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Economy: Yorkshire and Humber

Volume 691: debated on Monday 30 April 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the contribution of the Yorkshire and Humber region to the United Kingdom economy.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this debate was stimulated by the formation recently of an All-Party Peers Group for Yorkshire and Humber. Issues and priorities often look different across different parts of the United Kingdom and the group is seeking to connect the House better to those in our region. I thank all the people and organisations who have sent us briefing material for today’s debate. It is deeply appreciated across the House. I must apologise on behalf of the many noble Lords who are not able to be here this evening, but who are staunch Yorkshire folk.

Yorkshire and Humber is a large region of 5 million people. It has a population similar to that of Scotland, larger than that of Northern Ireland and Wales and larger even than that of seven of the 25 member states of the European Union. While output per head in the region is below that of the national average, growth in output has been above the UK and European Union average for years now. The past 20 years have seen a transformation in the region. Previous dependence on textiles, clothing, coal mining, heavy industry, agriculture and fishing has been replaced by a diversified and vigorous economy. Advanced manufacturing remains significant and is predicted to grow by 12 per cent over the next decade. We have the country’s largest concentration of food research and production, one of the fastest growing IT media and communications sectors in the UK and Leeds has the largest financial, legal and business services centre outside London.

Hull and the Humber ports handle 22 per cent of England’s sea freight trade, with 40,000 international shipping movements per year. Eighteen per cent of the country’s electricity is generated in the region. Tourism is a regional strength too. National parks in the Yorkshire Dales, the North Yorkshire Moors and a small part of the Peak District comprise over 1,000 square miles in the region, or 21 per cent of the land area. In addition, the Yorkshire Wolds and other areas of outstanding beauty, stately homes, abbeys, priories, castles, York and the Brontë country all add to the tourist attraction. A recent study by the Council for National Parks found that the region’s national parks did not just benefit tourists. Businesses in the parks and in nearby towns generate approaching £2 billion worth of sales a year, supporting 34,000 jobs.

The Yorkshire and Humber region is around 20 per cent urban and 80 per cent rural. Three of the largest UK cities are in the region: Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford. Then there are at least 25 other important towns and cities which you dare not forget, ranging from Hull to Halifax, Richmond to Grimsby, Barnsley to Bridlington, not to mention Wakefield, Beverley, Harrogate and York.

What is striking about our region is that there is no massive urban sprawl. Our cities and towns are free-standing, with civic pride and loyalties and with beautiful countryside or coastal areas easily accessible. Yorkshire Forward was right to identify the need to ensure a vigorous future for our towns and cities, small or large, in its renaissance investment programme.

Although our towns and cities are free-standing, they are increasingly inter-connected, as mobile people and mobile flexible skills integrate the regional labour market. I was pleased to note the move towards co-operation based on three city regions centred on Leeds, Sheffield and Hull and the Humber ports. These are the driving forces of sub-regional and regional growth and will pose new challenges for our civic and business leaders. At the same time, the rural areas in upper and eastern North Yorkshire must be properly served too.

Culture plays a big part in the region. Opera North, Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance and the West Yorkshire Playhouse are all based in Leeds. Alan Ayckbourn premières in Scarborough, and Sheffield hosts one of the UK’s leading digital arts festivals. The International Indian Film Academy is holding the Bollywood equivalent of the Oscars in Yorkshire in June with 28,000 visitors expected into the region. The region is to be congratulated on securing this. Among other things, the National Media Museum in Bradford will host some key events, as will other towns and cities across the region.

Yorkshire and Humber has eight universities, three higher education colleges and 42 further education colleges. York, Sheffield and Leeds universities have formed the White Rose Consortium with more research staff than Oxford or Cambridge working in departments graded at the highest levels, and the region’s universities are leaders across the country in creating spin-out companies. The universities of Leeds and Sheffield have recently received national funding for an international centre of excellence on China and Japan, with the National Institute of Chinese Studies at Leeds and of Japanese Studies at Sheffield. I declare an interest, having recently been appointed to the international advisory board of that centre.

I have touched on some of the positives in the region, so perhaps I might just touch on some areas where improvement or comment might be needed. Transport spending remains firmly at the top of the region’s agenda for business as well as for local government and the regional development agency. Transport is creaking in the region. The M62 is overloaded, as are parts of the M1/A1—the north-south and east-west arteries. The railways are near or at capacity for passengers and freight on key routes. Transport links between Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester—a crucial triumvirate, a triangle of energy and growth for the future of this country—need to be greatly improved. Leeds and, I argue, the Leeds/Bradford conurbation need a rapid transit public transport system for the 21st century. Successive governments have ducked the issue for 20 years.

The second area is skills. Those over 16 perform below average at GCSE, and the adult workforce is below national averages at higher level 4 skills. In parts of the region, more than a third of adults cannot read, write or count properly. Without wanting to sound harsh, I must say that the learning and skills councils, schools and employers have to raise their game, not just to help economic performance but to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared by all sections of society.

The third area I wish to highlight is tourism. We have a large and diverse region, with national parks and a tourist board. Performance in attracting and bringing back visitors to the region has not been strong. Our tourist industry—at all levels from bed and breakfast to four-star hotels, from bureaucrats in civic halls to tourist boards—has been woeful in the past. There are real signs that the Yorkshire Tourist Board is at last moving in the right direction, with a new sense of focus and vigour. Our national parks are becoming focused on employment of business opportunities as well as, properly, their stewardship of national treasures.

