4. What recent discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues on the Government's policy on devolution and decentralisation. (904711)
I have had fruitful discussions with ministerial colleagues on the devolution of powers and funds to our cities, towns and counties, resulting in 39 growth deals, which I announced yesterday as part of our long-term economic plan. I am delighted that Blackpool features so strongly in the Lancashire growth deal, which takes £233 million from Whitehall and puts it into the hands of the business, civic, university and college leaders of Lancashire.
I welcome the £233 million that was announced yesterday, and I was pleased to be in Blackpool to do so. Will the Minister confirm that this is the beginning and not the end, not merely because I have a lengthy shopping list for my constituency but because we want all our great northern cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds—and maybe even Sheffield—to form a real economic powerhouse to rival London?
My hon. Friend is right, and there is no greater champion of the north-west and Blackpool than he. I can confirm that such has been the success of the growth deals—three and a half times oversubscribed, with projects that bring in a lot of private sector funding—that we will proceed immediately to negotiate further such deals, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will talk to the authorities in Blackpool to further their case.
In his discussions, is the Minister reconsidering whether it would be wiser to have strategic, directly elected mayors in some of our regions so that we do not just give them the money, but have democratic accountability for areas greater than the current boundaries?
The hon. Lady and I share an enthusiasm for directly elected mayors. If we look around the world and at the example of London, and now Liverpool and Bristol, we see that it makes a difference to have someone with a mandate who can speak for the whole city. That is not the current Government’s policy, but various members of the Government have made statements in recent days that might form part of a future Government’s plans.
7. Is the Minister aware that the devolving of power, which has led to funding the smarter routes to employment project, the Woodside link road and the Leighton-Linslade engineering construction skills centre in my constituency, very much reflects the local priorities to improve skills, create more jobs and spread prosperity as widely as possible? (904714)
I agree with my hon. Friend. He elucidates the principle of the deals. It makes no sense for people in Whitehall to claim to know what is needed in a very local sense across the country. It is far better to give local people and local businesses the opportunity to make those decisions and to bring in private investment. You get a bigger bang for your buck that way.
Will the Minister explain why there was no representative from Liverpool there when the Deputy Prime Minister announced the Northern Futures board on Friday? Will he or the Deputy Prime Minister work with local MPs to ensure that Liverpool’s voice is not lost?
There has been no shortage of ministerial visits to Liverpool in recent days. I pay tribute to the mayor and the authorities across the north-west for the international festival of business in Liverpool, which has been a huge success and drawn people from around the world. We were delighted in the Liverpool growth deal to confirm that the second such festival will take place in two years.