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Local Growth Deals

Volume 584: debated on Monday 7 July 2014

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about growth deals.

During the past four years, the Government’s long-term economic plan has turned the British economy around. The deficit has been cut by a third, employment is at a record high with 2 million more private sector jobs created, inflation is low and the UK is one of the fastest growing economies in the G7.

One of the striking features of the recovery is the resurgence of our regional economies. Since June 2010, almost three quarters of net new jobs created have been outside London. In the west midlands, where I was this morning, export growth is higher than anywhere else in the country. In Yorkshire, more than 16,000 more businesses have sprung up since 2010, but our plan is for the long term and we want to go much further.

National growth is the sum of local growth. For our nation to prosper, every town, every city, and every county needs to be able to fulfil its potential. It is hopeless to try to run proud, distinct and unique cities, towns and counties remotely from London. Instead, the people who live, work and do business in each area must be given the power to exercise local leadership and that is exactly what we have done through the city deals programme.

The 39 growth deals we have agreed today build on the success of city deals and go much further. Responding to Lord Heseltine’s report, “No Stone Unturned”, the Chancellor committed at least £2 billion a year, for at least six years, of resources previously controlled by Departments in Whitehall. Control of this money will now be devolved to business and civic leaders across England. In response to this opportunity, local enterprise partnerships have developed action plans detailing how they would use those resources to drive local growth.

The results have far exceeded expectations. The first year’s available funds were oversubscribed three and half times with proposals that were strong and credible. As a result, I am today announcing the transfer of £2 billion not just for the first year but for subsequent years too. The strength of the proposals means that I can today allocate a total of £6 billion. That includes major strategic investments that will continue over several years and commitments to projects that cannot start next year but for which planning and development can now get under way. That is still within the minimum of £12 billion that the Chancellor has made available, and I am now inviting all LEPs to begin immediately discussions on their next proposals, building on this substantial momentum.

It is important to underline that we are not spending any more taxpayers’ money: this is a transfer of resources from central Government—one of the most centralised Governments in the world—to local communities, where they can get better value for money and make a bigger impact. Across all 39 deals as agreed so far, more than 500 projects will be funded by the local growth fund in partnership with local councils and private investors. They include more than 180 roads schemes, such as the dualling of the A421 in Milton Keynes and the building of a tunnel providing access to Wichelstowe in Swindon, allowing the creation of thousands of jobs and thousands of homes. They include the building or refurbishment of 17 railway stations, including a major upgrade to Wolverhampton station, the extension of the Metropolitan line through to Watford junction, and making Curzon Street in Birmingham ready for HS2, and linking the HS2 station directly to Wolverhampton by tram.

The projects include the devolution of skills investment, such as an oil and gas academy in Redcar—hon. Members may have been wondering when Teesside would come up; the oil and gas academy will provide skills to people in the Tees valley—and an engineering training programme at the MIRA technology park. There will be investments in science and technology, including in the Cheshire science corridor at Alderley Park, a new metrology centre for the world motorsports cluster at Silverstone, where most of the world’s Formula 1 teams have gathered, and an expansion of the Bristol robotics hub.

There will be a dedicated local small business advice and support service run in partnership with the chambers of commerce and other small business organisations in almost every part of England, and there will be further investments in house building, flood defences, tourist attractions, broadband infrastructure and further small business advice.

The city of Glasgow is an indispensable member of the family of great British cities. Having seen the success of the city deals programme in England, I was greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of Glasgow’s leaders to negotiate a city deal for their own city. Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that Scotland does not have local enterprise partnerships, I have concluded a heads of terms agreement with Glasgow that mirrors the English city deals and will result in £1.13 billion of investment in the Glasgow area, including a rail link to Glasgow airport, an innovative series of labour market schemes that will reduce unemployment, and an investment package in life sciences and small business support. Further details of the life science and business support package will be announced in the coming weeks.

The components of each growth deal will transform the prospects of local economies. However, the whole is even bigger than the sum of the parts. This is a permanent change in the way we run our country and our economy. No longer will Whitehall monopolise decision making and shut out the role of local economic leadership. In this, the week of the 100th anniversary of the death of Joseph Chamberlain, the great mayor of a great city, we are reviving the spirit of local leadership and entrepreneurship on which our nation’s prosperity depends. I commend this statement and these growth deals to the House.

