Sign Up

Subscribe to Liam's email newsletter for regular updates

Category Archives: Labour market

Unemployment figures – March 2015

Dear Friends,

I thought I would share with you some figures from the House of Commons Library on unemployment in Hodge Hill.  The total number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants in Birmingham, Hodge Hill constituency in February 2015 was 4,461. This represents a rate of 9.8% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, the 4th highest of the 650 UK constituencies. (1st = highest rate of unemployment, 650th = lowest rate of unemployment.)

The number of claimants is 1397 lower than in February 2014 and 8 higher than in January 2015.  These data are not seasonally adjusted.


All the best,



East Birmingham Growth Prospectus – 24 February 2015


Dear friends,

I wanted to share with you a copy of the East Birmingham Growth Prospectus which I launched this morning. 

East Brum Prospectus for Growth Front Cover


This is the biggest plan for jobs in East Birmingham we’ve ever had. It was hard fought. But by demanding the government, the Council and HS2 pull together we’ve got an amazing plan for jobs and skills. At Washwood Heath we’ve forced HS2 to look at new plans to ensure 2,334 jobs are created rather than a giant train carpark – plus a £1 million investment in skills for local people and the City Council’s regeneration plan. It’s a once in a generation opportunity to transform our local economy.

LB with Cllrs and MPs at WashwoodHeath

Liam with Jack Dromey MP, Shabana Mahmood MP and Cllrs Ansar Ali Khan and Mohammed Idrees at the old LDV site in Washwood Heath – a centrepiece of the new plan


You can find the full press release with statements from Shabana Mahmood MP and Jack Dromey MP here.


The news was covered by both the Birmingham Post and the Birmingham Mail.


Washwood Heath jobs boost as HS2 gives up claim on development land

HS2 land freed to create over 2,000 jobs in Washwood Heath


With all best wishes




Byrne welcomes HS2 Committee call for Plan B at Washwood Heath – 19 December 2014



Byrne welcomes HS2 Committee call for Plan B at Washwood Heath


Liam Byrne MP has welcomed a major breakthrough in the battle for jobs at the LDV-Alstom site earmarked for a marshalling yard.


Following a major campaign led by Liam Byrne MP. The HS2 Bill Committee has ordered the Government and HS2 Ltd to change their plans to maximise the number of jobs on the site.


Although the committee has not ordered the marshalling yard to be moved, the committee have ordered HS2 to report on how they will work with site owners.


The proposed site is the size of 100 football pitches and makes up one third of the industrial land in Birmingham.


It lies at the junction of Ladywood, Erdington and Hodge Hill – these three constituencies are together home to 45% of the City’s unemployed.


The site owners, together with Liam Byrne MP, have now submitted a ‘Plan B’ proposal that would see  2,334 jobs be created.



Liam Byrne MP said:


“This is a real breakthrough. The HS2 Committee has heard our call for jobs. Now HS2 Ltd must work with us on a Plan B that could see 2,334 jobs created in the inner city.”



Lorely Burt MP for Solihull said today:


“I have long argued for jobs to be protected at Washwood Heath whilst also being conscious of not damaging UK Central’s prospects for delivery. The Select Committee’s decision on Washwood Heath is quite obviously a ‘win-win-win’. A win for the people of Washwood Heath, Solihull and also HS2. Now we need HS2 to engage fully with all interested parties to deliver the 2300 private sector jobs set out in the alternative plans referred to by the Committee plus the 600+ new railway jobs as soon as possible.”


Caroline Spelman MP for Meriden said today:


“The decision from the Select Committee is common sense in action in relation to the Washwood Heath site.  This is a win-win situation where HS2 get to build some of the infrastructure they need while the rest of the site can be used to create many more jobs, without needing to displace the marshalling yards into my constituency.  HS2 should now engage and respond positively to the AXA proposals. Anything less would not be in accordance with the Select Committee’s wishes.”






Notes to editors:


Statement from Robert Syms MP (Chairman, HS2 Select Committee) dated 16th December 2014:


“On Washwood Heath, we were impressed by the submission from AXA and our colleague Liam Byrne and we sympathise with the need to address high unemployment in and around his constituency.  We do not believe there is enough evidence to support a move of the RSMD from Washwood Heath.  We impress on HS2 the need to adjust the scheme so there is minimum land take and for the shortest time … We expect to hear from HS2 on that and on whether they can reach agreement on that taking account of the more recent AXA proposals which are dated 12th December.”



Birmingham City Council sees further fall in unemployment – December 2014

Dear Friends,


Great news, figures released today from the Office of National Statistics show that unemployment continues to fall in Hodge Hill – 17 December 2014.


The number of unemployed claimants in Birmingham, Hodge Hill as of November 2014 was 4,479.  This represents a rate of 9.9% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64.


This number is far too high and there is still much work to be done, but the new figures show that the number of people claiming jobseekers allowance (JSA) is 1473 lower than November 2013 and 263 lower than October 2014.


These figures show that Birmingham City Council’s efforts to tackle unemployment are making a real difference here in Hodge Hill – we will continue to fight to get more people into better jobs.

All the best,



My statement on the government’s apprenticeship numbers: just more smoke and mirrors – 9th December 2014

Responding to Vince Cable’s announcement on apprenticeship numbers, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills Liam Byrne MP said:

“Today’s announcement is just more smoke and mirrors from ministers. We need more top quality apprenticeships and more opportunities for young people. But we’ve had the exact opposite under this government as we’ve seen apprenticeship starts for young people – and apprenticeship starts overall – fall in the last academic year, while the Tory-led government has opposed Labour’s plans to use government procurement to create thousands of new high-quality apprenticeship opportunities.”


1. The government’s provisional statistics on apprenticeships show that the number of opportunities for under 25s numbers has fallen compared to the previous year. The figures also showed that the total of apprenticeship starts has also fallen from 2013.

2. Today just 16,000 out of 640,000 apprenticeships reach degree level skills. Since 2010 there are now 17,000 fewer apprenticeships for under-19 year olds.

My appearance at the HS2 Bill Committee – 3 September 2014


News from Liam Byrne MP


HS2 jobs claim destroyed


HS2’s claim that a marshalling yard in East Birmingham will create extra jobs has been destroyed in a committee hearing at the House of Commons this morning.


HS2’s counsel was cross-examining Hodge Hill’s MP, Liam Byrne who was giving evidence to the committee arguing that the marshalling yard should be built outside the city.


HS2’s team then presented evidence admitting that the plan to site marshalling yard at Washwood Heath will create nearly 2,000 fewer jobs – under pressure from Mr Byrne they admitted that they had not factored in the loss of 1,300 jobs from businesses already on site who will be forced to re-locate.


Liam Byrne said:


‘HS2’s jobs argument has collapsed this morning. They have been forced to admit that their evidence to parliament was at best a half-truth, and at worst, completely misleading.


‘Even the government now admits that we could create an extra 4,000 jobs in Hodge Hill in the short term.


‘It’s time HS2 now gets serious about giving east Birmingham a boost and not a battering. We’re fighting for jobs – they should be with us and not against us.


They should certainly come clean to parliament about the costs of their plan to jobs, lost taxes and lost business rates to the city. The phoney war is now over. It’s time for HS2 to get round the table and give us a better plan.’






-          The proposed site is the size of 100 football pitches and makes up one third of the industrial land in Birmingham. It lies at the junction of Ladywood, Erdington and Hodge Hill – these three constituencies are together home to over 40% of the City’s unemployed.


-          Liam Byrne was giving evidence to the HS2 bill committee this morning. You can find more information on the work of the committee here:


-          Mr Byrne has consistently argued that HS2 should not build their marshalling yard in Washwood Heath and Hodge Hill.


-          Most recently he secured a Westminster Hall Debate on the siting of the Marshalling Yard at Washwood Heath. You can read the full text of the debate here:


-          In the 18 June 2014 debate the Minister responding admits that the government own estimate is that 3,700 jobs could be created on the site if the planned marshalling yard did not go ahead.


-          Latest unemployment figures for Hodge Hill:

Unemployment – July 2014


Hodge Hill            5,181                     11.6 %

West Mids          107,043                 4.0 %

UK                          995,835                 3.2 %


Youth Unemployment (18-24) – July 2014


Hodge Hill            1,415                     10.7 %

West Mids          26,185                   4.9 %

UK                          239,345                 4.0 %


Long-term Unemployment – July 2014

(Claims of duration over 12 months)


Hodge Hill            1,945                     (fall since July 2013) -355               -15.4%

UK                          303,160                 (fall since July 2013) -119,470      -28.3


“The long-term unemployment figures have fallen in Hodge Hill (in line with the trend nationally) but they have fallen at almost half the rate of the figures from across the UK.”


Hodge Hill rankings (out of 650 constituencies) July 2014:


Claimant rate:                                                    4th highest;        11.6%

Number of Claimants:                                    4th highest;        5,181

Claimants aged 18-24:                                    1st highest;         1,415

Claims of duration over 12 months:         3rd highest;        1,945


‘Ending the gap between classroom and career: Labour’s next steps in skills and higher education reform’ – my speech at the City of Westminster College – 7 July 2014


Dear friends,


This morning I gave a speech to the City of Westminster College entitled; ‘Ending the gap between classroom and career: Labour’s next steps in skills and higher education reform’.


See the full text below:


Ending the gap between classroom and career: Labour’s next steps in skills and higher education reform


Speech by Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills


Monday 7 July 2014, City of Westminster College




It’s a huge privilege to be here at the City of Westminster College’s Paddington Green campus.


As the grandson of a college principal I feel very much at home.


It’s a privilege to be with those who share my grandfather’s passion for learning that changes lives.


