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City Deals

Volume 578: debated on Tuesday 25 March 2014

I would first like to say how delighted I am that Siemens has now confirmed its £160 million investment in wind turbine facilities at Green Port in Hull and at Paull in the East Riding. Together with an additional £150 million investment by its port partner, Associated British Ports, that development will support 1,000 new jobs in the area and demonstrates the huge economic potential of the green industry. I was delighted that the hon. Lady was able to attend the signing of the Hull and Humber city deal on 13 December, along with the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark). As she knows, through the city deal the Government agreed an additional £9.2 million of funding to support the growth of Hull and Humber’s economy.

I think that we all agree that cities are best placed to make decisions about regeneration funding and what is best for their local populations. As the Deputy Prime Minister rightly points out, a great example of that is the announcement this morning of Siemens’s investment in renewables, which means that Hull will be not only the city of culture, but the city of energy. Given that that success was made in Hull, will he congratulate, in particular, the Hull business community and Hull’s Labour council, because without them this would not have happened? Finally, does he agree that if we had listened to the climate change-denying UK Independence party, those jobs would be going abroad?

I certainly agree with the hon. Lady’s latter point. There is absolutely no way that a multinational such as Siemens would invest that amount of money if we were on the brink of pulling out of the European Union single market. I have been in several discussions with Siemens board members, as have many members of the Government, to persuade them to make that decision, and I am delighted that they have finally done so. She is quite right that Hull city council and the councils in the area—it is a triumph not only for Hull, but for the Humber area more generally—have worked together, and it has been a cross-party approach. None of that would have been successful if we had been on the brink of pulling out of the single market. That is why Siemens has continued to invest in our country.

I am delighted to say that I have a distant family connection with Hull, as my great-grandfather practised medicine there. Will my right hon. Friend explain how city deal regeneration will help rural and coastal areas, such as Thirsk, Malton and Filey, where we have flagging fishing and tourism industries that desperately need boosting?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. City deals are a template for the further decentralisation of powers and control over money and policy to local areas. Of course that should not be confined to urban areas, which is why we are extrapolating the approach through the local growth deals, which will be available to all areas—coastal or inland; rural or urban—and which we hope to conclude over the summer.

The Opposition support city deals. Portsmouth and Southampton are keen to work more closely together and to form a city deal, which we welcome. However, Hampshire county council is refusing to get involved in such a deal. What steps are the Government taking to open up city deals to such collaborations between authorities that might not be contiguous?

I know that the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), has had discussions with the Solent local enterprise partnership on exactly that point. Although this is of course a bottom-up process and we are reluctant to impose too many conditions in an old-fashioned, centralising way, he is making it very clear to everybody who is working towards local growth deals or new city deals that they must be based upon a partnership in the area. We want to ensure that the deals act as a catalyst for people to work across local authority boundaries, and indeed across political boundaries.