7. What assessment he has made of the effects in Lincolnshire of the Government’s policies on small businesses. (900636)
Between 2010 and 2014 the number of private sector businesses in the east midlands increased by 28,000. Last week it was an absolute pleasure to meet representatives from local enterprise partnerships right across the midlands, including from Lincolnshire. There was such enthusiasm to make the midlands the engine that we want it to be, replicating the northern powerhouse —[Interruption.] I am sorry that Opposition Members find that funny; I thought that they would have welcomed the northern powerhouse, as their Labour colleagues in those local authorities do. In any event, we know that small businesses are at the heart of our long-term economic plan.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. She will want to join me in welcoming the latest figures, which show that employment in the north-east, the north-west and the east midlands is growing faster than in London. Will she ensure that that record of seeing growth and prosperity outside London continues, reflecting this Government’s one nation approach?
I completely endorse my hon. and learned Friend’s sentiment and absolutely agree with him. Between 2010 and 2014, 58% of net new jobs were created outside London and the south-east, whereas between 2004 and 2010 the figure was only 37%. That is further evidence that our long-term economic plan is working.
I have listened carefully for the past half an hour to find out exactly what the Tory Government are trying to do about places in the east midlands such as Bolsover, which is very close to Lincolnshire, because when the Labour Government were in power, both myself and Gordon Brown, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, were the northern powerhouse. I asked him for 40 million quid to flatten the pit tips at Markham Vale, and he gave it me. Then I asked for some more money for an interchange straight up the M1 into Markham pit yard, and I got that as well. We were fixing the roof while the sun was shining. We don’t want none of this claptrap about the Tory northern powerhouse. [Interruption.]
I thought that we were about to call for a Division during that so-called question. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman what his real record is. The real record is one of the longest and deepest recessions in our country’s history. The real record is bringing this nation to the verge of bankruptcy. Instead of talking down the east midlands—and I am an east midlands person through and through—the hon. Gentleman should be talking it up, and rightly so. From my experience, we will see the creation of a midland engine that will give us the long-term growth and the jobs of the future that his party failed to deliver.
Considering the growth of business opportunities in our county and particularly in the city of Lincoln, will the Minister build on the recently announced £130 million investment in the University of Lincoln, a chief component of the midlands engine, and grant us enterprise zone status?
I am very happy to provide a triumph for Lincoln, given that it is the city of my birth. In any event, I am very happy to meet him to talk about the future of the university and the real role it can play. As I have said—forgive me for repeating it, Mr Speaker—I have met all the representatives of the LEPs from right across the midlands. Indeed, we talked about Lincoln University and the real desire to create a midlands engine, and rightly so.