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Investment Zones

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 5 September 2023

Investment zones are part of our industrial strategy to make sure that the benefits of our national strengths in our five growth priority sectors are spread throughout the UK.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his response. The north-east of Scotland has long been an exemplar of innovation in the fields of food and drink and energy, to name a few. Can he confirm that the north-east Scotland investment zone will lead to more innovation to promote these key industries not just in Aberdeen City, but in the wider north-east, including my constituency of Banff and Buchan?

I know that the Acorn carbon capture, usage and storage project is based at St Fergus in my hon. Friend’s patch, and that Banff and Buchan is within the north-east of Scotland region, which is one of two eligible areas and has been a long-standing global centre for excellence in clean energy, so I wish him every success as those discussions with the Scottish Government continue.

Does the Chancellor agree that my constituency of Clwyd South, that of my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton) and the rest of north-east Wales represent one of the best candidates for a new investment zone? Will he also consider making this cross-border, given our very close economic, commercial and cultural ties with the north-west of England?

I know there are some great businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency—I much enjoyed meeting Robin and Helen Jones of Jones’ Village Bakery at a recent reception in No. 10, and I know they are going from strength to strength. I holidayed in Clwyd last year, and from the top of Moel Famau I saw a very impressive offshore wind farm. I completely agree that there is enormous potential in Clwyd for clean energy and, as discussions continue about investment zones, I wish him every success as well.

The UK’s first investment zone is in South Yorkshire, where the Mayor is working hard to develop our world-leading advanced manufacturing and innovation district. I am sure the Chancellor will agree that if we are going to create a growth area, we need to make sure people can access the jobs there via transport links, particularly by bus. Will he make sure that included within the financial package available is money to assist with local public transport?

I very much enjoyed my visit to South Yorkshire to open that investment zone. It is incredibly impressive what is happening there and it was wonderful to welcome new investment by Boeing as part of that. The hon. Gentleman is right to talk about transport; that is why we involve local authorities in all our investment zone decisions. It is also vital to have universities involved, which is why the University of Sheffield is playing such a key role.

I was present on the day the Chancellor came to launch the investment zone in my constituency, and of course I too welcome the investment into Boeing there. Does he accept that one of the other areas for future development in the investment zone is small modular reactors? A consortium is being developed in Sheffield with Sheffield Forgemasters, Rolls-Royce and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to look at the future—not merely to develop the techniques for SMRs, but to start building SMRs in Sheffield. Would he be willing to look at that proposal and hopefully offer support for it?

I enjoyed meeting the hon. Gentleman when we opened that investment zone. Let me reassure him that I am a big supporter of nuclear and I am very excited about the potential of SMRs. There is a competition going on this year, which we hope will be completed by the end of the year, to assess the viability of the various SMR manufacturers, and we want to get going as quickly as we can.