Finally—perhaps more controversially—I will say a word about housing densities. Our region has had very slow population growth in the past, and no growth is forecast for the next 10 or 15 years. Emphasis has rightly been put on brownfield site development as a means of sustainable regeneration, but there is no shortage of land in our region, which is one of our great assets. Yet, I see housing built at densities that are not sustainable, dwellings that will not be fit for purpose in many of our urban areas in 30 years’ time. Some high-density housing is needed for the changing population and household structure, but there is a lack of balance. Even family homes are being built at a density that reflects policies based on land shortages in London and the south-east. The region, to use a colloquial term, is missing a trick as well as failing its citizens. It has failed to build on one of its great strengths—the ability to offer good housing, with plenty of space, in good surroundings. My plea to the planners and bureaucrats is to have housing and planning priorities suitable for our region, in our region. I want to make it a place where people want to live, invest in and remain.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, on initiating this debate. He has spent much of his distinguished career in higher education at one end of Yorkshire, at the University of Leeds, latterly as dean of the business school. I, too, declare an interest in the region’s higher education institutions, albeit at the other end of the region, as chancellor of the University of Hull. I am pleased that I no longer have to declare an interest as the sister of the chief executive of the Great North Eastern Railway and can now be unequivocal in my support for Hull trains without any domestic conflict. The noble Lord was right to emphasise the importance of transport to the region.

The region is host to one of the highest concentrations of universities in Europe. That is a key asset which I want to discuss, especially when the universities in Yorkshire and the Humber act as such a potent economic catalyst in the region. This theme was explored in the excellent, well supported debate two weeks ago on the economic contribution made by higher education institutions in Britain. It was almost “standing room only” and was an example of the way in which all are working to integrate universities into the economic activities of different parts of the country.

Let me add some further comments on the state of the economy in Yorkshire and the Humber. Undoubtedly, as the noble Lord said, the region has gone through significant economic changes in the past two or three decades. The old, heavy, secondary industries have declined; the cycle of economic change has often been painful, but the region’s economy has emerged emboldened and now has a much more optimistic air. Manufacturing may not employ the numbers that it once did, but it remains a significant part of the economy, more so than in other regions. It is predicted that the manufacturing sector will grow by over 12 per cent in the next 10 years. The noble Lord referred to the importance of food production; in Hull and Humber is the largest concentration of food industries in the UK, employing around 48,000 people in that sector.

Over the first half of the decade, the economy of Yorkshire and Humber was buoyant, with rates of economic and employment growth outstripping those of the UK as a whole. However, regrettably this performance is unlikely to continue for the next few years. Economic and employment growth rates are forecast to slip behind the UK average, partly due to the fact that manufacturing, which is not performing too well in UK anywhere at the moment, takes up a greater slice of the region’s economic support. Here lies a threat but also, I believe, a significant opportunity. The threat is that without constant innovation the region will fail to prosper in the face of intense global competition, but the opportunity lies at the heart of my argument, in the crucial role played by universities in leveraging at innovation and facilitating its development and application. As the noble Lord and I stressed, the region is fortunate to have an incredibly strong network of universities.

In Hull, there is a concerted and determined approach to economic regeneration, underpinned by recognition that a collaborative approach is essential. The university plays an integral part. Far beyond the estimated £200 million contribution to the local economy, simply by dint of its presence it helps to analyse and shape regional economic development strategies, identifying and supporting sectors of greatest economic potential—in our case added value manufacturing and logistics, biomedical healthcare and renewable energies. These play to the geographic strengths and economic traditions of the area. The House will be aware, for example, that the Humber ports complex is the UK’s largest in terms of goods handled—around 50 per cent of the UK’s sea freight traffic. The regeneration process in the city of Hull is being led by the Hull city build initiative. The board comprises civic, business and academic leaders. By collaborating, the different sectors can gain the area a competitive edge and lever in more investment, both public and private.

Last year the university’s interaction with the local business community was worth more than £14 million. This is exactly what Richard Lambert—now, splendidly, director-general of the CBI, in which I should declare an interest as a head-hunter involved—urged in his 2004 review of business-university collaboration. Businesses should look to collaborate with universities for research and development programmes. Universities must identify their areas of research strength and actively push for links with business.

I suspect that the noble Lord has been an advocate for many of these policies for many years. What I believe is so exciting is how the policy has been taken to heart by universities across the country, but certainly at Hull. Lambert emphasised that, in almost every case, a business working with a university improves its performance, develops its products better, works smarter and sees an improvement in staff skills. This is especially true in the Yorkshire and Humberside region where less is spent on research and development than in other parts of the country.

There are numerous examples at Hull of the mutual benefit of a close and productive relationship between industry, commerce and higher education. For example, Hull has developed two centres of industrial collaboration in engineering design and in environmental technologies. It supports knowledge transfer partnerships which simultaneously improve the competitiveness of the company partner and enhance the skills and experience of the graduate. A successful design enterprise centre has been developed, giving expertise and facilities to local industries. Pre-incubation facilities for student and graduate businesses will be accommodated in the new enterprise and innovation centre, greatly benefiting the economy and education. There is no ivory tower, but practical understanding and relevant and recent knowledge.

