CALLS by backbench MPs for the Power Up The North campaign to be debated in Parliament have been backed in principle by a Cabinet minister.
Mel Stride, the newly-appointed Leader of the Commons, said that he was willing to sanction a debate on the Northern Powerhouse agenda.
His comments came after North East MP Ian Mearns – chair of the Backbench Business Committee – praised the “unprecedented unification” of more than 30 newspapers, including The Yorkshire Post, in highlighting “the disparity in economic progress between the regions of England and the South East”.
Noting the request for a debate, Mr Stride replied: “This Government are certainly extremely proud of the investment that has gone into the North.
“Specifically on the North-East, it has had faster productivity growth than London since 2010, and we are of course investing £600m in infrastructure and jobs in that region.”
The Minister was later pressed by Hull North MP Diana Johnson who noted that George Osborne, the then Chancellor, launched the Northern Powerhouse agenda exactly five years ago.
She sought an update “on what progress has actually been made in closing the gap between the North and London and the South-East, on giving the north real devolved powers to drive change and not just have talking shops, and on whether it is time to regenerate the Humber docklands in the same way and with the same impetus that the London docklands were regenerated over 40 years ago.”
In response, Mr Stride said that a debate would be a “very good idea” because it would also enable the Government to defend its record after the Power Up The North campaign called for collective action by all political parties to start reversing decades of under-investment.
“We feel we have made a substantial commitment to the north of England,” he added. “We have had unprecedented investment in better transport across the North, with £13bn of investment so far – a record level – and further planned investment to come.”