European Union (Finance) Bill

Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by Mr Secretary Hammond, Greg Hands, Mr David Gauke, Mr David Lidington, Damian Hinds and Harriett Baldwin, presented a Bill to approve for the purposes of section 7(1) of the European Union Act 2011 the decision of the Council of 26 May 2014 on the system of own resources of the European Union; and to amend the definition of “the Treaties” and “the EU Treaties” in section 1(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 so as to include that decision.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 5) with explanatory notes (Bill 5-EN).

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Debate on the Address

[5th Day]

Debate resumed, (Order, 2 June).

Question again proposed,

That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:

Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

Devolution and Growth across Britain

Mr Speaker: I inform the House that I have selected amendment (c) in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

1.47 pm

Mr Chuka Umunna (Streatham) (Lab): I beg to move an amendment, at the end of the Question to add:

“but regret that the Government has offered piecemeal measures which threaten to leave some areas behind; recognise that devolution needs to be part of an ambitious UK-wide plan not simply a limited series of one-off deals done by the Chancellor; note that the Government has failed to offer an economic growth package including new powers in transport, housing and skills for all areas, including for county regions; further regret that the Government is not offering all combined authorities in England the ability to retain all business rate revenue growth; further note that the Government has failed to offer a comprehensive strategy to build the homes, including the badly needed affordable homes, that our country needs; note that the Government has pledged a funding floor for Wales, but is concerned that fair funding will be contingent on an income tax referendum; note that, whilst the timeline of the cross-party agreement reached through the Smith Commission has been met and the Scotland Bill will make the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world, the Government has failed to confirm that the Barnett formula will be protected and welfare provisions do not go far enough; and resolve that devolution should be delivered without leaving Scotland worse off.”.

May I associate myself with the comments that you, Mr Speaker, made about Charlie Kennedy? Our thoughts go out to his family, his loved ones and his friends.

It is good to see you, Mr Speaker, back in your place not only re-elected to serve the people of Buckingham but re-elected as Speaker of this House. We meet this afternoon to discuss the Queen’s Speech and, in particular, its impact on devolution and growth across the UK.

Before I dive in, I would like to welcome the Business Secretary and his new ministerial team to their places. I congratulate him on his appointment. I am glad that, while the Business Secretary has changed, the right hon. Gentleman carries on the tradition that I and his predecessor appear to have set for those doing this brief in having little or no hair. I also welcome the new Communities Secretary and his ministerial team to their posts. Finally I would like to welcome all new Members to this House. I look forward, in particular, to hearing those who will deliver their maiden speech today. It is an honour and privilege to serve in this place, and all the more pleasurable when one gets to deliver a speech without intervention—my advice would be to savour the moment.

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I turn to the Queen’s Speech and the relevant Bills. Of the 21 Bills, clearly, the cities and devolution, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Bills are all of direct relevance to this debate and, when exploring growth, the enterprise and housing Bills too. Arguably, the European Union Referendum Bill, the tax lock Bill, the energy Bill and high speed rail Bills are also of relevance to our debate today, but there have been opportunities and will be another tomorrow to discuss those issues. For the purposes of our debate this afternoon, we will focus on the six primary Bills that I have mentioned; in closing, the shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will go into more detail about housing in particular.

I start by setting out the rationale for the official Opposition’s position on devolution. Why devolve? We are one of the most centralised countries in the western world. Some 70% of spending is done by central Government, compared with the OECD average of 48%, and the GDP per capita of all but one of our largest eight main cities is below the national average, which serves to show how we are missing out on the full benefits that every region can bring.

It is fair to say that in the last Parliament a growing consensus evolved around the need to change and devolve more power down. Some see devolution as a useful vehicle for shrinking the state. They are happy to cut what the Government do at the centre, but they are not too keen on Government action at any level. Devolving power is not really their goal; they simply want to hack off chunks of what Government do to support people and provide them with a platform to get on. That is not our approach.

Some talk a good game on devolution, and a shrinking state is not the be all and end all for them. However, when it comes down to it, they are happy to devolve power, but less happy to provide the resources to make such power meaningful. In the last Parliament, we heard a lot of talk about localism, but that came with a 60% cut in the Communities and Local Government budget. The Communities Secretary’s predecessor sought to park blame for the lack of resources with our local authorities, when blame properly rested with the last Conservative-led coalition and will rest with this Government if they press on with the extreme cuts that, during the election campaign, they said they would pursue. Again, that is not our approach.

Finally, some see devolution as simply a stop on a journey towards breaking up the United Kingdom and pursuing independence. If that were not the case, why do we hear so much about devolving power to the Scottish Parliament, but so little about devolving power from that Parliament to the regions and localities of Scotland? Double devolution is what is required in Scotland; that is why in the last Parliament my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) brought a private Member’s Bill to devolve immediately the job creation powers mentioned in the Smith agreement and ensure double devolution to local authorities, which are best placed to grow local job markets.

None of the approaches from the Scottish National party or the Tories reflects our position.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): The hon. Gentleman made an interesting point about the need for the SNP to devolve power to local authorities in

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Scotland. He forgot to mention the possibility of the Labour-run Welsh Assembly devolving powers to local authorities in Wales. Does he think that is also important?

Mr Umunna: In this House, we generally argue for subsidiarity within Europe. We should not stop at Europe; we should have subsidiarity in our own country, too—in all the different parts of the UK.

During our time in office, we pioneered much of the devolution that we now see across the United Kingdom. It was not perfect, but given the creation of the Greater London Authority, the Mayor of London, the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies, we did much to devolve power down. We also established regional development agencies in England, which did important work. We are proud of that record.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I am sure that this was just a slip of his mind, but the issue of English votes for English laws was not on the list that the hon. Gentleman presented. The Labour party was the stoutest defender of Scottish voting rights in this House. Will he back us in insisting that, rather than simply changing the Standing Orders, the Government bring forward a Bill for something as significant as the voting rights of hon. Members?

Mr Umunna: As has been discussed during the series of debates held since Her Majesty delivered the Queen’s Speech, we do not want two tiers of MPs to be created in the House of Commons.

We devolved power then and we support the principle of devolving more power now, in the Bills that I mentioned, for two principal reasons—one economic and one democratic. I turn first to the economic case. Decisions on how to grow our economy are often best made at a sub-regional and local level. Local actors, whether policy makers, business people or trade unions and others, best understand the unique combination of history, geography, demography and institutions that give their area a niche—a competitive edge, a comparative advantage—in the global marketplace.

The fact is crucial because in this era of globalisation, nations and regions need to concentrate their efforts on producing the services and goods that they are best at and then to trade them to generate the good, secure, well paid jobs of which we want more all over the UK. That matters because we have a higher incidence of low paid work than other developed nations. Despite the fact that our people work among the longest hours in Europe, output per worker in the UK lags behind that of our competitors.

To address the issue and raise productivity levels, areas need to harness their specific local skills and strengths and use them to become clusters of expertise and innovation. The simple fact is that one-size-fits-all policies devised in remote departmental silos are simply incapable of nurturing specific local strengths. It is the different players in our local areas and regions that are best placed to do that. We have to give them the tools to be the masters of their own destinies.

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): I want to ask about devolution within Wales. Swansea Bay city region, the conglomerate of Neath, Port Talbot, Swansea and Carmarthenshire, is the biggest urban footprint in

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Wales. It projects the international brand name of Swansea, thanks to the city’s football success, on the back of two universities plus Tata Steel and a confederation of local government, industry and academia. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is the way forward in a global marketplace—perhaps along with regional banking, which we have not yet got from the Government?

Mr Umunna: I completely agree. That is a fantastic example of what I am talking about. I had the pleasure of visiting Swansea Bay earlier this year to see that fantastic work.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be a mistake to confuse London as a whole with the City of London, which is of course hugely powerful and wealthy? People in London would not understand if other city regions such as the northern powerhouse got devolved powers, particularly over health, that were then denied to Londoners.

Mr Umunna: I agree with my hon. Friend, who, of course, does not have an interest in being the Lord Mayor of London, but may be looking for another post in the short term.

Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab): The Government insist that areas such as the north-east can have further devolution only if they have a mayor. Does it strike my hon. Friend as a strange anomaly that so-called devolution should insist on one way of doing things and deny local people a say on whether they want a mayor in the first place?

Mr Umunna: I completely agree. I will come specifically to that point in a moment.

We have talked about some of the examples of where the approach works. Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has turned the city into a hotbed of innovation that attracts the best graduates. A good European example is Eindhoven in the Netherlands. It has rebooted its innovation and, as a city comprising only 4% of the population, now generates 37% of Dutch patents.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) mentioned the example from Wales. Many of our colleagues in local government are doing pioneering, innovative stuff across the UK. In Oldham, Labour has introduced enterprise hubs in every secondary school; in Plymouth, it is working with housing associations to build 1,000 homes; in Leeds, it is setting up an apprenticeship brokering service for small and medium-sized businesses; and in Lambeth, where I am, it is using council buildings to provide a home for small businesses. We need to promote such ways of working if we are to address the ongoing structural imbalances in our economy. We may have achieved 2.8% growth last year, but our economy is still seriously imbalanced. We need look only at the Office for National Statistics regional gross value added figures to see the uneven distribution of growth. The Queen’s Speech talked about the Government’s desire to build a northern powerhouse, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott). In truth, we should seek to make every single region a powerhouse, not just have the northern powerhouse.

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Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend is making a very powerful speech. Bearing in mind that the UK trade deficit widened from the last quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of this year, does he not agree that local authorities and local enterprise partnerships play a very important role in helping to support businesses to take advantage of export opportunities, so that Britain’s businesses can meet their maximum potential in the world?

Mr Umunna: My hon. Friend raises a very important point. The current account deficit is at its highest ever level at the moment, and she is absolutely right about the approach that we need to adopt.

Beyond the economic argument, which I have talked about, there is a bigger argument to be made for devolution. We know that levels of trust in politics are low, but we also know from research that policies formulated and delivered locally command far greater trust than those made in Westminster.

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that west midlands manufacturers felt completely neglected for 13 years under the previous Labour Government and have enjoyed a renaissance only since the coalition Government? Is it not true that the severity of the financial crisis was much greater for the United Kingdom because our economy was so unbalanced in 2008?

Mr Umunna: I would say two things to the right hon. Lady. First, when I was in her area, I heard so many complaints, particularly during the last Parliament, about the abolition of Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency. Secondly, those involved in the renaissance in the automotive sector in particular—the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and so on—tell us how helpful and important it was that the previous Labour Government established the Automotive Council.

As I was saying, I want to move beyond the economic case to make the democratic case. We know that levels of trust are higher in decisions made locally, but we also know that the contempt people have for politics is fuelled not only by a sense that we are all in it for ourselves, but by a sense of powerlessness—a sense of citizens’ powerlessness in shaping what the system does for them and a lack of confidence in politicians’ power to change things in the face of powerful global forces. What better antidote to that sense of powerlessness is there than to give people more power in their localities and communities?

