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Northern Powerhouse

Volume 604: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2016

7. What recent assessment he has made of the economic effect on north Wales of the northern powerhouse; and if he will make a statement. (902945)

10. What recent assessment he has made of the economic benefit to north Wales of the northern powerhouse. (902948)

The northern powerhouse, which stretches from north Wales to Newcastle, is reviving the economic and civic strength of our great northern cities. It is central to our vision for rebalancing the economy, and north Wales is already benefiting from large-scale infrastructure investments.

Given the proximity of north Wales to the newly established Cheshire science corridor, the positive impact of infrastructure investment—including High Speed 2—and the 871 square miles of opportunity nearby in Cheshire and Warrington, does my hon. Friend agree that north Wales stands to benefit strongly from the northern powerhouse that is being taken forward by this Conservative Government?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. North-east Wales and north-west England form one single economic entity, and businesses in north Wales see the opportunity that the northern powerhouse can bring. When the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), and I met businesses last year in north Wales, they were keen to be a central part of that, and, as my hon. Friend said, HS2 offers great opportunities.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the £10.4 million investment in the reopening of the Halton curve will provide a significant economic boost for north Wales, as well as for Cheshire and my constituency of Weaver Vale, not least because there is a direct link to Liverpool John Lennon airport?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work in securing that investment. He championed this project from the outset, and later this year the direct link from north Wales through Cheshire to Liverpool will be operational. That is a tangible demonstration of the northern powerhouse in action.

12. I, too, welcome the Halton curve and the direct link to Liverpool airport, but does the hon. Gentleman recognise that HS2 coming to Crewe is also important, not just for electrification and the link to north Wales, but to speed up contacts to Manchester airport from north Wales? (902950)

The right hon. Gentleman will be well aware of the rail transport summit that was held in north Wales last year. It talked about how we can best bring forward a bid to modernise the railway infrastructure across north Wales, and we look forward to that bid coming forward. Only last week I spoke to the chair of the north Wales economic ambition board to discuss the progress of that project.

When I have previously questioned my hon. Friend and his colleague about the potential benefits to north Wales of the northern powerhouse, I have been disappointed to be told of a total lack of engagement on the part of the Welsh Assembly Government. Will my hon. Friend say whether they have changed their stance and are now more plugged in to the process?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for championing the benefits of the northern powerhouse. What is clear is that business sees the benefits. Local authorities also see the benefits. We encourage the Welsh Government to engage positively, because business does not recognise the administrative boundaries between the two.

The Government’s so-called northern powerhouse will bring no benefit to north Wales unless we see the much-needed investment in infrastructure that the Government have so far failed to deliver. When the Chancellor visited Broughton in July, he promised he would look at rail electrification in north Wales. Six months later, has anything happened?

Yes, a considerable amount has happened in relation to investment in north Wales. I mentioned the summit that was held last year. We are keen to develop the signalling needed to improve the railway lines. The North Wales Economic Ambition Board is delighted with the support we are giving. We are keen to develop that even further.

Let us hope that the Government can get on a bit quicker with the electrification than they are on the Great Western main line. North Wales also needs better rail links to Manchester airport. Arriva Trains Wales has proposed a direct service from Llandudno to the airport. Will the Minister explain why, instead of investing in greater capacity on routes to Manchester airport, his colleagues at the Department for Transport have rejected Arriva’s plan, supposedly in favour of extra trans-Pennine services? If the Secretary of State’s place at the Cabinet table counts for anything, what is he going to do about that?

I do not recognise the premise of the hon. Lady’s question. Significant discussions are going on between the Department for Transport, the Welsh Government, rail operators and other partners about remapping and the franchises. We will happily take positive representations on that