The northern powerhouse is central to our plans for an economy that works for all. During these past few months, we have published the northern powerhouse strategy, launched the second northern powerhouse investment portfolio, allocated more than £500 million of local growth investment, launched the £400 million northern powerhouse investment fund, committed tens of millions to cultural investment in the north and, of course, supported 17 enterprise zones across the north that are in turn providing employment for 9,000 people.
With regional growth fund money and local enterprise partnership funding helping local businesses in my Colne Valley constituency achieve record levels of employment, will the Minister ensure that the northern powerhouse investment fund builds on that success and that we power the powerhouse for many years to come?
Absolutely. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he does in promoting the local economy. In total, the Leeds city region, which includes his area, has received £694 million of Government funding for local growth funds and the new £400 million investment fund is there specifically to support small and medium-sized businesses across the north that want to grow and expand.
The north-east should be the powerhouse for our country’s manufacturing and exporting renaissance, with a workforce who take pride in making and building things. Why, then, do the so-called industrial strategy and the so-called northern powerhouse do so little to invest in the jobs and infrastructure that the north-east needs?
One of the reasons people in the north of England have lost their faith in the Labour party is that it never has anything positive to say about the north of England. All Labour does is talk down the north and talk down people. Look at what is actually happening in the north-east: £379 million of direct Government investment in the north-east and record employment levels. The hon. Lady might not want to talk up Newcastle, but I will, because it is leading this country’s economic recovery.
On that note, Lancashire County Council has continually blocked an enterprise zone and business park in Morecambe and Lunesdale. Since the M6 link road opened up, we have been crying out for that. The Secretary of State himself has come down to see it. Would the Minister like to come during the election campaign and listen to the businesses that want that enterprise zone or business park?
I would be delighted to take up that invitation. I plan to visit many constituencies across the north during the election period, and I will of course visit my hon. Friend’s constituency. The Secretary of State has already visited. Enterprise zones have made a real difference to the economy of the north and, as I said, 9,000 jobs have been provided in them, so I will certainly visit.
The Manchester Evening News reported at the weekend pressure from Conservative Back Benchers to scrap HS2 to fund the Brexit bill. Will the Minister confirm that HS2 to Manchester will go ahead, to time and to the budget that has been outlined?
There has been no change to the Government’s policy on HS2. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, in addition, there is £13 billion of other investment. Over the next two years, particularly on the trans-Pennine line, there will be new rail, new carriages and new services—a whole new passenger experience. There will be over £2 billion of investment in that important transpennine route under the Government. The northern rail franchise will operate on an improvement basis, unlike the no-improvement basis when it was run by the Labour party.