This is very much my personal view of what we in this House are all guilty of, but people are desperate for an end to the partisan point scoring we sometimes see in this place. There is an increasing desire for politicians to transcend the partisan bickering that characterises a lot of debate here. On that point, I should refer to the last hour in the Chamber. We all mourn the loss of Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader and former Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. He was a great and brilliant parliamentarian. He was so popular, and there has been such a huge outpouring of affection since his sad passing, in part because he could transcend the Punch and Judy of this place. If we are honest, it is fair to say that our colleagues in regional and local government are often far better than us in putting aside

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party political differences and working together. An example often cited is the way in which Lord Heseltine, a Conservative, collaborated with our Labour colleagues in Liverpool over the years. That led to his being awarded the freedom of the city by the Labour administration there in 2012. Let us look at the work of the cross-party London Councils body, which has rolled out its successful apprenticeship scheme across the Labour and Conservative-run boroughs of the capital. That is another reason for devolution, and it would actually help our democracy.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a very powerful democratic case for re-energising democracy through devolution to local authorities and local communities, and certainly through trusting local people to make decisions over their own spending at local level, but should we not also trust local people to have the ability to raise more of their own taxes at local level? That is a place where those on neither Front Bench have so far wanted to go, but is not fiscal devolution just as important in the total approach to devolution as the devolution of spending powers?

Mr Umunna: I believe—this is my view—that fiscal devolution is important, and I will say a little more about that shortly.

I have been clear that we support devolution across the UK in principle. It cannot, however, be devolution for the sake of it; it must be a devolution of powers for the purpose of creating a fairer and more prosperous society for everyone. As our amendment sets out, we want an ambitious UK-wide plan to devolve powers, not a series of piecemeal measures or one-off deals, and those powers must cover transport, housing and skills for all areas.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): The hon. Gentleman is making some very good points. In the spirit of cross-party working, I am sure that he, like me, would welcome the concordat between the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and central Government to devolve more powers to the north-west of England. Would he join me in encouraging other large councils, such as Lancashire County Council, to come forward to the Government with plans to ensure that more powers can be devolved to the constituents I represent in Lancashire?

Mr Umunna: I certainly want more councils to follow Manchester’s example. I think that it is a good thing, so I agree with the hon. Gentleman.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Umunna: I will make a little progress if I may, but I may come back to the hon. Gentleman later.

What of the Government’s proposals in the Queen’s Speech that we are debating? We are told that the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill will provide the legislative framework necessary to deliver the Greater Manchester deal and other future deals in large cities in England that choose to have elected mayors, as my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) mentioned, and in other places. Shortly before the general election, devolution

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deals were announced in relation to Sheffield and West Yorkshire. In addition to Manchester, we were told that the Government will pilot allowing councils in Cambridgeshire and Cheshire to retain 100% of the growth in business rate revenue so that they can reap the benefit of decisions to boost growth locally.

To pick up my hon. Friend’s point, however, why limit these arrangements to those areas? Why not give every region the opportunity to reap the benefits of the decisions they make to boost growth locally through such deals and through the devolution of business rates? Although I am a big fan, what about areas which, as she said, choose not to have elected mayors? Why should they be denied the benefit of greater local freedoms? Combined authorities, with or without a mayor, can provide a useful vehicle through which to do all this, but one important point for the Government to consider as they proceed with their legislation is this: what about areas which do not have or do not desire a combined authority, and how will they get more powers? My criticism of what has been proposed—I accept that we need to see the Bill—is that it does not seem to go far enough and is rather piecemeal. The Government need to find a way of ensuring that all areas can enjoy greater autonomy.

The Government say that their Scotland Bill aims to deliver in full the Smith commission agreement, to which the five main Scottish political parties signed up in November 2014. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the vow—a promise made and a promise to be delivered —made on the eve of last year’s referendum is delivered in full to make the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world. As we set out in our manifesto, we will work to amend the Bill to give the Scottish Parliament the final say on social security and the power to top up UK benefits. This settlement must recognise the strength and security offered by being part of the UK, which means retaining the pooling and sharing of resources that flow from the Barnett formula. It is imperative that that is protected and, for the sake of the Scottish economy and public services, one hopes that the SNP’s economically illiterate plans for full fiscal autonomy are dropped. The worst-case scenario for Scotland would be the hon. Members of the SNP in this House pressing for full fiscal autonomy and the Tory Government delivering it.

Jonathan Edwards: The Labour amendment equates fair funding with the so-called Barnett floor, yet the hon. Gentleman has just said that he is committed to the Barnett formula for Scotland. If Wales had the same level of investment as Scotland, it would be worth an extra £1.4 billion a year. Would that not be fair funding? If that were in the Labour amendment, I would be more than happy to march through the Lobby with him. As it is, we cannot.

Mr Umunna: Perhaps I will help the hon. Gentleman shortly, because I am coming straight on to Wales.

We are told that the Wales Bill will deliver a clearer, more stable devolution settlement for Wales and devolve important new powers to the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government. We understand that a funding floor is to be introduced to protect Welsh relative funding and provide certainty for the Welsh

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Government in planning for the future. We support measures to put Welsh devolution on a stronger statutory basis, as is the case with Scotland. We agree with taking forward proposals from the Silk commission and extending the power that the people of Wales have over their transport, elections and energy.

To come to the point made by the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards), let me be clear that Wales must not be unfairly disadvantaged by the Barnett formula. The Conservative-led coalition cut the Welsh budget by £1.5 billion. This Conservative Government must ensure that there is a fair funding settlement for Wales by introducing a funding floor. That funding floor should not be contingent on an income tax referendum.

The Queen’s Speech refers to legislation to implement the Stormont House agreement in Northern Ireland. This issue was raised in Prime Minister’s questions. The legislation will provide the architecture to deal with the past, institutional reform at Stormont and certain economic measures, including the devolution of corporation tax. In view of the concerning escalation of the dispute over welfare reform, we urge the Government to do all in their power to work with the Northern Ireland parties and, where appropriate, the Irish Government to avert this serious threat to political and economic stability in Northern Ireland.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that if the impasse is not resolved and the hole in the Northern Ireland budget of 6% for the remainder of this year is left unresolved, the only answer is for the Government to take over the welfare reform powers from the Northern Ireland Executive, because some parties have clearly shown themselves to be incapable of dealing with them?

Mr Umunna: Without wanting to fuel the dispute, I would say that the important thing is that it does not get that far. It is important that all the parties manage to find a resolution to the dispute. I know that the talks are ongoing today.

I have talked a lot about growth, but before I conclude, I want to turn to the specific growth measures in the Queen’s Speech. I sincerely hope that this Government have more success than the last one in the delivery of their policies on regional growth. In the last Parliament, having hastily and mistakenly abolished the regional development agencies that we established, the Government asked local enterprise partnerships to do basically the same things as the regional development agencies, but without the powers or the resources. Local enterprise partnerships have had mixed success. We want this Government to resource them properly and give them the support that they need to do the job that is being asked of them.

The last Government’s flagship regional growth fund was mired in chaos and delay from the start. Eventually, it managed to get moneys to successful bidders, although I suspect that a substantial amount is still gathering dust in Treasury coffers. We wait to see what further measures there will be in that respect in the Budget.

Graham Evans (Weaver Vale) (Con): On the hon. Gentleman’s point about LEPs, in the 13 years of the Northwest Regional Development Agency, why did Labour not come up with the idea of the northern powerhouse to give power to those great northern cities?

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Mr Umunna: I could ask the hon. Gentleman why, in the 18 years beforehand, his party did not come up with the ideas of the Mayor of London, the Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly.

We will, of course, hear a lot more about the Government’s plans for growth in the Budget, but in the Queen’s Speech we had the enterprise Bill. To the extent that it promotes growth and supports businesses, we will support it. I see the new Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise in her place. I am pleased that the Government propose to extend the primary authority scheme, which we established, to reduce the regulatory burden on business. That is good.

I would like the Business Secretary and his new deputy to go much further in the Bill than they have indicated they will in order to clamp down on the national scandal that is the late payment of small and medium-sized businesses by their large customers. We will press the Government on that during the passage of the Bill through this House. A conciliation service is all well and good, but what small businesses want is a regime with teeth that will impose sanctions on late payers automatically, without their having to have a row with their customers. That must be the Government’s goal.

To reform our economy, we must invest in our infrastructure. The key thing is to ensure that people in every part of the UK have a decent, affordable place to live. The shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will say more about that later.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that economic devolution must include mending our broken banking system, which is sucking money into London? Does he agree that, although the Government are about to announce, I imagine, the selling off of RBS at a massive loss to the taxpayer, we should instead use our investment in RBS to create a local banking network to support small businesses and rebalance the economy?

Mr Umunna: The hon. Lady is absolutely right that when we look at economic devolution we should consider reform of the way banking works. I am a big fan of regional banking.

I am conscious of time and I know that many Members want to make their maiden speeches, so I will finish where I started and return to the rationale for devolution. Often, people dismiss debates such as this as not being high up the list of concerns for the public. It is true that the turnout in the referendum on whether to establish the Greater London Authority and the Mayor was just 34.6%, and that the referendum on the establishment of the Welsh Assembly was carried with just 50.3% of the vote. However, I leave this thought for hon. Members to consider: if any Government now proposed to abolish the institution of the Mayor of London, not only would my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) go crazy, but there would be a public outcry. The same would be true if a Government proposed to do away with the Welsh Assembly or any of the new institutions we have set up. That reinforces my view that, when it comes down to it, people want more power, so we should ensure that they have it. For that reason, I commend our amendment to the House.

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2.17 pm

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of the Board of Trade (Sajid Javid): I echo the tributes that were paid to Charles Kennedy earlier today. I was not fortunate enough to know him well, but his reputation for courage, his principles and his humour were well known to all. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

I extend a warm welcome to all new Members of the House and to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, upon your return. I also welcome back the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna). I look forward to our many encounters over the coming months. The hon. Gentleman and I have an unusual connection. Soon after I was elected back in 2010, as was he, it came as a great surprise to be recognised so frequently by members of the public. I later discovered, after a particularly excited individual took a selfie with me, that they thought I was the hon. Member for Streatham. [Laughter.] I consider that to be a compliment, but I am not sure whether the same is true of him.

The title of our manifesto promised three things if we were returned to government: strong leadership, a clear economic plan and a brighter, more secure future for our country—our whole country. After Labour’s record-breaking recession, the British economy is experiencing record-breaking growth. Maintaining that growth will be at the heart of everything this Government do over the next five years. Because the Conservatives are the party of the many, not the few, we will deliver that growth in a way that benefits all of Britain’s people: creating opportunity for everyone, rebalancing our economy, devolving power to every corner of the United Kingdom—a one nation party; a one nation Government.

The Scottish and Welsh Governments already have more powers than they did five years ago. The Scotland Act 2012 contained significant new financial powers for the Scottish Parliament, all of which will be enforced by April 2016. The Wales Act 2014, introduced last December, moved various tax and borrowing powers from Westminster to Cardiff. Legislation introduced earlier this year paved the way for the devolution of corporation tax to Northern Ireland. Now we will go further.

Jonathan Edwards: The Secretary of State just mentioned the powers—including some minor taxes—devolved to Wales in the Wales Act 2014. Therefore, the principle of fiscal devolution seems to have been conceded. Why are he and his Government still insisting on a referendum about income tax devolution to Wales?

Sajid Javid: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and I assure him that I will come to just that point in a moment, but I hope he will please allow me to refer to Scotland first.

Of course, Scotland has had its referendum and its people chose to stay in the United Kingdom, which was the right decision. However, the referendum also sent a clear message that Scotland wanted a greater say over its affairs and greater control over its economic destiny. That is why we will deliver the Smith commission agreement in full.

