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Regional Growth

Volume 583: debated on Thursday 26 June 2014

Some £765 million of regional growth fund support has been paid to companies throughout England, which has leveraged £1.8 billion of private money. This combined investment of £2.5 billion in areas that need private sector growth has already delivered or safeguarded 97,000 jobs. Round 6 was launched last week and I encourage hon. Members to support companies in their constituencies in applying for funding.

In paying tribute to the hon. Member for Cardiff Central (Jenny Willott), perhaps the Secretary of State could put in a good word for her to get another job—there are so few Liberal Democrat women Ministers in the coalition Government.

Humber local enterprise partnership has been among the best in showing that it needs to go further than Ministers are with Lord Heseltine’s agenda on devolved funding, distributing £30 million of round 3 RGF funding to more than 80 companies, mainly small and medium-size enterprises. The funding ends in March 2015, and the fact that future rounds will be open only to larger businesses and universities with a minimum bid of £1 million will exclude many SMEs that are vital to the future of Hull. Will Ministers look again at this matter?

On the hon. Lady’s first point about women in senior roles in Government—of course I want to add again compliments to my colleague—she may have noticed that the last of the FTSE companies that did not have a woman on the board, Glencore, has listened to our clear advice that it should proceed, and Mr Glasenberg appointed a woman director this morning. On the £30 million, which is of course the local fund that was hitherto administered through the local enterprise partnership but will come under the local growth fund when it is available from 2015-16, the local enterprise partnership will have discretion over how to use the funding available to it. I am sure that it will, as before, continue to support development in Hull.

For Kettering’s sustainable urban extension to be sustainable, the Department for Transport says that a new junction on the A14 called junction 10A is required at a cost of £39 million. That is supported by both the Northamptonshire LEP and the South-East Midlands LEP. Given that the junction could release economic activity worth up to £1 billion under the Treasury green book rules, will the Secretary of State look favourably at this bid from Kettering for this new road junction?

That is an issue that the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon), the Department for Transport and I will have to examine. As I understand it, under the arrangements that will prevail in 2015, this is very much a matter for the two LEPs involved to exercise their priorities.

Some really good stuff has happened under the regional growth fund, and I am glad to see the next round, but it is still not enough. We are still not getting borrowing for start-ups. New entrepreneurs are not being encouraged enough, and we are not using crowdfunding and crowdsourcing enough. What will the Secretary of State do to increase the number of young entrepreneurs who have access to capital so that they can make a difference?

First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his constructive remarks at the beginning. On funding, he will be pleased to know that under the StartUp loan scheme, we now have 13,000 loans that have been disbursed. They operate through the Business Bank, which is also funding crowdfunding, and it is operating on a significant scale and accelerating fast.