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Heseltine Review

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 4 June 2013

6. What progress he has made on the implementation of the Heseltine review; and what assessment he has made of the potential effect of implementation on the economy of northern Lincolnshire and the Humber. (157198)

The Government have confirmed that they will implement Lord Heseltine’s recommendation that economic development spending should be devolved to local areas through a single pot. Alongside the Budget, we published more details on the creation of that single local growth fund and growth deals. The next step is an announcement on the size and content of the fund as part of the spending round. Like all local enterprise partnerships, the Humber’s has the chance to show its ambition by coming up with a strong strategic economic plan to compete with others for that single local growth fund, and attain the wider freedoms and flexibilities available.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that the measures he has just announced, coupled with the industrial strategy and banking reform, are all about ensuring that we can have good, successful firms in our local areas that not only generate jobs but, above all, get access to export markets, and that the Heseltine review paves the way for exactly that?

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. As we clear up the monumental mess left by the Labour party, we are having to rebalance the British economy and, in particular, to rebalance the overreliance on public sector employment in significant parts of our country towards a much more diverse approach in which private sector jobs growth is restored to health as well. That is why I am delighted that we have presided over the creation of one and a quarter million new jobs in the private sector in the past three years.

I welcome the Government’s initiatives and investment in the Humber region, and in northern Lincolnshire in particular, and the personal involvement of Lord Heseltine. However, our business community, particularly on the south bank, would welcome further opportunities to discuss future potential with Ministers. Will the Deputy Prime Minister assure me that he, or one of his team, will visit to ensure that that happens?

I know that my colleagues, notably my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and for Business, Innovation and Skills are in constant dialogue with leading figures from local enterprise partnerships around the country in order to explore ways in which we can work together. The city deals, the creation of local enterprise partnerships, the enterprise zones, the single pot flowing from the Heseltine recommendations and the industrial strategy promulgated by my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary all feed into that.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister join me in backing the NEvolution campaign launched yesterday by the north-east’s newspapers, which calls on the Chancellor to devolve more funding and spending decisions to regions like the north-east, as recommended by Lord Heseltine?

Yes, I strongly endorse that. In fact, we have already announced that we are going to implement the vast majority of the Heseltine recommendations—81 of the 89. That really will be a significant moment, when we break from that long, long tradition, which has prevailed under Governments of all persuasions, of over-centralisation in England. In addition to the radical moves—the city deals, the LEPs and the devolution of business rates—it will leave this country significantly more devolved by the end of this Parliament than we found it at the beginning of the Parliament.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that the regional growth fund is being spent far too slowly and that that is leading to delays in investment and jobs across the country?

To be fair, that might have been a legitimate criticism at the very beginning of the process, as the programme was set up. The programme is now moving at an impressive pace, and the vast majority of any delays are not generated in Whitehall or in government but result from the pace of the commercial decisions taken by the recipients. When my right hon. Friends at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills surveyed the beneficiaries of the regional growth fund, they found that more than 90% said that they were happy with the pace at which it was operating.