And it’s a privilege to tell the story of someone who shows us just what that change can mean.


Catherine was homeless when she enrolled here.


She’d leave a nearby shelter each and every morning, making the daily trip to and from this very campus.


By night, she’d study under torchlight, dreaming of a way out, dreaming of a way in which she could make her life better.


And she did just that.


Ladies and gentlemen, Catherine graduated in 2011.


She’s can now pay rent, support a family and live the sort of comfortable life that so many of us take for granted.


Her energy, her commitment, her belief were the driving forces behind her remarkable achievement… but without the values and virtues of this College, the City of

Westminster College, there would have been no ladder to climb.


So Catherine has a lesson for us:


We have to ensure that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, has a real choice to change their lives with education.


Without that real choice, we’ll hear less stories of lives changed – less stories like Catherine’s.


And that’s what I want to talk about today.


With under a year to go until the next election, the battle of ideas is taking shape.


The Tory-led government’s script is already clear.


And so are its flaws.


As I said last week they might boast of a recovery – but it’s not a recovery for the many.


Families will be £974 a year worse off in 2015 than they were back in 2010


What does that mean in practice?


It means we have to work harder – it’s an extra fortnight every year at the moment – just to stand still.


Why? Because that old curse, the ‘British Disease’ is back.


That crisis of low productivity that haunts industry and makes it ever harder to give your staff a pay rise.


Since the last election, output for every hour worked hasn’t gone up.


It’s gone down.


Output per worker?


Not up, but down.


Did you know that today’s crisis in productivity is actually far worse than it was the end of the 1970s?


The damage to our global position is huge.


We’re now 21% less productive than the G7 average.


What countries in the G7 finish making on a Thursday, takes us till the end of Friday to complete.


If there is a global race, we are well and truly losing.


We can’t go on like this;


Thankfully, over the last fortnight you heard the voices now calling for a change of course.


The IPPR’s ground-breaking condition of Britain report sets out a path back to full employment, especially for our young people and our parents.


Mike Wright’s review of manufacturing and the supply chain is making clear the role of government in bringing together sectors to plan long term to boost skills and lower our cost base


Lord Adonis’ breakthrough report arguing for a radical devolution of powers and resources to our city regions.

John Armitt’s call for a new approach to infrastructure.


Our own launch of a review into science and innovation policy.


And tomorrow Ed Miliband is speaking at the Sutton Trust’s conference on the importance of high quality vocational education


When you boil it down, our argument is simple:


Big reform, not big spending


An inclusive prosperity for this century


As Ed Balls puts it: “more good jobs, boosting skills and long-term investment as we restore the broken link between the wealth of the nation and family finances.”

Now the sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that running through every single report, every single major statement of the last month, running like a golden thread is the challenge of skills.


And that is why you are so important.


Your country needs you like never before.


The years ahead should become a golden age for educators.


When your passion for learning and your mission of service put our country on a new and better path.


It’s now very clear that skills are the key to a Britain that grows more, firms that employ more, and workers who earn more,


How much evidence do we need?


The inextricable trends in trade and technology, discussed so eloquently in books like the ‘Second Machine Age’, sound the death-knell of ‘routine’ jobs


The Migration Advisory Committee has added 117 high-skilled roles to the shortage occupation list.


British business has had to sponsor over 282,000 skilled people into Britain – that’s the same size of Newcastle – because they couldn’t find the skills here.


But look at the future and the skills crisis looms larger still.


In the UK, between 2012 and 2022, it is projected that we’ll need:


Over a million more people in professional occupations


Nearly 600,000 new managers, directors & senior officials


The Royal Society of Engineering tells us that we’re delivering 36,000 too few engineering graduates every year.


Mike Wright says that the country’s automotive and aerospace industries will suffer if there isn’t a greater focus on improving the level of domestic engineering skills in the



Andrew Adonis describes the skills shortage as the “single most important impediment” to British businesses


How many more times do we need to hear it?


The tragedy is that great firms want to bring back work to Britain.


I can understand why.


When I left Business School in America, there was only one place I’d consider to build any business.


Here is Britain.


It’s one of the best places in the world to build a business.


And lots of people want to do more.


In fact, PWC says that ‘re-shoring’ could create 100-200,000 extra jobs over the next decade, adding £6-12billion onto GDP.


What’s standing in the way?


A lack of skills.


This is what KPMG said is stopping too many jobs coming here.


And here’s the tragedy for workers.


Extra skill means extra pay.


Analysis for BIS shows the difference in earnings between a high quality level three apprenticeship and a GCSEs, is £117,000 over a lifetime.


But for most it’s a degree that’s the key to a middle-class life.


Economists may disagree on what technically constitutes ‘middle-class’, but the marketeers tell us it’s the difference between earning £37,000 and £47,000 a year.


That’s the kind of earning power a degree level qualification gives you.


On average, degree holders earn more than £100,000 more than someone with only two A-Levels.


Shifting more people into ‘top gear’ with a degree is one of the best things we can do to earn our way out of this cost-of-living-crisis.


But, right now it’s too hard for students to shift into ‘top gear’


There’s the traditional degree route which is well-established and open to half of our young people, thanks to changes that Labour made in office.


But what about everyone else?


More and more want an earn-while-you-learn route into higher-level skills.


Yet look at the figures: the number of under-25s starting on an apprenticeship isn’t rising, it’s falling under this Government.


In the last year alone, we’ve seen 11,400 fewer young people starting an apprenticeship.


That’s why Ed Miliband has made it a central mission to change the future for the forgotten 50% who today do not have a good enough or clear enough choice of high

quality vocational education.


They do not have enough apprenticeships and there’s no real vocational route to degree level technical and professional qualifications.


Right now a vocational route to higher-level skills is like navigating rapids: risky, a bit haphazard with a high risk of drowning.


First up, it’s very hard to get your foot on the ladder.


Last year, there were 11 applications for every apprenticeship vacancy.


That means it’s now twice as hard to get on an apprenticeship as it is getting into University.


High-quality apprenticeships, where firms are prepared to sponsor you to degree level skills are even harder to win.


It’s almost three times more difficult to enrol on a Rolls Royce apprenticeship than going to Oxford.


For BAE it’s 2.5 times harder than getting into Cambridge


So we have frustrated companies and we have frustrated workers


We need a new way forward.


A path that’s pro-company and pro-worker.


So today I want to out some principles for change.


First we have to accept the big, bold principle of devolution for skills that Andrew Adonis has set out.


Today I want to say more about how that might work in practice, and as I do I want to say a huge thank you to my advisory group, co-chaired by the Rt Hon Stephen Timms, Rushanara Ali, and advised by, amongst others, Cllr Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds and Cllr Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council.


Let me say at the outset that as we give employers and LEPs and Combined Local Authorities more say over how skills funding is spent, no-one is advocating for the proliferation of funding agencies, handling cash or contracts or countering fraud.


Second: We think the role of employer-led sector bodies, built on reformed SSCs and their industrial partnerships, are critical to fostering a ‘something-for-something’ deal with big employers and their supply chains to drive up apprenticeship numbers.


So we’ll give employers, working collectively through reformed sector bodies, more control over the standards and assessment criteria for training in their sectors, and enable them to broker a significant share of the £1.4bn apprenticeship budget to address their skills needs.


In return, we will ask them to work to drive up the number of high quality apprenticeships in their sectors and supply chains – and we’ll use the power of public procurement to help.


Large firms will need more apprenticeship to win big government contracts. Full stop.


Third: Combined Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships should shape the broad goals for adult skills in their neck of the woods.


To win this freedom, these authorities will have to show us that they are up to the job and Andrew Adonis has set out some tests for quality governance.


But I think these broad plans will have some important things in common.


First, they should include what Lord Adonis calls Business Hubs – and what I’ve described in this post as City Apprenticeship Agencies.


One stop shops that provide information and advice in particular to small and medium businesses with a real focus on support for apprenticeship recruitment.


It’s a model like we’ve seen in Leeds – a solution that’s seen apprenticeship numbers doubling in the city.


In an age where SMEs are creating jobs five times faster than big business, we need solutions that works for all firms, regardless of their size.


So in the future, if I run an SME in Birmingham I will have on my doorstep, a hub that can offer me advice on how to set up a high quality apprenticeship with a choice of apprenticeship arrangements: some put in place by sectors nationally; or as a service delivered locally.


Second, we want LEPs and combined local authorities (CLA) to shape some goals for the adults’ skills in their area.


Back in December 2006, Sandy Leitch set down an important principle: “The skills system must meet the needs of individuals and employers. Vocational-skills must be demand-led rather than centrally planned”

This is an important principle.


But for the £2.4bn 19+ Adult Skills budget we need to bring a better balance to the ambitions of learners on the one hand, and the ambitions of business to employ them.


So: we desperately need better information and guidance so ‘demand’ is better informed.


We need a different relationship with DWP, as you see work so well in Germany, where students are far better informed about the local world of of opportunity.

But I think we also need LEPs/CLAs and providers together to forge the kind of ‘Outcome Agreements’ that are tried and tested in Scotland and over the medium term, aim to eliminate the skills gaps in a demand-led system.


Third, I think there is a need for the CLAs/LEPs to directly commission what you might call a strategic core of skills, where serious local skills gaps have been identified.


This flexibility is absolutely critical in a world where we envisage Combined Local Authorities and LEPs are taking a much bigger role in co-commissioning Work Programme contracts.


This will – for the first time ever – ensure that skills provision meets the needs of local areas, balancing social and economic demands with identified areas for growth.

Many parts of Britain, including my own constituency, have very high-levels of unemployment alongside firms crying out for skills.


Mike Wright of JLR has spoken about JLR’s challenges.