I thank the Minister for advance sight of the statement. As ever, the right hon. Gentleman is courteous and constructive. That is part of the reason why he is respected by MPs in all parts of the House and by local authority leaders around the country, including in my own area. The problem is that the Minister is something of a lone voice in the Government, trying to convince his colleagues to help all the regions of the UK to fulfil their promise.

For today’s announcement to represent the kind of progress that we need, three tests must be met. First, does it represent a truly ambitious devolution of power and funding? Secondly, have local communities, their businesses and councils determined the priorities? Thirdly, are today’s announcements new—is this new or additional investment? Of course, we welcome any investment. The Minister knows that I have supported the local enterprise partnership bid in my area, and people across Northamptonshire will welcome the announcement about Silverstone. However, today’s announcement is too little, too late from a Government playing catch-up.

One of the first acts of this Government was the dogma-driven destruction of the regional development agencies, without providing a proper replacement. It was economic vandalism, pure and simple. What of the Government’s flagship regional growth fund, mired in chaos and delay, creating more losers than winners, leaving successful bidders waiting for two years to receive their money, and leaving hundreds of millions of pounds to gather dust? Sadly, after four years of this Government, it is little surprise that we have seen regional imbalances become starker and local areas held back.

Lord Heseltine’s seminal report, “No Stone Unturned”, promised much and raised the hopes of many, but today’s announcement shows that the Government are happy to leave plenty of stones unturned all over the country. Will the Minister say how much of the funding that Lord Heseltine’s report recommended should be devolved has been devolved to local areas, and by how much today’s announcement falls short? The Minister is making the most of today’s announcement—he is one of life’s optimists—but deep down, surely he knows that although it signals some progress, it falls well short of what is needed, not only in scale but in terms of how the Government have gone about this.

The second test is about who makes the decision. Today’s announcement is not real devolution; it is a list of centrally agreed projects. The criteria required shovel-ready schemes; local enterprise partnerships were given the nod on the understanding that schemes needed to be ready for next May, so that it looked like something was happening before the next election. Is it not time to move on from making these kinds of decisions in Whitehall, where local areas have to take part in a beauty parade so that Ministers can pick winners? Why not devolve the funds properly and let local areas decide the priorities? Why not let them make the decisions that are right for their economy, not just right for the Minister’s political timetable?

The third test is whether this is new money. The Minister claims to be announcing £2 billion today, but it turns out that £1.1 billion has already been committed to local transport projects. Some £267 million of this money still has not been allocated. Will the Minister confirm when it will be allocated? As for the £6 billion figure, most of that, as the Minister well knows, is money from local sources that we would try to bring forward anyway; certainly, Labour local authorities are in the lead in doing that. [Interruption.] Well, the Minister has agreed that combined authorities in Labour areas all around the country are trying to show real leadership. Will he confirm how many unsuccessful bids there have been, and tell the House what estimate he has made of the total cost, to both local authorities and businesses, of putting together those failed bids? Is he aware that small businesses in particular have been put off applying by the amount of bureaucracy, and by the requirement to pay the cost of due diligence up front? Many successful applicants have not proceeded for the same reasons. What steps is he taking to address that?

The Minister will be aware that the Leeds city region deal, which he personally signed, has been undermined by the Secretary of State’s announcement on referendums and precepts. Will the Minister reassure me that he will sort this mess out—a mess of the Government’s making—so that the Leeds transport fund can be properly established?

In contrast to today’s much-hyped but severely limited announcements from the Government, Labour has committed to devolving £30 billion of funding from Whitehall to city and council regions to spend on skills, housing, transport, and business support, and to giving combined authorities the power to receive 100% of additional business rates revenue generated by growth to support infrastructure and future economic development. Whereas this Government are failing to deliver for businesses and communities across the country, a Labour Government will step up and genuinely pass down power and resources to local areas.

What a ray of sunshine the hon. Gentleman is! I am grateful for his warm words, but if he thinks that I am a lone voice, I do not know who he thinks the people behind me and opposite him are. It is some “lone voice” that delivers £6 billion of funding from central Government to our local economies. If that is a lone voice, it seems a pretty strong one.

