Owen Smith: I'd create Minister for labour in North

Labour challenger Owen Smith attempts to present the electable face of socialism to voters in the North of England today with the offer of setting up a ministry for work in Yorkshire if he leads the party to General Election success.

Labour leadership contender Owen Smith on stage as he launches his campaign at the Coleg y Cymoedd in Nantgarw in Wales. Today he is in Orgreave, South Yorkshire. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

In yet another attempt from a Labour politician to address the North-South divide, he will set out how £50bn raised from long-dated Government gilts should be invested in trans Pennine transport and developing business in the region’s cities and towns.

His proposals come as the new Minister for the Northern Powerhouse Andrew Percy embarks on his first official visit to Hull to welcome the launch of six growth deals in the Humber region totalling more than £10m in investment.

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Mr Smith’s speech will take place in Orgreave, South Yorkshire, at a manufacturing park he says perfectly encapsulates ex-industrial regeneration. Among his pledges will be to re-write the Labour Party constitution to incorporate the tackling of regional inequality. “We need to put our money where our mouth is.

“There is a need for a Minister for Labour. We need to be much more robust in saying we can’t have any part of Britain left behind. Not everyone shares in the prosperity and growth seen in the south,” said Mr Smith, whose grandfather came from Keighley.

His proposal for a Minister for Labour, with a ministry based in a Northern city such as Leeds or Sheffield, would look at delivering fair employment with tax incentives for businesses to relocate to the regions.

He described Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s past musings that re-opening deep coal mines where possible could reinvigorate the economy as a “silly idea” and indicative of the growing gap between his rhetoric and reality.

While elements of today’s speech cover territory often discussed by Jeremy Corbyn, particular matters of equality, protecting workers rights and fairer taxes, Mr Smith said he would actually be able to put plans into action as the current leader “just hasn’t done it”.

He said: “We have got to win. Plans are all for nothing if you can’t turn them into power.”

Labour members are due to be sent their ballot papers to chose between Mr Corbyn and Mr Smith in August.

Winning over Northern Labour supporters and keeping their votes from the clutches of UKIP will be essential for future General Election success and Mr Smith, a Welsh MP from Pontypridd, whose family were miners, believes he connects better with the region than London-based Mr Corbyn.

However those backing Mr Corbyn say Labour already has an agreed strategy for the North and are unlikely to welcome Mr Owen’s pitch in South Yorkshire today.

John Trickett, MP for Hemsworth and shadow business secretary, said: “Since Jeremy became leader, we have been working together to develop an industrial strategy that will bring good jobs and economic prosperity back to our old industrial heartlands.”