Yet on the south side of the M6, half a mile from the Castle Bromwich gates is my constituency with the highest youth unemployment in Britain. The balance between the ‘commissioned core’ and the ‘market margin’ will obviously look different in different places.
Giving local areas the flexibility and freedom to commission against local labour market priorities will help us join up the skills system and the welfare to work system for the first time.

Naturally, there is still a great deal for us to work through, and I look forward to those discussions ahead.


Already clear is that two funding systems, split between the adult and young people’s skills budget, is a complex set-up.


So we’ll want your advice on whether to move post-19 funding to a per-student, not per-qualification basis, as works for under-19s and in Scotland.


The changes we propose offer the chance of a creating a far stronger ‘triple track’ for skills, for young and old alike.


Some will want to take the well-established academic route from A-Levels through to University


Others will want to progress through the vocational track, with opportunities to move through colleges specialising in delivering technical and provisional skills, on courses better aligned to the needs of local employers.


And we hope many more will secure high-quality apprenticeships with high-quality training ahead.


But every track will need to offer something more.


A surer route to higher-level skills.

Back in 2006, Sandy Leitch advised an increased focus on L5 and above skills.

Yet today it’s incredibly difficult to take an apprenticeship or college route to degree level professional and technical skills.


Just 2% of apprentices are given the chance to study to degree level each year.


None of our competitors are making the same mistakes.

Back at the end of the 19th Century, the huge explosion of our university system was in part driven by the need to equip a new generation of businesses and a new generation of workers with the skills to shift into ‘top gear’ with the qualifications that can unlock a middle class life.


Beginning with the creation of my alma mater, Owens Colleges, Manchester in 1851, eleven universities were opened over the course of fifty years with a clear empathy for the German model, pioneered by the University of Berlin in 1810, and what Rev. J Percival described as:

“Teaching [the people] things which would help them in their occupations”


In the years that followed, science and engineering expanded whilst classics declined until finally under the pressure of World War One, a modern relationship was finally forged between government, academia and business.


This was a spirit and a purpose which Harold Wilson rediscovered in his famous ‘white heat’ speech.


Before the 1964 election, Labour’s Higher Education Study group concluded:


‘Economic expansion is only possible if university and technological education expands rapidly and continuously to provide the necessary brain power and skill’.


This was the analysis that inspired the great explosion of Polytechnics.


Today, we want colleges, universities and business to come together in a new alliance as they did in the 1960s.


Not in two different worlds. But in one, world-class system.


We want to open many routes – not just one road – to a degree and the better life degree level skills can open.


When we were last in office, we began the job of reform.


Bill Rammell gave colleges the right to apply for powers to award foundation degrees.


John Denham pioneered the Workforce Development Programme.


But the truth is today there are many rocks in the path of building the vocational path to degree level professional and technical skills.


Over the months ahead, we want your advice on turning this ambition into action.


Every so often in British politics, we arrive at this point where we see the skills challenge in a stark and profound way.


Back in 1944, Lord Percy, Rector of the Newcastle Division of Durham University put it like this: ‘the position of Great Britain as a leading industrial nation is being endangered by a failure to secure the fullest possible application of science to industry; and second that this failure is partly due to deficiencies in education’


I couldn’t put it better myself. And we are determined to change it.


There is no other way to a prosperity that is inclusive.


And a recovery for the many and not the few.


Thank you very much.





My speech to Parliamentary Links Day 2014 – Launching Labour’s Green Paper on Science – 24 June 2014


Dear friends,


It was an honour to launch Labour’s Science Green Paper, entitled: Agenda 2030: One Nation Labour’s Plan for Science and Innovation, this morning at the annual Parliamentary Links Day 2014.


You can read the paper here.


My speech is in full below:




Strengthen British Science and Strengthen Britain

Launch of Labour’s Green Paper, Agenda 2030: One Nation Labour’s Plan for Science and Innovation

Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP

Speech to [Parliamentary Links Day], House of Commons, London. Tuesday, 24th June 2014

Check against delivery


It is a tremendous honour to help mark the greatest day of the year for science in parliament.

I want to pay an enormous tribute to Dr Stephen Benn and the Society of Biology for helping bring the day together.

I want to commend you all for the way so many people and so many organisations have come together from across the worlds of science and engineering to talk, debate, speculate and lobby and leave us here in parliament with fresh impressions, fresh analysis and fresh evidence of how important both science and engineering are to the future of our world.

I want to thank you above all for the inspiration of your example.

I count myself as very lucky to have known an extraordinary scientist from a very young age.

She was a biologist and a teacher and a head of science at comprehensive schools including my own.

She was someone who inspired in me a lifelong wonder for science, a curiosity, and an admiration.

Ruth Byrne was not only my teacher, she was my mother.

And when she died at the age of 52 from cancer of the pancreas, she left me not only with a sense of scientific possibility but a sense of how much work still lies ahead.




Science and Parliament

Your theme this year is about Parliamentary links to Science and Engineering. I want to offer you a view about how we cement science and engineering centre-stage in the run-up to the General Election. As we are in Parliament I thought it would be apposite to reflect on the way science and engineering, industry and politics come together today and the relationship that lies ahead.

Around 300 years ago, a very great writer left London on his travels around the country to write a book, which is today one of our finest records of Britain on the eve of the industrial Revolution.

Daniel Defoe’s ‘A plan of the English commerce, being a complete prospect of the trade of this nation’ paints a portrait of a country amidst tremendous change.

‘The most flourishing and opulent country in the world,’ he called it and the cause he said was clear; ‘Trade’ and its two daughters, ‘Manufacture and Navigation’

Defoe suspected that for all the advance he saw, something bigger was coming.

And he was right.

By the time ’A Plan’ was published in 1728, the Royal Society, founded in Gresham College, was 50 years old. Sir Isaac Newton, its great master, had died the year before and in Birmingham, one of founders of the industrial revolution, Matthew Boulton was born.

Over the next six decades, Boulton, together with his friends in the Lunar Society in a story wonderfully told by Jenny Uglow, took the traditions and methods of those great founders of the Royal Society and fused them to industrial method, helping trigger the industrial revolution.

A nation of explorers and traders quickly became a nation of inventors and industrialists. The worlds of science and industry were irrevocably connected.

Back in the early days of the Enlightenment, the French writer Diderot had observed that uniquely in Britain:

‘philosophers are honoured, respected; they rise to public offices, they are buried with kings’.

Well, it wasn’t long before we were putting great inventors and industrialists like James Watt alongside our philosophers and our kings.

But it was to take another century before science and industry were really fused with the dirty and difficult business of politics.

From the 1850s and 1890s, concern with the state of our science base, and the state of our schools gathered pace until under the burning pressure of world war one a real partnership came together;

-          The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was founded in 1915.

-          Universities came to play a mission critical role in the work effort and crucially a new alliance between science, industry and government was hard-wired together.

And we’ve been trying to get the relationship right ever since.

Now that alliance has never been more important.

The scale of the problems, which I realise are merely solutions in disguise and which we are tackling today, are simply too big for one scientist, one university, one company, or one government to tackle alone.

The new partnerships that you see in such spectacular collaborations like the Gaia One Billion Star Surveyor, or the Hadron Collider are gigantic incarnations of the same ethos and approach that drove the Lunar Society, but they are global in scale.

These journeys of curiosity, exploring the endless frontier, are rightly your principal concern.

But there is a second reason the alliance is so vital.

Your country needs you.

Searching for some inspiring words for today’s speech, I stumbled across these in the House of Commons library last week;

‘the position of Great Britain as a leading industrial nation is being endangered by a failure to secure the fullest possible application of science to industry; and second that this failure is partly due to deficiencies in education’

Those were the words of Lord Percy, Rector of the Newcastle Division of Durham University, reporting to the government in 1944.

They could have been written last week.

Two years later, Lord Barlow agreed;

‘If we are to maintain our position in the world and restore and improve our standard of living’ he wrote ‘we have no alternative but to strive for that scientific achievement without which our trade will wither’.

What was true back in 1945 is true again today.



The Challenge Today

Our old enemy, ‘British disease’ is back with a vengeance.

That traditional crisis, of extremely low productivity while other nations streak ahead, now scars the recovery and haunts industry, making it even harder to escape today’s cost-of-living crisis.

Producing more with less, as every business owner knows, is the key to doing well and the fastest way to give your workers a pay rise.

But look at the figures today.

Since the last election, output for every hour worked has not gone up; it’s actually gone down. Equally, output per worker has not gone up. It’s gone down. We’re actually less productive than we were four years ago.

This appalling record is far worse than the last years of the 1970s, long deemed the moment when ‘British disease’ reached its peak but a period when output per worker, and output per hour worked actually rose by over 5%.

Worse, we’re now falling rapidly behind our competitors. The gap in productivity per hour between the UK economy and G7 average is now 21 per cent – the widest gap there has been since 1992.

This is absolutely fatal for any escape from the cost of living crisis. If companies can’t produce more then it’s not easy for firms to give their staff a pay rise.

As someone who started work behind a fry station in McDonalds, I know that any job is better than no job.

But I also know that a good job is better than a bad one and right now we’re simply not producing enough good jobs.

Today, the average full-time worker has to work an extra one hour and 52 minutes a week in 2013 to earn what they earned in real terms in 2010.

Look at our ‘knowledge economy’ and it becomes clear what is going wrong.

Economists and scientists now know[1] that science and research is the key to growing productivity.

As the breakthrough report from Research Councils UK put it;

‘The greatest long-term productivity advances come through breakthroughs in basic knowledge’.

In the US, the authors of the Gathering Storm remind us that 85% of growth in wealth per capita is driven by innovation[2].

The knowledge economy is the powerhouse of productivity growth, creating better jobs with better wages.