Why is it that whenever Labour Front Benchers get the opportunity, they talk the regions down—I say this to the hon. Gentleman’s colleague on the Front Bench, the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), too—while their colleagues back in their constituencies are talking the regions up? Contrast the comments of the hon. Member for Corby (Andy Sawford) with those of Labour leaders right around the country. The Labour leader of Leeds city council said today that this was tremendous news. He said:

“We are glad that the government has now listened to our exceptionally strong case to put the financial power in our hands”,

and that the announcement

“could be truly transformational”.

Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham city council—I was with him in Birmingham this morning—said:

“This is great news for Birmingham.”

Joe Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool, said:

“This is great news for Liverpool.”

Sir Richard Leese, the long-standing leader of Manchester city council, has said that there has been more progress towards the devolution of powers to the core cities in the last three years of the coalition than during 13 years of Labour. The only “lone voice” is the increasingly lonely voice of Labour Front Benchers opposing the increasingly unanimous view that we should be devolving power around the country in the way that we are. I hope the hon. Gentleman will get with that, because we have confidence in our cities and it is no wonder that the cities are losing confidence in their representation from the Labour party.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the funding that we have provided. I made it clear in my statement that we have gone further than was originally proposed. We made it clear that only £1 billion of the £2 billion figure was competitively available, but we have gone further by allocating £6 billion because the scheme was oversubscribed by 3.5:1, which means that the quality of the proposals was so high that we thought it would be ridiculous to say, “Come back in a year’s time.” Why not give investors confidence to get on with projects now so that they can create jobs around the country?

It is worth saying that this is not just Government investment. For every £1 of Government investment there will be at least £2 of local investment as a result. The hon. Gentleman asked about Lord Heseltine’s view on the scheme. I was with Lord Heseltine this morning, and he has travelled with me around almost every one of the 39 local enterprise partnerships to negotiate the deals. He expresses himself to be “thrilled” with the ambition that we have set through the programme, which exceeds what he thought possible. He is delighted with the programme.

I have thought about the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that we should go further. Of course we should go further, and the Chancellor has committed at least £2 billion a year, but at no point during the 13 years of the previous Government was any of this suggested. It is important that such things should be rigorously funded. I read the Adonis report, and the small print states that 100% of business rates should be devolved to the cities. Under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, half of business rates are now given to local authorities, which again did not happen during 13 years under Labour. Of course, £11 billion goes to the Treasury, so how will that £11 billion be found? Is there a black hole? In fact, the small print of the Adonis report states:

“This should be revenue neutral to the Exchequer through offsetting reductions in government grants”

to councils. In other words, it is a swizz: £11 billion of grant cuts to councils to pay for the headline with which he came up.

The difference between the Government and the Opposition is that we act on our ambitions by taking money from central Government to invest in local government, rather than the other way around.

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on this extraordinarily ambitious announcement, which will command support across the whole country. I understand that not every constituency in the land will benefit from that ambition, so may I bring the leader of Mid Sussex district council and his economic development team to tell the Minister about an absolute belter of an idea that we have for the next round?

I am always delighted to meet my right hon. Friend and his council leaders, whom I have met previously. The great advantage of my announcement today that we are immediately reopening negotiations for the next set of projects to build on the momentum is that that meeting will be very timely indeed.

May I press the Minister? As co-chair of the Yorkshire group of MPs, I recently saw Lord Heseltine, and he did not look that excited to me about the Government’s policy. Is it not the truth that we have had four pretty barren years? I do not deny that there is some good stuff in the programme, but the fact of the matter is that we still have central direction: some £80 billion will be spent on High Speed 2, with no give or take on the local referendums that some of us would like to see on that expenditure. Could there not be more money for university partnerships with local enterprise partnerships and local business?

I am not surprised that my friend Lord Heseltine was a bit downcast if he was meeting Labour Members, but he has cheered up since he has been in our company. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) should be cheered up that the chair of his local enterprise partnership said today that this is “a game-changing moment” for Leeds. We have worked tirelessly with businesses to play a leading role in the UK economy. His hon. Friend the Member for Corby referred to the Leeds city deal, and when he reads the documents that I sent to every Member he will see that a £1 billion transport fund is now available for the Leeds city region to invest in its own priorities for transport projects across the region. I was talking to Keith Wakefield, the leader of Leeds city council, last Thursday, and the deal exceeded even his expectations for what could be achieved. He is happy, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will be happy, too.

Order. I wonder whether we could make slightly faster progress, because many Members wish to speak and this statement will run to about a quarter to 6 in order to make room for today’s business. Short questions and short answers would be very helpful.

