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Northern Powerhouse

Volume 604: debated on Tuesday 19 January 2016

Our long-term plan is to turn around the decades-old economic divide between the north and south by building a northern powerhouse. We said we would create powerful new elected Mayors, and that is happening; we said we would speed up transport connections across the north, and we have committed £13 billion of investment; and for my hon. Friend’s Cumbria, there is a new enterprise zone, new air routes and nuclear research. The north is growing under this Government, and, with our plan, we will do everything we can to keep it growing strongly.

I, like many of my constituents, want Carlisle and Cumbria to be part of the northern powerhouse. This is partly about ensuring the private sector invests and grows and partly about skills and infrastructure, but then there is the proposed Cumbrian deal. Will the Chancellor assure me that everything is being done, from the Government’s perspective, to achieve this deal, and will an elected Mayor be part of it?

As my hon. Friend knows—he is a real champion not just of Carlisle, but of Cumbria and the Cumbrian economy—we are working with local authority leaders and other elected representatives on whether we can have a new governance arrangement in Cumbria, which might include an elected Mayor. This is a decision for Cumbria, of course, but it has come to us with this proposal, and we are working hard with the people of Cumbria to see whether we can get an arrangement that boosts jobs, boosts investment and makes sure that decisions that affect Cumbria are taken in Cumbria.

Does the northern powerhouse occur in Redcar where the steel industry has been closed because of the Chancellor allowing the Chinese to dump steel? Are they talking about the northern powerhouse at Scunthorpe, where they have lost more than a thousand jobs? Are they talking about it at Port Talbot, where they are going to lose a lot more jobs? The truth is that they do not talk about the northern powerhouse in the coalfields where the Tories have shut the last three pits. They call it the northern poorhouse. That is its real name.

The hon. Gentleman seems to forget that the Redcar works first closed under the Labour Government that he supported. It is also the case that during that Government, which he supported from the Government Benches, the number of steel jobs lost in this country was 30,000. We are doing everything we can to preserve the steel jobs that remain. We are working with the steel industry. We have acceded to almost all its requests, and we are looking at the last remaining one, which is changes to business rates—again, something that never happened under a Labour Government. We will report on that at the Budget. We are working to make this the competitive place to do business, and if we adopted the policies of the Opposition, where dividends are not paid to investors and flying pickets are reintroduced, do they really think that a single overseas investor, such as Tata Steel, would be expanding their business in the United Kingdom?