Yet, with the honourable exception of automotive and aerospace, which Labour did so much to save during the global crash, the story isn’t good.

Getting innovation policy right is not actually rocket science. It is about people, ideas and money. You need great people, great institutions and strategic investment.

Yet, look at what is happening in the UK.

In 2012, the last year data is available, UK investment in R&D by government and business together has fallen by nearly £1 billion – (£923M) – the largest annual fall since consistent records began in the mid-1980s.

Amongst advanced Western nations, Britain now ranks 23rd out of 33 in the league table of R&D spenders.

In our most important research industry – pharmaceuticals – which accounts for a quarter of all UK R&D spending, research budgets have fallen by a huge £467 million since 2010, that’s a 10% fall.

In telecoms, one of our other leading R&D sectors, budgets have fallen by 20% – that’s £240M.


Look at our great institutions.

In our universities, the great epicentres of science and knowledge, we have the world’s best thinkers.

But their labs and classrooms now rest on a mountain of debt. University borrowing will reach £7.3bn worth of debt by 2015, an increase of £1.8 billion from 2012. That’s £45.6 million for every university in the UK.

Vice-chancellors tell me that falling research budgets now mean that the brain drain has been gathering pace for at least the last 18 months.

And that’s nothing when we consider the black hole that’s been created in the finances of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by the Government’s unsustainable funding system.

The Public Accounts Committee now estimates that at current rates, students will be borrowing nearly £200 billion over the next twenty years to fund their studies and 45 per cent of this will be written off. It’s universities and our researchers of the future who will be paying the price.

And let’s not forget that other great institution that is important here.

The European Union.

European policy makers now understand that innovation is the only way out of austerity.

And the creation of the Horizon 2020 programme is proving crucial for the strength of British science, as UK universities, research centres and businesses can expect to receive £2bn in the first two years of the new funding round.

Leaving the EU, as some propose, would be absolutely catastrophic for science funding.

Third we must address human capital. The skills gap across the country grows worse. A fortnight ago, KPMG reported that skills shortages are bringing to a halt the plans of manufacturing firms to ‘re-shore’ work.

Since 2010, the number of people working in ‘Scientific research and development’ has fallen by over 12,000.

The Migration Advisory Committee has now added 117 high skilled roles to the shortage occupation list, which employers can fast track onto visas, because there are not enough skills in Britain.

The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that we’re currently 36,000 short and at the rate we’re going there will still be big gaps to fill.

In our schools, Michael Gove’s disastrous School Direct scheme for teacher training has produced a huge shortage of physics teachers.

Half of state schools now send not one girl to do A Level physics.

Practical experiments have been taken out of the exam curriculum. The careers service has been destroyed. Apprenticeships for the under 24s are actually falling.

We cannot go on like this.

That’s why today I am pleased to be launching our green paper on science and innovation.

Our message is simple.

We need to strengthen British science – because British science will strengthen Britain.

We want to start a big debate on how business and government come together to grow the strength of science.

We want to work with the science and engineering community, in all parts of Britain to get the answers right.

We want to work across parties – because wherever we can maximise cross-party consensus we will.

We know that predictability and certainty are important; that they help make your work easier.

We want a new culture of science and evidence in public policy.

We want stronger universities with a bigger share of global science budgets and a bigger role in their regional economies.

And crucially we want to strengthen every rung on the ladder up into a science and engineering career for our young people.



As NESTA argued two weeks ago, the debate around science and engineering is seen by the public as vitally important.

In part, that’s because the public knows science, engineering and the business of innovation is key to the development of new cures for diseases, earlier diagnosis, greener, cheaper energy and crucially the jobs of the future.

The public knows that if we are not the pioneers then others will be.

If we don’t develop the jobs of the future, then others will.

And that will irreparably damage the opportunities of our children and our grand-children.

After all they are the very people for whom we want better chances than the chances that we enjoyed.

I think we know how futures are really built.

I think we learned that lesson a long time ago.

And now is not the time to ignore the lessons of history.



[2] [2] The 85% refers to the work of Robert Solow and Moses Abramovitz published in the middle 1950s demonstrated that as much as 85% of measured growth in US income per capita during the 1890-1950 period could not be explained by increases in the capital stock or other measurable inputs. The unexplained portion, referred to alternatively as the “residual” or “the measure of ignorance,” has been widely attributed to the effects of technological change






One Nation Labour’s Plan for Science – 24 June 2014


Dear friends,


This morning I will be sharing our Green Paper on Science entitled – ‘Agenda 2030: One Nation Labour’s Plan for Science.’


If we are to build an opportunity economy with high skilled jobs and the wages to go with them then science and innovation have to be central to our strategy. Britain needs a long-term vision for science and this paper intends to start a discussion about what that vision should look like.


Please do read the document here and share your views.

Science Green Paper front cover

With all best wishes





My speech in Westminster Hall debate on proposed HS2 Marshalling Yard at Washwood Heath – 18 June 2014



Dear friends,


Please find below the text of the Westminster Hall debate on the proposed HS2 Marshalling Yard at Washwood Heath:


Westminster Hall

Wednesday 18 June 2014

[John Robertson in the Chair]

Washwood Heath Marshalling Yard

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Evennett.)

9.30 am

Mr Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): It is a great privilege to speak in this debate, Mr Robertson, and I am even more pleased that I am not speaking and advancing my case alone. I am enormously grateful for the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood), and my neighbour in Birmingham, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey). I am glad that hopefully, a bit later this morning, we will be joined by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), and with your permission, Mr Robertson, I also have a few short remarks to make for the hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt), who is recovering from surgery but very much wanted to be here to support the case that I will put to the Minister.

Together, we are a powerful team, and the argument that we want to advance is that all of us are great supporters of High Speed 2. We believe that High Speed 2 could be of huge importance to our country and to our home city of Birmingham, and it is particularly appropriate that the birthplace of the steam engine, Birmingham, is the first place that High Speed 2 will connect to London.

I have been a supporter of High Speed 2 ever since the noble Lord Adonis first presented the plans to Cabinet in around 2009 or 2010. He made his case not only with his customary force and clarity, but with a very keen sense of history; in that first presentation to Cabinet, he reminded us that it was not a new idea, but that it had been around for some time. In fact, I think it was Churchill who anticipated the need for extra capacity and high speed after the second world war, as part of our country’s plans for reconstruction. We have been waiting ever since for concrete plans to be put on the table.

When I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2010, negotiating spending reductions across Government, it was particularly impressive that Lord Adonis at the Department for Transport was prepared to make the trade-offs necessary in the DFT budget to present a plan that was not simply a bit of blue-sky thinking, but had an enormous amount of detail behind it and a financial package to go with it. He had thought an awful lot of things through that would be needed to turn ideas into reality. At that stage, however, he was obviously operating at 20,000 feet, so to speak. It was impossible back then to foresee and anticipate every design detail that would be needed in the final plans.

At that stage, no doubt, some imperfect decisions crept into the blueprints. I say that not to criticise, but simply to understand. We are dealing with HS2 Ltd, not

18 Jun 2014 : Column 68WH

with an organisation that has been designed according to some celestial blueprint. It is a human institution, and in all human institutions—even those appended to the Department for Transport—sometimes imperfections creep in. A big imperfection and a big mistake has crept into these plans. That big mistake is the notion that we should destroy a third of the industrial land in the great city of Birmingham and put a marshalling yard on it, just to create a few hundred jobs in a decade’s time at the cost of creating 7,000 jobs in the short term.

With your permission, Mr Robertson, I would like to acquaint the Chamber with a bit of the site’s history. I want to set out its economic potential and then conclude by putting some questions to the Minister. He is a good Minister who knows and is on top of his brief. He understands the background to this debate, and I know that he will provide us with full answers this morning.

The site that we are talking about—a third of the industrial land in the city of Birmingham—is old. It was brought into industrial use as the country passed through the high noon of the Victorian age, towards the end of the 19th century. One of the greatest entrepreneurs in Birmingham’s history, the great Joseph Wright, created what was then called the Metropolitan locomotive works on an enormous site. Over the course of 10 or 20 years, a huge industry was built up, manufacturing locomotives that were shipped all the way around the world. In the 1880s and 1890s, Britain began sending billions of pounds around the world to build the world’s railway systems; many of the locomotives that ran on the new railway tracks in India and other parts of the empire were, as often as not, built in Joseph Wright’s great Metropolitan coachworks.

As the years went by, Joseph Wright was joined by the second great entrepreneur of east Birmingham, Herbert Austin, who founded Morris cars, and who, in the early part of the 20th century, built up the great Nuffield Organisation. In due course, he built the site that was to become the great LDV site next door to the Metropolitan coachworks. At its peak in the 1920s, 4,000 manufacturing workers were employed on the site.

Around that great site in east Birmingham, the last great entrepreneur of east Birmingham—not an industrial entrepreneur, but a civic entrepreneur—C.B. Adderley, the late Lord Norton, laid out the streets of Saltley, and that is the community that we are talking about today. The de-industrialisation of the ’80s and ’90s hit our community very hard. First, what had become Metro Cammell closed down. Then, sadly, despite our best efforts and despite the offer of support at the time from my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), LDV finally went into liquidation around the time of the last election. What emerged was a great wasteland in east Birmingham, and partly as a result of the de-industrialisation, in east Birmingham—in my constituency of Hodge Hill, in the constituency of my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood), and I am afraid to say, to an extent in Erdington—we have very high and unacceptable levels of unemployment. Indeed, 45% of those who are out of work in the great city of Birmingham are in Ladywood, Hodge Hill and Erdington. There are 10 constituencies in our city, and 45% of the city’s unemployed are in just three of them.