What is in this announcement for Dorset, and will the Minister answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) about how much money we could get if we abandoned HS2? If we did so, we would have a lot more money for these schemes.

I will not be tempted to go in that direction, because I think that HS2 is very important for further boosting our regional economy. Dorset does very well from the scheme. As my hon. Friend will know, the package of improvements for unlocking transport around Bournemouth airport is very important, and the port of Poole is receiving a lot of investment. There has been particular investment in skills in Dorset to ensure that its growing businesses can attract the people they need to meet the demands of their growing order books.

The North East local enterprise partnership has said that it needs to create 60,000 new jobs by 2025 and that today’s announcement will create 4,000 by 2021. Where will the other 56,000 new jobs come from?

The reason we are devolving powers in this way, and the reason the deal with the north-east has received such enthusiastic support, is that the best people to make these decisions, and the people who know about an area’s skills requirements and transport investment, are those who live and work there. I commend to the right hon. Gentleman, who I know takes an interest in these matters, the fact that one of our agreements is to improve the standard of secondary education across the north-east—to do what has been done in London by transforming the prospects of every young person. As someone who grew up in the north-east, I think that will be of immense value not just for young people, but for employers.

I welcome the fact that both coalition parties are determined to raise standards in the north-east, but will that not also require a change of attitude by some Labour council leaders, such as those in Northumberland who are withdrawing support for travel for those young people seeking to improve their skills, even though they have to travel a long way to get to a further education college?

It is true that one of the hallmarks of a successful local economy is people putting aside their differences and working together. One feature of the growth deals that have been negotiated is the remarkable ability of people who previously did not get on to put their differences aside and work together locally. I hope that will be the case in the north-east.

Some exciting stuff is being bid for in Bristol, such as robotics and the use of composites in marine technology, as well as much-needed investment in public transport, but may I ask the Minister about flexibility? When money has previously been offered by local government, local people have been told that there is no scope for negotiation and that all the money will simply be taken away if they object to the proposed schemes.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right; she gives an accurate description of what happened under the previous Labour Government. One of the differences we are making is giving the flexibility to allow good and capable local enterprise partnerships to set their own priorities, so if an important economic opportunity arises, they should be able to change things around. That will be available to Bristol, as it will to other places across the country.

I enthusiastically welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement, particularly the support for the transformation of the Food and Environment Research Agency in Sand Hutton. For that transformation to succeed, smooth and safe access to the A64 will be imperative. What does he understand by the term “shovel-ready projects” that qualify before the highways authority will allocate any of that money to road improvements?

The hon. Member for Corby asked me about that. It is prudent that money should be spent on projects that are available to have that investment; otherwise we are tying up money that could be used elsewhere. A project needs to be deliverable in 2015-16 if that is what the funding is for. The great advantage of announcing a pipeline of future schemes is that if they are not quite ready yet, they will be able to have the green light shone so that they can go forward in future.

There are some excellent projects in the Birmingham and Solihull area in today’s announcement, not least the long-awaited Longbridge connectivity package in my area. Will the Minister join me in saying thank you to Labour-run Birmingham city council and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP for working with the Longbridge connectivity group to make this happen, in contrast with the rather disengaged attitude of the former Conservative city council administration? Does that indicate to him that where local partnerships work, the Government should be more ambitious in devolving power? Is not that the real message of the Adonis report?

The attitude behind the hon. Gentleman’s question is not the attitude that has caused the success of the Birmingham and Solihull deal. People have not been partisan or parochial; they have worked together and not sought to jockey for political advantage. That is the right approach to take.

I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement, in which he confirms the Government’s commitment to the north of England. I particularly welcome the investment at the CATCH—Centre for the Assessment of Technical Competence—training facility at Stallingborough in my constituency. That is a partnership between the public and private sectors. Does he agree that those types of partnerships are the way forward if we are to develop the skills that northern Lincolnshire and the Humber area need in the modern economy?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He is a doughty campaigner for his constituency, and I have visited him and his colleagues on the Humber many times. He is one of the people who have been instrumental in forging a consensus between the north bank and the south bank of the Humber. Now that that consensus exists, the Humber is motoring; we can see the progress and momentum behind the economy there. He has played his part in that, and I congratulate him on it.