Pete Wishart: The right hon. Gentleman may be one of the many in England, but in Scotland the Conservatives are most definitely the few, with their one Scottish MP

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and their 14% of the vote, their lowest share of the vote since the 19th century. Will he listen carefully to the clear demands from the Scottish Government about strengthening the Scottish Bill to give us the job-creating powers that our Scottish Parliament wants and the Scottish people voted for?

Sajid Javid: I remind the hon. Gentleman that although the Scottish National party did remarkably well in the election—and I congratulate it—still almost half the Scottish people did not vote for it, and there are all sorts of voices across Scotland that need to be represented in this Chamber.

Once the Smith commission agreement is in place, the Scottish Parliament will have additional powers on income tax and air passenger duty. All told, more than half the money spent by the Scottish Government will be raised in Holyrood. This package is an historic one for Scotland, which will soon possess arguably the strongest devolved Government anywhere in the world, empowered to build on the progress made over the past five years. Yet Scotland will retain the huge benefits of remaining part of a strong United Kingdom: the economic benefits; the social benefits; the defence benefits: and many more besides.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): As we have seen with revenue issues on the Irish border, the decision to give control of air passenger duty to the Scottish Parliament, which I well understand, could have massive implications for regional airports in England. What protections will the Secretary of State build in to protect the jobs and the economies involved?

Sajid Javid: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and we need to consider such issues carefully. However, the decision to devolve air passenger duty has been made.

I note that the Opposition Benches have adopted an entirely new look since the last Parliament. The SNP enjoyed unprecedented success, and I congratulate it on earning the trust of so many Scottish voters. However, the SNP should enjoy this honeymoon period, because the hard work is about to begin.

I turn to Wales. We will deliver a clearer, stronger and fairer devolution settlement, implementing in full the St David’s day agreement, led by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. The Wales Bill will make devolution clearer by introducing a reserved powers model, which is the system already in place for Scotland. It will make Welsh devolution stronger by devolving more powers to Cardiff, especially those covering energy, transport and the environment. We will also agree the precise level of a funding floor for Wales, and the mechanism to deliver it. That will be done with a clear expectation that the Welsh Government will call a referendum on income tax powers.

Northern Ireland does not fall within the scope of this debate as defined by the party opposite. However, we will take forward legislation to give effect to the Stormont House agreement and we look forward to working with colleagues in Belfast to make the devolution agenda benefit all the people of Northern Ireland, including, of course, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, to whom I wish a full and speedy recovery.

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Sammy Wilson: Central to the Stormont House agreement was the implementation of welfare reform. If that proves to be impossible because of the intransigence of both the Social Democratic and Labour party and Sinn Féin, who agree to the Stormont House agreement, will the Government take on responsibility for introducing welfare reform in Northern Ireland?

Sajid Javid: I am aware that there is a very delicate situation in the Northern Ireland Assembly at the moment, but we remain committed to introducing the Stormont House agreement.

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the most significant decisions that the previous Government made in their final year was to devolve corporation tax to Northern Ireland—to ensure that Northern Ireland was able to compete on a far more equal footing with the Republic of Ireland—and that that should be celebrated?

Sajid Javid: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight that decision; as he has alluded to, it took into account the unique situation of Northern Ireland, with its larger neighbour and the tax situation there. It demonstrates what this Government will do to bring about further devolution.

I turn briefly to England. No matter where people live, our intention is that they have a Government that is on their side and that represents their interests. As we have heard, devolution is strengthening the voices of Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as that of Scotland, within our Union. That should be just as true for England.

Mr Betts: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Sajid Javid: I will give way in a moment.

As a one nation Government, we will revise the Commons rules to make the law-making process fair, bringing about constitutional reform that serves people living in all parts of the United Kingdom. The introduction of English votes for English laws will do just that for England. Our proposals will balance the principle of English consent for English measures with the process of MPs from all parts of the UK continuing to deliberate and vote together.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State define what he means by an English-only matter, because I represent a seat in Wales that uses hospital services in England, transport in England—[Interruption.] No, it is because of geography. It uses employment in England, airports in Manchester, and it has people employed at Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port. These are big issues. Will he tell me why I cannot speak or vote on them?

Sajid Javid: The right hon. Gentleman should be reassured that he will still be able to speak out on behalf of his constituents on any issue he wishes to speak upon.

I am the MP for Bromsgrove; I was born in Rochdale; I was raised in Bristol; and I went to university in Exeter. I barely set a foot in London until my early twenties.

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David T. C. Davies: May I just add to the point that the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) made by suggesting to him that there are many people living in England who rely on getting their health service in Wales, and their MPs are unable to speak about it? Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree with me—a proud Welshman and a proud British subject—that there is a strong Unionist case for having English votes for English laws?

Sajid Javid: As ever, my hon. Friend makes a very powerful point, and I think that he is referring to the same Welsh NHS that has seen its funding cut by 10% over the last five years and that has some of the worst performance statistics of any part of the NHS in the United Kingdom.

I know all too well that England does not begin and end at the M25. Up and down the country, businesses of all shapes and sizes make an incredible contribution to our nation’s economic growth. All too often, however, they are held back by the age-old regional divides between the north and the south, and between the capital and the rest. For too long, politicians have shrugged their shoulders and claimed that these so-called divides are inescapable realities—an inevitable part of life. We do not accept that; we believe that every corner of the country has the potential to deliver economic growth and personal prosperity. We will take the steps necessary to boost local growth in England, devolving powers to cities, towns and counties, and allowing local people to take control of the economic levers in their areas.

Mr Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) (Lab): We in the west midlands look forward to the greater devolution the Government are promising, but these are just fine words. The reality is that the Government refused to sanction the multimillion pound gateway project. It was supported fully by our local enterprise partnership, and would have created jobs and growth in Coventry and the west midlands. Can the Secretary of State reconcile the two in his own mind?

Sajid Javid: The hon. Gentleman claims that these are just words, but it is partly because of the devolution measures we have already taken, which I will come on to in a second, that he has seen a more than 50% decline in unemployment in his constituency. I would have thought he would welcome the measures we have already taken.

This work started in the previous Parliament with the creation of 39 local enterprise partnerships, chaired by business leaders and covering the whole of England, and 27 city deals revitalising the English regions by enabling private sector-led growth. This approach is bearing fruit. Last year, more jobs were created in Birmingham than in the whole of France. In the last quarter, the north-west created a new job every three and a half minutes.

The Chancellor has taken the work of economic rebalancing to the next stage by outlining his vision for a northern powerhouse. The cornerstone is the devolution deal already reached with the elected leaders of Greater Manchester. They will elect their own mayor, who will be responsible and accountable for making Greater Manchester greater still.

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Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Given that the interim Greater Manchester mayor is an equal partner on the Greater Manchester combined authority, will the Secretary of State outline what will be in his cities and devolution Bill, and whether that will place the newly elected mayor of Greater Manchester above the combined authority? What powers will the mayor have that the combined authority currently has as its own?

Sajid Javid: The mayor will become the chair of the combined authority. I hope that helps to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): Does the Secretary of State not accept that the Conservatives’ much trumpeted and heralded idea of English votes for English laws is an irrelevance and a red herring, because the Scottish National party practises that anyway? Rather than tie the House up in constitutional niceties, he should rely on the good judgment of the Scottish National party.

Sajid Javid: It might be an irrelevance to the SNP, but it is not an irrelevance to the people of England.

Manchester is not alone: Sheffield and West Yorkshire agreed deals under the previous Government. We are legislating to let other places elect an executive mayor and allow these cities, too, to raise, spend and save money. This is not simply devolution; it is a revolution in the way England is governed.

Graham Evans: Speaking as a north-west MP, the north-south divide grew in the past 20 or 30 years and accelerated under 13 years of the Labour Government. It is this Government who have done something to rebalance the economy. Under Labour, the City, London and the south-east grew. It is this Government who are rebalancing the economy for the first time. They should be congratulated.

Sajid Javid: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. By 2010 under the previous Labour Government, 33% of the jobs created were in London or the south-east. In the past five years, 60% of the jobs created were outside London and the south-east. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government deserves great credit for the progress already made on this agenda and I look forward to hearing his contribution a little later.

Mr Betts: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Sajid Javid: I want to continue my speech.

Looking at the incredible success that much of the UK is already enjoying, it would be easy to forget just how far we have come. When this House reconvened in 2010 our economy was on the brink, reeling from the deepest recession in almost 100 years and burdened with the largest peacetime deficit in our history. [Interruption.] Labour Members do not want to know. They want the country to forget. We were struggling to pay for the world’s largest bank bail-out. The turnaround achieved in the past five years has, by any measure, been remarkable.

Last year, Britain was the fastest-growing major advanced economy in the world. Just today, the OECD confirmed that in 2015, according to its projections, we will once again be the fastest growing major economy in the

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advanced world. We have more people in work than at any point in history thanks to 2.2 million private sector jobs created by British business since 2010. In fact, the UK has created more jobs in five years than the rest of the European Union put together, giving us the highest employment rate in our history and the lowest claimant count for 40 years. We have cut the deficit as a percentage of GDP by half. We cut corporation tax to 20% and cut employer national insurance contributions. The British public have endorsed the Conservative’s long-term plan, which has allowed this business-led recovery. They gave us a mandate to continue to implement it and that is exactly what we will do.

Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): In June 2010, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government said they would eliminate the deficit by 2015. Why did they fail?

Sajid Javid: There we have it: a resounding defeat in the election and not a single lesson learned. Labour Members come back to this Chamber and we still have arsonists throwing stones at the firefighters.

Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I welcome the devolution of powers and money to the north of England. We hear about Manchester, we hear about Leeds and we hear about Sheffield. What can the Secretary of State say to the people of North Yorkshire? How will we benefit from devolution to the north?

Sajid Javid: I welcome my hon. Friend to this Chamber and congratulate him on his election victory. We will keep on doing more of the same: more economic measures; more devolution; and more investment in local communities, for example through LEPs. We will help to reduce unemployment throughout Britain, including in his own constituency where, as he will know only too well, it has fallen by 60% in the past five years.

Jake Berry: I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way on this important point. The northern powerhouse ideal, which is hugely popular across the north of England, must not be just about our cities, but our regions. I repeat my call for Lancashire County Council to come forward with a proposal that will see powers devolved to Lancashire, so that our economy can continue to grow in the way that this Government have delivered on in the past five years.

Sajid Javid: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not just a programme for cities; it is for regions. He uses the example of Lancashire. If Lancashire comes forward with proposals, we will absolutely consider them. Our new Bill will allow us to give it more powers.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): May I encourage my right hon. Friend, in his one nation approach to growth, to remember that there are towns, such as Bedford and Luton in my county, with above-national levels of unemployment? May I also say how nice it is to have a Secretary of State for Business who understands entrepreneurship and is prepared to put small businesses at the forefront of his policies?

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Sajid Javid: The Conservatives are backing business. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He was no doubt very keen during the election to point out to his constituents that unemployment in his constituency has fallen by more than 40%. We intend to make sure it keeps falling. That will be seen in black and white in some of the Bills we are introducing. Our new full employment Bill will help to create 2 million more jobs in this Parliament—a job for everyone who wants one. We will work with businesses, city regions, devolved Administrations and local enterprise partnerships to ensure that we develop the right skills for today’s economy and for the future. Underpinning these efforts will be our commitment to create 3 million more apprenticeships in the next five years.

Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment. Can he provide my constituents with some reassurance? We have an excellent local enterprise partnership in Basingstoke, the M3 enterprise partnership. It has done fantastic work in securing investment into our roads locally, but the thing we need now is investment in our rail system. Will he join me in suggesting to the Secretary of State for Transport that he needs to be doing more to support rail in our area, which is key to its growth?

