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Combined Authorities

Volume 613: debated on Monday 18 July 2016

11. What steps he is taking to encourage devolution of powers to combined authorities; and if he will make a statement. (905894)

Our Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 is delivering on our manifesto commitment to devolve powers and budgets to boost local growth in England. Ten devolution deals have been agreed already in local areas, covering some £7 billion of funds and some 16 million people in England.

A few days before the referendum, we heard that 5,000 jobs would be lost from HSBC. Surprisingly, only three days ago Mr Nigel Hinshelwood, who is the chief executive of HSBC, announced 1,200 new jobs and said that no jobs would be lost because of the supreme efficiency of the west midlands area. What further developments are happening with regard to the west midlands combined authority, which has the potential to promote even more employment during Brexit?

I understand the vital importance of the west midlands and the financial sector in boosting growth in that area as a fellow west midlands MP. My hon. Friend will know that very recently, in my former role, I went there to open the midlands financial centre of excellence, which will further help to develop jobs in that area. The west midlands combined authority that he asks about is now formally constituted; that happened last month. It looks set to have its first set of elections in May next year.

Over the next five years alone, the north-east was due to receive £726 million in EU funding, but the north-east devolution deal promises only £30 million a year for 30 years. Despite what the Secretary of State said just now, many devolution deals were already in a state of collapse before the EU referendum. With such high levels of uncertainty because of Brexit, is it not time he revisited all the devolution deals?

There is no need to reconsider any of the deals. These are good deals that have been reached by local leaders and central Government, and they will all, in turn, help to boost local growth. The hon. Lady mentions EU grants. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has mentioned, it is important that we bring certainty, and that is what we will be working to do.

19. One of the devolution deals that my right hon. Friend referred to a moment ago is the greater Lincolnshire deal, which is under consultation. May I urge my right hon. Friend, despite the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), to push ahead with that deal with, as the two councils in my constituency want, an elected mayor as part of it? (905902)

As my hon. Friend knows, it is not right for central Government to impose deals on any area. We certainly will not be doing that. These are deals because they require an agreement to be reached, but we will certainly be working with all areas that are interested, including Lincolnshire, to see what we can do.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the statement by the Local Government Association following the decision to leave the European Union. EU laws and regulations impact on many council services including waste, employment, health and safety, consumer protection, trading and environmental standards. My question on devolution is this: what steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that local government is consulted and represented when negotiations over the UK’s exit from the EU commence, and that powers from Brussels are devolved to a local level, not centralised in Whitehall?

It is very important that local government, whether through the LGA or otherwise, has a say in the process of leaving the EU. I think we all agree that it is important that that is done properly, and I will certainly be taking it up with my right hon. Friend the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.