Two pioneering and pragmatic projects at Hull illustrate the economic potential of universities in regeneration especially well. The logistics institute, one of only five of its type in the world and the only such centre in the UK, will, through high-level education programmes, business-focused short programmes, workshops and consultancy have a major impact on business supply chains, always a key area of British competitiveness. Given Hull’s history as a port, this is especially appropriate and, in time, will further boost Hull’s business potential and competitive advantage. Secondly, the goal of strategic collaboration is splendidly exemplified by the Wound Care Institute, involving the NHS, the Hull York Medical School, the postgraduate medical institute and a major local employer, Smith & Nephew. That has the potential to deliver benefits for all. The university has access to a diverse patient base and is able to deliver a strong foothold in R&D. The company will gain excellent access to a local clinical trial centre and be able to accelerate its research and development and the NHS can build on existing services and provide a multi-disciplinary learning environment for staff. Patients have access to first-class local services.

To consolidate and build on these success stories, there is a pressing need to guarantee financial support. The next few months are critical in determining the resources available for universities in the years ahead. As we approach the Comprehensive Spending Review, which determines the overall size of the resource cake, we must look carefully at how we can ensure that funding becomes consistent and predictable—a point rightly emphasised in the UK’s submission on the CSR. Secondly, it is vital to consider how the cake may most effectively be sliced. Funding received by Hull and other universities as a result of the RAE is key to the economic leverage that the university may gain for the region. As my noble friend Lord Norton recently pointed out in his authoritative speech in the higher education debate, there is considerable uncertainty on the future of the RAE, post-2008. Discussions between UUK and the Treasury are ongoing, and our vice-chancellor, David Drewry, is closely involved. I urge the Government to keep these economic benefits uppermost in their minds.

I want to talk on a small point of concern. The recent CBI Survey of Regional Trends commented that one of the inhibitions on companies in the Humber region was the perception that the region has among potential customers. There are some who do not have an altogether positive view of Hull. They do not know about the city’s recent rich and successful history and the recent commendable efforts that have been made to reclaim that vibrant past. As chancellor of the university, I am particularly committed to challenging ignorant assumptions about the realities of this historic city and its contributions today and tomorrow.

Hull is a fascinating place. As the House should well know, it is the birthplace of Wilberforce, who described it as the,

“Dublin of England for its hospitality, plenty of good cheer, with too much welcome”.

At another time, he described his home city as,

“one of the gayest places out of London—the theatre, balls, large supper and card parties”.

There is huge excitement and potential in Hull—wonderful new projects like The Deep, the new Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation and the Hull History Centre add to that quality of life and I endorse the comments made by the noble Lord regarding Yorkshire tourism and the potential for tourism within the UK. There are many challenges for our region, but it has many splendid resources. My argument is that, by close collaboration with its rich universities, we will realise its potential as best we can.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, on securing this debate, but it is with some temerity that I speak tonight. While almost all my political life has been spent in Richmond, North Yorkshire—the first and original Richmond of all the Richmonds in the world—I am in fact a Lancastrienne. I hope that that will not detract from my love for my adoptive county or the pride that I share in its remarkable success, some of which has already been mentioned.

I want to talk briefly about three areas with which I am connected. The first is Northern Defence Industries. While it is run from the north-east, a large number of the companies operate from Yorkshire. The defence and aerospace industries contribute £2 billion to the regional economy and we estimate that Yorkshire’s share of that accounts for about £1.2 billion and around 12,000 jobs—a not insignificant number. They are mainly SMEs, and it has been my pleasure to visit a number of them since becoming the umbrella company’s patron. NDI brings together all the companies which feed into the defence and aerospace industry and acts as a catalyst to inform and encourage companies to work together to offer economies of scale and innovation to the industry as a whole.

Boeing has a £28 million partnership with Sheffield University to establish the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, a project which has already directly created 44 new jobs at AMRC and generated £55 million of additional revenue into predominately Yorkshire-based SMEs. Boeing is never shy about telling us that it spends more in the UK than in any other country, but sadly it does not appear to break the numbers down into regions.

I would like to stay with the university theme to which the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, has already referred, as has the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley of Nettlestone. The second area I want to talk about is the University of York, where I am a member of court. It may be interesting for your Lordships to know that there are in fact more universities per head of population in Yorkshire than in any other part of the British Isles. Yorkshire is a net importer of students for its nine universities; creating a hotbed for intellectual endeavour.

The three great research-intensive universities—Leeds, York and Sheffield—have a research power greater than that of Oxford, Cambridge and all the London universities. They have created a genuine knowledge-based economy in Yorkshire. The University of York is one of Britain’s top 10 universities and one of the world’s top-ranking research institutions. It is a UK leader in a number of official performance indicators including research efficiency, research income per academic and low drop-out rates among students. It is the only university in the UK to have received three national Athena SWAN awards for supporting the career of women scientists. Perhaps I may give you one brief quote from the university’s magazine. It states:

“York is working to attract women into science, both in academic and technical capacities. It is seeking to retain those women who might otherwise drift away by introducing more flexibility into the workforce and, at the same time, creating a better work environment for all staff”.

The University of York and its science park contribute nearly £200 million to the region and economy, a figure set to grow dramatically as they expand their research and knowledge-transfer and spin-out activity.

Yorkshire has Britain’s first science city, Science City York, created in 1998. The partnership between the university, the City of York Council and Yorkshire Forward supports over 9,000 jobs in the sub-region, a truly extraordinary success story and one which will continue in the years ahead.

The last area of interest that I wish to tell your Lordships about is my own small rural town of Richmond and its district. Yorkshire Forward has appointed Richmondshire as a pilot in its initiative to move away from project-based spend to programme-based activities. Throughout the district, almost £3 million has been identified to help various innovative schemes to come to reality.

