It is often said that, in government, the power is in the purse, and policies across every Department must have sign-off and approval from the Treasury.

Before I make my plea for bespoke, targeted financial support for the Humber region, I would like to give a flavour of where the economy in Hull is now. I hope to offer a snapshot of the reality on the ground for people living in east Hull—and, indeed, struggling to live there as a result, let us be clear, of Government policy, which is hitting them particularly hard.

In the good-natured spirit of the debate, however, let me first thank the Minister for the Government’s support on issues such as the Humber bridge tolls. The hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy)—or Goole and Brigg, as he likes his constituency to be called—was very involved in the tolls campaign before, during and after the general election campaign; indeed, Members of Parliament from across the parties were involved in it. Similarly, I thank the Government for the £25 million in regional growth funding to help the Green Port project, although the money is slow in coming.

I acknowledge the promise of help with infrastructure projects such as that at Castle street involving the A63, which runs through Hull West and into east Hull. I want to press the Minister on the Government’s continued support for the project. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle mentioned that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), has today cancelled, for the second time, his meeting with Hull MPs, which is particularly important given the concerns raised in this week’s British Chambers of Commerce report. Areas in east Hull have been awarded enterprise zone status, which offers businesses potential benefits, but all policies should be reviewed in terms of their outcomes, and I am sorry to say that the outcomes for the unemployed have failed Hull.

Much more targeted support is needed from the Government. The jobs crisis in Hull and the region more generally needs to be addressed as a matter of absolute urgency. It would be difficult to overstate just how desperate times are with regard to jobs in Hull. Forty people are chasing every job vacancy in my constituency, and those figures are replicated across the city. I suspect that the Minister will cite falling unemployment nationally as an indication that things are improving, and while I of course welcome any reduction, I reiterate the fact that that dip is not happening in east Hull or across the city. I fear that we may be seeing a generation of underemployed people—the working poor—who fall off the unemployment figures, but still live in real financial poverty.

Unemployment continues to rise every month in my constituency, but youth unemployment is of particular concern. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of people not in education, employment or training in Hull was reduced by 6%, from 17% to 11%. That was still far too high—we must be honest about that—but the figures were definitely heading in the right direction.

Previous reassurances from the Government that the private sector will pick up the slack resulting from cuts to public sector jobs are simply not borne out in the Humber region. The Chancellor’s promised rebalancing of the economy has failed in Hull, and long-established private companies are going bust or making significant redundancies every week. In recent weeks, job losses have been announced at BAE Systems, Seven Seas, Kimberley-Clark, McCain, Comet, Willerby Holiday Homes, Smith and Nephew, and Crown Paints, to name a few household names. Yesterday, Hull city council also announced a consultation on a further 171 potential job losses.

We are currently in a 90-day consultation process with Seven Seas, after which we may see 259 skilled jobs leave Hull. Seven Seas was established in Hull 73 years ago off the back of the fishing industry and the trade in cod liver oil. We are working with the business’s representatives in an attempt to persuade them not to leave the city just because, as they put it, the economy is failing them. Without a shadow of a doubt, they blame the Government’s economic policies for the firm’s failure and for the need to consider outsourcing production. Comet is another company that started in Hull a considerable time ago, and hundreds of people are praying that a buyer will come in to take over now that the company has gone into administration.

Let me mention some of the positives about the region, and particularly my city. My right hon. Friend said that the renewables sector and the Siemens investment could deliver for Hull what oil did for Aberdeen. The Siemens factory is expected to be built in 2014, with the berth built the following year. About 700 jobs will be created almost immediately, with thousands more following in the supply chain. It is crucial, therefore, that we get some certainty from the Government, because it is fair to say that we have had mixed messages from them in recent months. The Liberal Democrats swear that this is the greenest Government ever while the Treasury scraps subsidies to solar energy and gives tax cuts to offshore gas exploration. The Energy Secretary says that wind is wonderful, while having to slap down a junior Minister—the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes)—for stating that the Government have had enough of wind. We need absolute clarity from the Government if we are to secure this terribly important investment in the city.

