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Devolution in England

Volume 736: debated on Monday 10 July 2023

We have made significant progress in our mission to extend English devolution. In the past year, we have announced five mayoral devolution deals, which will bring devolution to over half of the English population. Most recently, I was delighted when the wonderful new leader of East Riding council, Anne Handley, signalled her ambitions for greater devolution.

Last week, I attended an evidence session for the all-party parliamentary group on the east midlands’ inquiry into investment in the region, which has been historically underfunded. Business leaders told me that the east midlands combined authority needs to be headed by someone with sharp elbows to get things done in the region. I know there is a man in Mansfield who meets that description, but can my right hon. Friend commit to giving that combined authority the powers to effect meaningful change, including considering west midlands-style powers?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point: there is a man from Mansfield who would be an absolutely outstanding metro Mayor for the east midlands, and we need to give him all the power he needs. He has not only sharp elbows but a keen intellect, and he has the interests of the east midlands at heart. What Andy Street has done for the west midlands, Mr Ben Bradley can do for the east midlands.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the West Midlands Combined Authority that the selfsame Andy Street presides over is the second worst performing CA in the UK, judging by its growth figures. In that circumstance, should the public of Warwickshire not have a say in any potential merger with that combined authority, as is proposed in the Secretary of State’s levelling-up Bill that is going through the House of Lords?

I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, but why does he think that Warwickshire cannot compete on the world stage as part of the West Midlands Combined Authority? Why does he have such little confidence in the people of Warwickshire? He has referred to the Mayor of the combined authority. Andy Street is the Mayor who has done most to deliver and, indeed, exceed housing targets as Mayor of the west midlands. Who has done the worst? Labour’s Sadiq Khan.