Public sector investment is therefore essential to help to develop the local economy. Catterick Garrison—the largest Army base in Europe—along with Richmond, its much smaller neighbour, is part of Yorkshire Forward’s Renaissance Market Town programme, which helps to support the development of towns in rural areas. Indeed, Catterick Garrison is unrecognisable from the rather bleak Army camp that many of your Lordships may remember. They have many exciting programmes planned, and the RDA’s investment is crucial to the survival and success of these townships throughout rural North Yorkshire.

In Richmond alone, we have the station-building regeneration project, which will provide auditoria for meetings, exhibitions, a cinema and much more, together with office space and production units for locally made produce. This is a project dear to my heart and the hearts of the many hundreds of volunteers who have helped it along. It has generated a £390,000 grant from the RDA, for which we are enormously grateful. We still have to find another £129,000 but, because of the enormous generosity of many, many people, organisations and various funding agencies, we are nearly at the £2.5 million mark that we need to pay for the rebuilding of this magnificent station. That is not bad for a small rural town in the heart of England.

Of course, there are areas of concern, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer. For example, much more needs to be done about tourism. Yorkshire Forward wants to maximise its investments on projects rather than on delivery and the projects are capital-led. We need to bring high spenders into our rural areas and the money that we are given needs to be flexible enough to deliver what those areas need. We need good market town managers to enable us to fulfil those aspirations and they must be supported by our RDA—not just in start-up costs but in their sustainability.

So there is a good story to tell about Yorkshire—and, I hope, a continuing one. It is a wonderful place in which to live and we try to keep much of it a secret, because the county of broad acres should never become as overcrowded and overburdened as south-east England. You can breathe in Yorkshire.

My Lords, I was delighted to hear from the noble Baroness about the improvement at Catterick. It was pretty grim when I did my basic national service training there.

I add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Woolmer. I know that he has done an enormous amount for Yorkshire and Humber, and his connection there goes back many years. However, I think that he has set us a bit of a problem. How do you speak up for Yorkshire and Humber without getting into a debate about regional policies? I want to speak up for Yorkshire and Humber because for 30 years my business was based in Leeds.

It is very easy to agree that power needs to shift from Whitehall but it is equally easy to agree that there should be no widening of the inequality in this country—the so-called postcode lottery. I suppose the answer is to recognise that we need national standards and rules for things which are national: the law, regulations, human rights and taxation. Nevertheless, each region has its own individual strengths and character, and that is why more citizens understand, and are interested in, what goes on at a local level. Indeed, it is their first port of call, which is local. This is why more people engage at a local level. Central Government can set basic standards but local councils can go further. That is what is reflected in the words “Yorkshire Forward”—progress in Yorkshire beyond national standards.

It is precisely that attitude towards progress and higher standards that is also reflected in the words used by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris: “knowledge economy”. Yorkshire Forward and the knowledge economy; of course they go together. I therefore agree with the noble Baroness that you will find that all the elements that go to make up a knowledge economy are being brought together in Yorkshire and Humber. Let me explain.

In London, the emphasis is firmly on financial services and the ancillaries that go with it—the lawyers, accountants, expensive homes and fancy restaurants. In Yorkshire and Humber there is a lot more balance. Yes, the financial services, the accountants and the lawyers are there, and so are the fancy homes and restaurants, but they are less dominant. They are there as part of the local business economy. Now add that to the manufacturing and the services which they need—not only the skills training, the designers, the marketing, the universities and colleges that we have been told about, but the Design, Modelling and Simulation Centre that Yorkshire Forward has provided, as well as the Innovation Technology Centre at the Advanced Manufacturing Park and the manufacturing advisory services provided by the DTI.

All those make the balance far more even. That balance supports and stimulates a modern knowledge economy. It is a modern type of cluster creating lots of new opportunities, yet structured so that the opportunities are not left to chance. All those elements need to talk to each other and work with each other. The manufacturers, universities, colleges, designers, marketing firms, training firms and the financial sector all need each other to create a successful knowledge economy. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, described, this is what modern knowledge transfer is all about. Indeed, this is what Materials UK does, and I declare an interest as the honorary president. And it works. As the senior executive of one of the well known Yorkshire food companies which we have been hearing about put it to me the other day, “This cluster enables us to know what we did not know that we needed to know”.

As a result you have Camira Fabrics, a traditional furnishing fabric manufacturer in Huddersfield, working full blast because its manufacturing system has been modified to make it so environmentally friendly that every furniture manufacturer wants its fabric to be part of a greener economy. Next door there is another textile manufacturer working at full blast because it produces high-tech fabrics which monitor and control clinical conditions, minimise infection and which are themselves biodegradable.

I mention these companies because they are ones that I know. I also point out that the textile industry in Yorkshire and Humber has not gone away; it has just gone technical. There are many, many more examples in other industries and services. Because of the ethos of enterprise and knowledge, and progress in Yorkshire and Humber, firms have reinvented themselves and their businesses, as my noble friend Lord Woolmer said. He reminded us of many things, such as rapid manufacturing and servicing, as well as advanced manufacturing, which are all taking place in Yorkshire and Humber. Some firms are scientifically growing things in factories now instead of making them. They are inventing composites to replace traditional materials. In Yorkshire and Humber innovation and commercialisation know no boundaries.

So back to the question: what does Yorkshire and Humber contribute to the British economy? The answer is vigorously taking forward the modern knowledge economy to play an important part in improving the economic performance of the whole country. What does that tell us about regionalism?

