What we do
11 October 2018
On 10th October, EEAPPG Co-Chair Peter Aldous successfully put forward a Westminster Hall debate about “promoting economic growth in the East of England.” His speech, along with contributions from other Members of Parliament, can be read in full here.
Below is the response from Richard Harrington, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It has been edited slightly for clarity.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) not only on calling today’s debate but on his contributions to many other debates I have taken part in. He has always contributed in a non-partisan and a very statesmanlike way, and today was absolutely no exception. I welcome the east of England APPG submission, which we have read in my Department. I hope that some of my points respond to its recommendations.
I have a bit of a strange relationship with the east of England, simply because my constituency, as mentioned by my hon. Friend, is in the east of England, but most people who live in it do not think they are in the east of England, simply because it is such a large area, as was mentioned by several hon. Members. It varies from what some people think is outer London—it is not quite, but there is a more urban type of London demographic—to areas that are geographically quite remote. My right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) mentioned—eloquently, as ever—that Essex is a huge county in its own right: it varies from outer London urban to quite remote country areas. It is difficult for any policy to take into consideration such a large area, and there is no simple solution. I accept the point about transport and more modern infrastructures being critical to everything, and I will come to that. It is easy for the European Union and national Government to talk of regions—as we talk about metropolitan areas—as being fairly homogenous.
I want to reiterate the Government’s commitment to promoting growth in the east of England. Any Minister would say that, and I would certainly say that to my constituents in the east of England. But the facts speak for themselves. The region is growing fast. It has seen continued growth in jobs and is one of only three regions that is a net contributor to the UK. Those are exactly the sorts of strengths the country needs to build on in securing a prosperous economic future for the UK as a whole.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Dan Poulter) said, the region has not always pushed its case well, probably because of its large area and the different organisations in it. The all-party group’s report clearly reverses that, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney said, it is the beginning of a process, not a one-off report—the Government certainly do not treat it as such.
Hon. Members highlighted many of the strengths of the east of England. I will not repeat the comprehensive list, but there are world-famous brands in Cambridge, which the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) mentioned, as there are in Milton Keynes, Hertfordshire, the coastal region and so on. However, I agree with him that the future is not guaranteed, which is why we have an industrial strategy. The shadow Minister was really quite scathing about that strategy—I hope I have time to come on to that. Governments have industrial strategies and policies because nothing in the economy is guaranteed. She mentioned the effects of our leaving the European Union. None of us knows what they will be, but whatever happens while we are in the European Union or out of it, nothing is guaranteed. It is important that the Government realise the importance of the east of England to the economy.
The shadow Minister will disagree, but since 2010 the Government have made good progress on supporting businesses and people in the east of England. Unemployment has halved, the number of small businesses has increased by more than 100,000 and, although good points were made about apprenticeships, 350,000 people have started them in the area.
The hon. Member for Cambridge mentioned the CPIER report. I welcome that and look forward to seeing how it is reflected in the local industrial strategy. He also mentioned land value capture. The Treasury and I look forward to receiving further developed proposals on land value capture in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough from the Mayor in due course. We have yet to see the full effect of Mayors, but I am positive about them and pleased that we have them.
The east of England is at the forefront of industrial strategy. We have local enterprise partnerships and, as I said, mayoral combined authorities developing and implementing industrial strategies. We are at the beginning of that road, but the east of England is in good shape. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority and the South East Midlands LEP have been identified as trailblazer areas as part of the Oxford to Cambridge arc. Those pilot areas have made good progress and are on track to publish their strategies in March next year, with the rest of the region publishing theirs in 2020.
I hope we will see the benefit of devolution, with LEPs, Mayors and everything else. The Cambridge and Peterborough devolution deal builds on the significant commitments made to the east through previous city deals. I am very optimistic about the greater Cambridge city deal. It is delivering, and I really think we will see a lot more from it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich made many extremely helpful points. The Government are committed to dealing with local skills shortages, such as those in agriculture, through the establishment of skills advisory panels, which are being rolled out to all parts of eastern England and will help to ensure that training matches the needs of local businesses. That cannot be ignored, and I believe our policy will help to achieve it.
The east of England benefits from more than £700m of local growth funding through growth deals, and the region’s business-led local enterprise partnerships determine how that funding is spent. I have seen different kinds of LEPs, but the range of products being delivered in this case—the aviation academy in Norwich, the STEM innovation campus at Stansted airport and the Watford health campus scheme in my constituency, for example—will lead to a more skilled workforce and are very important for the east.
Infrastructure was mentioned by many speakers, in particular my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham and my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, who stressed the importance of the A12. That is why, in addition to the devolution city deals I mentioned, we have invested £1.5 billion to upgrade the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, which is an important route, and £151 million in new river crossings. Those are just examples. The transforming cities fund will really help Cambridge and Peterborough, which have already received £74 million. I could go on, but time does not allow.
The Government are committed to working with local partners. Many Members mentioned transport, which is absolutely important. I intend to send a summary of the points they made about particular roads to the Department for Transport. I know Members have done that, but I feel it is my job—I am not in that Department, but I represent the Government—to ensure that those points hit home.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clacton (Giles Watling) spoke so well about no community being left behind. He feels that his community and others, particularly in coastal areas, have been neglected by the system. He stressed the importance of infrastructure in such areas. I will not forget the points he made about his experience on Tendring Council, and I am happy to chat with him separately about that.