Sajid Javid: I welcome my right hon. Friend back to the House. She is absolutely right that having the right infrastructure is hugely important to maintaining growth and the fall in unemployment. In her constituency, I think she has seen a record fall of 67% in unemployment over the last five years. We intend to continue that, and I am sure that infrastructure will have a big role to play.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend to his post. Those of us who know his business background will be delighted by the appointment. Will he consider whether more can be done to encourage the use of tax increment financing for significant infrastructure projects? We have one in London, promoted by the Mayor, but there is scope for more, with a genuinely free market approach to infrastructure provision.

Sajid Javid: I welcome my hon. Friend back to the House, and he again makes a very good point. I will help him to promote that. It is part of some of the city deals, but I think we can benefit from it a lot more.

I was talking about our commitment to 2 million jobs and 3 million more apprenticeships during the lifetime of this Parliament. These are not mere targets; the dignity of a job and the security of a pay packet are the foundations of our individual freedoms—freedoms powered by economic growth, through British business. Equally, British voters have shown their unwillingness to forgive the party responsible for plunging us into a generation-defining crisis—a party that has defined itself by seeking to punish, demonise and destroy business—but this anti-business approach from the Opposition was not a shock. Ultimately, Labour does not understand business; it does not understand enterprise. It never has and it never will.

The task ahead now is to cement Britain’s position as the best place in Europe to start and grow a business. The enterprise Bill is resolutely, unashamedly pro-business.

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It builds on the clear achievements of the past five years, when we cut red tape and slashed the cost of doing business by £10 billion. We made audits simpler for small businesses, removed pointless hurdles for house builders and exempted thousands of businesses from needless health and safety inspections. As a result, we now have the lowest burden of regulation among G7 nations.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): I have been listening carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman has been saying and I have not heard him talk about productivity. Under his Government, British productivity now languishes well behind that of Germany and even France, which he likes to criticise. Is he proud of his record on productivity and does he think it is right that British workers should have to work longer hours and have more jobs to earn less?

Sajid Javid: The hon. Lady will know that productivity has been a challenge in our country for many, many years, and it is this Government who have been doing something about it. Her hon. Friend the Member for Streatham referred to the automotive industry. Productivity in the British automotive industry has grown significantly over the last five years, which has led to record sales both at home and abroad. Productivity is something we will continue to work on, but one thing I am sure of is that had we adopted the policies advocated by her party, productivity would be a lot worse in this country.

Our job is far from done. The enterprise Bill will enable us to save businesses at least £10 billion over this Parliament. Regulators will have to report their own compliance with better regulation requirements—a clear incentive to think carefully about the needs of business. More small businesses will be able to benefit from “primary authority”, stopping the cost and hassle of obeying multiple masters and allowing companies to focus on what matters: serving their customers and growing.

Caroline Lucas: Will the Secretary of State say whether his new enterprise Bill will ensure greater access to affordable credit for small businesses, in particular by setting up a network of local stakeholder banks? That is what works in so many other countries. Instead of flogging off RBS, will he look seriously at transforming it into a network of local banks?

Sajid Javid: The hon. Lady will know that we have taken a number of measures over the last five years to strengthen finance and access to finance, particularly for small companies, through the funding for lending scheme and the investment in credit unions, by relaxing some of the rules around credit unions—something I know she has supported—and through the British Business Bank and the more than £1.8 billion that it has helped to provide to some 40,000 businesses. We will continue to work on these measures, because where she is right is that access to finance is key to continuing to see a fall in unemployment.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Sajid Javid: I have to make some progress. A number of Members want to speak.

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The Conservatives have always been the party of small business. Our greatest leader grew up in a grocer’s shop. I was raised by parents who juggled the demands of a family life with the stresses of managing a family business. We know first hand how important a successful small business sector is to a healthy, growing economy. We have seen for ourselves the unique struggles faced by sole traders and the owners of small companies, and we will continue to support the sector in every way we can. That is why we are setting up a small business conciliation service to help to resolve disputes between companies, especially over late payment. At the same time, we will improve the business rates system ahead of the 2017 revaluation, including through reform of the appeals system.

A thriving and growing economy must also be underpinned by democratic and fair industrial action. The trade union Bill will guarantee that strikes are the result of clear and positive recent decisions by union members. It will never be right to allow the actions of a few to hurt the hard-working majority. We will introduce a 50% voting threshold for union ballot turnouts. We will also require that, in the key health, education, fire and transport sectors, 40% of those entitled to vote must support strike action. If a union’s members genuinely support a call for strike action, we wholeheartedly support that right, but we will ensure that businesses and the wider public do not suffer widespread, costly disruption when there is no clear backing among members.

Our message could not be clearer: we are putting the interests of business first, second and third. We are dismantling bureaucracy and devolving powers to local leaders. This is how we will rebalance our economy and create opportunity in urban Britain and in rural Britain, in every part of our great nation.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale): Order. May I once again remind the House that maiden speeches, of which there will be many today, should be heard without interruption, even if they are from the Front Bench? Front-Bench spokesmen are not subject to the time limit, but after the next speaker, there will be a six-minute time limit imposed, as implied by the Speaker.

2.48 pm

Michelle Thomson (Edinburgh West) (SNP): Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to give my maiden speech—and, indeed, for reminding the House that I should be heard uninterrupted. That makes me feel a little more at ease. Within this speech I intend to give the House a sense of who I am, both as the new Member for Edinburgh West and also as the shadow Business, Innovation and Skills Minister. However, before I do so, I must add my own tribute to Charles Kennedy, who was a politician I greatly admired, including for his wit.

Edinburgh West’s boundaries, like those of many other constituencies, are not strictly limited to the area in its name. They extend from the beautiful South Queensferry, with its iconic rail bridge, through Kirkliston and Ratho and into the city, encompassing Edinburgh airport, the headquarters of the Royal Highland Society and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and then into the west end of the city, past Edinburgh zoo—is it too early in

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my speech to get three for the price of one in panda jokes? Passing parts of Stenhouse, Carrick Knowe and Corstorphine, Edinburgh West includes Murrayfield, a beautiful place as well as the home of our Scottish rugby. On the other arterial route into town, it includes Barnton, Cramond and parts of Blackhall, as well as Drylaw, Pilton and Muirhouse.

For many, Edinburgh West is a place of comfortable living, and visitors would need to look hard to recognise the innocuous building in Drumbrae as a food bank, one of several in my constituency. It is easier to sense the daily struggle for many in Muirhouse, where chronic underemployment and social deprivation is apparent.

Throughout the constituency, as in many other areas, small businesses are endemic. Small and medium-sized enterprises form around 99.3% of Scottish businesses, and “small” businesses, meaning those with zero to 49 employees, form about 99.1%. They are indeed the backbone of our community.

Interestingly, though, Edinburgh as a whole demonstrates the parallel worlds of wealth alongside poverty. I am constantly reminded of the danger warnings from the world-renowned economist Stiglitz that an unequal society not only limits our ability to compete, but is

“both a cause and a consequence of volatility”.

My predecessor, Mike Crockart, was considered to be a hard-working MP, and many years ago we worked together as colleagues in Standard Life. I have to say that we often found debates about politics a lot more interesting than the debates about pensions. Despite a robust campaign, he was unable to resist the swing away from the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish National party came from fourth in 2010 to first in 2015. I wish him well in his future career.

Let me say a little about myself. I started life as a professional piano player, and then spent many years delivering large-scale business and IT change in financial services. I then set up my own small business. Politics was always an interest, but it became a passion as I became involved in our debate about independence. I and many other business owners investigated the business case for independence, having gone through the numbers, having gone through the economics and having looked at the status quo and asked how we could grow our economy in new emerging markets. We looked at the risks, looked at the opportunities and concluded that that was the right way to go. I was joined by literally thousands of business owners in coming to that decision. Of course, we know that the strong economy that we all seek—we want targeted growth by the use of effective economic levers—underpins the public services from which we all benefit.

We have touched today on the forthcoming Bills, and I will personally watch with interest. My driver in this debate is about the ambition that must underpin what we want to achieve. I will therefore be watching to see whether there is an appropriate level of ambition and vision. Will the enterprise Bill provide measures that really encourage and support small businesses? Will it start to take steps to address the chronic lack of available liquidity for those businesses? Will the full employment and welfare benefits Bill really aim to deliver full employment, or will it focus on yet more cuts—the

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self-same cuts that mean we have to support people, whether through housing benefit or working tax credits? I have to say, that does not make sense to me.

Will the housing Bill simply tinker around the edges of English planning laws, or will it really support affordable housing and new jobs to help the sector recover from what has been a very difficult time? Will the national insurance contributions Bill provide real reforms to incentivise business and, if not, will the Government devolve national insurance to Scotland so that we can do so?

Will the European Union Referendum Bill pander to the Eurosceptics, or will it allow the framework for a proper realisation of the benefits to business of the free movement of goods, services and people? We know that the EU is the main destination for Scotland’s international exports. The Daily Telegraph recently quoted Giles Merritt, head of the Friends of Europe think-tank in Brussels, as saying:

“Everybody is very aware that Britain is the next big problem on the horizon. The mood is that we’ve got to save the British from themselves”.

It may be that the austerity agenda will drive all that is presented to the House. The need for cuts was sold as being to decrease the debt and the deficit, but during the last Parliament, the Chancellor failed on all of his own measures. Arguments against austerity were trodden underfoot by what Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist, calls “a bogus narrative”, and the Office for Budget Responsibility notes that the UK is the only country where the deficit has been reduced not by growing but by cutting. Growth must now be the focus, and it begins at the bottom in a virtuous cycle, as people spend money in their local communities and in their local businesses.

Much more importantly, will the Scotland Bill really offer the sort of power we need to grow our economy, to invest, to create jobs and ultimately to provide more sustainable and worthwhile wealth? To what extent will it support our drive for a culture of investment, innovation, research and development and increased productivity, for a renewed focus on manufacturing and new infrastructure, and for all the ambition the SNP promotes? We seek “powers for a purpose”. We seek to make a difference and to link the policies of economics, labour and welfare for better outcomes. Surely that is what good government must be about.

I fear that the Scotland Bill provides little of what we seek. It falls comprehensively short of fully implementing the Smith commission’s recommendations, which themselves fell short of the vow promised during the referendum.

The UK Government must honour the Smith commission promises in full. It is important to emphasise that the commission, which was a response to support for independence in the referendum, is a floor on new powers, not a ceiling. Those are the minimum powers, and we need an appropriate response to the number of new SNP Members we see here on these green Benches.

It is time for thought-leadership about our business and how we do business. We will seek to make progressive business alliances that encourage ambition, aspiration, investment in infrastructure and innovation. To do that, we must rebalance our focus on to smaller businesses, as it is them that will fuel growth. We must also seek to combat the relentless navigational pull of London, and

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to that end we do indeed support devolution for cities across the UK and putting power back in the hands of those who understand best what is required.

Business is and always was an enabler for society. It is time to look afresh at our definitions of success and how we create the conditions for success. Crude measures of growth by GDP per capita are outdated. The leading economies use the so-called “happiness indices”, which provide a link with an holistic, embracing, rounded society of which business, innovation and the supporting skills form a part. I look forward to taking part in driving positive change for my constituents in Edinburgh West, for business, innovation and skills in Scotland, and across all of these isles.

