Northern politicians launch new group to give region a stronger voice in Parliament

Lord O'Neill
Lord O'Neill
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A host of high profile politicians will come together today to mark the next step in efforts to hold the Government to account on its commitment to rebalancing growth and investment in the North.

The group, which includes the crossbench peer Lord O'Neill, the former Chancellor Lord Heseltine and the recently elected mayor for the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, will meet to celebrate the launch of Parliament's new Northern Powerhouse APPG.

Aimed at providing the North with a stronger voice in Westminster, the APPG will focus on a range of issues including narrowing the skills gap, working to improve transport links and exploring further devolution deals for the region.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Lord O'Neill, one of the chief architects of the Northern Powerhouse, said it marked "another important cog" in the ongoing evolution of the project.

"Just judging by the list of those attending our first get together shows the degree of interest in this crucial mission for the North of England and necessary long term rebalancing of the UK economy," he said.

“I am grateful to all those that have worked to put this together, and I look forward to continued progress of the Northern Powerhouse and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, one of the most exciting things I have been lucky enough to be involved in.”

Following last week's Budget announcements, some MPs expressed concern at the lack of new commitments specific to Northern towns and cities. Speaking in the Commons, the Hull North MP Diana Johnson noted that the Northern Powerhouse had been allocated just 376 words in the Chancellor's red book, compared to 453 dedicated to the Oxford-Cambridge-Milton Keynes corridor.

There was also concern that Yorkshire is at risk of losing out on its share of a £1.7bn transport fund because it is yet to finalise a devolution deal. Those city regions who have already elected a metro mayor will automatically receive an allocation of the money, but councils in Yorkshire will be required to submit bids.

Set up by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, the new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) will be co-chaired by Lord O'Neill and Lord Heseltine, alongside a number of local authority leaders and the Yorkshire MPs Kevin Hollinrake and Caroline Flint.

Speakers at today's launch include the Northern Powerhouse Minster Jake Berry, Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, and the leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Carl Les.

Mr Hollinrake, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, said the group will act as “the most important Parliamentary voice” in the “mission” to help Northern businesses and individuals fulfil their potential.

“It is critical that parliamentarians clearly set out what our expectations are from Government and speak with one voice until these objectives are delivered upon,” he said.

Mr Berry added: “In this new All Party Parliamentary Group, we have a coalition of dedicated MPs from across the political spectrum working with business leaders and local authorities to help drive growth and innovation in the Northern Powerhouse,

“Through working together, we will continue to turn the Northern Powerhouse into a globally recognised economy, delivering the very best of British innovation, skills, manufacturing and technology.”

Ms Flint, the Labour MP for the Don Valley said: “ The UK economy needs rebalancing and the North's major towns and cities all have a stake in that outcome. The Northern Powerhouse APPG can give voice to that ambition”