We have had a wide-ranging debate in which we did not have time to consider some of the necessary detail. However, the east of England all-party group has set out a model for how such groups can focus their lobbying of the Government on specific points. I am happy to meet formally with the all-party group or with individual Members. I do not mean only those on the Conservative Benches, as I hope the hon. Member for Cambridge knows. These are important points, and I would like to see the successful implementation of many of the policies mentioned in the APPG’s report.
4 September 2018
Parliamentary Launch of East of England All-Party Parliamentary Group Meeting
Wednesday 5th September 2018, 2.00 – 4.00PM, Attlee Suite, Portcullis House SW1 0AA – media welcome
Key speakers: Kwasi Kwarteng MP, PPS to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Philip Hammond, and Lord Porter of Spalding, Chairman of the LGA
At the launch in Parliament of the East of England APPG’s submission to this year’s budget, MPs from across the East of England and from all political parties will call for:
- The huge potential of the East of England to contribute to UK prosperity to be better reflected in Government’s thinking, its priorities and in its investment plans.
- Government to ensure East of England receives a fair share of infrastructure investment – to maintain global competitiveness and continue its net contribution to the Treasury
- Greater devolution – to local authorities, Sub National Transport bodies and to LEPs as well as at the region-wide level on some strategic issues.
The Budget submission, entitled ‘Building together the foundations of more productivity, prosperity and inclusivity in the East of England’ represents nine months’ work of the APPG and sets out how the Government can help the region’s ambitions to create an even stronger and more inclusive economy.
It is co-signed by the APPG officers, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the region’s LEPs, and all supporters of the APPG including the East of England LGA, British Sugar, London Stansted Airport, the A120 campaign, Astra Zeneca and Anglian Water.
Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney and Co-chair of the APPG, said:
“The East of England is the UK’s jobs powerhouse. It is one of the country’s fastest growing regions, both in population and economy. There has been significant investment in recent years, though there is a need to better recognise the region’s importance and untapped potential, including the fact that it is one of only three UK regions to contribute more in tax than it receives in public money. The East of England is at the forefront of global excellence and innovation – and a frontrunner in attracting business.”
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge and Co-chair of the APPG, said:
“Cambridge is set to become England’s second largest city by value in the next three decades – if it secures the necessary support from both the public and private sectors. This must be done in a sensitive, sustainable way that ensures Cambridge remains attractive, while allowing our world leading science and innovation assets to increase the spread and pace of growth and development across the whole of the region.”
Steve Barwick, co-ordinator and author of the EEAPPG report who will be presenting its findings at the launch, said:
“The key strategic issue facing the East of England is how to manage and spread Cambridge’s growth to market towns and coastal communities – many of whom feel ‘left behind’ or too long ‘left alone’. The evidence is that LEPs, local authorities and businesses across the East of England want to ‘own’ and resolve this issue. But the Government needs to support them to do that through adequate and fair funding as well as devolution of more powers.”
6 March 2018
The East of England APPG held its first pre budget submission evidence session in late February, chaired by Daniel Zeichner MP and Peter Aldous MP. With witnesses providing perspectives from rail, air and local government, it was clear that collaboration – between MPs, the new Mayor, local government, private business and other stakeholders – as well as more local control, could help bring significant transport improvements and growth to the region.
The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, set himself the task of challenging the status quo – of ‘ludicrous’ timescales for infrastructure investment and was also critical of a ‘begging bowl’ culture. Land value capture, capping the profits from land adjacent to major public transport schemes, could subsidise affordable housing and fund public services, he said. This point was also emphasised by Cllr James Jamieson, Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, who said current revenues derived from housing developments are “barely enough to meet the increased demand for schooling.”
13 September 2017
Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the East of England APPG, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough said he was determined to use his role to provide a voice for the East of England, a point echoed by the parliamentarians and others in attendance.
The group elected its officers, with Daniel Zeichner MP and Peter Aldous MP co-chairs. The APPG will work to develop a joined up approach to common issues for all the communities of the East of England.
Hearing from Lord Michael Heseltine and Andrew Carter, the chief executive of Centre for Cities, it is clear that while Cambridge is a priority for the Government, the benefits are not spread evenly throughout the region, with infrastructure and skills a barrier to wider economic growth.
Over the six months, the APPG will collect evidence which will culminate in an Autumn budget submission, based around three areas: transport and growth, infrastructure and investment, and the local industrial strategy.
The first evidence session, on transport and growth, will be held on 28th February in Westminster.
Next meeting of the East of England APPG
26th March 2019 | Sustainable Growth in the East of England: The Transport Implications | 17:00 – 18:30 | Committee Room 16, House of Commons
Previous Meetings of the East of England APPG
15th January 2019 | Employment, Education and Skills: the Region’s Local Industrial Strategies | Draft Minutes
6th November 2018 | After the Budget | Minutes
26th June 2018 | Evidence Session Three: Local Industrial Strategy | Minutes
24th April 2018 | Evidence Session Two: Infrastructure, Investment and Housing | Minutes
13th December 2017 | Inaugural meeting of the East of England APPG | Minutes
The East of England APPG is kindly supported by British Sugar, London Stansted Airport, AstraZeneca, the East of England Local Government Association and the A120 Haven Gateway Partnership.
If you are interested in supporting the East of England APPG then please get in contact via [email protected]