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Industrial Strategy

Volume 626: debated on Tuesday 27 June 2017

12. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that all regions benefit from the Government’s industrial strategy. (900028)

The importance of our regions is a core pillar of our industrial strategy. We will build on successful clusters, of which the Humber Energy Estuary is a perfect example, as the hon. Lady knows. The Humber’s leading position in marine engineering has been further strengthened by the opening of factories around the offshore wind industry, including at Siemens, where 1,000 new skilled jobs have been created. This is the industrial strategy in action.

Ministers recently blocked Hull’s privately financed initiative to deliver rail electrification all the way to Hull, an important part of our infrastructure that is needed in east Yorkshire. Are people in Hull right to now believe that the £1 billion that was found for the Northern Ireland powerhouse comes at the expense of the northern powerhouse?

The hon. Lady knows as well as anyone in this House the commitment that this Government, and I in particular, have made to devolving funds to Hull and the Humber. They have benefited considerably, first from a city deal and then from a growth deal. That has contributed to the increased prosperity in her city, which I would have thought she would welcome.

Notwithstanding what my right hon. Friend has just outlined, and despite the fact that business confidence in the region is high, as outlined by the most recent Hull and Humber chamber of commerce’s quarterly report, there are still further initiatives that could be taken to advance the northern powerhouse. What further plans does my right hon. Friend have?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the aspects of the progress made around the Humber is the close working relationships that have been established by businesses and council leaders north and south of the Humber with the Government. I look forward to visiting the area again—I am a regular visitor—so that we can have further devolution of funds and powers there.

Over the last seven months nearly 2,500 job losses have been announced in York, including some at Nestlé, as well as the closure of two company head offices. There are clear challenges to York’s economy. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet me, along with his senior officials, so that we can address those serious challenges and ensure that the industrial strategy reaches York as well?

I should be very happy to do that. Nestlé is, of course, a major employer, and there is a cluster of food and drink and agriculture businesses in and around York. It has been identified in the industrial strategy as an area of real potential, and I look forward to working with the hon. Lady to realise that potential.

As the Secretary of State will know, expanding Torbay’s manufacturing sector is a key part of diversifying our economy for the future, but a lack of skills may hold us back. Will he confirm that the Government are still seeking to deliver institutes of technology throughout the regions in England?

I will indeed. As I said in an earlier answer, the importance of upgrading our skills education is vital in all parts of the country, including Torbay, and institutes of technology are a way of making sure that industries can benefit from the particular skills that they need.

Having abolished the regional development agencies, the Conservative party has refused to invest in growth for good jobs across the country. Ours is now the most unequal economy in western Europe. If every region produced at the same rate per head as London, we would all be one third richer, but instead working people have not had a pay rise for seven years. Will the Secretary of State commit himself to matching the specific proposals for investment for jobs that are laid out in Labour’s industrial strategy, or does his new-found largesse end at the shores of Ulster?

Again, that was a disappointing response. The hon. Lady knows, and the leaders of her local councils know, how important initiatives such as the city deal and the growth deal have been in the north-east. If she looks around the country, she will see that, whereas in past years most jobs were created in London and the south-east, that situation has been transformed, and the north-east of England is one of the areas that have created jobs at a more rapid rate than anywhere else in the country. She should commend that development.