The Minister is a South Bank lad, so he should have some understanding of the challenges faced in the Tees valley. His statement tells of helping to create 1,000 jobs by 2021—in other words, 1,000 jobs in seven years. That is less than 20% of the total number of unemployed people in Stockton, one of five boroughs in the Tees valley. Why has he not come up with something more substantial from the Government in terms of investment for his former community?

The jobs figures that the hon. Gentleman cites are for the first year’s investment only. We have taken a conservative view. The Government do not create jobs directly; it is up to businesses to create jobs. The business community in the Tees valley, very ably led by Sandy Anderson, have come forward with a set of proposals that they believe will propel the Tees valley forward, and we have been able to say yes to them.

Does the Minister agree that Government investment in infrastructure projects such as Tipner, and in marine manufacturing and status projects such as Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s cup challenge, is transforming Portsmouth into the maritime heart of the UK, and that the next focus must be a new life and a new order book for Portsmouth’s shipyard?

I commend my hon. Friend, who has been an absolutely indefatigable campaigner for Portsmouth. That resulted in the Portsmouth city deal, which, as she has rightly said, involved the release of Ministry of Defence land that was not being used to make it available for the marine engineering businesses whose future is very bright across the south coast, and particularly in Portsmouth.

The devolution of finance must not only be seen to be accountable but actually be accountable. What discussions has the Minister’s Department had about the appointment of Paul Woolston, the chair of the North East LEP, who has now been appointed to Middleton Enterprises, a company run by Jeremy Middleton, a well-known Conservative who is also on the LEP investment board? We also learned last week that the chief executive is now working for a Middleton company. Have the Minister or his Department had any discussions about this?

Of course, I meet the local enterprise partnerships—all of them—regularly to discuss the kinds of deals we are announcing. The hon. Gentleman will know that the local authority leaders work very closely together—in fact, his own local authority leader, Simon Henig, is the chair of the combined authority—and that they are democratically elected, and I know that they make sure that taxpayers’ money is wisely spent.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend, both politically and personally, on his commitment to delivering a further significant tranche of devolution? Does he agree that, in order to see this through, it is very important not only that local authorities abandon the tribalism in evidence on the Opposition Benches, but that they make maximum entrepreneurial use of the other important devolutionary power we gave them—the power of general competence in the Localism Act 2011, which will complement this tranche of measures?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He has personal responsibility for that power, since he, with me, piloted the Localism Bill through Committee. The power is available to local authorities and I hope they will take it up.

May I first respond to the Minister’s more partisan points before I move on to the less partisan point? People in Manchester will judge his Government on all their policies, including local government cuts 10 times those of other, more prosperous areas and the welfare reform agenda that is hitting my constituents the hardest. On the less partisan point, which is what I had hoped the statement would be about, given the reports by Michael Heseltine and Lord Adonis and today’s statement by Sir Richard Leese, we now really have cross-party consensus for dramatic decentralisation, and I hope the Minister will ensure that it goes further and faster over the coming months.

I had also hoped that this statement would be less partisan, but that was not entirely evident from the earlier exchanges. Greater Manchester has been doing very well in recent years. If we look at the cross-party leadership of Greater Manchester, including Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour leaders, we will see that they get on well together in the interests of Greater Manchester. The hon. Lady should take a leaf out of their book.

I congratulate the Government, because this is a really important step towards devolution and local decision making. I particularly welcome the contribution to Dorset, which will enable it to build on its already great strengths with its mixed economy. Should any partnerships anywhere in the country run into obstacles in making proposed investments in a timely fashion, will the Department be able to support them? I want to see action, not just words.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I am grateful for her kind words. That is one of the reasons we have established a pipeline so that, if there is a delay in any particular project, another will be ready to take its place and be implemented. Dorset has a huge contribution to make. I have mentioned some of the schemes. One of the very interesting and exciting ones for the visitor economy in Dorset will be a new visitor attraction called Jurassica, which will feature the great strengths of the Jurassic coast. It has been suggested that some exhibits might come from the Opposition Benches, but I am sure the fossils will be from Dorset.

Does the Minister agree that this modest but welcome proposal is certainly not a giant step towards rebalancing the British economy? Will he also confirm, as I think he was angling towards doing in an earlier response, that there is in fact no new money involved in today’s proposal? I think that the focus on affordable housing in London is correct, but could not the Government have done more about the borrowing powers of local authorities, to really get affordable housing going in London, where it is much needed?