18 Jun 2014 : Column 69WH

With the liquidation of LDV and the ill-judged liquidation of Advantage West Midlands after the 2010 election, something different became possible. For the first time in literally 100 years, it was possible to stitch back together a site that is the size of 105 football pitches. It is the greatest single site pretty much anywhere in the west midlands. Crucially, it became possible to develop the site holistically and put in place new access routes that were impossible in the past.

In the early part of our discussions with HS2 Ltd, we listened with increasing irritation to the idea that just because one owner of part of the site—St Modwen, which owned the western part of the site—had had planning permission, but was unable to get the site developed, somehow the site was not developable. I hope that that argument does not feature in the Minister’s remarks today. If those pages are in his speech, I hope he rips them out, screws them up and puts them on the floor. They are irrelevant to the argument.

Only when the site came together for the first time in a century was it possible to put through the site access routes from the east and to the north of the site. St Modwen’s site on its own, on the west end of this great industrial land, has only the narrowest of roads connecting it to the outside world, and it goes through a number of residential seats. It is the worst possible access imaginable to an industrial site. In putting this great jigsaw puzzle back together, the possibility is opened up of putting big new roads in, leading straight on to the M6, if we so chose. It becomes, for the first time, not just a site where new access roads are possible, but where those access roads could connect to the great backbone of the M6.


I was of course immediately taken with the potential of developing the site holistically for the first time in a century, so in 2011 and 2012 I asked the master planners at Birmingham city council to give us a sense of the jobs potential of creating an holistic plan for developing a site the size of 105 football pitches. I was pretty shocked by the answer that I got: having done some detailed work, they told us that between 5,000 and 7,000 jobs could be created on the site if it was developed holistically, with new access routes to the north and the east. A site with that power, with that number of jobs, would of course not only have an enormous impact on unemployment in the east of the city, but bring into the coffers of Birmingham city council £5 million in new business rates every year.

However, the last Conservative-Liberal administration in the city appears to have overlooked a great jewel, and to have not made sufficiently robust arguments to HS2 about a different way forward. This is a great prize for any city, and particularly for us in east Birmingham, because of the high unemployment with which we are cursed. The Library tells us that in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington, 3,917 people are on jobseeker’s allowance. In Ladywood, 7,363 people are out of work. In my constituency, the figure is 5,379. There are 16,500 people claiming jobseeker’s allowance in our three constituencies; that is out of a city total of just over 37,000, so 44% of those on jobseeker’s allowance live in our three constituencies—the constituencies that surround this great industrial space. For those who are interested, the bill that the taxpayer

18 Jun 2014 : Column 70WH

picks up for those unemployed citizens—our residents—is £73.8 million a year. If we developed the site to its full potential, as set out by the master planners at Birmingham city council, we could halve that bill. We could save the taxpayer £35 million of unemployment benefit if we put jobs, not sheds, on the site. That is why we have been making this argument during the past couple of years.

I know that High Speed 2 needs a marshalling yard. We are supporters of High Speed 2 and we want it to be a success. We want it to happen fast. We very much welcome the work that David Higgins has done to take cost out of the equation. However, we must think more laterally about where the alternative sites might be. The Minister knows as well as I do that alternative sites are available. During the past two or three years, we have heard an increasingly dull account of why it was not possible to develop those sites as a marshalling yard. What we get is references to “operational issues”, but no one—not the Minister’s predecessor, not the Secretary of State and not David Higgins, the head of HS2—has been able to tell me in any detail what on earth those operational issues are. I have yet to see one analysis that brings together any extra cost of putting a marshalling yard elsewhere, netted against the value of the opportunity that we know exists. That includes the savings on the dole bill, the increases in business rates and some of the other economic advantages that we know we could secure. No one has been able to give me that sum, so in a way I am here to speak for taxpayers, and to say that taxpayers are funding High Speed 2, the unemployment bills and the shortfalls in Birmingham city council’s budget. We want to know holistically how these sums add up.

The Minister is a Transport Minister who speaks for the Department for Transport. I know from my experience in Whitehall that sometimes Whitehall fails to join things up, but in a decision of this economic consequence, what the taxpayer is owed is one sum that brings together on one piece of paper the cost to the Department for Work and Pensions, Birmingham city council, the Department for Transport and HS2. We need to have that sum. I am not saying that the Minister should lay it out for us this morning, but I know that he will want to write to me after the debate with those calculations, because I know that, like me, he wants taxpayers to know the full facts and the full truth.

Unless the plans change, we are confronting the most grim of scenarios, because we are set to lose not only the great prizes that I think are there for the taking, but hundreds of job in the short term. As the Minister knows, the site is not completely empty. It is home to the great Business Post, to Cemex, which makes most of the railway sleepers that our country needs, and to other great businesses, such as Taroni’s. In fact, by my calculations, there are some 850 jobs on the site today, but those businesses are closing. They are increasingly frustrated and they are haggling and arguing with a normally non-communicative HS2, because they now have to close down, so we will lose 850 jobs in the worst unemployment hot spot in the country during the next couple of years. Why? For the prize of perhaps 500 or 550 jobs in 10 years’ time. The scenario that we are confronting could not be worse. The Minister will forgive me for saying that this is a thoroughly misguided decision. It would be a misguided decision anywhere, but in the worst unemployment hot spot in the entire United Kingdom, the decision should not be taken lightly.

18 Jun 2014 : Column 71WH

As I said, the hon. Member for Solihull would very much have liked to have been here this morning, but is recovering from surgery. She would, in the ceremonial nature of these things, congratulate us on having the debate. She says that High Speed 2

“is founded on the fundamental principles of regeneration and enhancing the economic prospects of the UK and specifically those communities located near to the lines and terminals.

The irony therefore is not lost on me or indeed other colleagues from across all the main parties…when one considers the social and economic desecration that siting a Rolling Stock Maintenance Depot at Washwood Heath would have on that local community.

As someone who is a supporter of HS2 and in particular has taken a keen interest”

in the decision to locate the depot at Washwood Heath,

“I very much welcome the chance to debate this issue, an issue which for too long has been left unresolved.”

Like me, the hon. Lady draws attention to the very high unemployment levels in the area. They are double the national average. Youth unemployment in my constituency is the highest in the country. I very much welcome the support that she is giving as part of a cross-party alliance of Birmingham MPs calling on HS2 and the Government to think again, and to do so quickly.

I want to conclude with some thoughts on what the Minister should do next. I would obviously like the yard to be moved elsewhere. If the decision is taken not to move it elsewhere, I would like the Minister to show me, in pounds and pence, how the deal makes sense. I want him to take into account the opportunity cost—the potential for a reduction in the dole bills in east Birmingham, and the potential for extra business rates to flow into the coffers of Birmingham city council.

If HS2 is not prepared to budge, and we are not prepared to adopt plan B for the site, I want to see big ambition for jobs growth in east Birmingham. I do not want vague promises that “We will do our best.” I want a number. I want to know what the Department for Transport’s ambition is, to the nearest hundred, for the number of jobs that will be created in east Birmingham, and I want to know when HS2 and the Department for Transport want to see those jobs go on offer. I want local labour market agreements to go alongside any new plans to develop the Curzon street terminus in east Birmingham. I want to know what promises will be made and fulfilled for extra skills and training.

The point is really very simple: High Speed 2 should be a big positive for our city. It brings with it the promise of thousands of extra jobs across the west midlands and gives us vital capacity, but there is now a cross-party alliance of Members of Parliament saying to the Minister that we do not want High Speed 2 to be good for just some; we demand that it be good for all.

9.50 am

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson.

I would like to start by telling the tale of two great plants. The first is the Jaguar Land Rover plant. When I was elected in 2010, the Jaguar plant in Erdington was on its way to closure. I remember meeting the management and shop stewards before the general election, and there was a funereal atmosphere. After I was elected, my first priority was to work with the Government, the new

18 Jun 2014 : Column 72WH

management brought in by Tata, the work force and a range of other players to put together the complex jigsaw that led to the historic decision by Tata in October 2010 to invest £5 billion. I will never forget that day. We stood outside the Jaguar heritage centre in Erdington, and I said that a plant with such a great history—it manufactured the Spitfire during the war and two generations of Jaguars afterwards—was now safe for the next generation. A factory with a great history had a great future.

Secondly, as deputy general secretary of the old Transport and General Workers’ Union, I was involved in a successful campaign to win an order for LDV that helped to keep the factory going. Tragically, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) said, LDV ultimately closed in 2009—a particular factor was that it did not succeed in securing a key order. LDV also had a remarkable history of motor manufacturing: the bodies for the Morris Minor were first produced there in 1948, and Morris commercial vans commenced production in 1974. It was a tragedy that a second factory with a great history ended up with no future.

Why do I paint that background? Because High Speed 2 impacted on both factories. In the case of Jaguar Land Rover, bizarrely, it was proposed that the High Speed 2 route would take out the Jaguar rail terminal. However, constructive discussions with the Government and the Secretary of State followed, involving my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill and the hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt), who cannot be here today. The outcome of those discussions was the welcome decision to re-route the High Speed 2 line to avoid taking out the Jaguar terminal.

