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The right hon. Member for Leeds, West said that Leeds has a diverse and permanently changing economic base. When economic challenges change, the economy of Leeds responds. He discussed a move to the service sector, but we need to grow our manufacturing base. I agree totally with the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell), who emphasised the relevance of manufacturing today. Metal-bashing, as he described it, is no longer, but innovation is hugely important to this country. I am sorry to hear about the postponement of the £65 million science park, which was to include bio-incubators and a creativity centre, because I believe that high added value is the way forward. We in this country are so clever, but we sometimes do not give ourselves credit for how well we perform.

On working together, a number of hon. Members mentioned the city region, which involves 11 Yorkshire councils working together and receiving in reward devolved powers from Government to manage infrastructure and economic situations and make their collective local economy work. The hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell thinks that Yorkshire Forward could do better. This is an opportunity. Why cannot the councils comprising the city region take the lead? They could make decisions and delegate to Yorkshire Forward. Surely the democratically elected representatives should be the ones to make decisions and exercise democratic leadership.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, West discussed investment, especially in local skills training and apprenticeships, bio and nanotechnologies and environmental technologies. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Greg Mulholland) mentioned computer technologies, as well as sports entrepreneurialism, which is also extremely welcome in the area.

Industry creates the wealth to bring us out of recession. If we do not invest in industry, we will be in recession for a long time. I share the concerns expressed by hon. Members that the suggested Conservative cuts could set us back years. The hon. Member for Elmet (Colin Burgon) said that the market will not deliver for Leeds city and that it needs a lot of intervention. To echo my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West, a balance must be struck. Markets generate wealth, but that wealth must be put to good use to create quality of life for people in Leeds and throughout the United Kingdom.

10.44 am

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): I am grateful to have caught your eye, Mr. Hancock. I feel that I need a little more than five minutes to defend the Conservative record against the combined onslaught of the Liberal and Labour parties. Be that as it may, I congratulate the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) on securing this debate. My speech contains a little testimony: he is standing down at the next election, and I congratulate him on having served his constituency assiduously and often vocally. What I did not know until this debate is that his four Labour colleagues from Leeds are also standing down. I wish them all well in future.

I must chide hon. Members slightly. It is interesting how a cabal of new Labour MPs will adopt the old
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Labour tactic of rewriting Conservative history from more than quarter of a century ago. My only association with Leeds was when I spent a few weeks as a candidate's minder in the Leeds, Central by-election. We were never likely to win, so I spent plenty of time during those weeks getting to know Leeds.

What I saw was a city centre that had been absolutely transformed by Conservative policies under Michael Heseltine and the urban regeneration corporations, like the centres of Glasgow and Liverpool, Manchester Hulme and the London docklands. I could go on. The combination of Leeds city council, the private sector and the urban regeneration corporation transformed the city centre. The hon. Member for Elmet (Colin Burgon) said that the city centre was smoke-filled before it was transformed by Conservatives in the 1980s.

However, let us move on, in the spirit of unanimity. What we have got out of this debate-the next Government, whoever they are, should pay attention to this-is that, if Leeds is to thrive as one of our major metropolitan centres and go from strength to strength in the future, two things are urgently needed: improved transport infrastructure, and improved skills to meet an ever-changing and more sophisticated world and export this country's goods to the rest of the world.

As many hon. Members have said, Leeds is the second largest metropolitan district in England. It is the UK's third largest manufacturing centre, with 1,800 companies employing almost 40,000 people. What I did not know until I researched this debate is that Leeds is the largest hub for financial services outside London. It would do well to publicise that fact. When I challenged somebody in the financial industry who should have known better, they thought that Edinburgh was the second largest. Perhaps Leeds has some work to do on that.

As has been said, Leeds has a thriving media, communications, advertising and online sector, which is growing at about 10 per cent. a year. The right hon. Member for Leeds, West quoted the Centre for Cities, which has highlighted how challenging recovering from this Government's recession will be for cities across the UK-

Colin Burgon: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Clifton-Brown: No. I am not going to give way to anybody, because I have only five minutes.

The Centre for Cities report states that there is a clear disparity between the cities that will find recovery easier and the others, based on a multitude of factors. The report highlights that our major cities will play a vital role in helping us to recover from the recession. I would have thought that new Labour Members would agree. The report says:

That is what we all want. Leeds is clearly a major city, as the report states. It notes that Leeds, Birmingham, London, Liverpool and Manchester have 36 per cent. of the entire population of the UK but 39 per cent. of the jobs.