If the hon. Gentleman reads the small print, he will see that that is part of the announcement. I do not agree with his assessment. He should talk to the leader of Leeds council, who has said:

“This deal spells the beginning of a fundamental shift in the relationship between Whitehall and the regions. It marks the first steps of a new era which will allow the north”—

he is from Leeds—

“to truly control its own destiny.”

Such endorsements show that this is a pretty significant set of changes.

I was delighted to welcome my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary to Gatwick this morning, where the Coast to Capital LEP bid of £202 million was announced. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that future growth deals will continue to benefit the county areas, as well as our great cities?

They certainly will. It is very important that our cities should prosper and succeed, but we have huge strengths in our counties and districts, which is why I am particularly pleased that we could extend city deals to all parts of England through what we have agreed in the programme today.

In Chesterfield, we are grateful that the Minister has approved two of the proposals brought forward by our local enterprise partnership. Does he not recognise, however, that real devolution is not about the Minister sitting in Whitehall and saying which proposals he agrees with? It is about devolving the funds and letting the responsibility lie with local authorities, precisely as Lord Adonis has proposed. Will the Minister acknowledge at the Dispatch Box that what he is proposing is a third of the size of the devolution proposed by Lord Adonis and does not put responsibility and powers truly in the hands of local authorities? Why does the Minister not follow Lord Adonis’s recommendations?

No, the hon. Gentleman is not right. He is right that Chesterfield will have substantial investment in skills, which will be very important for his constituents, but he is wrong to say that there will no flexibilities. It will be open to the local enterprise partnership to bring forward projects, as it has done—it made those proposals—and to vary them if it thinks that that is in the local interest.

May I tell my right hon. Friend that the people of Wolverhampton are very heartened by this news, particularly as people have tried to talk down the city in the past? In that vein, will he elaborate on the Wolverhampton interchange, which will help private enterprise and connectivity in the 21st century?

My hon. Friend has been campaigning for improvements to the Wolverhampton interchange for all the time he has been in the House, and it is a great day for him to succeed in that campaigning. The interchange is supported by businesses locally, and it will mean big advantages not just for Wolverhampton but for the whole of the region because of the connections that will be made—for example, from Wolverhampton to the new HS2 station.

It is fantastic and so unusual to have an opportunity to heap praise on the Minister, but with the general election 303 days away, how much of the £350 million will Greater Birmingham see before the election, and when might we expect our first down payment on Selly Oak’s life sciences park?

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words—it might strike a different tone if he took his place on the Front Bench. There will be a cheque for £63 million of the funding for Greater Birmingham and Solihull at the beginning of the next financial year, but all the rest will be committed. I am sure he would be delighted to come to the contract signing ceremony; it will be written down, just in case people do not trust us.

This afternoon, I was with the Secretary of State for Transport in Fylde, where we announced the Lytham St Annes to M55 link road. Will the Minister assure the people of Fylde, who are very excited about this announcement, that this shovel-ready project will indeed get under way in 2015-16, as planned?

The process of devolution to Greater Manchester was of course started in 2008 under a Labour Government, but I certainly welcome today’s announcement, including the funds for Tameside college, which serves my constituency. If the Minister has any unallocated funds, may I beg him to look again at the small town centre initiative as part of the Greater Manchester package? That package includes a shovel-ready scheme for the Denton link road that would provide important access to the Oldham Batteries employment site, which has lain derelict for 10 years, but is an important piece of our regeneration jigsaw.

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was the last Labour Member standing, while there are still plenty of Government Members standing. The great advantage of the arrangements is that he can take his case to Greater Manchester. It should no longer require a Minister to agree to a local project; as a result of this deal, the people who now have the budgets to implement such things are those in the Greater Manchester authority.

Like our city deal, Oxfordshire’s growth deal is great news for local people: it will deliver more jobs and more housing; it will close the skills gap by delivering vital skills opportunities; and it will take us a big step closer to delivering flood protection. I do not want to seem ungrateful, but will the Minister also consider vital A34 improvements at every future opportunity, because they are essential to our long-term local economic plan?