My Lords, I am delighted to be able to contribute to this debate, which the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, has started for us this evening. I am glad that he has been able to ensure this. It was just over a third of a century ago that county councillor Ken Woolmer and I first met. It is interesting that we are on similar themes a third of a century later.

Yorkshire is big in the United Kingdom context. In many ways, that is easily understood. Perhaps there has been a bit of redrawing at the boundaries. Thornaby, Redcar and Saltburn have vanished somewhere up into the north-east and the coming of the Humber Bridge has brought us north Lincolnshire. However, if people were asked to name an area of England which appears to have identity, some might say Cornwall, but many would say Yorkshire.

What is this identity? Is it about Yorkshire pudding cooked well? Is it about a dialect? I think the uniting feature might be the Yorkshire County Cricket Club. I see that it has started to do a bit better, which is helpful. However, as yet, there is no regional assembly. We hear of Yorkshire Forward and the Yorkshire regional assembly. These are names which are not regularly on many people's lips in Yorkshire.

We know many organisations with the “Y” in front of them, such as the Yorkshire Tourist Board. There are several pan-Yorkshire organisations. It is important that there is a pan-Yorkshire identity, but there should be clarity of definition. It would be more helpful if there were. There are sub-regions—west Yorkshire, for example—and the body I spoke about with which the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, was involved.

There are still many reasons why the former West Yorkshire authorities work together as a group. It has been just the same in south Yorkshire following the abolition of the county councils. However, we have now got city regions, which blur that which is Yorkshire.

There is something else coming up and I am amazed how little I have heard of it. It appears that there is a proposal before the Government, which they encourage, for a north Yorkshire county council which embraces local government in its entirety. From Richmond to Selby, from Filey to Bentham, there are 580,000 people; substantial towns as in the geographical dissertation that the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, gave. Whether it is Skipton or Harrogate or Scarborough, the present thinking is to submerge this into a north Yorkshire which has an all-purpose way forward. When my noble friend Lady Harris mentioned the work in Richmond to redevelop the old railway station, it was interesting to hear that there seemed to be a unity of purpose with the community. Can that happen with a great body running from Scarborough to within 10 miles of Morecambe Bay as the only unit of local government? I have my doubts; I question that.

It is important that there is not only a clear and proper definition of Yorkshire, but also a proper identity for the substantial towns and districts at local level. I have never been an advocate of reading the Yorkshire Post. It used to be owned by Yorkshire Conservative Newspapers Ltd, which still grates. On the front page on 24 April, however, a Mr Woolas says that Yorkshire must stop moaning and pestering. I hope that there are people in this House who can suggest that Mr Woolas pipes down a bit. Three times as much money is spent on transport pro rata in London than in Yorkshire. Bearing in mind the disposition of money allocation in the country and the limits on what can be raised locally or regionally, it seems proper for people in Yorkshire to make a case for transport investment.

An interesting point about housing has been made by several noble Lords. I live half way between Halifax and Huddersfield, and positive reference has been made to textiles. Well, the story goes a bit the other way: there are a lot of empty mills. I used to make speeches saying that when I looked at an empty mill, it seemed as if one could make it into an office block. It seemed a good idea for some of these outfits with regional bases in Manchester and Leeds to shut them down and convert a mill in Calderdale. They would have had a wonderful office. Interestingly, it is now more difficult to say that, because other people now look at these mills and say “What wonderful houses!”. Many old textile mills are coming into housing, often in inappropriate sites for the weight of housing placed there, with infrastructure problems and so on.

I have lived half way between Halifax and Huddersfield for 40 years. I previously lived between Leeds and Bradford. We should mention Bradford because the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, is not here and wants us to do so. When I was at primary school, the kids in the playground used to argue about whether it was better to go to Bradford or Leeds. You could have an argument. Today, it is a no-hoper, which is very sad. Coming back to another theme, it is a good job that we have a university in Bradford. If it were not there, it would be even worse.

When I first met the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, a third of a century ago, the county councillor was looking at what the county could do. He took the view that the might of the county could help the poorer places and those that needed it. For all this talk of Yorkshire Forward and the mighty Leeds, the idea that you can puff up Leeds and everything will somehow follow is not the right way forward. It may be one way forward, but work must be done in other parts of Yorkshire. Part of the job of government is to spread resources from the rich to the poor, which is equally important in regional policy.

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, on securing this debate. Since becoming a Member of your Lordships’ House, I have spoken in debates about the London economy but never before have I had the opportunity to speak about the contribution that Yorkshire makes to the overall UK economy.

As one looks at the Yorkshire economy today, the first thing that strikes anyone who has known it for any length of time is the extent to which it has changed in a lifetime. There has been an almost total collapse of mass manufacturing and mining in much of Yorkshire. When I think of the journey I took as a boy from Rothwell into Leeds, a distance of five miles, virtually all the landmarks that I used to pass are no longer there: the pit, Skelton Grange power station, Yorkshire Copper Works, Hunslet engine works and the railway freight marshalling yard have all disappeared. Those institutions were huge employers, yet Leeds has never been as prosperous. As noble Lords have explained, the reason is the extraordinary rise of the service sector.

We know that Leeds has been more successful than other places in Yorkshire. Bradford is a classic case of where, after the collapse of the monoculture of textiles, it has proved impossible to find a diversity of new businesses coming forward. In Leeds, there is tremendous strength in the service sector. As the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, said, financial services are now remarkably strong and are set to grow a lot more. I declare an interest as a director of Elmwood Design, a brand design consultancy based in Guiseley, which is growing quickly because it has an area of speciality that means that its intellectual capital is in demand around the world. A couple of years ago, it opened its first office in Australia. On good days, the other directors of Elmwood like to have the company motto as, “The company from Guiseley that took on the world and won”. To an extent, entrepreneurs in Leeds and in Yorkshire are taking on the world and winning, which is wholly good.