If we accept the importance of Leeds to the UK economy, it is vital to establish first how badly the
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recession has hit Leeds and, secondly, how Leeds can respond in future. The right hon. Member for Leeds, West has assiduously asked a raft of parliamentary questions, but I must highlight one answer in particular, from the Economic Secretary to the Treasury:

Well, that is earth-shattering; we knew that already. She went on to say:

Even Sir Humphrey would be proud of that answer.

I am glad to say that the Minister who is here today has provided the right hon. Member for Leeds, West with many answers more constructive than that one. However, in one of her answers, on recognising Leeds's importance to the economy and the strength of its financial sector, she seems proud to note that the effects of the recession in terms of loss to the sector

Her pride seems to stem from the fact that the figure is approximately half that estimated in a Deloitte study in 2009. I am not sure whether that will provide comfort for the estimated 1,200 to 1,400 people in Leeds who have lost their jobs. As I suggested earlier, although the financial sector is important to Leeds, it is not the only important sector. The city has one of the most-if not the most-diverse economies in the UK.

The number of liquidations at the moment is worrying. There were 26,978 voluntary corporate liquidations between the second quarter of 2008 and the third quarter of 2009. The Minister should consider carefully that 241,000 businesses in the UK are on the Government's tax deferred scheme. At some point, that tax must be repaid and that will put more businesses in jeopardy.

My time is almost up, so I turn to the importance of Leeds to the future. The Centre for Cities report that I quoted makes it clear that Leeds has a clear role in the UK's future. Last March, a Leeds city council policy briefing note showed that during the last decade, manufacturing employment declined by 20 per cent. The socialist Members present are rewriting history. [Interruption.] As one of the socialist Members said, manufacturing actually started to decline under the Labour Administration of the 1970s. There has also been a big decline in manufacturing over the last 12 years under this socialist Government. [Interruption.] An incoming Conservative Government will be internationalist in their outlook; they will provide the infrastructure that Leeds needs; they will provide the skills that this Government have failed to provide; and they will give the people of Leeds a better future than this old-fashioned, tired Labour Government have managed to provide.

10.51 am

The Minister for Regional Economic Development and Co-ordination (Ms Rosie Winterton): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) on securing this debate. It got very lively towards the end, and the contribution of the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) has cheered up the Leeds contingent considerably.

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Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that this Government have delivered four of the pledges of Keir Hardie, the founding member of the Labour party? We have delivered the national minimum wage, devolution rights, House of Lords reform and rights for trade unions. The only one of his pledges we have not managed to fulfil is banning alcohol.

Ms Winterton: My right hon. Friend makes an important point that highlights the interventionist approach of this Government, who have come into their own during the recent difficult economic times.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West, and other hon. Friends that Leeds makes a huge contribution to the UK economy. Through the regional strategies and the establishment of regional development agencies, the Government have set out the fact that we need a balanced economy that harnesses the industrial potential and competitiveness of every region. The country's economy cannot rely on London and the south-east. There must be a balanced economy and we must have a proper regional strategy to deliver that. That is why we set up regional development agencies. We recognised the need for Governments to intervene at regional level to target investment, strengthen enterprise and support job creation. That approach has worked. An independent study showed that for every pound invested by Yorkshire Forward, there was a return of £4.50.

That approach is one reason why the Leeds area has been able to diversify in the way that my hon. Friends have described. In many senses, traditional industries have given way to knowledge-led enterprises that are based on innovation, entrepreneurship and international competitiveness. Between 1998 and 2008, Leeds accounted for 51,800 of the 185,000 net jobs created in Yorkshire and the Humber. As my hon. Friends have said, it is now the largest centre outside London, not just for the financial sector, but for a number of sectors, including printing and construction.

Of course, the global recession had a huge effect on Yorkshire. The Government approach, which was rejected by the Opposition, has been to intervene during this period and to continue investing in the public sector. Many hon. Friends have described our investment in health and education. We have increased the number of people who work in the public sector. During the downturn, we have given specific help. Yorkshire Forward has carried out about 11,500 financial health checks for businesses. It has invested in the manufacturing advisory service and in local enterprise growth initiative funding to help manufacturing, which many hon. Friends mentioned, as well as other companies.

