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Strength of the Economy: West Midlands

Volume 646: debated on Wednesday 12 September 2018

Q12. What recent assessment she has made of the strength of the economy in the west midlands; and if she will make a statement. (906862)

I was indeed very pleased to be in the west midlands yesterday at the world’s first zero-emission vehicle summit, where I made clear my determination to put our manufacturers in the west midlands and across the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacture of zero-emission vehicles. The midlands has a very strong automotive industry. The growth of high-tech manufacturing across the region continues to drive investment: it is creating high-skilled jobs; it is boosting economic growth. The latest employment statistics, released yesterday, show there are now over 320,000 more people in work in the west midlands than in 2010.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Also based in the west midlands is silicon canal. Silicon canal is like silicon valley, but without the sunshine. It employs some 40,000 people working in computer science and there are some 6,000 different companies—the second largest cluster of its kind in the whole of Europe. With the announcement last week of 5G being based in the west midlands as a test bed, what more will the Prime Minister do to promote high-tech in the west midlands?

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the silicon canal. I am sure that, like me, he was delighted that the west midlands bid, which was pulled together by the Conservative metro Mayor Andy Street, was chosen as the winning location of the Urban Connected Communities project. As my hon. Friend mentioned, that will see the development of a large-scale 5G pilot across the region.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is also working closely with the West Midlands combined authority to develop and deliver a region-wide digital skills partnership, which will bring together key sectors in the region, working on improving the digital skills of individuals, small businesses and charities. Ensuring strong Government engagement and support for these sectors will be critical to the success of the Government’s industrial strategy.