In the case of LDV—sadly now history—I will do my best to describe the bizarre proposal as it affects Washwood Heath. I remember meeting an LDV worker in Kingstanding in 2010—I met a lot of them, as many live in my constituency. He had lost his job early in 2009 and subsequently been out of work. He was absolutely devastated; he was a skilled man who worked for LDV for 25 years. I stayed in touch with him and met with him only last month. He had managed to get back into secure employment. He and one of his LDV mates—an old friend—both said the same thing to me: they asked with incredulity, “Why put a maintenance depot on the old site where we worked for so many years when it is perfectly possible for the depot to be put elsewhere? Why not develop that great site, as we understand the council is proposing, for commercial and manufacturing use?” They kept asking, “Why Washwood Heath?” One of them went on, “Not least because, Jack, we need the jobs here locally. Where I live in Kingstanding, one in four young people are out of work. We desperately need those jobs. I would like to see that site, where I went to work for so many years and that generated thousands of jobs when I worked at LDV, generating thousands of jobs again.” He is absolutely right: we do need the jobs, which are at the heart of Birmingham’s ambitious plan for economic growth. Because of the excellent work that has been done by right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, in alliance with a number of potential developers and sources of finance, we are talking about not just jobs on that site but good jobs—high-quality jobs.

18 Jun 2014 : Column 73WH

I would like to draw a parallel with Jaguar Land Rover. I was in the Jaguar plant last Friday. It has an excellent programme to train young people, providing a ladder into apprenticeships and giving hope to the young unemployed in my constituency. That is exactly the kind of hope and opportunity that we would like to create by making sensible use of the Washwood Heath site.

Like my right hon. Friend I am a strong supporter of High Speed 2. At the heart of the argument for that project is the contribution it will make to the growth of our country as a whole. Britain cannot succeed through London and the south-east alone. There is cross-party support for High Speed 2, so there is no question about the principle; it is a grand, ambitious project that should go ahead. Nevertheless, would it not be bizarre if something designed to develop and create jobs actually causes the sacking of workers currently in a job and the denial of opportunities on a grand scale—potentially 5,000 to 7,000 jobs at the next stage?

I live in the real world and know that the issue is not without difficulties, but where there is a will, there is a way. I hope that, just as they engaged constructively with local MPs on re-routing the line in the best interests of Jaguar Land Rover, the Government will engage constructively with MPs to see the marshalling terminal developed elsewhere and the site used in the way that our city so desperately needs.

9.58 am

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): It is a great privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson.

I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) has secured this debate on an issue that is important to his constituency and the neighbouring constituencies of Birmingham, Erdington, Birmingham, Ladywood and my own constituency, Birmingham, Perry Barr—it is important across Birmingham. Birmingham has a huge history of engineering and manufacturing, as my right hon. Friend pointed out. It is a great place, and Washwood Heath is the perfect site to house what he proposes, rather than the HS2 marshalling yard.

My right hon. Friend was right to say that all the Opposition Members present have been great supporters of HS2. I had the great privilege to serve with my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) on the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, which was a step forward in securing the high-speed line. We believe it is important to secure that because it will create a new transport mechanism for the whole country. More importantly, it will allow us to create valuable jobs.

Like nowhere else, Birmingham has facilities available, and we are prepared. We have engineering capability in our city. In my constituency, we have an advanced manufacturing zone that currently supports a lot of the great work being done in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) by supplying Jaguar Land Rover. We want to see more people there because that would allow us to build more capacity to support the services that my

18 Jun 2014 : Column 74WH

right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill mentioned. If a broad base were already set up, it would make that much easier. Birmingham would be far more advanced than any other city. That is why it is important that we do this.

I agree with my right hon. Friend that we need local job agreements, as such agreements are important to our constituents. As a nation, we are providing a huge infrastructure and, ultimately, our constituents and the people of this country should benefit more than anyone else. Most other places have such agreements, and we should seek to deal with that issue in our discussions on the European Union stipulations. It is important that we do that to move forward.

Just to prove a point about what we do in Birmingham, Perry Barr, I was hugely privileged earlier this year when we got a brand new Engineering Employers Federation training facility, which the EEF paid for itself—the EEF received no grants for that at all. It is a fantastic new training centre off Holford drive in my constituency, and it regularly takes on more than 300 new trainees from companies that still serve our great city and the region. They are trained on a 34-week programme in proper engineering facilities. We need to get back to the days when we had proper manufacturing machinery: computer numerically controlled lathes and millers, normal milling machines, welding equipment and all those things that we tend to forget and walk past. They are the tools that provide engineering skills and capability. It is important for us to consider the way in which engineering has built Birmingham, and we need to get back to that.

Huge improvements have been made by Jaguar Land Rover. When it was said that we could not carry on with manufacturing, it was a complete fallacy, as has been proved by the new management at Jaguar Land Rover. Birmingham and the people of Birmingham can do it, as has been proved time and again. We have facilities and further education institutions in the city. We have South and City college, which serves both my constituency and the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill. Indeed, he also has a construction centre operated by South and City college in his constituency. I am sure that the college will be able to step up to the plate and provide more national vocational qualification level 3 training facilities, which are hugely needed.

We have facilities that will enable us to move forward and provide the support that an engineering base needs in Birmingham. We have done that, and Birmingham is far ahead of any other city. As my right hon. Friend said, it is important that we create jobs in Birmingham. It has been forgotten for too long nationally. Other cities have prospered that, with all due respect, do not have the facilities and skills that Birmingham has had traditionally. I can declare that because I trained at Delta Metals when I was a lot younger than I am now. I went through an apprenticeship, and it was a great place for manufacturing and engineering, which allowed me to progress.

It is important that we encourage the entrepreneurs of the future. As my colleagues have said, entrepreneurs such as James Watt developed the engineering skills that allowed this country, and at that time the empire, to move forward. If we are to move forward as a nation, we need to get back to the principles of making things

18 Jun 2014 : Column 75WH

that add value. Engineering and manufacturing do that, and we certainly have those capabilities. Birmingham has—excuse the pun—a huge track record of delivering engineering, and I support my right hon. Friend.

10.5 am

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) on securing this important and timely debate. He has consistently drawn attention to the impact that the proposed maintenance depot could have on his constituency and on Birmingham as a whole, and he has presented a powerful case this morning, ably supported by my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood).

Today’s debate is especially well timed because Birmingham city council and Centro will be the first organisations to have their petitions heard by the Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill. I am sure that, as a consequence, many interested parties will be following this morning’s proceedings with even closer attention than usual. I take this opportunity to congratulate Birmingham, along with Derby, Manchester and Doncaster, on reaching the shortlist for hosting the proposed high-speed rail further education college. All my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr, talked about Birmingham’s track record, and the things that will allow it to make a strong case as the competition proceeds.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, made it clear in his opening speech that he is a strong supporter of High Speed 2, and I am grateful for his powerful contributions on Second Reading of the hybrid Bill and in the Adjournment debate he secured last January. He is entirely right to make the case for the project while seeking the best possible outcomes for his constituency and for Birmingham, but I will say a few words about the benefits that HS2 will bring not only to that city but to the wider west midlands before returning to the specific issues of Washwood Heath.

Birmingham’s economic health is closely tied to the operational health of the west coast main line, which is a vital economic artery for the region. As hon. Members for the west midlands know all too well, the west coast main line is also where our capacity constraints are most acutely felt. Passenger numbers have doubled over the past 20 years, placing enormous demands on our infrastructure. The railways are carrying the same number of passengers as they did in the 1920s on a network less than half the size, and the west coast main line is now the busiest passenger and freight rail line in Europe. Network Rail has warned that by 2024 the line will “effectively be full.” As record passenger growth continues, the day of reckoning may arrive sooner.

Annual passenger growth has averaged 5% over the past decade, but the Office of Rail Regulation recently confirmed that passenger numbers grew by 5.7% last year. The reality of those numbers is borne out by the thousands of commuters who are left standing every day as their trains approach Birmingham and other cities. The difficulty of running more commuter trains

18 Jun 2014 : Column 76WH

over mixed-use tracks, on which they have to compete with freight and fast inter-city services for paths, is well understood. By contrast, the process whereby local trains are squeezed off the network completely has not been well reported, but its effects are already being felt in the west midlands.

Geoff Inskip, the chief executive of Centro, told MPs last year that after the £9 billion west coast modernisation project some communities actually received a worse service than before:

“If we look back at the timetable changes that took place in December 2008, we put in more services to London, but those were at the expense of local services. Therefore we had worsening of service frequencies at local stations and loss of direct local services between, for example, the black country and Birmingham airport and Coventry.”––[Official Report, High Speed Rail (Preparation) Public Bill Committee, 9 July 2013; c. 18, Q32.]

Looking at those changes in detail, we see that Walsall lost its half-hourly service to Birmingham International airport. Both Walsall and Cannock lost their direct trains to the north beyond Rugeley Trent Valley, and there was a worsening of journey times on the line from Birmingham to Northampton.

I recently visited Barlaston station on the west coast main line and saw for myself what the consequences will be if that process is followed through to its logical extreme. A passenger train last stopped at Barlaston, just south of Stoke-on-Trent, in 2003. Services were suspended to allow work on the west coast modernisation project, and they have remained suspended ever since, in part because its paths have been reassigned to enable more inter-city trains.

Nearby Stone managed to reopen its station in 2008, and it has seen a dramatic increase in usage, but following a recent change in timetables, a journey from Barlaston to Stoke on the official bus replacement service takes around an hour, whereas the same trip would have taken five minutes by train. That is a particularly stark example of the effect that the capacity crunch is having on the network, and it can also be seen in Birmingham. Attempts to reopen the Camp Hill line, which served important communities in the south of the city, such as Moseley and Kings Heath, have been repeatedly frustrated by the lack of spare capacity at New Street station.

As the pressures on the network grow, we need action to prevent local services and freight trains from being squeezed off the network completely. Given the experience of the west coast modernisation project, which cost the taxpayer at least £9 billion and 10 years of disruption, a high-speed line is the best solution. The clear message is that there is a real need for more capacity on our railways, both to allow grade separation of traffic and to accommodate growing demand for inter-city, commuter and freight services.

