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Civil Service Jobs Outside London

Volume 696: debated on Thursday 27 May 2021

What assessment he has made of the east midlands and Leicestershire as a potential location to help deliver the Places for Growth programme. (900579)

The Government are committed to the relocation of 22,000 roles from London to every part of the United Kingdom by the end of this decade. It is all part of our Places for Growth initiative, and it will ensure that the civil service is more representative of the communities it serves, bringing more diversity of thought into policy making. The Cabinet Office has recently announced that our second headquarters will be located in Glasgow, and a number of other Departments have announced their plans to increase their presence across the UK. Just last week, the Home Office announced that there will be 500 new jobs in Stoke-on-Trent, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced that 865 roles are relocating to six locations across the UK, including Darlington.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that I have been fighting for the decentralisation of the civil service to the north, particularly to my constituency of Rother Valley, and the Leader of the House responded to me positively on this only last week. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the civil service jobs relocating to northern areas will be high-quality, high-powered roles, rather than simply backroom processing positions, which I fear would be a purely cosmetic change and would not constitute a real shift in power to the north? Can I invite him to come to Rother Valley to discuss those opportunities and all new job opportunities in Rother Valley?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and it is absolutely critical that the jobs relocated include those in the senior civil service responsible for decision making. Not only do areas such as South Yorkshire and his constituency provide a very high quality of life for individuals, but it is important that the talent there is deployed at the very heart of decision making. I hope to be able to visit Rother Valley to see my hon. Friend and others in his constituency next month. [Interruption.]

This Government’s levelling-up agenda will transform our nation, but does my right hon. Friend agree that we cannot deliver this agenda unless we level up both cities and rural areas such as Rutland and Melton? Can I invite him and his officials to visit the rural capital of food, Melton Mowbray, to see why nowhere in the country makes a more compelling offer for a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs office and the transformative Places for Growth programme than Melton, and why this will show the Government’s commitment to the east midlands and to rural areas?

Rutland and Melton could not wish for a more effective advocate than my hon. Friend. She talked to my colleague Lord Agnew and me in the Cabinet Office just last week to press the case for a relocation of jobs to Melton. It has a superb agricultural college, is at the heart of our food-producing countryside, produces superb products and also has many of the facilities, logistical and otherwise, that would recommend it to Government Departments, and I look forward to working with her on the prospect of relocation.

On behalf of the people of Stoke-on-Trent, Kidsgrove and Talke, I want to thank my right hon. Friend, his colleagues in the Cabinet Office and the Home Secretary—the former Stokie and Keele University graduate—for passing our litmus test on the Government’s commitment to levelling up in delivering over 550 high-skilled and well-paid jobs by making Stoke-on-Trent the second home for the Home Office. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that this major investment from this Conservative Government shows that the people of Stoke-on-Trent will never be forgotten or take for granted again, as they have been previously?

One of the regular features of the last few months has been the near daily popping into my WhatsApp, email or SMS box of messages from my hon. Friend pressing the case for Stoke-on-Trent and for the relocation of senior civil service jobs, and can I say that his persistence and advocacy have paid off? My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has recognised that Stoke-on-Trent—an amazing place—is absolutely the right home for the second Home Office HQ.

Now here comes my pitch!

My Stourbridge constituency is the jewel of the urban west midlands, full of talent and ambition, and some may say it is the perfect “location, location” for any future proposed civil service moves outside London. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that of course Stourbridge should be top of the list? Of course, the Cabinet Office would be more than welcome to locate there.

I am tempted to say that it is rather like the judgment of Paris. In choosing between Stourbridge or Wolverhampton or Walsall, it is almost as though one is choosing between three beautiful divines or deities. All I would say is that Stourbridge is a fantastic location not just for future Government jobs, but for the private sector. It is part of a west midlands undergoing a revival, with new, energetic Members of Parliament like her and of course a re-elected metro Mayor in Andy Street.