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Volume 666: debated on Thursday 17 October 2019

6. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the economic merits of freeports. (900007)

I am working closely, as are my colleagues across Government, to make sure that the freeport policy will be successful, and will help bring regeneration, jobs, opportunity and prosperity to every part of this United Kingdom.

Given Aberdeen’s new harbour expansion, which is supported in part by UK Government investment, and a growing cluster of subsea businesses near Aberdeen International airport, does my hon. Friend agree that freeport status for Aberdeen could help to turbocharge the engine room of the Scottish economy?

My hon. Friend is correct in his assertion that freeports have the potential to drive growth in towns and cities across the UK, enabling them to make the most of Brexit opportunities. We are working hard to design a model that delivers optimal benefit for the UK and specific locations. Where appropriate, we will work with the devolved Administrations on this matter, but it would be helpful if the SNP showed more enthusiasm for something that could make a big difference.

Does my hon. Friend agree that freeports could hugely benefit and provide great opportunities for the south-west regional economy? What plans will he put in place to ensure that local communities around freeports benefit economically?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend—no one in the House works harder to promote their area than him. Freeports offer an opportunity to unleash enterprise. We want to set forth all the principles and wealth creation that the Labour party stands against, and to allow my hon. Friend’s constituents, and the communities he represents, to prosper and grow through free enterprise, and we will carry on doing that.

The Prime Minister has suggested that there would be about six freeports. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact that that would have on ports that are not chosen to be freeports?

The hon. Lady makes a serious and important point. We are working hard and closely with our Treasury colleagues and others to ensure that we design the policy in the right way so that we minimise displacement and bring in additional activity and prosperity. We do not expect, and we will not design, a system that will damage those ports that do not become freeports.