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City Deals

Volume 575: debated on Tuesday 11 February 2014

We have now agreed 19 city deals, and although they are for the long term, those in the first wave are already making a significant difference. For example, in Birmingham, more than 2,000 new apprenticeships have been provided. In Newcastle, infrastructure works are nearly complete on the Science Central development on what was previously derelict land. In Manchester, work will shortly begin on the airport relief road, and Liverpool is hosting the international business festival in June and July, which I know the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) will be supporting and to which I will ensure all colleagues receive an invitation.

Will the Minister consider spreading the excellent city deal initiative to all parts of the country?

I can confirm that there is in fact a city deal covering my hon. Friend’s constituency, the Coventry and Warwickshire city deal, which is focused on making the most of the opportunities in the supply chain for advanced manufacturing. Furthermore, through the available local growth funds, the principle of city deals is being established across the whole of England, and I am looking forward to visiting each LEP to conduct negotiations.

Is the Minister’s long-term vision that the various city deals will in essence mesh together to become a city region deal and therefore be spread more comprehensively across the regions?

The hon. Lady, who takes a great interest in these matters, makes a good point. In the past few days, I have met in Birmingham all the LEPs and local authorities from across the west midlands area precisely to ensure that their individual city and growth deals reinforce each other, so that the west midlands’ strong advantages, especially in advanced manufacturing, can be combined.

What freedoms are granted to rural areas to match the Heseltine review and the city deals being given to urban areas?

My hon. Friend, speaking for the Isle of Wight, makes an important point. In our response to the Heseltine review, we have extended the principle of city deals to rural areas, including the Isle of Wight, so that the same financial flexibilities and powers will be available, as they have been to cities.

In towns such as Telford, the Government still own a large portion of land through the Homes and Communities Agency structure. Would the Minister be willing to meet councillors and officials from Telford and Wrekin council to consider how we could use that land in a city deal-type partnership to promote more growth and development?

I have already done that. I went to Telford last week to have precisely the conversations that the hon. Gentleman has in mind, and I was impressed with the conversations that took place. [Interruption.] He is quite right that he should have been informed. I hope he was, but if he was not, I apologise for the discourtesy. However, I met his council leader. I was impressed with the work going on there, and I look forward to a future visit, to which the hon. Gentleman will certainly be invited.

Forgive my naivety, but I understood that city deals were a creation of the previous Government, and that, as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner), they channelled transport and economic development funds into cities and other urban areas and away from rural areas.

My hon. Friend is not right about that. City deals are not an invention of the last Government; they were minted by this Government. In fact, we are told, the Labour leader of Manchester city council, Sir Richard Leese, believes that

“there has been more progress towards the core cities taking control of their own destiny in three years of the coalition than during 13 years of Labour.”