My right hon. Friend touched on education, and Hull has some excellent educational establishments, of which Wilberforce college in my constituency is just one. However, organisations such as the Humber Education Business Partnership, which historically brought educational bodies and industrialists together, have lost Department for Education funding.

The LEP is an important factor, although I do not think that it provides as much support as the regional development agency. The Government should take recommendation 61 of the Heseltine report seriously, because it reinforces the fact that LEPs need more power and money to deliver for the areas they plan to provide for.

I want briefly to touch on the city deal. I welcome Hull’s opportunity to bid for city deal funding, and I hope the Humber bid is successful. The leader of Hull city council, Councillor Stephen Brady, is looking forward to working with public and private sector partners from across the Humber to develop a Humber city deal proposal. Hull needs targeted, bespoke support, and the city deal may go some way towards helping us to sort out the current economic downward spiral.

I also want briefly to address the issue of the A63 at Castle street. This week’s British Chambers of Commerce report said that just three out of 13 transport projects identified by the Government as crucial to economic growth have been given the go-ahead. I hope there is nothing sinister about the Under-Secretary of State for Transport cancelling appointments—and doing so, I have to say, at rather late notice. I really want to hammer home the point that the A63 at Castle street is crucial to the economy of Hull and the region.

In the short time that I have—because I want to leave enough time for the Minister to respond, and there might need to be dialogue with local Members—I want to commend my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) for the skilful way in which he talked about the perhaps unrecognised and untapped advantages of the Hull economy and what they might offer. Those advantages include the fourth largest trading estuary in Europe and the fact that it is within four hours of 40% of the UK economy, as well as the excellent cultural and creative offer that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) talked about. There are some fantastic assets waiting to be tapped. However, as we have heard, this is a tale of two cities, and I want to spend a couple of minutes giving the perspective of the Opposition Front Bench.

We are undoubtedly at a critical moment for the economy in the Humber area, and the recession has not been an easy time for that part of the world. We have heard about Comet going into administration and about Kimberly-Clark in Barton. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) talked about difficulties at the Seven Seas plant. Employment opportunities will be crucial for future prosperity. We want a diverse economy, rather than one where a part is doing well but the rest is not. We must make sure that there is the ecosystem—the right mix—to sustain the region, and my hon. Friends are very focused on that.

Enterprising businesses in the area have been battling against headwinds in the form of the Government’s tax rises and spending reductions, which have sapped confidence in recent years. We have heard this morning about an aspect of the Government’s approach: the Work programme might be worse than if they had done nothing. Given the performance of some schemes, things are going backwards. We are in a critical period and must focus every effort on getting things right.

We have heard from hon. Members of all parties about specific matters to do with critical Whitehall decisions. I am struck by the need to get clarity about renewables policy and the green energy sector. The point was well made about Siemens being poised for investment. The Humber is a part of the world where there are massive advantages for offshore wind, in particular, but others have talked about the biomass sector in Barton and elsewhere, about which we need clarity from the Treasury in particular. The Chancellor of the Exchequer obviously has strong views about renewable energy policy and we need more clarity about where it is intended that the country should go in the context of decarbonisation. We hope that the energy Bill will bring that, but a mist has descended over where the Government are going—and that is putting it kindly. My hon. Friends have been forceful in saying that they want clarity about that.

Transport infrastructure is also critical. The Minister needs to arrange a meeting with his colleagues in the Department for Transport as a matter of urgency because, as someone who had occasion many years ago to spend quite a lot of time in east Hull, I know well that the question of Castle street and the A63 upgrade is crucial to unlocking much of the area’s potential. The Minister could do worse than give us an update on how the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Act 2012 might help in the present case, perhaps in connection with guarantees, or the underpinning or underwriting that it facilitates.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle had some great ideas about the relocation of public projects, and Whitehall Departments might have the opportunity to move to the area. There is a strong case for that, especially on the question of cost-effectiveness, when the cost of buildings and infrastructure in the capital is compared with that in other parts of the country. That is the sort of thing that we should be considering. There have been signs that the Government are willing to listen with regard to some of these questions, because the Humber bridge toll decision was a good one, and the U-turn on VAT on static caravans was also very welcome.

