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Industrial Strategy (Rural Areas)

Volume 628: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2017

Some of the biggest economic opportunities are in the rural parts of the United Kingdom, and I welcome the contribution of many rural representative groups to the development of our industrial strategy, including several organisations in Ayrshire.

Ayrshire has enormous industrial potential, including as a possible site for the medical manufacturing innovation centre and, of course, for the UK’s first spaceport, but for it to succeed and for local people to benefit and access those jobs we require wider infrastructure development. Ayrshire is not covered by a city deal, so will the Secretary of State speak to the Chancellor and back a full Ayrshire growth deal?

The hon. Lady knows that I have great enthusiasm for a deal in Ayrshire, and conversations around that are ongoing. I am sure that she will welcome the progress being made on the spaceport, which is important for Prestwick, and the £3.5 million support for the Halo project at the old Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock. A lot is being done in Ayrshire, but I would like that progress to continue.

Has the Secretary of State considered rural enterprise zones? Small, targeted areas within small rural communities would help to drive business in those environments.

My hon. Friend makes an excellent suggestion. There are particular opportunities for start-ups and smaller businesses to locate in rural areas, where premises may be more available than in towns. Clustering them together so that they can support each other is an excellent suggestion and I will take it forward.