2.57 pm

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): I welcome the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Michelle Thomson), who shares with me the pleasure of having an airport in her constituency. I hope that she will forgive hon. Members, as I do, if they use her airport. I have definitely been through her constituency on many occasions in order to visit my family roots.

Representing a constituency in the west midlands conurbation, I have watched as Manchester and Leeds-Bradford have benefited from their collaboration, and I hope to see the councils in my area come together of their own free will to create a midlands powerhouse.

It is clear that trying to run the country from Whitehall has failed. The Government’s approach to devolution has the advantage that it does not impose a structure, as was the case with the regional development agencies, but lets the authorities choose who they want to work with. That is the key to the success of the local economic partnerships, and the one covering my area of Greater Birmingham and Solihull has been particularly successful. The old RDA’s actions resulted in money being sucked into Birmingham, with other surrounding authorities losing out. In a spirit of co-operation, I encourage the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) to temper his views about the positive impression of RDAs by speaking to his colleagues from Coventry, who felt that they really lost out under Advantage West Midlands.

The sheer size of Birmingham City Council has been the sticking point for further collaboration. As the Kerslake report of December 2014 puts it, its size is

“both a badge and a barrier”

to its progress, and it faces

“significant budget difficulties…and does not yet have credible plans to meet these”.

It is no wonder that there is a degree of reluctance to combine.

The key to harmony in the Birmingham and Solihull LEP is the “one authority, one vote” policy for its governance structure. I believe that an explicit reference to that in the forthcoming Bill would give smaller local authorities the reassurance that they seek. The approach taken by Greater Manchester authorities of giving each authority a veto on sensitive policy areas such as housing and planning will also be key for councils such as mine. My area contains some of the most valuable regional and, indeed, national assets, including Birmingham airport and the National Exhibition Centre. There is also the Meriden Gap between Coventry and Birmingham, without which the area would simply be concreted over.

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Birmingham’s willingness to give itself one vote on decisions, thus placing itself on a par with the smaller metropolitan and shire districts, will give other councils the confidence to join.

I am not totally convinced about the establishment of a “metro mayor” for the midlands powerhouse. Rivalries between the towns and cities are intense, not least on the football pitch. I am thinking of, for instance, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Coventry, to name just a few. Perhaps, however, a smaller local authority could take the lead.

I was interested to read that healthcare might be granted to the new combined authorities as a competency, and I think that would be helpful. It would also speed up the integration of health and social care at local level. Solihull is certainly keen to be in the vanguard, given its coterminous boundaries.

As for education, there is a great opportunity to devolve more powers and to achieve fairer funding. Let me be specific. Solihull educates more than 7,000 pupils from across its borders in Birmingham and Coventry, and the funding gap has increased to £1,300 per pupil. Solihull schools enjoy an excellent reputation, and parents want their children to benefit from it, but the funding shortfall is now having adverse consequences. For example, schools in Birmingham are poaching Solihull’s teachers with a premium payment of several thousand pounds, which Solihull cannot match. As a result of the funding differential, head teachers are struggling to manage without cutting staff and other vital services.

Surely the health principle of the money following the patient should apply to education as well. The pupils who attract higher per capita funding because of where they live should be able to bring that funding with them to the place where they are educated. That is an easier principle to deliver than the wholesale change in the funding formula—which, incidentally, I support, but which will create both winners and losers. In a reductio ad absurdum, Birmingham would have to build at least six new schools for the pupils whom Solihull currently educates, which would be a very inefficient use of taxpayers’ money.

Some important considerations are necessary when it comes to this level of devolution. Lord Heseltine was right to point out in his report “No Stone Unturned” that our country is held back by its over-centralised structure. Devolution will bring diversification. It will not be possible to cry “postcode lottery”.

I welcome the principles of the devolution Bill. I believe that our great city should seize the opportunity to take new powers to better meet the needs of its citizens.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Before we continue the debate, I have a short announcement to make. The House will know that the election of Deputy Speakers took place today, and that the ballot was closed at 1.30 pm. The counting has now finished.

Before I announce the results, let me thank very warmly—and I hope the House will join me in thanking very warmly—the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) and the hon. Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) for serving as temporary Deputy Speakers during the debates on the Queen’s Speech. Let me also pay a warm personal tribute to Dame Dawn Primarolo,

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who retired from the House at the general election after 28 years of service, and who served with distinction as a Deputy Speaker in the last Parliament.

I shall now announce the result of the ballot that was held today for the election of Deputy Speakers. Mr Lindsay Hoyle was elected Chairman of Ways and Means. Mrs Eleanor Laing was elected First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. Natascha Engel was elected Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. I congratulate all three colleagues who have been elected, and I greatly look forward to working with them.

The results of the count will be made available as soon as possible in the Vote Office, and will be published on the intranet.

3.5 pm

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): I, too, congratulate the Deputy Speakers, and congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your re-election. I also congratulate the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who I see is present. In the last Parliament, as planning Minister, he showed great willingness to listen to recommendations from the Select Committee, which I chaired, and to accept our proposals and amendments. I that we can establish a similar relationship if I am re-elected as Chair of the Committee in this Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman has not only a principled commitment to devolution but a track record on it—which I think is recognised by Members on both sides of the House—as well as being willing to look for solutions that meet local needs, in the true spirit of devolution.

Let me begin by raising two issues relating to what the Government have proposed so far. The first was raised in an earlier debate by one of my hon. Friends, who challenged the Government to explain why, if we were really serious about devolving functions to communities and their elected representatives at local level, we had to tell those representatives how the arrangements should best be governed. Why must we insist on an elected mayor to enable powers to be devolved to combined authorities? Many communities may decide that elected mayors are the best way forward. Why are the Government saying, “If you do not have our version of governance at local level, you cannot have devolved powers in the first place”? That is not typical of the right hon. Gentleman’s track record. When he was responsible for city deals, he was prepared to tailor arrangements at local level, in discussions with councils, in order to meet specific needs. Can we not have a rethink about that?

As for the second issue—and I challenge my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) on this—why are the Government committed to devolving spending powers? Why are they prepared to trust local communities with the right to spend money and make decisions in that regard, but not prepared to trust them with the right to raise taxes in the first place? Why is something that is good for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland not good for England as well? What is wrong with extending the principle? The Government have been reluctant to do that, and my party’s Front Benchers have been somewhat reluctant to do it as well.

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There is cross-party support for such a move. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk) and the hon. Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) are present. They were both members of the Select Committee in the last Parliament. We produced a report on fiscal devolution to local government in England that received widespread support. The Local Government Association adopted it, and, along with the London Finance Commission, the Mayor of London—who I see in a reincarnated form as the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson)— produced very similar proposals.

The Front Benchers do not seem to understand that if we are to have real devolution in this country, it cannot simply be a matter of central Government handing out largesse and then reducing it, thus passing the responsibility for cuts to local authorities. That is not real devolution at all. Let us go a bit further, and be a bit braver. Does the Secretary of State not have an instinct—a real passion—to be the Secretary of State who delivers real devolution to England as well as to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Let me raise a third issue during my six minutes. I am passionate about housing. We must start to build a quarter of a million homes to meet demand, and I think that we shall have to spend some more Government money. We must remove the borrowing cap that restricts councils’ ability to spend. Housing associations are struggling as a result of the cuts in the amount of money that they have per unit of development. Many of them are not taking up social housing grant, as they did before; I think there was a shortfall in the last financial year.

I understand the Government’s commitment to build more on brownfield sites, but the problems with paragraphs 47 and 49 of the national planning policy framework and the issues of which the Secretary of State is aware from his previous role as planning Minister—the challenge regarding definitions of viability—are affecting local authorities’ ability to include brownfield sites in their local plan. The speech contains a proposal on the right to buy that the National Housing Federation says will cost £11 billion. We cannot trust the Government on that, because the intended one-for-one replacement of houses sold simply has not happened. According to the very best estimates, about one house has been built for every 10 sold.

The Government are going to take private assets into public control. They will direct private companies and charities on how to use their assets. If they do that, are they nationalising those assets and taking their debts on to the Government’s books? Have they looked at the report from the Office for National Statistics on whether they will include the entire debt of housing associations in Government debt? Have they listened to the National Housing Federation, which called for a review of this policy? Its members say that the concerns about the future of their finances, the right to buy, welfare reform, the rise in rent arrears and the introduction of universal credit are taking them to a place where they do not feel comfortable about developing in the future. This policy has not been thought through. It is a real challenge to the future viability and independence of housing associations, and it will affect whether they develop in the future. That matter of concern needs addressing.

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3.11 pm

James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con): It is a great honour to be called by you, Mr Speaker, a fellow son of Edgware, for my maiden speech, and a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts).

I pay tribute to my predecessor, Tim Yeo, who served in this House for 32 years, holding a range of positions in both opposition and in government, most notably perhaps in 2003, when he held the position of shadow Secretary of State for Public Services, Health and Education —an interesting brief. At a local level perhaps his most notable achievement, among many, was in helping us to deliver the brand new Sudbury community health centre, in our largest town, which will play a key role, as Sudbury is an early adopter in Suffolk’s moves to integrate health and social care. Tim Yeo was very well respected on matters of energy policy as the Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change. I pay tribute to his length of service and to his passion for environmental issues, and I wish him well for the future.

South Suffolk is quite simply a gem. It is one of the most beautiful constituencies in England, and it is a huge privilege to be sent here to represent it. There is not time to mention all its most beautiful villages, but those that are most famous are known as “Lovejoy” country, because they featured in that very popular television series, which some hon. Members may remember. Many scenes in “Lovejoy” were filmed in my constituency, including in the antique shops of Long Melford, and the very last episode, “Last Tango in Lavenham”, was filmed in possibly our most famous village.

I say “last episode”, but you Mr Speaker may be interested to know that I recently heard on very good authority that a Mr Tony Jordan is putting together a new series of “Lovejoy”. My message to him is, “Please do come and film again in our constituency. It’s a great boost to tourism, it gets the cash tills ringing.” And if he needs any extras, I am available—when the House is not sitting or with kind permission of the Whips Office.

We have a very fine artistic heritage in South Suffolk, being directly connected to two of our country’s greatest painters, Gainsborough and Constable. Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, and his home has become what is known as “Gainsborough’s house”, now a very successful art gallery that I support in its push for national lottery funding.

If you travel up the River Stour to East Bergholt, you come to what is called Constable country, where John Constable painted some of his most famous landscapes, including of course “The Hay Wain.” For those who do not know what it looks like, it is the backdrop to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

We are also spoiled by the beauty of our churches. Again, there are too many to mention. Favourites include Clare, Denston and Stoke by Nayland, but there are two in particular that I wish to mention: one is St Mary’s, Shotley, which looks out to sea and has the naval graves of many young sailors who gave their lives serving at sea; the other is my own church of St Edmund King & Martyr, in Assington. Members will recall that the Chancellor of Exchequer is fond of saying how on the economy we should fix the roof while the sun is shining. In the case of our church, we desperately need to fix the roof before it starts raining again. So, Mr Speaker, you will appreciate our great joy when in the Budget the

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Chancellor announced further additions to the places of worship roof repair fund, including a grant of £37,600 to our church. One or two eyebrows have been raised, asking, “Is it not a coincidence that we should be the only church in the Babergh district to receive funding in the same year when a member of the congregation is standing for Parliament?” But I can assure the House the only lobbying that has taken place has been of a very discreet kind between the congregation and someone even more powerful than the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The past 12 months have been challenging for all of us as candidates, but in our household we thought we would make it a little more interesting, as my wife gave birth to twins last June. We had a fantastic result in the Babergh council elections in May, so it means for the second year running we have seen incredible results in labour wards—[Interruption.] They don’t like that!