My hon. Friend is nothing if not tenacious. She has had a city deal, she has had a growth deal and now she wants another one. I have said that we will reopen negotiations, and it sounds as though Oxfordshire will be first in the queue.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend because he has truly reached parts of England that the last Labour Government failed to reach. The commitment of hundreds of millions of pounds to Cornwall today is really welcome, but does he agree that the power shift from Whitehall to Cornwall is equally vital because it ensures that local decisions can be made for the benefit of our local economy?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She is a great champion of Cornwall. It is crazy to try to run a place as distinctive as Cornwall from Whitehall and Westminster. Quite apart from the investment that is being made, we are giving a big vote of confidence to Cornwall and its ability to run its own affairs. I am delighted to be doing that.

Roger Marsh, the chair of the local enterprise partnership that includes Kirklees, has said:

“This is a game-changing moment for the Leeds City Region.”

Does the Minister agree that, with the £1 billion of investment for the West Yorkshire Plus transport fund, the expansion of the skilled work force, business grants for growth and two days of the grandest of Grands Départs in Yorkshire, this really has been a momentous weekend for Yorkshire?

It has been a fantastic weekend for Yorkshire. This is a Grand Départ of our own: we are setting off in a very different direction from that which we inherited. For 100 years, power has been sucked away from places such as Yorkshire; we are sending it back.

My right hon. Friend is a worthy heir of Joseph Chamberlain. In Norfolk and Suffolk, we are thrilled by the investment that is coming back to the region as a result of his announcement. Will he confirm that items of expenditure that are not on the current list but that are still on the wish lists of LEPs can be brought forward in a very short period?

I certainly can confirm that. I look forward to meeting the New Anglia local enterprise partnership to take those matters forward.

I thank the Minister for investing tens of millions of pounds in unlocking the economic potential of world-class Worcestershire, particularly through skills and transport improvements such as the Worcestershire Parkway station and the Southern link in Worcester. I give him particular thanks for the fact that the money is coming to Worcester rather than going to Wichita, as some Opposition Front Benchers have suggested.

It is indeed. One of the great advantages of travelling around the country negotiating these deals is that one has the chance to meet people in the places they represent. There is no substitute for having a bit of local knowledge.

I welcome the tremendous £45 million funding announcement for the Congleton link road. Congleton is an aspirational town and Ministers listened to the business case that was put forward by business leaders, East Cheshire chamber of commerce, the local authority, the LEP and elected representatives. Does that not prove that when there is effective joint working, we can really make a difference to the prosperity of the people we represent?

We certainly can. Cheshire is a vital part of the economy, particularly given its investment in science and the possibilities that that brings. It was good to be able to reinforce that through the deal that we negotiated.

One of the biggest constraints on the economic growth of Worcestershire is the inadequacy of its rail links. I therefore thank the Minister warmly for his announcement of funding for the new Worcestershire Parkway station, which enables me to declare victory in the 25-year campaign to get that vital station built.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I am just sorry that he will not be able to use it for his commute to this place. However, it will be a good monument to his campaigning over the years.

The unforgettable amazing two days in which the Tour de France went through Yorkshire showed what can be delivered by Welcome to Yorkshire, the local councils, the local businesses and the local people if they are allowed to get on with it. This announcement is great news for the Leeds city region, but will the Minister confirm that it will allow us to make the decisions that he knows we need to make with regard to transport, including a link to Leeds Bradford international airport and getting something better than the trolleybus?

My hon. Friend is right to say that with £1 billion of investment available, it is up to Leeds, through the combined authority and the local enterprise partnership, to make those choices in a way that it could not before.

As the shadow Minister will know, in north Northamptonshire unemployment has come down by more than a third in the past 12 months, and £50 million private investment has just been made in Rushden Lakes. Today the Government have made announcements about Stanton Cross, the Tresham institute and the Isham bypass. Next time will the Minister ensure that his statement is known about more widely in advance so that more Labour MPs can turn up? I have counted four Labour Back Benchers, whereas the Government Benches are packed.

It is very disappointing; I sometimes feel that Opposition Members do not want to hear good news, whether it is about the national economy or local economies. We have Deputy Prime Minister’s questions tomorrow so they have another chance to come, and I press them to do so.

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement of the commitment to fund Porton science park. This welcome measure will breathe life into the life sciences sector in Wiltshire. Does he recognise that it will be extremely helpful in securing additional funding from the European structural investment fund so that Wiltshire can secure further development of this vital project?

My hon. Friend is right. One of the other decisions we have taken is to align European funds with local enterprise partnerships, so that this kind of joint investment, which makes administrative and economic sense, can take place.

