We are developing an ambitious and attractive UK free port offer to create hubs that will attract inward investment, create jobs and boost trade. Typically, free ports only offer customs benefits, but we are looking to go further than that to ensure that these turbo-charged areas can drive growth for their community.
I thank the Minister for that answer and for his speculative phone call earlier trying to tease out the nature of my question to him. The Conservative Mayor for Tees Valley, a member of the Government’s very carefully selected free ports advisory group, says that he hopes to see reduced corporation tax and exemption from employers’ national insurance contributions. Has the Minister made an assessment of the impact of these Tory proposals on the Exchequer and the state pension fund?
I pay tribute to the Conservative Mayor, Ben Houghton, in Teesside for championing his community. He has been advocating a free port because he believes that such a phenomenon will create jobs in his area, drive inward investment and boost trade. I hope that the hon. Lady would welcome that for her community in Grimsby, where the seafood industry and Associated British Ports, the port employer, has loudly called for such free port status for her area. I hope that, when the opportunity comes, she will support her community in applying for that.
My right hon. Friend is truly a champion of free ports, but will he agree to meet me to discuss the potential benefits for ports such as the port of Poole and the advantage for the wider region as well?
I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend. I believe that it is his birthday today, so I wish him a happy birthday. I am happy meet him and his colleagues from Poole to discuss free ports. We believe that these should be opportunities for the entire country to take advantage of.
The unadulterated charm of the Chief Secretary has, in my experience, not been surpassed—at any rate among Treasury Ministers.