The Liberal Democrats must become the champions of the Northern Powerhouse
I had the pleasure of speaking at the North West Liberal Democrat conference on Saturday and used the opportunity to champion the cause of the Northern Powerhouse.
Since Theresa May’s ascension to 10 Downing Street, the Northern Powerhouse agenda has gone very quiet, with just a few mentions and some small policy initiatives being announced.
It’s my view that the Liberal Democrats should naturally take on the role of Powerhouse Champions and my speech called for that and more.
You can read my speech below:
Conference, I’d like to thank Lord Stunell for bringing this motion forward and also to Ian for the amendment which I also agree with.
I’m going to make a strange comment for a Liberal Democrat and that is to praise the work of the former Chancellor George Osborne. Along with our Liberal Democrat colleagues in Government, it was his leadership and drive that made the otherwise North-phobic Conservatives pay attention to our region and understand the masses of potential it has.
And, I am sad to say, this influence has never been more obvious since his departure from Government.
We need to keep the pressure on and ensure that our region gets a deal that will not only ensure the sustainability and growth of North but of the entire country.
For example, our West/East transport links are vital for the country’s freight sector that importers and exporters desperately rely on – it is absolute madness that a journey between two of our most important dock areas, Liverpool and Hull, should take over 3 hours by train when you can do a similar journey from Paris to Brussels in just over one and a half. It makes perfect sense for our Government to make fixing this a priority.
However, this leads on to my next point. The Northern Powerhouse is in huge danger of turning into nothing more than a grand transport strategy.
So I want to see the Northern Powerhouse deliver more and better houses. We have a huge housing crisis in the North West and this is partly down to our outdated planning laws – so why not drive reform to make sure that the correct types of houses are being built in areas of strategic and economic importance.
What about energy, water and high-speed broadband? The Conservatives and Labour have failed monumentally to engage our utilities companies. Without access to water, heating, electricity and the internet we simply cannot function, so let’s get these providers round the table and work out what’s needed to ensure we can cope with the demand.
The IPPR recently stated that the energy economy could be worth up to £15bn and over 100,000 jobs if we prioritised green energy – so let’s take this challenge on! The North has some of the best universities in the country as well as the most fertile ground for energy innovation. Our access to tidal, wind and marine energy is unparalleled, so let’s challenge our universities and get them involved by developing our workforce, particularly in green energy, to ensure the Northern Powerhouse is sustainable over decades not just years.
In short, please support this motion and yes, please support the amendment because any policy programme this large will need a degree of regional oversight. But let’s not just vote it through and wait, let’s keep challenging and become the champions of the Northern Powerhouse.