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Economic Growth: Yorkshire and the North

Volume 742: debated on Monday 4 December 2023

For our part, we wish Mr Speaker all the very best, and we hope that he enjoys a speedy recovery—but it is wonderful to have you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. I also welcome the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) back to the Front Bench. I know that he, too, was unwell recently, so it is great to see him in his place and looking so well.

We are taking considerable steps to boost economic growth in Yorkshire and the north, including the creation of two investment zones in south and west Yorkshire and, of course, the extension of devolution to the whole of the historic county.

I am sure the whole House wants to see Mr Speaker back and well again very soon.

The Secretary of State must be looking at different data from that which I am looking at. I know he does not like experts, but I have hope that, as Christmas approaches, he will have a Pauline conversion—he will see a flash of light, fall off his camel and realise that, in order to level up expertly and well, he needs local authorities on the ground to deliver those policies. Will he please reconsider his attitude to local government in this country?

I am grateful to the hon. Member. As the Minister for Local Government has just reminded me, when Saul was on the road to Damascus he was not actually travelling on a camel.

Improving transport links with a new mass transit system for Leeds is critical to the programme that we undertaking. We are working with local authorities in Leeds; we are working with the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, and with the chief executive of Leeds City Council, Tom Riordan. Moreover, in Kirklees we are investing £65 million through round 3 of the levelling-up fund, with a new open market to provide regeneration in Huddersfield and, of course, the upgrade of the Penistone line, for which my hon. Friends the Members for Dewsbury (Mark Eastwood) and for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates) have been such brilliant advocates.

I, too, convey to Mr Speaker a “Get well soon” message.

In addition to the amenities in Yorkshire and elsewhere in the north, there is a wonderful real ale pub called The Bell Inn at Pensax, in the north of the Malvern Hills. May I put on the record my strong endorsement of its bid to the community ownership fund?

It sounds as if that particular inn, in the heart of Elgar country, is something behind which all of us on the Front Bench can rally. It sounds like an excellent candidate for the community ownership fund, which has seen scores of buildings taken back into public ownership by their communities for the benefit of all.