Much has been made of the effect and impact of the universities in Leeds, York, Hull and elsewhere. I agree with my noble friend Lord Shutt that they have been key in driving forward the economy. They are huge exporters. One of my sons is currently at the University of Leeds, which is immensely attractive to middle-class young people from this part of the world. Leeds is exporting its education and people are coming to Leeds to buy it. The universities have acted a bit like self-raising flour in the economies of some of those cities by providing jobs, innovation and income with people coming in.

There is a lot that we can be proud of in the region and there is a lot more potential. To take up the point made by my noble friend Lord Shutt about cricket, it used to be said that an England cricket team would succeed only if the Yorkshire team was succeeding, but we have had only a week of the season so far. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that, given the size and importance of Yorkshire’s economy, in order to have a successful UK economy, we need to have successful regional economies as well. We cannot rely on London to pull the whole country. Yorkshire has a major part to play.

The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, mentioned two major areas of concern and two major constraints on the further growth of the region, and I shall return to them. The first is transport. We have heard about the problem of the low level of investment in transport. Congestion in the region, whether for commuters getting into Leeds or for freight trying to get to the Humber, is now a major constraint and imposes major costs. We need more investment.

I, too, read Phil Woolas’s comments last week. He basically said, “Stop whining and sort out your own transport problems”. I am afraid that that is a false hope, given the regions’ inability to raise their own money. I hope that we and our colleagues in the other place will make representations in the context of the Comprehensive Spending Review to secure more investment in transport in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Robin Hood Airport, in Doncaster, is a development that seems to have huge potential. It has very long runways and is in a part of the region where there is space but high unemployment. While other regions, not least those in the south, find it difficult to justify to their citizens any further growth in airports, Robin Hood is one of those rare things, an airport whose expansion is supported by virtually anybody who knows anything about it.

The second, greater area of concern, a problem not limited to Yorkshire, is education and training. The figure for people in the region with few or no qualifications is alarming: a third of all adults. A higher than average proportion of 16 to 18 year-olds are not in education, training or employment, and there is lower than average attainment at ages 16 and 18. In West Yorkshire, within the next five years, 40 per cent of new entrants to the labour market will be of Pakistani origin, so the region has severe challenges.

While I share the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, about the difficulties of the Learning and Skills Council, Yorkshire Forward and the LSC have at least tried to get the bodies responsible for education and training in Yorkshire and Humber together, probably more so than in some other regions, although the figures do not reflect the extent of its success. The Learning and Skills Council, Yorkshire Forward, the Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber and the LEAs need to work hard to increase the proportion of school leavers with basic skills. We know from the chambers of commerce that over 50 per cent of businesses in Yorkshire find it difficult to recruit people with the relevant skills.

The LSC’s comments on the problems in adult education and the up-skilling of employees were very telling. In its briefing to us for this debate, it said that many employers are unwilling to spend money on employee training. It described the qualifications system as bureaucratic, complicated and not fit for purpose. The FE sector, it said, does not provide effective professional service to employers looking for courses for their staff. Those major problems, although not limited to Yorkshire, certainly constrain the region’s economy.

The noble Lord, Lord Shutt, raised the almost existential question of whether Yorkshire exists and, if so, what it means. I may not be able to answer that in the remaining two minutes of my speech. However, the paradox that exists is borne out by the Yorkshire Post, which has vehemently opposed any representative body for Yorkshire but whose masthead says, “Yorkshire’s National Newspaper”. It is fighting a significant campaign, Road to Ruin, to improve transport across the region, yet it has sought to undermine any attempt to give Yorkshire a regional voice here, with the people who can decide whether money is spent on transport there.

About a dozen bodies with Yorkshire in their title gave us briefing for this debate. With one exception, none of them is accountable to anyone and many are unknown to the population of the region. In the absence in the short to medium term of any likely degree of a regional elected body, it seems to me that Parliament and, possibly, this House, could play a part in drawing out what these bodies are doing and holding them at some level to account. I would suggest that, important though this debate has been, it has demonstrated ongoing issues relating to Yorkshire and the Humber which can be replicated to a different degree in other regions. Could your Lordships’ House not have a new committee of the regions which would enable us to discuss these problems in a slightly more discursive manner and help to bring the whole raft of regional bodies to account?

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, for generating this debate. One gets such a sense of love and enthusiasm for this extraordinary part of the country from everyone who has spoken. The speeches have taken me on a trip through my life and back to my earliest schooldays in Yorkshire, to packing shirts in my friend’s father’s mill and to walking my parent’s dog and my children in the grounds of York University. I also visited Rievaulx, Fountains and Bolton abbeys, which are all in the most extraordinarily beautiful countryside. It has been a great pleasure to listen and to have all these memories. I am also married to a Yorkshireman. Therefore, I can just about lay out my credentials for speaking in this debate, although I am bound to say that it probably will not be much.

I thank my noble friend Lady Bottomley for her contribution, which she made in her role as chancellor of Hull University. She and other speakers have nailed very firmly the educational successes in Yorkshire. The universities are spectacular and attract students from far and wide. York, Leeds and Hull are the first choice on many UCAS forms; each has its own specialities and some have an association with medicine which is very close to my heart. The educational attainments from Yorkshire which provide help across the country are very real.