Raising in public the subject of my twins enables me to say two very important thank yous: first, to the fantastic staff of Ipswich hospital maternity unit, whose care was absolutely incredible; and the other, to Philips Avent, the makers of those famous baby bottles, which we have relied on for the past year. Parents up and down the country will be familiar with those bottles and their teats, but they will not know—[Interruption.] It is not sponsorship! They are not made in the far east; they are made in Glemsford, in my constituency.

I conclude with this key point. We have a very great history as a constituency, but I am confident that we have a great future as well, and the key to it is the diversity of our economy, which includes not only tourism to “Lovejoy” country and the rest of it, and acres and acres of arable agriculture, but seriously top-end manufacturers and exporters like Philips Avent and Celotex in Hadleigh. I took great pleasure in seeing in the Gracious Speech measures that will help our firms go forward, cutting red tape, cutting taxes and continuing to push for full employment, because I am a one nation Conservative, and for me that means not going back to dark and divisive days of high unemployment.

I look forward to being a strong voice for all my constituents, speaking for them from the Floor of this great House of Commons.

3.17 pm

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): I sincerely thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak in this debate on what I believe will be one of the defining issues of this Parliament. I commend the hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) for his excellent maiden speech. I can assure him that I have recently been using Avent bottles, for my newborn baby, but I must confess that we are a Tommee Tippee household.

I remember my maiden speech five years ago, which focused heavily on regional development, a subject to which we return once again today. For cities like Newcastle and regions like the north-east, the way in which we devolve meaningful powers and real funding from Whitehall to local areas is absolutely key to better supporting and funding private sector growth and creating skilled, sustainable jobs. While our region has so much to offer the UK, we still have the highest regional unemployment levels and the highest number of young people out of work. It is little wonder that far too many of our young people still sadly feel they need to leave Newcastle and our region to fulfil their potential, despite the opportunities

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they should have. That is one of the things that drove me to stand for Parliament back in 2010, to ensure that children in my part of the world and, indeed, my own children—I now have a third since I last spoke in this Chamber—have the same opportunities as children in any other part of the country. As the North East Chamber of Commerce emphasised:

“Whitehall has shown itself to be incapable of delivering an approach that benefits the whole county and that is why we must ensure the North East has the chance to make those decisions for itself.”

That view is clearly shared by local people. When the Chronicle asked readers about general election policy, they said that their No. 1 priority was more devolved spending.

What is the Government’s response to that pressing call for change? We have heard many warm words from the Chancellor about a northern powerhouse, but we are yet to find out whether it means anything at all for north-east England. The Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), is the Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse, to give him his full title, and I hope he will be able to convince the Chancellor that the north of England extends north of the Pennines.

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill was announced in last week’s Gracious Speech and its headline measure is to

“devolve powers and budgets to boost local growth in England”,

but—and it is a pretty hefty but—only for those cities that agree to have a directly elected, so-called metro mayor. Indeed, the Chancellor set out how deadly serious he is about this condition in a speech in Manchester last month, saying:

“So with these new powers for cities must come new city-wide elected mayors who work with local councils. I will not impose this model on anyone. But nor will I settle for less.”

He is clearly ignoring the 68% of voters in Newcastle who voted against a mayor only three years ago. That is an interesting take on localism by centrally mandated diktat. We will be allowed to find a mayoral model that works for us, but only as long as it involves

“a city-wide elected executive mayor.”

The famous Henry Ford phrase,

“You can have any colour as long as it’s black”,

springs to mind.

Given the Government’s determination on this issue, it would be really helpful if the Minister set out how he sees it working for the north-east. The Chancellor talks of devolving power to cities, but does he mean cities or areas covered by local enterprise partnerships? He goes on to describe city-wide, directly elected mayors, but how would that operate in the North East LEP area, which has three cities—Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham—as well as the conurbations of Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside? The Chancellor frequently refers to metro mayors, but how does that proposal apply to those other areas that the North East LEP encompasses—Northumberland and County Durham —which include some of the most rural and sparsely populated parts of England? Some clarity is needed on those issues, and it is needed quick.

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Meanwhile, in a development that appears to have slipped under many people’s radars, the Government have agreed to remove a significant amount of power from regions in the very policy area under consideration. Like many other parts of the UK, the north-east benefits significantly from European Union money through the European regional development fund and the European social fund. However, until very recently, we faced the prospect of losing £724 million, because the coalition removed regional development agencies without ensuring that something was put in their place. Hundreds and millions of pounds of funding intended to address unemployment, support business growth and provide training in the north-east were put in jeopardy because the LEPs lacked the appropriate powers, resources and accountability necessary to unlock that funding. Instead, in order to prevent further hold-ups, it was agreed by the Government that, while LEPs will now have an advisory role, the actual decisions on how that money will be spent will have to be taken in Whitehall. That is a complete contradiction of the idea of decentralisation and empowering local areas.

Of course, that is set against the backdrop of massive cuts to local government, which I spoke about at length in the previous Parliament and I will continue to do so in this Parliament. Who are these powers for? They are for the communities and people we represent, who risk being so hollowed out by the cuts to local government funding that, even if they have those powers, they will not be able to deliver on them.

3.23 pm

Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell), but it has been uplifting to hear the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge). He has unashamedly given us a speech full of ambition, pride and hope for the future of his constituency, and he also delivered it entirely without notes. It was somewhat reminiscent of your own style, Mr Speaker, and perhaps that is something for the future.

It is a sense of ambition, pride and hope for Britain that comes through so clearly in this Queen’s Speech. It continues the work to tackle the most important problem this country faces, which is the recovery of our economy. Without a strong economy, we simply will not have the money to ensure a stronger NHS, to invest in our education system or to support the most vulnerable in society, but because our plan for Britain has been a plan for recovery, we are already starting to see the fruits of it.

Last year our country grew faster than any other G7 country—a trend that looks set to continue—and we have also seen record levels of employment. Wages and living standards are now rising, and it is clear that the economy is mending. The Queen’s Speech also underlines that, if we are to build a true recovery for the long term, it is important that we continue to tackle the issue of productivity, because that is the most important driver of prosperity in this country.

Britain is a natural nation of entrepreneurs. I saw that at first hand during my childhood, with a father who built a business to be able to support his family, and I believe that that strong work ethic pervades our

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society. There is no lack of ambition or hard work in Britain, but we need to tackle the issue of productivity. It is a problem for most mature markets, including the US, Japan and, indeed, most of our European neighbours. The difference in Britain is that, for too many years, there was under-investment in our infrastructure and over-regulation of our business. That quite simply put us at a disadvantage, which makes it all the more important that this Government are taking action now.

The Government have already done much to increase our productivity over the past five years, giving priority to investment in infrastructure, particularly roads. However, as I touched on earlier in an intervention on the Secretary of State, I want to challenge the Government to go further with their investment plans for infrastructure and make sure that they also include rail infrastructure, because that will help us continue on the path to success.

We have also built strong foundations with regard to skills, nowhere more so than in the excellent work being done on expanding apprenticeship programmes. There have been more than 3,000 new apprenticeships in my own constituency in recent years. On innovation, the Basingstoke College of Technology has to be applauded for leading the way in working with university partners to develop a new work-based university centre to promote a degree-level apprenticeship in the digital, engineering and construction industries. Such innovation is so important for the future.

It is right that increased productivity continues to be at the centre of this Government’s thinking. I urge the Minister to celebrate the fact that the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill will give cities control of the levers of growth to rebalance our economy; that the enterprise Bill will help to tackle problems of over-regulation; and that the Education and Adoption Bill will continue the progress that has already been made in driving up standards in our schools, which is so important in tackling the problem of productivity. That drive to improve productivity rightly pervades the Gracious Speech.

Infrastructure, skills, technology and regulation are all important ways to tackle productivity, but any country will maximise its productivity only when it can use the full entrepreneurial talents of all its people. We are already seeing record levels of employment, particularly among women, but we must ensure that our ambition for Britain is high and that at the heart of that is a high ambition for British citizens, with no individual being held back from reaching their potential because of prejudice or a lack of opportunity to succeed. That is one nation Conservatism: maximising the talents of every child in school; making it possible for parents to go to work and balance their family commitments—the Childcare Bill is welcome in that area; providing support for those who take the risk and create their own businesses, but making sure that gender, ethnicity, religion and sexuality do not hold people back. We need to unleash the spirit and potential of our nation. The Gracious Speech is full of ambition for Britain and it deserves the full support of this House.

3.29 pm

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab): It is truly an honour to be representing the constituency of Aberavon, where we are surrounded by the stirring spectacle of the upper Afan valley and the gentler rural beauty of

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Margam and Skewen. Looking out from our magnificent Aberavon beach, we survey the Celtic sea and, further, the Atlantic ocean, symbol of my constituency’s long, proud, and productive engagement with global trade and industry. It is hardly surprising that Aberavonites have drama in their blood when one considers the drama of the landscape in which they are born. Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen are just two of the local lads made good, but perhaps the most famous of Aberavon’s sons is Richard Burton, who is said to have mused that “the Welsh are all actors, it’s only the bad ones who become professional.” I am of course relieved to say he is not on record as having said the same thing about the Welsh and politicians.

I was born about 30 miles to the north-east of Aberavon in Tredegar, as was my father. My mother is of course from another country altogether known as north Wales. They have always worked tirelessly to combat injustice, and their dedication to public service has inspired me throughout my life.

When I left south Wales as a young man, I took that spirit of public service with me. I have been lucky to have lived and worked in Brussels, St Petersburg, Sierra Leone, Switzerland and a number of other exotic foreign lands, including England. Having returned to my roots, I am very proud to describe myself as a global Welshman. I believe that Wales is a nation with the ability to punch far above its weight, and I hope I will have an opportunity to contribute to that worthy cause.

I must take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor Dr Hywel Francis. He is, as the House will know, a noted historian and respected parliamentarian. His work on the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 was truly life-saving.

In Aberavon we like to connect our proud history to our promising present and ambitious future. It is in that spirit that I wish to join those calling on the Ministry of Justice for the posthumous pardon of Dic Penderyn, a miner and son of Aberavon hanged in 1831 for his part in the Merthyr uprisings.

Since the time of Dic Penderyn it is the steel industry that has come to shape the landscape, the economy and the hopes of Aberavon, and the Port Talbot steelworks is the beating heart of our community. Sadly, that plant is now at the centre of a serious dispute due to the unjustified action of Tata Steel in proposing changes that would greatly weaken the workers’ pension scheme. I must therefore take this opportunity to urge Tata Steel to return with urgency and good faith to the negotiating table, and to exhort the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State to engage with the management of Tata in Mumbai and Europe, for I fear that if Tata does not act rapidly now, we will see the first strike action in the steel industry in 35 years.

The topic of today’s debate is devolution and growth and, as we know, this Government claim to be focused on creating the conditions for sustainable economic growth by rebalancing the British economy and broadening our manufacturing base. I therefore wish to use the platform accorded to me today to urge the Government to understand that they must do more to support the British steel industry. To this end I call upon the Secretary of State to implement policies that will revitalise UK supply chains, reduce the cost of energy and reform business rate valuations to encourage, rather than penalise, investment.