We also need to plan ahead to make sure that our cities maximise the benefits that HS2 will bring. When I visited Birmingham in March, I was struck, as I think anyone would be, by the scale and vision of its plans for regenerating the Eastside area and integrating the Curzon Street station with local public transport. I hope that through the petitioning process a stronger consensus will be achieved between the city council, Centro, and HS2 Ltd on the best way to achieve those aims.

The petitions of Birmingham city council, the national exhibition centre, Centro and Birmingham airport all make it clear that they strongly support the principle of

18 Jun 2014 : Column 77WH

building HS2, but they are, understandably, seeking changes that they believe will maximise those local benefits, as my hon. Friends have done today. I do not propose to go through all the modifications that they are seeking, although I take some pride in the fact that it was Opposition Front Benchers who secured an assurance from the Government—from the Minister—that the Select Committee would be able to hear petitions related to passive provision for a future link to HS1, something that I know the city has been concerned about.

The council seeks changes for the Washwood Heath site. It is vital that it receives a fair hearing when it gives evidence to the Bill Committee. Specifically, it is asking: for a minimised land take for the depot; for provision for training and skills development; and for the HS2 network’s control centre to be based at the site. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, has previously said that Washwood Heath represents a third of all brownfield land that is suitable for industrial development in Birmingham. Unemployment is clearly a serious problem in the surrounding area. As the former site of the LDV works and those of Metro Cammell—later Alstom—the land has a proud manufacturing history, so the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington, about the need for not only jobs, but good, high-quality jobs, are absolutely understood.

The site has been cleared for redevelopment, so it makes sense to minimise the land that HS2 will require as far as is reasonably practical, and to reach an early decision on the overall footprint of the proposed train maintenance depot. Of course, it is an important principle that the Select Committee should be able to govern its own affairs, and we should not seek to prejudice its decisions, but I am sure that the promoter, HS2 Ltd, has taken a careful note of the arguments put forward this morning.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, said that regeneration and economic development are an essential part of the HS2 project, and he rightly calls for clarity on job creation and training opportunities. Presumably, this is a matter that can be explored in more depth through the Government’s long-awaited jobs and skills strategy. When I last asked the Minister about the report’s progress, he said:

“We expect it to be set out in more detail in the latter part of 2014.”—[Official Report, 26 February 2014; Vol. 576, c. 388W.]

That was in February. Can the Minister confirm today that the report is still on course to be produced in 2014, and is he able to give a more precise date for its publication?

I would also like to ask a question about the network control centre. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, secured a debate on this matter in 2013, the then Transport Minister, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), said:

“There is also the potential to locate the HS2 control centre at Washwood Heath, generating a further 100 jobs.”—[Official Report, 25 January 2013; Vol. 557, c. 644.]

Indeed, that is one of the requests that Birmingham city council made in its petition, but HS2 Ltd’s rolling stock depot and stabling strategy, which was published in April, stated:

18 Jun 2014 : Column 78WH

“The HS2 network control centre will also be located on the Washwood Heath site.”

Will the Minister confirm that the matter has now been settled? Does he have confidence in the figure of 650 jobs being directly created at the site, and what estimate has he made of the indirect job creation, both when the line is built and in the run-up? My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, rightly asked for ambition and certainty, and I hope that the Minister will respond positively today.

HS2 will bring great benefits to Birmingham. It will place the city at the physical and operational heart of the national high-speed network; it will create and support thousands of jobs and provide new links to our country’s great cities. As a Nottingham MP, I know how poor those links can be, and that HS2 would revolutionise the connections between the east and west midlands.

Labour supports HS2, but, given the scale of public investment involved, it is essential that value for money is maintained, and that the petitioning process looks at the specific objections that have been made and at the arguments put forward today. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, who has brought these issues to national attention, and I look forward to the Minister addressing the questions that have been raised.

10.16 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) on securing this debate on the location of the HS2 rolling stock maintenance depot at Washwood Heath. There is no doubt he speaks with genuine passion and conviction on behalf of his constituents. I know how important the area is for jobs and regeneration in his constituency. I hope that he will accept that we closely share his interest in maximising the benefits that the site can deliver. I also understand the history and heritage of the site. Indeed, I suspect he might wish me to point out that locomotives were also built in Glasgow, as well as in the north-east and Leeds. This country has a great engineering heritage. Of course, it has been the home of many great vehicles over the years, culminating in the Leyland Sherpa. Many will remember the LDV vehicles.

Before I go into the proposed use of the site for HS2 and what is being done to maximise the economic benefits for that area, I want to say again how important the Government believe HS2 is for the country. I appreciate the points made by the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood). The two main parties share the view that HS2 is important.

HS2 is a crucial part of our plans to develop the right infrastructure for future economic growth. HS2 will create 24,600 jobs during construction and maintenance, support 100,000 jobs around stations and depots, and create up to 2,000 opportunities for apprentices. In fact, some external estimates are even higher, with some predicting that HS2 will underpin the delivery of 400,000 jobs, and 70 per cent of jobs supported by HS2 are expected to be outside London. I am sure the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill will agree that, while benefiting the whole country, HS2 offers significant opportunities for those in the west midlands area and in his constituency.

18 Jun 2014 : Column 79WH

The new terminus station at Curzon Street, the interchange station near Birmingham airport, and the west coast main line will put Birmingham and Solihull at the centre of the country’s transport infrastructure, creating huge opportunities for growth in the area. The Curzon Street station will be a catalyst for the development of the Eastside area of the city and offers real regeneration potential for the Digbeth area. The interchange station will act as a focus for the economic development plans of local authorities and the area’s local enterprise partnership. HS2 will bring construction jobs and operational jobs when the line is open. It will support wider jobs and wealth creation, improving the prospects for businesses and people across the west midlands.

HS2 could help to support growth in employment of more than 8,000 jobs in the regeneration and development areas around the Birmingham stations. Centro estimates that the figure will be closer to 10,000 jobs, with as many as 22,000 jobs created in the wider region once phase 2 is completed and economic output increasing by £1.5 billion.

The right hon. Gentleman’s constituency will also benefit. The Washwood Heath rolling stock maintenance depot will itself create employment in this area; approximately 640 jobs will be created and I am pleased to confirm that figure. These are not jobs that are dependent on the realisation of commercial opportunities or other redevelopment of the site. They are real jobs linked to a funded scheme that has the backing of Parliament. Bringing the depot to this site, which has an historic association with the railway, will kick-start the wider regeneration of the area.

The right hon. Gentleman raised questions in relation to the selection of the site for the rolling stock maintenance depot. I reassure him that a vigorous process for the identification of the site has been undertaken. A number of technical requirements informed much of the site selection process. Additionally, the key factors influencing the site selection process included location, size, access to the HS2 network and sustainability. The initial assessment concluded that a west midlands location was more appropriate than a site in the London area.

Mr Byrne: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way with characteristic generosity. He outlined the criteria that were used to conclude that Washwood Heath was the right site. I know that he cares about the interests of the taxpayer, as I do. I could not help but notice that he did not include on that list any assessment of the extra business rates that could be developed and delivered through alternative use of this site, and he did not flag up any savings to the unemployment bill, although savings of £74 million a year could be achieved through alternative development of the site. Therefore, I am concerned, as I know he will be, that there should be a holistic, whole-of-Government, whole-of-taxpayer analysis of whether the site is the right one and not simply an analysis based on the narrow and particular concerns of HS2 Ltd. If he is not able to bring forward such a whole-of-Government assessment of costs today, will he undertake to do so in due course?

Mr Goodwill: The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. However, looking at the wider economic area of the west midlands, there have been tremendous opportunities for investment. Jaguar Land Rover is

18 Jun 2014 : Column 80WH

building an engine plant and there are other big investments coming in. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood), said, we have finally got it and understood that manufacturing jobs and making things in this country for export is very important. That is how, in many ways, we have created jobs in this country. The unemployment figure falls month after month after month, and the number of people claiming benefit falls month after month after month. That is in marked contrast to the record of the previous Government, who seemed to bet the farm on the City of London and jobs in financial services.

Perhaps I can outline to the right hon. Gentleman why we feel this site is the best site, and the operational considerations that were factored into the decision to house the depot at Washwood Heath. Those considerations include the need for trains to slow down as they approach the depot, which means it is operationally better for the depot to be on a slow section of the route. Washwood Heath is also close to Curzon Street station, where trains will start their journey. If the depot were located on a section of the route where trains do not start their journey, the train running costs would be increased.

After the assessment, a long list of potential sites in the west midlands area were identified and evaluated. That resulted in a shortlist of sites and a further evaluation to enable a preferred option—Washwood Heath—to be identified as the most suitable rolling stock depot location.

Washwood Heath was selected as a preferred option because of its proximity to the Curzon Street station; it is situated off the main HS2 line of route; and the site is centrally placed within a future national high-speed network. From a sustainability perspective, the site is not in the green belt. The process is documented in HS2 Ltd’s report entitled, “Rolling Stock Maintenance Depot Selection”, which was prepared in September 2010.

Recognising the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns and those of the landowners at Washwood Heath, which have emerged since the selection process that I have just described, HS2 Ltd updated its assessment, looking at the concerns raised and the alternative sites proposed for the rolling stock maintenance depot. That assessment concluded that Washwood Heath remained the preferred option for the depot, and it was considered by Ministers in May 2013. That conclusion was largely due to the fact that Washwood Heath is operationally better than other sites that were considered.

The remaining question is how best to utilise the residual land at Washwood Heath that will not be required for the depot, to deliver the benefits to the local area that the right hon. Gentleman rightly seeks for his constituency. Once the railway is constructed, approximately 16 hectares—that is 40 acres in English—of land will be available for development purposes, and HS2 Ltd is continuing to work with Birmingham city council to maximise both the amount of residual land and the employment opportunities that can be brought to the area.