The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, sold his message extremely well. Having known Yorkshire for some time, one has seen enormous changes over the years and the change in manufacturing and industry is probably one of the most striking. I come from Northumberland, which is further north. The change from mining and the requirement to move from a very hands-on industry to a completely different way of life have probably been very painful for the people of Yorkshire and Northumberland. But they have come through, which is a remarkable aspect of the will, steel and grit in that part of the world. My father always used to say to me, “You find a Yorkshireman and he’ll tell you it straight: a spade is a bloody spade”.

No one has mentioned farming and agriculture in this part of the country, which is beginning to run into difficulties. There have been problems with foot and mouth and people do not want to stay in farming because it does not generate enough income and is a very hard life. Half the Yorkshire and Humber area, as well as my own region of Northumberland, is made up of hill farms. If they go out of business and do not exist in the future, the management of the land and of what we now know and love as the stone-walled countryside, as well as the crafts associated with agriculture on which villages depend and which bring people into the area, will be lost. I very much hope that efforts to ensure that people stay to farm are intensified. Perhaps organic farming offers hope. A lot of people are trying to develop farming and rear animals in a different way, and to do it on a smaller scale than previously. The countryside is a remarkable aspect of the region. It would be a crisis if all that farming were lost.

I am sure that transport in the region is a nightmare. Not only are there few roads, but there is an awful lot of traffic going to an awful lot of places. The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, admitted that it was a problem. It certainly emerges from various reports on the area that something needs to be done. The A1 is still hopeless and needs more work to be done on it.

Everybody has been very positive tonight. I therefore tread carefully in areas which are probably not quite so positive and which we ought perhaps to face up to. As I understand it, the region underperforms in employment. Unemployment has risen by nearly 1 per cent during the past year and remains a problem. The solution requires attracting industry and other employers, and skilling up local people in whatever is brought.

Yorkshire Forward has been mentioned. I am delighted about the renaissance-market towns. Pickering is absolutely beautiful. The Catterick garrison has improved enormously. It was rather an outpost previously. My brother was based there, too. Few good stories about Catterick ever came out, but it has been an important military base for a very long time. Renaissance Market Towns is an important initiative.

I was interested to learn that development is taking place in narrow south-east densities, which is ridiculous when one thinks of the amount of land available. People do not want to be shuttled into small-scale housing. The advantage for families of a region such as Yorkshire, once the employment is available, must be that it offers them the prospect of a house with a garden and open space in a beautiful and tranquil setting. However, as with everywhere else, I imagine that house prices in the region are going up and that, as elsewhere, the people who want to live and work in the area will find it extremely difficult to remain, although where else they are meant to go, after everybody has been pushed down to the south-east, is becoming quite a conundrum.

An interim report of the Small Business Task Force, which was set up by my party, found, rather alarmingly, that more than 33 per cent of funding is lost in operating costs as the money is channelled through the regional development agencies. It is well known in this House that I am not keen on regional government and not wholly keen on the RDAs, but if the figure that I have been given is correct, it is worth pointing it out. If that amount of money is lost through the transference of money to organisations and small businesses, something is very wrong somewhere.

The debate has been excellent. It conjures up such wonderful visions in one’s mind. One can only hope that Yorkshire and Humber continues to develop in the way that it has. It has such good advocates in this House. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, again for giving us an illuminating debate.

My Lords, I am delighted to be able to respond to this debate. While listening to noble Lords this evening, I have been trying to think of how I could present my Yorkshire credentials. The only ones that I can offer are that I was married in Guisborough and my husband’s family live in North Yorkshire. I spend quite a bit of time in Marske-by-the-Sea.

I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Woolmer on securing this debate, which I see as further evidence of his outstanding and long-standing commitment to promoting the interests of the people of Yorkshire and Humber. I welcome the opportunity to discuss what assessment the Government have made of the contribution of Yorkshire and Humber to the United Kingdom economy.

In preparing for this debate, I was particularly struck by the success of Yorkshire Forward, which has been referred to many times this evening. This is a good place to begin my remarks. I would like to pay tribute to Yorkshire Forward and its regional partners for working so hard and so closely together to produce and deliver the Yorkshire and Humber regional economic strategy. It is notable that the noble Lord, Lord Newby, who is in his place this evening, may even have kicked off the process when he chaired the conference, Shaping the Agenda, in Huddersfield in February 2005, where the regional partners met for the first time to consider key issues for the review of the Yorkshire and Humber RES.

I am delighted that this revised strategy, which was launched last year, was endorsed by my right honourable friend Margaret Hodge MP on behalf of the Government. What a positive assessment this must be from the Government of the contribution that Yorkshire and Humber can make to the UK economy. I believe that the RES is unique in at least two respects. First, it is the only regional economic strategy that includes costings for its proposals. That is to be particularly welcomed. Yorkshire Forward undertook a detailed analysis which concluded that more than £100 billion in public expenditure will be spent in Yorkshire and Humber over five years through to 2010.

The independent performance assessment on Yorkshire Forward published by the National Audit Office last month highlighted the importance of this and noted that the costing analysis makes a valuable contribution to Yorkshire Forward's strategic leadership role. It will help the regional development agency (RDA) to,

“co-ordinate activities of partners and funding bodies to achieve common aims”.

Yorkshire Forward is setting an example to the rest of the UK.

