Last week, we published the midlands engine strategy. It is further demonstration that this Government are committed to investing in the midlands, a region that has seen over 180,000 more people in employment since 2010.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Telford is seeing increasing inward investment from businesses in the automotive supply chain such as Polytec and Magna’s Cosma, bringing real jobs and growth to Telford. Does he agree that Telford, with its reputation for innovation and advanced manufacturing, is set to play a key role in the midlands engine strategy, and will he congratulate those businesses on helping to build a successful future for Telford?
I will indeed. My hon. Friend’s constituency, which includes Coalbrookdale, has a good claim to be the cradle of the first industrial revolution—[Interruption.] It is perhaps a disputed claim, but I think Abraham Darby, in 1709, was fairly early. However, now, Telford is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution, as my hon. Friend says. The T54 site is proving to be a very important location for automotive sector supply chain.
Does the Secretary of State agree that one pivotal thing that needs to be in an industrial strategy for the west midlands is closing the skills gap that has held back the west midlands for too long, so that areas such as the black country can continue to work to become leading specialists in things such as aerospace, automotive and advanced manufacturing, which are critical to the agenda of the Conservative candidate for west midlands Mayor, Andy Street?
I agree with my hon. Friend—he is absolutely right. The reputation of the black country is very strong. There is the phrase
“Made in the Black Country, Sold around the World”,
but to fulfil that we need good skills. Andy Street, being a person of great business experience, is the best person available to bring that business acumen to bringing more businesses to the whole of the west midlands.
In passing, may I say that it was the black country that was the birthplace of the industrial revolution, not Coalbrookdale? However, on transport spending, which is key to the industrial strategy for the west midlands, when does the Secretary of State expect to persuade his colleague the Secretary of State for Transport to spend as much per capita in the west midlands as in London?
The hon. Gentleman, who is an assiduous reader of these things, will see that, in the industrial strategy, we propose a commitment to upgrade infrastructure right across the country. I hope he will respond to that so that when we have the Budget later in the year, we will be in a position to make further such announcements.
The self-employed have an important role to play. One trend that colleagues on both sides of the House will know of is that the development of supply chains is one of the key sources of innovation in many industries. Within that, start-up businesses, including those run by the self-employed, can make a big contribution to making us attractive for jobs and new businesses.