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Civil Service: Location of Jobs

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 25 March 2021

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, naturally, my heart is always in the north-west of England. However, I am delighted that more civil service jobs will be moving to York. I am also delighted that other Departments have made their own announcements about the relocation of senior positions in our civil service, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announcing plans to create a second headquarters in Wolverhampton, the Treasury creating an economic campus in Darlington, alongside the Department for International Trade, and, of course, DIT has established trade and investment hubs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Cabinet Office has also announced that our second headquarters will be located in Glasgow, with 500 officials to be located there, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has established a joint headquarters in east Kilbride with 1,000 new roles relocating to Scotland.

First came the promise on the House of Lords, then it was the northern Government hub, then some Cabinet Office jobs, with hopes raised and then dashed in York—one of the worst hit economies from covid-19, yet one of the best connected northern cities, with a brownfield site adjacent to the station and full of people eager to serve. Will the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster set out the framework within which his Government determine which locations are recipients of central Government jobs, resources and projects across the piece, so that we can all understand whether transparency or cronyism is driving this Government? And exactly how many jobs will York get?

Transparency drives everything that the Government do—that and a commitment to levelling up and ensuring that our Union is stronger. That is why we are moving jobs to Glasgow, a beautiful city that, sadly, has not flourished as it might have done under the Scottish Government’s stewardship over the course of the last 14 years. It is also why we are moving jobs to York, the city that the hon. Lady so ably represents alongside my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy). We will be increasing the number of Cabinet Office jobs in York by 50% in the coming months, and it is not just the Cabinet Office; other Government jobs will be coming to York as well, because, as she rightly points out, its transport connectivity, its historical connections and its potential for brownfield renovation all make it a superb site for investment.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his earlier answer. Moving Government Departments to the provinces is a fantastic initiative, but I implore him not to forget the southern coast. We may be near to London, but we have deprivation and we need the benefit of civil service jobs in our area. I ask him to give us in Clacton serious consideration.

Thanks to my hon. Friend, I never give Clacton anything other than serious consideration. Clacton, Frinton and the communities that he so ably represents contain talented people who have a contribution to make, and of course we will do everything possible, not necessarily by relocating civil service departments to that part of Essex, but by ensuring that there are opportunities through apprenticeships and the civil service fast stream, to ensure that talented young people in Essex have an opportunity, like him, to serve.

The Minister may know that Hollywood has bought into Wrexham football club, and seeing as our American friends are investing in Wrexham, may I ask the Government to consider doing likewise? We already have the much welcome promise of office relocations to the north of England, so will he make such a commitment to north-east Wales? Will he consider Wrexham, the gateway to Snowdon, with its skilled workforce, business-minded council and easy transport links to Liverpool, Manchester and London, as a candidate for some levelling-up relocation?

My hon. Friend is a brilliant advocate for Wrexham, and an economic renaissance is taking place across north Wales from Dolgellau to Wrexham, ably assisted by the brilliant advocacy of new Conservative MPs such as my hon. Friend and her colleagues. The Government want to get behind that, not just by ensuring that our new levelling up fund can provide additional resources for local authorities and businesses in north Wales, but by ensuring that we can have senior decision makers relocated to north Wales—whether that is in Wrexham, Bangor, Prestatyn, Rhyl or other locations that are still to be decided. Of course, the case that she makes for Wrexham is a formidable one, and one that has been heard in the Cabinet Office and, indeed, in No. 10.

In the recent bidding process for freeports, the port of Immingham in my constituency came out top, scoring high in every category. May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that moving the civil servants who oversee the freeport operation to one of the Humber ports—preferably Immingham—would be a good move?

My hon. Friend makes an important case. Overall responsibility for freeports rests with Her Majesty’s Treasury, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made clear his commitment to ensuring that civil service and other decision-making jobs are relocated effectively across the UK, with the establishment of a second campus in Darlington in Teesside—something that has been done in partnership with the outstanding Mayor of the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen. Of course, there is a concentration of expertise in Humberside, both in north Lincolnshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire, not just in commerce but in renewables, and we will do everything we can to ensure that that expertise is supported by Government.