Parties clash over claims North East economy is booming

David Cameron says a new 'spirit of entrepreneurship' is sweeping the North East while Labour highlights continued unemployment

PA/PA Wire Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London

North East industry is thriving, a Conservative MP has told the House of Commons.

And the Government has created jobs in the region - while Labour was happy to concentrate prosperity in the south of England, according to the Prime Minister.

But the bold claims from the Tories sparked an immediate backlash from Labour, which claimed the Government had failed to tackle the region’s high level of unemployment.

Northumberland MP Guy Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham, highlighted what he said was the region’s strong economic performance as he questioned David Cameron.

He said: “Is the Prime Minister aware that the region with the most tech start ups outside of London, and the fastest rate of growth in private sector businesses over the last quarter, and the highest rise in the value of exports, is the North East of England?

“And does he agree with me that we should stick to the long term economic plan so that we all have the benefits?”

The Prime Minister told him: “It is notable that when we look at things like small business creation, exports, investment, the growth is coming from around the country including the North East - and that is a huge contrast.

“Under 13 years of Labour, for every 10 jobs created in the south they only created one in the North. That is the record of the last Labour government.”

He added: “What we need to do is to increase entrepreneurship and start ups in every part of the country . . . there is a new spirit of entrepreneurship in Britain and this government is backing it.”

Mr Opperman was referring to a report by the British Chambers of Commerce which found there were more than 300 high tech and digital businesses in the North East, and that only London has a higher rate of tech start ups in the UK.

He also highlighted the Lloyds Bank Regional Purchasing Managers’ Index, which measures business activity in each region and shows that the North East has the highest rate of growth over three months. The latest index, published on October 13, shows activity in the North East growing in line with the national average, although faster than London.

And in September, official figures showed total value of exports in the North East had risen by 2.32% over a year – the highest figure recorded by any English regions.

Second quarter statistics for 2014 showed £3.102bn worth of goods were sold to foreign markets from the region, up by 9.66% compared to the same period last year.

But Labour pointed out that the North East still had the highest unemployment rate in the country. Most recent figures show unemployment in the region is 9.3%, worse than any other region of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The overall UK rate is 6%.

Newcastle North MP and Shadow Treasury Minister Catherine McKinnell, questioning Chancellor George Osborne in the Commons, said: “Whilst he’s been shifting funds from Northern cities to wealthier parts of the country, unemployment in the North East is the highest in the country; wages for working people in the North have fallen by even more than the national average; and, across the North, the number of young people unemployed for over a year is up 62% since the election.

“Why won’t he match Labour’s plan to devolve real power and £30billion of funding, not just to the North but to all city and county regions?”

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