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Economy: North-East

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 14 May 2013

Q6. What recent assessment he has made of the performance of the economy in the north-east; and if he will make a statement. (153853)

Last year, the north-east was Britain’s biggest destination for inward investment, after London and Greater Manchester, it doubled its trade surplus in goods to the highest in England and saw unemployment fall faster than in any other region of the country. The north-east independent economic review, published last month, shows the region’s further huge potential, which the Government are determined to support.

In fact, after the £2.8 billion of cuts that the Government have imposed, unemployment in the north-east is 10%, which is the highest in the whole country. I am pleased that the Minister mentioned the independent review, which recommended a doubling of apprenticeships, significant investment in transport infrastructure and the locating of major public institutions, such as the business bank, in the north-east. Have the Government put forward any resource to make any of those things happen?

First, I congratulate the hon. Lady’s team of Spennymoor on, I am afraid, beating my team of Tunbridge Wells in the final of the FA Vase at Wembley 10 days ago. If she was there—I am sure she was—she will have seen that Spennymoor’s approach was characterised by very positive play, and she would do well to pay tribute to the efforts made in the north-east in much the same way. Exports are growing, employment is growing and the number of apprenticeships has doubled since we came into office. I will visit Newcastle in two weeks to discuss the implementation of the economic review, which I hope she will support.

Will the Minister go a little further north when he goes to Newcastle and have a look at Northumberland, where we are proud of our record on exporting manufacturing businesses? Will he also continue the good work of Treasury Ministers in encouraging the Department for Transport to consider a properly dualled A1 to link us to the markets and places where we can do business in this country and abroad?

I shall certainly do that. One of the bright spots in the north-east is its exporting of manufacturing goods, particularly in areas of high technology. Exports in specialised manufacturing were up 24% in the last year and power-generating machinery was up 20%. I shall certainly visit some of the businesses in the north-east, including in Northumberland, to encourage them to do more.

Despite what the Minister says, the north-east’s unemployment is the highest in the country and continues to rise, with youth unemployment having reached dangerously high levels in constituencies such as mine. When will he introduce those recommendations in the economic review targeted at helping young people in the north-east?

I welcome the hon. Lady’s support for the economic review and its proposals. She will know that under the city deal that we negotiated with Newcastle, which is already being implemented, sites are being prepared for new businesses to move in, creating valuable jobs. I hope that she will maintain that support for the proposals as we implement them.