Finally, some critical governance decisions need to be confronted. My hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Austin Mitchell), who has had to leave early, was right to say that the future rests with the co-operation of all players and bodies in the Humber region. The Humber local enterprise partnership is an important body, and we need it to make progress with development. It is a pity that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is not responding to the debate, because he has a particular brief for cities policy. We want the Humber region to be in the vanguard of new cross-authority working, because that is how it has to be. We must have clarity about leadership and decision making in that part of the world so that it is possible to ask loudly and clearly for delegated decisions and the devolution of resources, which are evidently needed at the coal face—on the front line.

I commend hon. Members in all parts of the Chamber for the vocal and tenacious way in which they have made their case. They bang on the table effectively, and leave no stone unturned—if I may mix my metaphors—in making the case for the area. It is a strong case, and the Treasury must respond to it.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Amess. I thank the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) for securing the debate and for taking a thoughtful and constructive approach to an important issue. I also thank the other hon. Members who spoke: the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), for Great Grimsby (Austin Mitchell) and for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), and my hon. Friends the Members for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) and for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy).

First, I will quickly give an overview of the Government’s priorities, using their fiscal capabilities, which have been set out in Budgets. We repeated them in the Budget of 2012, and they are the creation of a stable economy and a fairer, more efficient and simpler tax system, and the bringing in of reforms to support growth. The Budget and the national infrastructure plan that we published at the time of the autumn statement in 2011 set out the relevant steps and the priorities for the country as a whole, and included specific measures for the Humber economy.

Three areas in which the Government have acted to help the whole UK quickly are cuts in corporation tax from 28% in 2010 to 22% by 2014, which will benefit companies throughout the country, including the Humber region; changes in the personal allowance, which have already meant that 74,000 people in the Yorkshire and Humber region are being taken out of tax altogether, and 1.8 million will benefit; and increased spending in the Growing Places fund, which has been established to provide funding for infrastructure needs. We have heard much this morning about local enterprise partnerships and two in the region have already received almost £70 million.

Several hon. Members mentioned Lord Heseltine’s report “No stone unturned in pursuit of growth”, and I am pleased that it has caused excitement. Most people talked about it positively and that is welcome. I hope that they would agree that the Government deserve credit for looking at new ways to stimulate the economy and for commissioning the report. We are considering it, and I am pleased that hon. Members have taken note of it.

A number of Members mentioned unemployment in the region. They are right to be concerned about it; we all are, and the Government most certainly are. In the Yorkshire and Humber region, unemployment rose by 1.8% between 1997 and 2010; but so far under this Government, it is down by 0.6%, which I am sure all Members welcome.

I want to move on to some of the specific issues raised by the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle. He made three or four key points, and I want to address them all in the time that I have. First, he mentioned energy policy, and Siemens in particular. He referred to the fact that, last week, the Government announced an agreement for going forward on energy policy, which has, I think, delivered a clear and durable signal to investors, including Siemens. He is right that the Energy Bill will be published this week and, naturally, the Bill will bring a lot more information forward. The agreement and the Bill will show that the Government have taken a serious approach to the issue. We believe that they will bring forward up to £110 billion of much-needed investment in the economy, which will support up to 250,000 jobs, of which at least 700 will, we hope, be secured by Siemens in the Humber region.

When the energy Bill is announced, colleagues will see that we have taken a constructive approach. With that and the national policy framework that has already been announced, coupled with the strong support for renewables in the Humber region through the regional growth fund, companies such as Siemens and others in the region that might want to establish themselves in renewables will find some Government support.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North mentioned the possibility of having a branch of the green investment bank in her region. I will most certainly make that representation on her behalf to my colleague the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

A number of colleagues rightly mentioned transport, and the importance of that type of infrastructure investment in the region, both now, in creating jobs during the investment period, and in the longer term, in making the region more attractive for investment. The Government have made substantial commitments to improving major road connections in the Humber region. Two road schemes in the area are being developed by the Highways Agency, and construction will potentially start in the next spending review period: the A63 Castle street improvement and the A160/A180 Immingham scheme. I noted the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole regarding the A63; it is good of him to support a road that does not run through his constituency but that, no doubt, supports the wider region. Those are two of only six schemes in England that the Department for Transport announced development funding for in May 2012. In addition, on 20 November the Secretary of State for Transport announced that the A160/A180 scheme will be part of a programme of accelerated development for four major road schemes, which will aim to cut 18 months off the original construction timetable.

