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Devolution of Power (Cities)

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 6 January 2015

Cities and their surrounding counties and districts prosper together, which is why I am delighted that the Plymouth city deal, signed last year, also includes businesses and councils in Devon and Cornwall. By opening up South Yard in Devonport to create a commercial marine engineering centre, high-quality jobs will be created not only in Plymouth, but across the south-west.

I thank my right hon. Friend for coming down to Plymouth to sign our city deal this time last year. Plans for a maritime industrial campus are at a good stage, and we would very much welcome his coming down to have a look at them. To give an extra boost to that city deal proposal, I urge him also to speak with the Treasury about ensuring that we have an enterprise zone in that part of the dockyard.

I am keen to see South Yard be a success—I am certain that it will be. Many of the advantages of an enterprise zone are already available to councils, through simplified planning rules and discounts on business rates, but I will of course study my hon. Friend’s proposal in detail.

It is quite obvious how to devolve more powers to large metropolitan areas, but how do we deal with towns, such as Telford, that sit outside large metropolitan areas? Would it not be better to throw the issues about broader devolution right across England into a constitutional convention?

It would not, because that would delay the progress we have made. With regard to the hon. Gentleman’s part of the world, if we go to local people and ask them to work together with their neighbours, right across the country we are seeing that they are able and willing to do precisely that. All the deals that have been struck have been proposed locally and are having a big impact on local economies, including in Telford.

Given that the voters of Bury, when asked in a referendum, made it quite clear that they were against the idea of having an elected mayor, and given that across Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities there are already 645 elected councillors, if 645 elected councillors cannot solve the problems of Greater Manchester, what makes my right hon. Friend think that 646 elected officials will make any difference?

The proposal was agreed unanimously by all the councils in Greater Manchester. It is important to be clear that the mayor is taking powers that were previously exercised from Whitehall, so this is not about taking powers away from any of those authorities; it is about transferring to a successful city—that is what Greater Manchester indubitably is—the ability to advance its prospects even further.