In what has become an intense competition to welcome the Minister’s announcement most warmly, may I make a bid on behalf of Gloucestershire—I think I am the only Member from the county here—to welcome the Gloucestershire growth deal, which includes a real opportunity to generate more Gloucesterpreneurs and some great participation in nuclear and green projects too? My right hon. Friend will know that I particularly welcome the commitment to finance the last remaining slug of the new bus station, which is the transport hub of the county, as it will make a huge difference. Does he agree that the autumn statement and the Budget provide opportunities for further bids for such projects as the Blackfriars regeneration?

My hon. Friend is nothing if not tenacious. I enjoyed my visit to Gloucester with him a little while ago. There will be other opportunities, because negotiations will continue. I dare say that Gloucestershire will build on its success.

I warmly welcome the Minister’s statement, in particular on transport improvements on the A47 in north-east Peterborough and on the food manufacturing centre of excellence at Peterborough regional college. The imperative for this Government investment should be its impact on the labour market, so will the Minister give an undertaking to encourage LEPs to work collaboratively—for example, with the Department for Work and Pensions to have an impact on unemployment among young people, particularly those not in education, employment or training?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I would like to extend more broadly the next phase of negotiations and discussions, so that where local authorities and businesses can make a real difference to some of our intractable social problems they will be given the chance to show that they can do that.

I welcome the black country local growth deal announced today, particularly the new advanced science and technology centre at Halesowen college, which will allow us to upskill local people in the black country to get the jobs that are available. Does the Minister agree that this type of initiative is crucial to areas such as the black country, where we need to increase skills and generate growth?

I certainly do agree with my hon. Friend. “Made in the black country” is a brand that is proudly marketed around the world, and people have confidence in the quality that that implies, but it is important that the next generation of people in the area are trained in those skills so that that reputation for quality can continue. The investment will help with that.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his tireless work to deliver this huge local and regional boost to economies. I commend the additional investment in Reading and urge him to pursue a third Thames bridge and semi-fast Crossrail, both strongly supported by business, for the next round.

My hon. Friend is no slouch when it comes to local campaigning. He has been a hugely successful advocate for Reading, and I dare say that that will continue in the future.

Unemployment in my constituency has fallen consistently and now stands at 2%. That is good news and shows that businesses are investing, but we need good transport links to get people to work. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the announcement of the West Yorkshire Plus transport fund is a step change in the ability of local providers to get people moving around Yorkshire, particularly given the wonderful advert we had this weekend, which we have already heard about?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Everyone in Yorkshire agrees that the £1 billion fund will make a transformational difference to Yorkshire’s economic prospects.

I commend the Minister for his statement, particularly the news about the Croxley rail link, which will link Watford Junction station with the Metropolitan line. Will he write to the chief executive of Network Rail to ask him to prioritise the redevelopment of Watford Junction station, so that the whole of Watford has a 21st-century interchange?

That is the great advantage of these investments: investment in transport can have other consequences for regeneration. It is one of the big reasons why taking things out of Whitehall silos and making decisions in the round is so much more effective. I will certainly talk to my hon. Friend about that outside the Chamber.

I thank the Minister for the care he has taken over the detail of the bids, and particularly for backing the winner in respect of Lancaster university’s innovations park and the £17 million of real money coming to Lancashire to support it. I remind him that there was also a proposal to move junction 33 of the M6, which was also part and parcel of this growth bid.

The good news is that when the negotiations open, that proposal can be considered, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will want to persuade his area’s local enterprise partnership to put it forward.

I particularly welcome the £4 million for a construction skills centre at Whitehill in Bordon—a great investment in the future of the people of this town. Will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging more employers to look at the exciting opportunities in the area?

I will. One of the striking features of this growth deal is how many local employers are committing their own time and enthusiasm to working to ensure that people have the skills that they will want to employ in the years to come. That is good for everyone locally.

Today’s announcement is a crucial boost to Swindon’s economic regeneration. Does the Minister agree that the process rewards forward-thinking areas that develop shovel-ready plans for growth?

I do indeed. Swindon is the definition of forward thinking, and it is ably represented by both my hon. Friend and our hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) with whom he works so closely.

Order. I am sorry to disappoint the remaining Members who wanted to speak. I hope they will be more fortunate in catching the Speaker’s eye next time. I am sure that the Minister will be grateful to receive letters of congratulation. We really must move on to other business now.