A strong midlands engine is vital to Britain’s economy. We have provided the midlands with £1.9 billion of local growth funding, and in March we launched the midlands engine strategy to drive economic growth and improve quality of life.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that a clear focus of the midlands engine should be improving east-west connectivity—specifically, in relation to my constituency, a direct rail link to East Midlands airport and the new east midlands gateway?
I agree with my hon. Friend that transport links are critical to the success of the midlands engine. Midlands Connect predicts that improving connectivity across the midlands can secure a £1 billion-a-year boost to the regional economy and create some 300,000 jobs. The recently commissioned east midlands gateway connectivity study will consider carefully how to achieve this, and it will be looking at the East Midlands airport.
The Secretary of State has just said that transport links are essential if the midlands engine is to drive the economic growth we all want. Will he explain, therefore, why his colleagues will not allow the full electrification of the midland main line?
The hon. Gentleman will know that under this Government, since 2010, this country has seen record investment in transport infrastructure, including in the midlands. That includes the recent announcement about the help the Government will provide in creating the midlands rail hub concept.
From Tetney Lock to Chapel St Leonards, the coastline in my constituency is among the most beautiful in the midlands—and, dare I say it, in the country. Does my right hon. Friend share my hope, therefore, that the midlands engine will travel as far as the Lincolnshire coastline to invest in the vital infrastructure we need in our rural and coastal economies there?
I agree with my hon. Friend on many fronts, including how beautiful her constituency is, and the midlands engine does indeed travel that far. She is right to raise the particular challenges faced by our coastal communities, which is why we are launching a fifth round of our coastal communities fund early next year. I urge her to get her application in.
The midlands engine sits as a sister organisation to the northern powerhouse. In the light of the comments earlier, would the Secretary of State be willing to meet Yorkshire and the Humber MPs to discuss the future of devolution in the area, in order to drive economic growth in the region?
I recently received a request to meet Yorkshire and the Humber MPs and local council leaders. I have accepted that request and look forward to the meeting.