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Economic Growth: Yorkshire

Volume 653: debated on Tuesday 29 January 2019

There are 200,000 more people in employment in Yorkshire and the Humber today than in 2010. Unemployment has fallen by over 45%, and it is currently the second fastest growing jobs market in the UK. Since 2010, nearly 70,000 more businesses have been created, and the region has seen growth of 21%.

In the light of figures produced by the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence, which suggest that growth in Yorkshire and the Humber has been less than 1% since 2010, whereas it has been over 3% in London, is it not time for Ministers to start talking seriously to the 18 Conservative and Labour local authority leaders who advocate One Yorkshire devolution, with transitional arrangements in South Yorkshire and elsewhere?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is reviewing the proposals of the One Yorkshire consortium. It is our priority—I think it is a reasonable one—that the Sheffield city region and its mayor is taken forward and that the mayor is able to fully perform his functions on behalf of the people who elected him a year ago. We have said that the purpose of devolution is to create a mayoralty around a functioning economic geography. It is not clear that that case has yet been made by an historic county of the scale of Yorkshire, but we will continue to consider the proposals.

One scheme that is vital in my constituency for promoting economic growth is the Shipley eastern bypass. The Secretary of State for Transport has visited twice and made it clear that he supports the scheme and would like to ensure that it is implemented. Will the Treasury ensure that he has the funding to make the Shipley eastern bypass a reality?

My hon. Friend and I have discussed the Shipley eastern bypass on several occasions. We have put a record amount of money into our strategic roads network. By hypothecating vehicle excise duty, the amount of money available for road spend in the second road investment strategy period will be almost 175% of the previous period, which is a substantial increase in investment in our roads.

The Centre for Cities report published yesterday shows that there is low productivity in York but also serious levels of underemployment. What are the Government doing to address underemployment and ensure that we get the maximum benefit for our economy?

Through our productivity plan, we are investing more in the skills base in all parts of the country, whether that be through apprenticeships, the national retraining scheme or raising standards in our schools. We are also investing more in our infrastructure. Over the last four years, there has been a 50% increase in public investment in infrastructure in Yorkshire and the Humber compared with the last four years of the Labour Government. The hon. Lady and I met recently to discuss her plans in York for the high street and improving the city centre, which we wish to support.

Does my hon. Friend agree that well-run city regions are the key drivers of productivity and prosperity and that Yorkshire’s economy is best served by devolution to the city regions of Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and York?

We are seeing mayors across the country driving their regions’ economic strategy, including great mayors like Ben Houchen in the Tees Valley and Andy Street in the West Midlands. We want to see more mayors, but we have to be mindful of the original purpose of devolution, which, as my hon. Friend said, is the role of cities and their immediate hinterland in driving productivity and economic growth.