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Enterprise Zones

Volume 563: debated on Wednesday 15 May 2013

6. What assessment he has made of the potential for co- operation between enterprise zones in England and Wales. (153889)

I see great potential in a joined-up approach to enterprise zones in England and Wales. Co-operation will enhance the offer that each of the zones presents, and I will continue to engage with the Welsh Government to explore these opportunities.

Today’s unemployment figures show that the Chester and north-east Wales economic sub-region is becoming a jobs powerhouse in the local area. By working together, the three enterprise zones in the area—Deeside, Wirral and Daresbury—can pack a stronger punch than if they act individually. Will the Secretary of State ensure that local authorities work together to pack that bigger punch?

I visited the Deeside industrial park forum last Friday, and that was very much the message I got from employers in that enterprise zone. There is far more to be gained from the three enterprise zones working closely together. One of the catalysts for expansion of those zones would be electrification of the Wrexham to Bidston railway line, which is a matter that my office is working on.

I am delighted to hear that the Wrexham to Bidston line project is under consideration by the Secretary of State’s office. Will he convene a meeting of MPs and Assembly Members from north-east Wales, and of MPs from Cheshire, to discuss the project and what steps can be taken, using enterprise zones, to take it forward?

I am pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman welcome that initiative. His proposal is certainly worthy of consideration. I am having a number of meetings in the immediate future with representatives of other enterprise zones, and in due course I will write to him and perhaps invite him to such a meeting.

It is indeed heartening to hear the Secretary of State speak supportively of the Wrexham to Bidston line upgrade project, which we want to see happen. Does he welcome Network Rail’s publication of its Long Term Planning Process, which sees connections between Wrexham and Liverpool being much improved, and can MPs from Merseyside also be invited to any such meeting he might convene?

I am pleased to hear the hon. Lady’s comments. I think she would agree that electrification of the railway line between Liverpool and Wrexham would add greatly to the economies of north-east Wales, and Wirral and the north-west of England. It is important that we work with Merseyrail, and I hope to meet Merseyrail in the very near future. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her support.