Work is under way on the East Riding of Yorkshire council’s A164 Humber bridge to Beverley route improvement scheme. The £10 million scheme, to which the council is contributing £2.3 million, was confirmed in the Chancellor’s statement last November.

Briefly, on a couple of other Government initiatives that have helped the region, I have already mentioned the local enterprise partnerships, of which there are two for the region, in a wider sense. There are also more than 24 enterprise zones throughout the country, two of which are in the Humber, and which will be allowed to keep the growth in business rates that are created in the zone over the next 25 years.

There is also the regional growth fund, worth £2.4 billion, which will help to grow private sector-led jobs throughout Britain. Winners from the first two rounds are expected to create more than 10,000 direct and 16,000 indirect jobs in the Yorkshire and Humber region, including a £25 million joint bid by East Riding of Yorkshire council and Hull city council to stimulate private sector investment in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned city deals, and he will know that the Government have agreed a set of ambitious city deals with eight core cities outside London, to help them to maximise their growth potential. Following that, the Government have taken forward what we call the second wave, and he will know that Hull and Humber is possibly one of the 20 other cities that have been invited to submit an expression of interest in taking the deal forward. A decision will be made in the early part of next year.

I noted the right hon. Gentleman’s request for a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I have already asked my right hon. Friend about that, and he would be absolutely delighted to meet the right hon. Gentleman. He wanted me to specifically point out that he takes a very keen interest in the Humber region.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes was absolutely right to say that when we focus on cities we must not forget the provinces. The Government must ensure that our policies help all areas, including smaller towns and villages, and not just our great cities.

I want to talk a little about public spending. A number of Members referred to the changes in public spending and their potential economic impact, perhaps suggesting that local authorities in the Humber region have taken disproportionate cuts. It is fair to say that the previous Government left the public finances in—let us put it generously—a very difficult situation, and we have had to take necessary action to deal with that.

I am grateful to the Minister for his commitment to my meeting the Financial Secretary. We are all mystified as to why the A63 was not mentioned in the same announcement on 20 November. I do not expect the Minister to have an answer to that, but does he agree that since a junior Minister at the Department for Transport has twice cancelled a meeting with Hull MPs, the Secretary of State for Transport should now meet us as soon as possible?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that comment. I do not know why that meeting has been cancelled. I am sure that there is a constructive reason, but I will take his point to the Minister and ensure that he is aware of the strength of feeling on that issue.

I can probably assist the Minister. I think that that Minister cancelled on one of those occasions because he was on holiday. Perhaps the Minister might want to visit Hull, to see the A63 and Castle street for himself. He would understand the need, if he did.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is inviting me, but I would be happy to come to Hull. I love Hull. I have lots of friends there, and am happy to go and make some more.

It is only right that the Government protect the most challenging regions from public spending cuts, to the extent that they can. The formula grant in Humber was £609 per person in 2011-12, compared with an average of £372 across England and £190 in Richmond upon Thames. I am sure that Members will agree that that reflects, to a large extent, local needs.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby rightly mentioned housing. I want to point to the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Bill, which has now received Royal Assent. Up to £10 billion of the £50 billion of guarantees are earmarked for housing spending, and if Members know sponsors of such projects in the region, I encourage them to make an application to the relevant Department to find out whether it is possible to take advantage of the guarantees.

In conclusion, I again thank the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle for securing this constructive debate, and I also thank all the Members who have taken part. I noted the right hon. Gentleman’s comments about the great Andrew Marvell, and if I understood him correctly, I think that he is basically telling the Government to get on with it. I think that it is fair to say that the Government have taken a lot of action, but I hear him loudly and clearly, and the Government will continue to take action and pay a great deal of attention to the region.