THE NORTH could be at the heart of a “fourth industrial revolution”, Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry told workers at a Sheffield engineering firm.
Mr Berry was on the latest stop of a three-day tour of northern businesses, which included trips to ABP Ports in Immingham, Arco in Hull and Produmax in Shipley today.
During a question and answer session at aerospace and nuclear engineering firm CW Fletcher, he told staff that the Northern Powerhouse was about creating a northern economy that their “children and grandchildren” would want to work in, rather than heading to the south for work.
He told them: “The people of the north are taking responsibility for shaping their own destiny.
He said the north, historically at the forefront of previous “leaps forward” in terms of industry and the economy, could be at the heart of a “fourth industrial revolution”.
“We can support this,” he told the group of around 60 staff on the shop floor, “because Britain needs the North to succeed.”
He also reflected on transport, saying it had “been an issue”, his entire life in the North, and that the Government had committed more than any other in history to transport in the north, £13bn.
But, he said, the Northern Powerhouse “was not about the Conservative party, not about politics, but about place.
“Like Bill Shankly used to say, ‘it’s not about life or death, it’s about more than that’, and this is about you, me, and all of us succeeding.”
His comments on transport came a day after a director of Sirius Mineral, the company building a polyhalite mine near Whitby, warned the north’s failing transport network was letting it down, and having an operational impact on business.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Mr Berry said: “Problems of transport across the north of England are not new. It’s a long-term problem and the great thing about the approach we’re taking with the Northern Powerhouse is acknowledging those challenges, setting out with Transport for the North a long-term plan including big projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail, but at the same time there’s real investment taking place today in our existing transport infrastructure.
“£13bn is more money that any Government in history, that will all be spent by 2021 and I think people are already beginning to mark some of those changes.”
Those projects, he said, included improvements to the M62, the commitments to create the A1M as a motorway all the way from London to Newcastle, and work on the M6 and M60 in the North West.
“What we’re fighting against is a long term, historic, under-investment in transport infrastructure,” he said.
“I am absolutely focussed on supporting the Government in delivering those transport infrastructure improvements, because, when you talk to businesses and people across the north of England, they identify it as being a real challenge to economic growth and the Northern Powerhouse is about creating economic growth, we therefore must rise to this challenge.”
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which coordinated the visit, told the Yorkshire Post said Mr Berry’s trip was about making people of the north “feel part of the ambition” of the Northern Powerhouse.
“If this is genuinely going to transform the lives of future generations, the parents and grandparents of today need to believe it and instil that ambition in their kids.”