Looking to the future, we must consider what can be done in new technologies, which were mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen), and for Elmet (Colin Burgon). Under the growth strategy that has been published, we are considering what we can do to assist each region in promoting new technologies, such as low-carbon and green technologies. We must do that in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Hon. Friends have mentioned carbon capture and wind farms. There are huge opportunities in our region to exploit such technologies. We have the €180 million investment for carbon capture. I visited the ATB Morley
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factory in Pudsey that my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell) mentioned. It makes manufacturing equipment for mining. If we harness carbon-capture and green technologies, we can increase our manufacturing base. That could also address the problem raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet of how we can cater for lower, as well as higher, skills in developing such technology.

There is the future jobs fund and the January guarantee for those not in education, employment or training. Those initiatives are about intervention not only at national level, but at regional and local levels. Many future jobs fund jobs come from local councils. Such intervention was aptly described by my hon. Friends, many of whom have been involved in council work. They know the importance of councils being on people's side, and of having support regionally and nationally.

The hon. Members for Leeds, North-West (Greg Mulholland), and for Solihull (Lorely Burt), and many of my hon. Friends, mentioned the importance of transport links. I have had a number of meetings with the Secretary of State for Transport and others to impress on them the importance of high-speed rail links to our region. My Labour colleagues have been pressing for those links. There has been more investment in commuter links. I am sure we all want more, but we should not underestimate the additional investment that there has been.

Many hon. Friends mentioned the relationship between universities and industry. Lord Mandelson called recently for RDAs and universities to work together to show how industry can be supported through a joint approach. Our region is lucky to have universities that work closely together, and that understand the importance of working with industry to consider how they can establish the knowledge economy and ensure that they are providing the skills and knowledge that industry needs to thrive. I am talking about a strategic approach. We should not abolish RDAs, as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have said they would do on a number of occasions.

Finally, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West, mentioned the golden triangle in the Leeds area. If we had followed the advice of the Conservative party in the past, and were to follow it in the future, we would see not a golden triangle for jobs, investment and growth, but a Bermuda triangle.

Mr. Mike Hancock (in the Chair): I thank hon. Members for their contributions. I am sure that we all know a lot more about Leeds than we did. I echo the sentiments of those who spoke about hon. Members who are not seeking re-election, and I also wish them well for the future. I thank the Minister for her courtesy, and ask those who are leaving to do so speedily and quietly. We now move on to the next debate.

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Rossington Inland Port

11 am

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to discuss the importance of the Rossington inland port for the areas of Rossington, my constituency, Doncaster, and Yorkshire and Humberside. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, East and Mexborough (Jeff Ennis) is here, as well as my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), who are supporting me in my endeavours to get a move on with the decisions that will help to make that inland port successful.

A planning application for Rossington inland port was approved by Doncaster council's planning committee in November 2009. The application is a departure from the development plan and as such has been referred to the Minister, who is awaiting advice from the Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber about whether it should be called in. I do not want the Minister to comment on the merits of the application, but I would like his assurance about the process.

The Rossington inland port is a major rail freight interchange and, according to the council's assessment, it is capable of delivering more than 3,000 jobs-that figure is more if we accept the developer's forecast. Given the times in which we live-we rightly celebrate 100 jobs being created in local communities-we should take the prospect of 3,000 jobs with good heart and help to make the project happen. All statutory objectors either support the application or have no objections. The principal objectors are the Campaign to Protect Rural England and four parish councils. Only two letters of objection were received from the public. Other objectors supported the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which withdrew its objections after discussions with the developers about nearby wetland land management. However, the Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber has stated that issues with the Highways Agency need to be resolved before a decision is made on whether to call in the application.

Apart from the green belt-although I do not underestimate that issue-the proposal is in line with national, regional and local policies. As such, I believe, as do my hon. Friends and many others, that exceptional circumstances have to be demonstrated, and are being demonstrated. The development should therefore be supported. The applicant has looked for alternative sites in the region and found that the Rossington site is the best. That assessment has been independently reviewed on behalf of the planning authority and has been found to be robust.

The local planning authority has taken the view that there are exceptional circumstances, because of the regeneration potential in the area, that the impacts on the green belt are acceptable and that there are no alternative sites on which the development can be located. In the past week, an important report has looked at the cities and important towns of our country, and Doncaster and Barnsley have been cited as places where not enough progress has been made. I acknowledge that that is the case. A great deal has been achieved in the past 10 years or so, but there is more to be done to ensure that those communities, which relied on mining for generations, have a future in which the numbers of private sector jobs are equal to those in the public sector. This is an opportunity that I believe can benefit both towns.

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