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Midlands Engine

Volume 612: debated on Tuesday 28 June 2016

I continue to promote the midlands engine, which could add an extra £34 billion to the local economy by 2030 and create 300,000 new jobs. I am pleased that Sir John Peace has been appointed chair of Midlands Connect to drive productivity and growth across the whole of the midlands region.

Whether through energy providers, video games companies or manufacturers, Warwick and Leamington’s local economy is a great contributor to the region’s prosperity. What measures are being implemented to build on such successes and to transform the wider midlands engine from concept to reality?

I recall fondly visiting video games companies with my hon. Friend, who does a great deal to help local businesses, including by hosting a business forum last Friday. The midlands engine is already delivering. For example, we have a £5 million trade and investment package, £60 million for research, and a £5 million award for Midlands Connect. I am determined to do more.

The result of last week’s referendum shows that there is deep discontent in many of our market towns and coastal areas, where people feel left out and left behind because they have not seen the benefits of economic growth. What steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure that the devolution agenda increases jobs, skills and infrastructure investment in some of these peripheral economies, not just in our great metropolitan cities?

The hon. Lady will know that, since 2010, we have seen considerable growth in every single region of the UK, including in the midlands. With our focus on the midlands engine, we want to see even more. She is right to highlight the importance of devolution. In my Department, for example, the devolution of skills will make a big difference.

One of the best ways of bringing in new industries and new jobs to replace the ones that we have lost in the west midlands over the past few decades would be to back Dudley’s exciting plans for an institute of technology, building on the brilliant work that is going on at Dudley Advance. Earlier this year, we were delighted to welcome a visit by the Minister for Skills, and I think that he was very impressed with what was going on. Will the Secretary of State meet a delegation from Dudley to hear about these plans and to discuss them with us in detail?

7. Before the events of last week, I was delighted to hear that my constituent, Sir John Peace, was appointed head of the midlands engine project. Sir John is the founder of Experian, one of the midlands’ key financial service companies, and the chairman of Burberry. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that it is exactly people like Sir John who will be in his thoughts and working with the Department over the summer to ensure that the midlands economy is prepared for Brexit over the next few weeks and months? (905539)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and makes a very powerful point. The midlands is doing well, but it can do better. Trade and investment will be key. I plan to lead the first midlands-only trade mission abroad—to north America in this case—in September, and I would be honoured if companies from his constituency joined me.