Through the west midlands HS2 strategic board and its jobs and skills working group, HS2 Ltd is working closely with both Birmingham city council and a broader group of stakeholders to maximise the employment and skills opportunities that HS2 will create. That process includes the development of an HS2 jobs and skills charter, and an HS2 jobs and skills master plan. We have already heard that Birmingham is on the shortlist

18 Jun 2014 : Column 81WH

of four locations for the HS2 skills academy, the further education college that will be very important in delivering the skills training required to ensure that British people have the skills to take the jobs that become available through the HS2 project.

During the construction of HS2, the nominated undertaker will ensure, in so far as it is lawful to do so, equality of opportunity to encourage the recruitment of local, disadvantaged or under-represented groups. That is in accordance with the HS2 sustainability policy, which states that contractors will work with HS2 Ltd to improve skills, jobs, education and the economy through its investment along the route.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the impact on businesses that are based on the Washwood Heath site. UK Mail, formerly Business Post, has its headquarters and national distribution hub on the site, which is why HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport have successfully agreed a package of advanced compensation with the company to allow it to relocate to a purpose-built facility at Ryton in Coventry, which is currently under construction. That site is about 20 miles away from the Washwood site. UK Mail is also proposing to open a north Birmingham hub that is close to the proposed site, which will create approximately 70 jobs.

In addition, HS2 Ltd is in discussions with the other major landowners, including Cemex, regarding their acquisition and relocation, and it has published a business relocation policy that underpins that activity. I should also point out that, if I were in the business of manufacturing concrete sleepers, I would see a very prosperous and successful future ahead, given the unprecedented investment that we have put into the existing rail network as well as into high-speed rail, which is on the horizon. Indeed, we are investing £38 billion to improve the classic rail network.

Mr Byrne: The Minister says that Cemex has a bright future and he was absolutely right to say so. I was therefore highly alarmed to read the letter to me from Cemex, which said that, given the strategic importance of Cemex to the reconstruction of our railway system, the company is incredibly frustrated that no specific detailed plans have come forward from HS2 Ltd to address what is now a pressing need to develop relocation strategies. Cemex also makes the point that securing planning permission for a new site for its business will take about two years; that is how long it takes to get planning permission for that kind of business. Therefore, the prospect of a closure in the short term without clarity about the long term is not only a matter for Cemex and the 300 or 400 people whom it employs but a matter of strategic criticality to the Minister’s plans and ambitions for railway construction.

Mr Goodwill: I absolutely understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes and I will ask HS2 Ltd to give me an update on the progress of those negotiations. Obviously, the time scale for building the project is a long one, and I hope that that will allow an opportunity for Cemex and other businesses that are affected up and down the route to be able to ensure continuity of operation and employment.

18 Jun 2014 : Column 82WH

HS2 Ltd is in active discussions with AXA, Birmingham city council and others, to identify and resolve as many ongoing concerns as is reasonably practical.

Lilian Greenwood: I specifically asked about the jobs and skills strategy, which the Minister mentioned, and when that might be published. He also mentioned the jobs and skills charter and the jobs and skills master plan, which I am not sure that I have seen. Will he say a bit more about those and when they might be in the public domain?

Mr Goodwill: I undertook to publish that information by the end of 2014 and that is still the case, although I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Lady more detail on the date. However, if HS2 Ltd tells me that that information is available, I will give it to her.

HS2 Ltd has met Cemex a number of times since March 2014, with a view to making progress on relocating the business under the code. The next meeting is on Monday 23 June.

Taxpayer analysis is difficult—the right hon. Gentleman talked about how to weigh up the costs of unemployment and everything else—when based on aspiration about jobs, rather than real jobs on this site, so I am not sure whether we can agree a firm basis or set of assumptions upon which the type of analysis requested could take place. To be fair, assessment would also need to include employment opportunity costs and costs of alternative sites. Just because this site would not be available, say, for an overseas investor, does not mean that investment would not come into the United Kingdom: it could go to a number of possible sites around the country, including in the west midlands.

HS2 Ltd is meeting Birmingham city council and Centro as we speak. I am sure that the issues raised by the right hon. Gentleman, including maximising the regeneration of the residual land, will be on the agenda.

I confirm that the control centre will be based on the Washwood Heath site. The 640 jobs are to be created at the depot and we estimate that between 870 and 1,700 jobs could be created on the residual land.

It is also important that we get the terminology correct, to ensure that we all have a consistent understanding of the plans for the Washwood Heath site. The term “marshalling yard”, which is often used by the right hon. Gentleman, underplays the investment of more than £100 million in this area and the range of entry level, intermediate, technical and professional jobs that that will create.

I am afraid that I need to apologise to the right hon. Gentleman, because I have to reiterate the difference between aspirational plans that could create jobs, and the Government’s detailed plans to create actual jobs on the site.

Mr Byrne: I thank the Minister for giving way to me a third time. I should welcome his views on whether the way through is to agree that, given the opportunity cost of developing the site in the way that he proposes and given the clear risk of economic damage, the jobs and growth plan that he has undertaken to publish by the end of the year should include a defined level of ambition for creating jobs in east Birmingham. That would be the least he could do. As part of that, there should not

18 Jun 2014 : Column 83WH

simply be a plan for the residual land, because as he knows that land does not become available until the 2020s. He will be as concerned as I am with the blueprints, which he will have seen, to put 8 hectares of balancing pond on this land. I love a good lake as much as the Minister, but in east Birmingham we need jobs, not lakes. The great River Tame runs alongside the north of the site, so taking 8 hectares of balancing pond out of the equation would be a good idea.

I hope that, as the Minister develops the jobs and growth plan, we can agree that there should be a defined level of ambition for east Birmingham and we should not simply be talking about the residual land. We should be looking to minimise the land take during the construction period, because, of course, that is the here and now.

Mr Goodwill: I will certainly ask HS2 Ltd whether it needs all the residual land for the construction of the project. Of course, the cost of not having an operationally viable rolling stock maintenance depot is that we will not have a viable project. I have already outlined the benefits to the UK economy in general and the west midlands economy in particular from HS2. Indeed, if HS2 were not to go ahead, hundreds of thousands of jobs would be at risk.

The right hon. Gentleman suggested that 5,000 or 7,000 jobs could be created on the site, but our opinion is that such employment densities are unlikely to be achieved. It is unlikely that manufacturing users would necessarily achieve higher employment densities on the site and, certainly, it is unlikely such densities would be secured for 100% of the site. Our consultants estimate that a figure of 3,700 jobs is more likely.

Mr Byrne: That is a big number.

Mr Goodwill: It is quite a big number. However, warehousing and similar development on sites throughout the country would undercut the level of jobs aspired to.

In response to the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns in relation to Jaguar Land Rover, I confirm that, while the area is safeguarded, there are no plans to take out this yard. I am pleased that Jaguar Land Rover continues to be successful. I have had six of their products over the years and am very proud of Jaguar Land Rover and what it is doing. There is a tunnel in the area where the Jaguar Land Rover freight road is located.

Jack Dromey: The Minister helpfully disclosed the Government’s own assessment of the potential to create 3,700 jobs. Will he confirm that their estimate of what could happen is four times greater than the proposal currently on the table for the marshalling yard, if it goes ahead?

Mr Goodwill: Indeed. We have been absolutely honest about this. The density of employment in the yard, under the proposals, is not as high as the density under high-value engineering or even warehousing or other uses for the site. However, the advantages to the west

18 Jun 2014 : Column 84WH

midlands as a whole from this project will bring jobs to the area. At the moment, month after month, more jobs are being created in the private sector, which have more than compensated for jobs lost in the public sector.

The 6 hectares of balancing pond is critical infrastructure to help manage flood risk in the area. Any development in the land would need to deal with water attenuation. This is not unique to the use of the land as a depot. It is important, from a water management point of view, that something is done about water if large areas of concrete are being laid on the land.

Mr Byrne: The Minister will be familiar with the site, although possibly not as familiar as I am. I am sure that he recognises that the great River Tame runs alongside the north boundary of the site. He will have his work cut out justifying that 6 or 8 hectares of balancing pond are needed to manage the flood risk, when there is a mighty river to the north of the boundary.

I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the 3,700 figure and for confirming to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) that that is four times the number that will be created under current plans. I am grateful that the Minister has accepted that the jobs and growth plan could include a defined level of ambition for job creation in east Birmingham. Does he agree that 3,700 is the right ambition that we should be shooting for, as a job-creation target, and will he confirm that when introducing his plans during 2014?

Mr Goodwill: I am slightly nervous to challenge any figures given by a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, given that his figures were so correct when he was in that role. I should like to make it clear that the aspiration for 3,700 jobs is based on floor-space density. However, the depot itself will create 640 jobs and the residual land will have the potential to create 1,700 jobs. That is 2,340 jobs on the site. Real jobs are being created through this project, not aspirational jobs, which would be great to have, but in some cases could be pie in the sky.

We and HS2 Ltd are working hard not only to implement a scheme that will bring the widest possible benefits to the country as a whole, but to help all those who will be affected. HS2 Ltd is already engaged with those parties who have raised concerns through the petition management process on the rolling stock maintenance depot at Washwood Heath, and we remain committed to working with those parties as we move to the Select Committee process. In that regard, HS2 Ltd’s intention is to continue to work with Birmingham city council and key landowners to enable the rolling stock maintenance depot to co-exist with additional employment uses, thereby maximising the economic benefits of the land. The Government and HS2 Ltd will continue to support the right hon. Gentleman’s aspirations for Washwood Heath, with the rolling stock maintenance depot integral to those plans.

10.41 am

Sitting suspended.

action centre