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I also call upon the Secretary of State to do everything in his power to enhance foreign investment, which can be guaranteed only by Britain staying in the European Union. The prospect of the UK leaving the EU is already casting a long shadow of uncertainty over the British economy. There is a real and present danger that our withdrawal from the EU would trigger Tata Steel’s withdrawal from the UK, and the impact of such a move on the lives of my constituents would be truly disastrous.

I was wondering whether anyone in this House might recall what a pro-European Tory looks like. Well, I have managed to find one, and he is Lord Geoffrey Howe of Aberavon, no less, and he said:

“We have done best when we have seen”


“as an active process which we can shape, often decisively, provided that we allow ourselves to be fully engaged in it, with confidence, with enthusiasm and in good faith.”—[Official Report, 13 November 1990; Vol. 180, c. 463.]

It is with that attitude that I, as the representative of Aberavon, will strive always to get the best deal for my constituents. My realistic vision of that deal includes the green jobs created by such projects as the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, the creative innovation coming from the Bay Studios and the cutting-edge research coming from Swansea University’s Bay Campus. Funded by the European Investment Bank and made possible by the Labour Government in the Welsh Assembly, the campus is an inspiring example of the tangible work that government can do to catalyse regional economic development for the future. That is a future for which I shall fight relentlessly.

3.35 pm

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), who follows in illustrious footsteps, not only in terms of his parentage, but in terms of the previous incumbents of his seat, such as Lord Morris and my good friend, Dr Hywel Francis. It was a great pleasure to be present for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), who made a tremendous impact on his first outing here.

The Gracious Speech contained a ringing declaration that the Government will adopt a one nation approach and bring the different parts of our country together. That approach is highly welcome. Although the economy is recovering from the crash of 2008, it is clear that some parts are doing better than others. London and the south-east have long been the most affluent parts of the country. Without wishing to see that affluence diminished, it is right that other parts should be given every opportunity to catch up. That is why the northern powerhouse agenda is so important, and I am delighted to see that it has been entrusted to the hands of the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), fresh from his stunning victory at the general election.

Devolution of powers to the great cities of our country, starting with Manchester, is an intensely Conservative policy. It will ensure that powers to encourage economic growth are exercised at the most appropriate level—closest

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to the businesses, families and communities that stand to benefit most from that growth. That is important, not only to the great cities, but to the surrounding areas, some of which are wide. For example, even in this post-devolution era, we in north Wales look economically not to Cardiff, but to Liverpool and Manchester. The trading corridors in Wales run east to west, not north to south. North Wales’s most important industrial area is Deeside, where a large industrial estate has been built and where a new enterprise zone has been created by the Welsh Government. Deeside is important not only to the rest of Wales, but to the north-west economic region, of which in reality it is part. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor recognised the synergy between north Wales and the north-west last year when he provided the funding to upgrade the Halton curve railway line, which will create a direct fast link between north Wales and Liverpool.

More needs to be done, however, and I strongly welcome the Government’s commitment in the Gracious Speech to legislate for high-speed rail links between the different parts of our country. North Wales can benefit enormously from that proposal, too. Colleagues from all parties are now working with the North Wales Economic Ambition Board on the business case for upgrading the north Wales coast line, which is essential for the region to benefit from the northern powerhouse agenda.

The Government also want further to empower local enterprise partnerships. In Wales, I suggest that they consider working with the Welsh Government to empower the Mersey Dee Alliance, the most natural vehicle for developing the potential of that important cross-border area. I also mention the commitment in the Queen’s Speech to seek to change the Standing Orders of the House so that decisions affecting England only or England and Wales only can be taken with the consent of only Members representing those parts of the country. I strongly approve of that commitment, since it will restore fairness that has been eroded in the wake of the 1999 bout of devolution. However, I agree with what the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) said, and we should treat that proposal with caution. What is of paramount importance is defining what are English, and English and Welsh, issues.

Ian C. Lucas: I am listening to the right hon. Gentleman’s speech carefully, and he will understand why. He is a lawyer. Does he think that an appropriate and effective definition is possible?

Mr Jones: It is important to achieve that definition. The hon. Gentleman will share my concerns. For example, the right hon. Member for Delyn mentioned his constituents’ use of hospitals in the north-west of England. Further west in my constituency, my constituents rely on the Walton Centre for neurosurgery, on Alder Hey for paediatric services, on Gobowen Hospital for orthopaedic services, on Clatterbridge and Christie’s for cancer care, and on Broad Green for heart surgery. The list goes on.

The people of north Wales have an absolute right to expect that their representatives in this place speak in the House on the issues that concern them. I say to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that that is extremely important if the fairness we seek to achieve

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by creating English and Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws, or English votes for English laws, is not to be brought into disrepute. Similarly, many English patients rely on services provided in Welsh hospitals. I suggest that the proposed Wales Bill gives us an excellent opportunity to provide for representatives of English constituents to have a more direct say on the services delivered in Wales that affect them.

Overall, the Queen’s Speech is ambitious for the people of each and every part of our country. It has a great deal to commend it, and deserves the support of every Member of the House.

3.41 pm

Mr Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) (Lab): I have very limited time, but it is appropriate to say what a pleasure it is to hear so many maiden speeches in the House, as we have over the past few days. Far too many have been from Opposition Members who are not Labour Members. What we have heard in quality from Labour Members has more than made up for the noticeable lack of quantity. I compliment my new hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), who made a remarkable speech. He brings a fine tradition not just of Labour representation, but of family representation. I am delighted to see family representation both on the Opposition Benches and elsewhere in the Chamber. I should also mention my new hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North East (Colleen Fletcher), who made her maiden speech yesterday—it, too, was a remarkable speech. I am pleased to compliment her on her joining us in the House.

If I may be very sharp, direct and to the point—I am sure you will appreciate that, Mr Speaker—we are talking about devolution in principle. The worrying thing is that we do not yet have a clear idea what the Government have in mind. If the House will forgive me for saying so, they are adopting the position of the whore through the centuries—the phrase was used to describe the British press about 100 years ago. We do not know what the Government want, yet they will use their huge influence and power over local authorities but take no responsibility for what emerges. The likely outcome is that they will create a bigger muddle than the one they are trying to sort out—a cumulative muddle from successive reform attempts, starting with the right hon. Edward Heath and his Government back in 1970. They issued a diktat for a total strategic reorganisation of local government, which, as some Members may remember, ended in the total muddle that we are living with today.

We need to know why the Government are obsessed with the idea of metro mayors. The Minister did not answer pointed and good questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna). He refused to answer or was incapable of answering the question of what the real position of metro mayor will be. What are their powers? We need a clear description of those powers. We need to know what the alternatives to those powers are.

Coventry is in an invidious position. It is already linked to, and has developed limited strategic arrangements with, Warwickshire, most notably through the local enterprise partnership, which the Government set up by way of an inadequate substitute for Advantage West Midlands, which Opposition Members have regretted many times in the past five years. We nevertheless have

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that LEP, but it will be cut in half, because half of its responsibilities are in Warwickshire and half in Coventry. Where does it stand? What are the alternatives? I want to put this directly to the Minister to see whether he can answer. What are the chances of having a Coventry and Warwickshire strategic or combined authority—we can use whatever term we want, but “combined authority” is the most acceptable in Coventry at this stage? Which powers would that authority gain from the Government? Does it need a mayor?

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government must be aware that, barely three years ago, we had referendums in no fewer than 11 cities throughout England and Wales. Only one city—I think it was Bristol—decided in favour of a mayor. In the other cities, most notably in Birmingham and Coventry, the idea was resoundingly rejected by the electorate. Now it has been put to us again, quite insidiously, by the Government. This came out at a meeting that he attended earlier this week with the leaders of the midlands powerhouse, which is how the Government are attempting to describe us.

Manchester has a totally different set of circumstances, and the authorities that are coming together in the northern powerhouse are very different from Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Three cities will be included in the new midlands powerhouse, which is another difference. I am prepared to say that the whole idea serves a useful purpose in giving us all a kick up the backside to get on with things. Indeed, that is the message that the Secretary of State brought to the midlands, but nobody knows what we are meant to get on with. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) is actively promoting in the west midlands the concept of a Coventry-Warwickshire combined authority, which will stand in its own right and will represent 1 million people. What sort of backing can we expect from the Government? What sort of powers are the Government prepared to devolve to the new authority? That question will not go away, and we need an answer before we go any further down the route.

If we go down the route of the combined authority with the other six authorities, which the Secretary of State met during his visit this week, do we have to have a metro mayor? Why is he being so prescriptive about that one aspect? He quite rightly says that we should go with the grain and that we should encourage local governments to come up with their own ideas and find their own solutions. On the other hand, he says that no solution will be acceptable unless it has one critical element, which is the metro mayor. But that idea has already been rejected by the electorate of Birmingham and Coventry. Can the Minister be clear on that? Can the Government step back a bit and get rid of this feeling that they can exercise this huge power and influence and yet not take any responsibility for what emerges? The danger is that we have another top-down reorganisation inflicted on the region, which will create an even bigger mess. Clearly, the Government must come clean on what they are offering.

3.47 pm

Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire) (Con): I should like to thank you, Mr Speaker, for ushering in my first speech so speedily. It is a pleasure to follow the

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hon. Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson), who makes his point forcefully, although I am pleased to rise in support of the vision outlined by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in saying that this Government are keen to give more powers back to our shires.

It may strike right hon. and hon. Members as odd that I am making not only my maiden speech but the first maiden speech for my constituency. It is said in the King James Bible that

“for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day”.

Meanwhile, the creation of North East Hampshire out of the ashes of Aldershot, Basingstoke and East Hampshire took the Boundary Commission a little longer—from 1991 until 2007. It was first contested at the 1997 general election on different boundaries and won handsomely by my predecessor, James Arbuthnot, who represented my constituents admirably until he retired. Once described as

“a Conservative MP of a species nearing extinction…with a patrician accent redolent of his party some decades ago”,

his contribution to Government and Parliament should silence any critic. Having served as a Whip, Social Security Minister and Defence Minister in government, he was then appointed as Opposition Chief Whip. But it was his service to this House, as Chairman of the Defence Committee, that he told me was the best job he had ever had. He served this House and his constituency with enormous grace, skill and dedication, and it is a privilege to follow in his footsteps.

Indeed, I should like to thank the people of North East Hampshire for giving me the privilege, honour and opportunity to represent them in Parliament with a very strong mandate. North East Hampshire is home for me. I grew up there; I went to school there; and I continue to live there today with my wife and baby daughter.

The constituency includes the wards of Sherborne St John, Bramley and Sherfield, and Pamber and Silchester to the north of Basingstoke. This has been home to people for centuries: the once-animated Roman town of Calleva can be seen today, still part of the peaceful villages that surround it.

The constituency continues east, including the lion’s share of Hart district—the wards of Hook, Hartley Wintney and Odiham, and the larger communities of Yateley, Fleet and Church Crookham. North East Hampshire then heads south, around and past Basingstoke into the ward of Upton Grey and the Candovers. Travelling along the highways and byways there, and indeed across the constituency, any visitor will be delighted by astonishingly pretty villages, straight out of a child’s story book, complete with thatched cottages, village greens and ponds. One village, Rotherwick, boasts a house where the original bay window was the model for the picture on Quality Street chocolates. This is the original chocolate-box village.