Secondly, it has a truly inspirational quality exemplified by the inclusion of a poem. It is the only RES with a poem dedicated to it. The poem Northlands is by Joolz Denby, a professional writer who lives and works in Bradford and is obviously passionate about her home in Yorkshire and Humber. I recommend that noble Lords add the poem to their reading list.

However, the Government share the optimism of the regional partners that the Yorkshire and Humber economy is heading in the right direction and the optimism that noble Lords have expressed tonight. We support the vision in the regional economic strategy of Yorkshire and Humber as a great place to live, work and do business. In the seven years since the first Yorkshire and Humber RES was produced, there have been positive outcomes in the region. The economy has achieved faster growth than its European competitors and unemployment in the region is at its lowest consistent point for 30 years—something that I am sure noble Lords will welcome. The economy contributed £55 billion to UK productivity in 1999 and today the Yorkshire and Humber economy produces £75 billion.

As we have heard, the region has gained new businesses and jobs in industries such as digital media as well as in the thriving financial sector in the Leeds city region. Leeds University, an establishment well known and championed by my noble friend Lord Woolmer himself, has played a key role in helping businesses benefit from the world-class academic research and development support as part of the Centre of Industrial Collaboration network. The noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, has already spoken most eloquently of the contribution of the University of Hull.

As I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, is aware through his close connections with Calderdale, the area is well placed to benefit from continued growth in the Leeds city region. It is estimated that that region will create a further 65,000 new jobs by 2015. As he said, however, it is not all about Leeds. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, stressed, York is also well placed to create jobs in growth sectors. Since it began in 1997, the Science City York initiative has created 3,000 new jobs. Over 9,000 jobs in York are now in science-related activities. As the noble Baroness suggested, that growth represents the growing international reputation of the University of York, working closely with existing businesses and potential entrepreneurs. I am delighted that it is also promoting the role of women.

As my noble friend Lord Haskel pointed out, the region has been able to build on the past to create hope for the future. Sheffield city region retains its status as a strong manufacturing base and, as we heard, that is no longer dominated by traditional or old-fashioned methods of production that are vulnerable in a fast-moving, competitive, global economy.

The Government recognise the importance of the Humber ports as the global gateway for UK businesses. That is why the Government announced earlier this year an investment of over £60 million to improve rail connections to the Humber ports. The Government will continue to work closely with the regional development agency and regional partners to realise the vision of Yorkshire and Humber as a great place to work and do business. Both the Government and the regional partners recognise the importance of skills, as noble Lords mentioned, to the future prosperity of Yorkshire and Humber.

Noble Lords are aware of the importance of focusing almost £30 billion of the estimated £100 billion total public investment through to 2010 on helping people to develop the skills needed by businesses and employers. Government and regional partners also share a common agenda in wanting to connect people to good jobs, and I mean good jobs. Almost £50 billion over the next five years is allocated to that aim in the RES. It is vital that we work together to connect people to these good jobs, particularly those from more deprived communities. Therefore, I am pleased that Yorkshire and Humber has done well in securing £90 million over the next three years from the local enterprise growth initiative. This resource will help partners to target deprived communities in Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster and north-east Lincolnshire to unlock enterprise potential in these areas, something I am sure noble Lords will welcome. The importance of this was stressed today by the publication of the Joseph Rowntree report that I am sure noble Lords will have heard about. The Government are clear that we must avoid a two-speed economy developing in Yorkshire and Humber where prosperity and poverty sit alongside each other. This would not achieve the vision of Yorkshire and Humber as a great place to work, live and do business in.

As the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, said, transport is key. I know this view is shared by my honourable friend Phil Woolas from another place. Transport affects business success, quality of life and the environment. Good transport links are a key component of the government agenda for a prosperous and socially just society. We should not underestimate the task of creating a transport system that meets the needs of a successful economy, as the noble Baroness has already reminded us. It takes time and requires sustained investment. The Government will be spending £155 billion on transport over the coming years to 2015. Government spending on transport in Yorkshire and Humber has increased more in percentage terms over six years to 2006-07 than in any other region; it has increased threefold to nearly £500 million.

In conclusion, both government and regional partners are right to be optimistic that the Yorkshire and Humber economy is heading in the right direction. We clearly face new challenges: the need to ensure that increasing prosperity and opportunity benefits all locations and communities across the region, including those rural communities so passionately described; the importance of developing and updating skills which are vital in a modern, competitive, global economy, encouraging innovation in both products and processes to maintain our competitive edge; and the need to balance economic growth with protecting and enhancing the environment. There are no easy solutions, no quick fixes. Government and regional partners must work together to deliver priorities in Yorkshire and Humber and to deliver the RES. This is not just another strategy document; it is a road map showing how partners can achieve high-quality sustainable growth with long-term benefits to people, business and the environment in Yorkshire and Humber.

My noble friend Lord Woolmer raised a question about housing density. The Yorkshire and Humber housing strategy aims to deliver the right supply and range of housing in the right location to support economic growth and urban regeneration. I am very interested in the points that he has raised about density. I will look into this myself and write to him on that question. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has raised a question about the flow of moneys through RDAs and I will look into that and get back to her in more detail as time will not allow now.

I thank my noble friend for initiating this debate and noble Lords for taking part. I have found it extremely interesting and am very proud to have some link to Yorkshire. We have heard very eloquently from around the House that Yorkshire and Humber is a very hopeful, very optimistic, very successful region and we have initiated a debate here which, thanks to the interest of noble Lords, will continue for many years.

House adjourned at 8.04 pm.