My constituency is home to RAF Odiham. Britain’s fleet of Chinooks is based here. Their contribution to the defence of our freedom is hugely valued and respected. Odiham’s association with freedom is profound. King John rode from his castle there to Runnymede, where he met the barons to sign Magna Carta. The principles

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enshrined in Magna Carta—the primacy of the rule of law, that none shall be taxed without representation and, importantly, the freedom of the English Church—are seen as the first glimmers of human rights. They are the principles that bolstered my desire to enter public service.

The House will be aware that human rights were not conceived in 1998. They have existed for centuries, but they did not exist in a vacuum. Rights were balanced by responsibilities. In this, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, it is right for us to consider how to balance and thereby strengthen justice in our country. A former Prime Minister once said:

“I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph.”

I am firmly of her opinion.

I want to see the kind of equality before the law that Magna Carta promised, matched by equality in opportunity. Education holds the greatest hope for a life rich in promise. The consequences of its failure are housed in our jails and hospitals. We must always strive to improve education because it is there that we set up children with the ability to look after themselves and their families in later life and, indeed, to contribute to our society and economy.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills said, with hard work, with determination and with energy, we can create a country in which everyone who wants to work can get a job, in which people keep and spend more of their own money and in which people know that they and their families will be safe and free.

North East Hampshire is a great place. Britain is a great country. Our best days lie ahead.

3.52 pm

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): It is pleasure to follow the hon. Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena). I congratulate him and other colleagues on their excellent maiden speeches. In my brief remarks, I will speak about devolution. May I ask your permission, Mr Speaker, to miss part of the winding-up speeches so that I can attend the special mass for Charles Kennedy and family? I would very much appreciate that and shall come to the Chamber immediately afterwards.

I am delighted that the Government are continuing to pursue the strong devolution agenda that the coalition Government set in place. The coalition finally stopped talking about devolution and actually started to deliver it. I am proud of the Liberal Democrats’ role in that, including in devolution—though not as much as we would like—for Leeds and Yorkshire.

It is slightly strange, however, that the Liberal Democrats, having always been the party for devolution, are now listening to the Conservative and Labour parties saying how passionately they support devolution. That is extremely welcome, but it is certainly the opposite of what was pursued during the 18 years of Conservative Government and the 13 years of Labour Government—the two most centralising Governments in British history. I welcome that trend and this new-found passion for devolution that seems to be found across the House. As for what is on offer, I would like the proposals to go further. Indeed, I would like the Liberal Democrats as a party to be far more radical on devolution. I do not think that

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our manifesto was sufficiently radical or clear. I strongly urge the two contenders for the party leadership and the wider party to put us back at the forefront of the devolution debate by arguing strongly for real devolution across the whole of the UK and by dealing with the West Lothian question as well as regional devolution.

Devolution is clearly linked to economic growth. The Local Government Association has pointed out that radical reform would help to deliver £11 billion in savings for the taxpayer, generate £80 billion in growth, create 700,000 new jobs and enable us to build half a million new homes, which we clearly need. The thorny issue in Leeds and Yorkshire has been whether we need to have a mayor. As hon. Members have said, that was rejected in Leeds, as it was elsewhere, but we now accept that that is the Government’s policy whether we like it or not. Clearly, we want to have devolution. If there is to be a push towards having an elected mayor, my challenge to Ministers and their team—I would warmly welcome positive and proactive discussions with them, with other colleagues in the House and with council colleagues—is this: instead of doing it on the basis of artificial metro areas, why can we not do what is the more obvious thing for our region and do it on the basis of the powerhouse of Yorkshire?

Yorkshire is the real entity. It is Yorkshire that is the brand and that has the huge economic potential for growth. It would be artificial to split the region. I am a very proud Leeds MP and Leeds is a huge economic driver of the country as well as our region but, to echo earlier comments, we need to ensure that devolution works for the rural areas as well as the towns and cities of Yorkshire. Yorkshire’s population is identical to that of Scotland and its GDP totals over £100 billion, yet we have nothing like the powers given, rightly, to Scotland and have no ability, bar what councils have, to raise our own taxes and to make transport decisions. We still have to come cap in hand to the Department for Transport to ask for the much needed rail link to Leeds Bradford airport. I will continue to champion that until it happens. We should not have to come cap in hand to the DFT for that. Given the fairly modest cost, we should be able to deliver that ourselves. Similarly, with the rather poorly thought through new generation transport trolley bus scheme, we want the power locally to make bold decisions about 21st century transport solutions. To do that, we need real fiscal autonomy.

I urge Ministers genuinely to look again at the historic county of Yorkshire. The carve-up of Yorkshire is generally regarded as a mistake. Why not reunite Yorkshire and give us the opportunity to have a Yorkshire powerhouse that would fit with the Government’s agenda but would also deliver real powerful devolution for one of the biggest and most important economic regions of our country?

3.58 pm

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): May I say what a pleasure it is to follow the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland)? I am a sentimental sort of bloke, and I rather think we need to have the Liberal voice heard in this place. I observe that there is not a single Liberal in what used to be the Lib Dem heartland of the south-west, but I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has been returned and I look forward to his contributions in the months and years ahead.

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It is a particular pleasure to follow the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena), who spoke exceptionally well. He is the new James Arbuthnot, which are very big shoes to fill.

We have spoken a lot today about the northern powerhouse. We need also to speak about the west country powerhouse. I confess my interest as a rural rustic from the south-west. I note that in recent years the Government have invested heavily in infrastructure in my part of the world, and I look forward to their continuing to do so. I am thinking in particular of the upgrading of the A303, which is vital for prosperity in the west country, and of investment in superfast broadband, which is clearly necessary for the rural businesses that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is particularly keen to promote.

While considering the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, we should be a little careful. I know that it would not be the Government’s intention to disadvantage the shire counties in any way, but it is vital that we get the balance right and do not inadvertently disinvest in rural parts of our country because of our understandable enthusiasm for investing in our great cities.

We have heard today about local enterprise partnerships and regional development agencies. In my part of the world, the transformation following the introduction of LEPs and the abolition of RDAs has been huge.

We have to admire the Opposition’s nerve in tabling an amendment attacking the Government’s record on housing; never was there a better opportunity for a political party to draw a discreet veil. In supporting the aspiration for low-cost housing laid out in the Queen’s Speech, I make a plea for the integrity of the core planning process that lies at the heart of the Localism Act 2011. In Warminster, which I represent, residents feel with good cause that they are being taken for a ride; the Minister for Housing and Planning knows that very well, as I have been to see him about the issue recently. I do not want public money or my constituents’ time to be wasted on core strategies that turn out to be worthless. I do want the right housing to be in the right place with the right level of supporting infrastructure.

The late Charles Kennedy suggested that this Parliament would be about two Unions: the United Kingdom and the European Union. I very much welcome the inclusion of the European Union Referendum Bill in the Queen’s Speech, and I look forward to its Second Reading next week. Devolution and subsidiarity must mean removing powers from Brussels as well.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is an operator. I am sure he will return from Europe like Moses from Mount Sinai, with a prospectus that I can recommend to my constituents. They would expect a British exception that will exclude the UK from ever closer union, which has only one destination: union. They will expect parity of esteem among EU currencies and the reaffirmation of the trading and commercial deal that my constituents, their parents and grandparents thought that they were signing up to in 1975.

My constituency has a heavy defence interest. I declare my own interest as an ex-regular and current reservist. I welcome with due trepidation the inclusion of the strategic defence and security review in the Gracious Speech.

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During the general election campaign, many of my constituents expressed puzzlement at the fact that we have committed to statute the OECD 0.7% of GDP development target without having committed to NATO’s 2% defence target, notwithstanding the progress made last year at Celtic Manor. They are also puzzled at the licence given to our unequal partners who enjoy NATO’s fully comprehensive cover while paying a third-party premium.

There can be no development without economic prosperity, and there will be no prosperity without security. The engineers of that security—Britain’s soldiers, sailors and airmen—are a distinct force for good in a troubled world. Despite the progress made by the coalition Government, the link between outcome and input in Britain’s international development effort since 1997 has been far less clearcut. If a country’s military deploys to a country whose inhabitants pose little direct threat, it operates in a space between altruism and enlightened self-interest. Britain’s military contribution to making the world a better and safer place must be properly referenced in the upcoming SDSR and in our development returns.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): I agree entirely with my hon. Friend about the issue of aid versus defence. Does he share my concern about recent remarks from General Odierno, the head of the US army, and the US Secretary of Defence, Ash Carter, who are very concerned about Britain’s refusal to commit to 2% of GDP on defence?

Dr Murrison: We of course need to listen very carefully to our biggest and closest ally. Since the continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent is now contained within the Ministry of Defence budget, we need to be particularly mindful of the fact that the room for manoeuvre is limited. My hon. Friend and I both welcome the commitment to maintaining headcount, which is important to my constituents and to the security of our country. That, however, means there is very little room for manoeuvre on other cost drivers in defence, which is very much a concern for our American allies.

I welcome the intention in the Queen’s Speech to improve GP access, which was definitely an issue on the doorstep throughout the election period. So much general practice is actually social care, and in my constituency, I see the consequences of two systems running in parallel, not in series. That political failure is hugely wasteful and demands fresh thinking on how we pay for and provide care for an ageing demographic.

I welcome the Queen’s Speech, which sets a powerful programme for Government, and I look forward to supporting it in the months and years ahead.

4.5 pm

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), and, indeed, so many excellent maiden speeches from Members on both sides of the House. From listening to them, I am confident that the 2015 intake of MPs will add much to the experience, wit and verve of this Chamber.

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I am proud to say that the north-east overwhelmingly returned Labour MPs in the general election. Unfortunately, the rest of the country did not see fit to follow suit. [Hon. Members: “London!”] Apart from London, yes. As a consequence, rather than the English devolution Bill that Labour had promised, we are now debating measures to crack down on trade unions and human rights, and the abolition of the Human Rights Act, which will hardly build up the north-east’s economic competitiveness. It is not enough simply to repeat the talk about the northern powerhouse when the Tory party actively dismantled the northern powerhouse we had in the 1980s. The Prime Minister may try to rebrand the Tory party as that of the working people, but we remember it as the party of putting people out of work.

I congratulate the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who is not in his place, on his elevation. I hope that he will prove to be a Secretary of State who works with councils, rather than against them. As I am an optimist, I urge Ministers to consider a fair and long-term funding settlement in the north. During the last Parliament, we lost disproportionately: £650 million was effectively transferred from the north of England to the south, and the cut in spending in Newcastle was £266 per person, compared with £130 per person on average nationally. Ministers must not hamper devolution by crippling councils with further unsustainable reductions in spending power. It is not only that money was moved south; despite the rhetoric, power and budgets were brought back to Whitehall in the past five years. Now that the Government clearly have no mandate in the north-east, we demand the powers we need to build the kind of economy that matches our aspiration and our values.

The Minister for Security (Mr John Hayes): I am most grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way to me, in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. In the spirit that she normally adopts in our affairs, I know that she will want to welcome the Government’s work on city deals, including in the north of England—the now Secretary of State championed them—and, indeed, the innovative work in Manchester. Surely that is something to welcome.

Chi Onwurah: I normally enjoy the right hon. Gentleman’s interventions, but I must say, in a spirit of as much graciousness as I can summon, that he is entirely on the wrong track. Such matters as have been devolved have not really made a difference. Particularly when it comes to Newcastle and north-east, which I shall talk about, there have been words, but not substance. We want substance, and we want real powers.