London draining life out of rest of country - Vince Cable

Vince Cable

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London "is becoming a giant suction machine draining the life out of the rest of the country", Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned.

Mr Cable made the comment while saying that he believed regional airports should be expanded rather than London's Heathrow Airport.

The Lib Dem minister told BBC Radio 4's Today some "more balance" was needed.

But Mayor of London Boris Johnson said Mr Cable's assertion was "stupefying and ridiculous".

And Labour criticised the coalition for "dismantling" regional developments agencies, arguing that its alternative approach to addressing economic imbalances in the UK had been "feeble".

Mr Cable, whose constituency includes Heathrow flight paths, has long opposed plans for a new runway there.

Start Quote

It's no good him talking about regional imbalances when his government dismantled the institutions that were addressing that”

End Quote Chuka Umunna Shadow business secretary

He was speaking after Sir Howard Davies' Airport Commission shortlisted three options for expanding UK airport capacity, two of which involved Heathrow.

With much of the business world in favour of more airport capacity in south-east England, Mr Cable was asked whether he stuck by his opposition to expansion at his local airport.


He said: "What this report is doing [is] trying to reconcile two different things.

"One is to try to ensure that, for the economic interests of the country, we have more connection to the big emerging markets.

"On the other hand we have hundreds of thousands of people in London living under the flight path with very serious issues of noise.

"All the parties have made it very clear that we can't make that problem worse."

The "way forward", he argued, was to make "more use of provincial airports".

Mr Cable described Sir Howard's report as "very well argued".

But he added: "One of the big problems that we have at the moment, which I don't think the report sufficiently addresses, is that London is becoming a kind of giant suction machine, draining the life out of the rest of the country.

"More balance in that respect would be helpful."

Key figures for London and UK compared

Shadow business secretary and Labour MP for Streatham in London, Chuka Umunna, said: "It's no good him talking about regional imbalances when his government dismantled the institutions that were addressing that - Regional Development Agencies - then put feeble substitutes in their place in the form of Local Enterprise Partnerships which they gave no powers to nor appropriate budgets."

The London mayor, who also opposes Heathrow expansion, described Mr Cable as "the cabinet minister in charge of supposedly growing the UK economy".

He argued: "He's talking rubbish. I'm amazed and I fundamentally disagree. In fact the opposite is true: London now contributes more to UK GDP than ever before.

"This city is the motor of the UK economy, and the gateway to recovery across the country, attracting record levels of overseas investment, all of which is helping not hindering recovery.

"Far from being a drain on the the rest of the UK London is helping to drive job creation and growth outside the capital as well as in it."

The BBC's former economics editor, Stephanie Flanders, explored the issue of London v provincial cities in this film for BBC One's The Editors

During the Today programme interview Mr Cable made clear that he would argue "ferociously" in government against Heathrow expansion but said it was not a matter over which he would be prepared to resign.

The final Airports Commission report is due by summer 2015, after the next general election.

The rise and fall of unemployment around the UK since 2005
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Claimant count - June 2012


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  • rate this

    Comment number 857.

    Boris misses the point and then confirms what Cable is saying.

    'London now contributes more to UK GDP than ever before'.

    Yes Boris - and why is that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 856.

    Having read a lot of the comments, many have said that London is economically supporting the rest of the country.

    Did the whole of the UK recently not have to bail out the City of London to the tune of £50 Billion+? We will all be paying that for a long time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 855.

    Does Vince support HS2? That will suck even more people to london from the north.

  • rate this

    Comment number 854.

    The only reason London is a major financial centre is because our laws allow banks to commit fraud 5 different ways to Sunday. Vince Cable is correct to say what he did; except that the London city banksters and their QE funded social security are sucking the life out of the whole economy. I suspect the hyper-inflated bond market will tip over the edge by 2015.

  • rate this

    Comment number 853.

    Tried to buy a map of the UK while in London....Just has a diagram of london on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 852.

    Brian @ 791:
    I couldn't have put it any better, totally nailed it regarding the HSYers.

    LIv: @ 789:
    Sorry about your experience.
    Strange though that I have lived in Central London for 23 years and haven't been mugged once.
    Also cycle everywhere and never even had a contact with a car.
    (Fell once but that was just me).
    Never have been followed by dodgy character either.
    I assume you won't be back?

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.

    @834.CURTAINS 2012
    Just now
    813.A Matter of Time

    Boris Johnson is the UK's finest son.

    He could stand for the USA's presidency as was born there.

    Boris is entertaining, great on quiz shows. Our finest son? No Boris is underneath the Benny From crossroads act pretty dangerous given any real power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    Please stop characterising London as being made up solely of fatcat bankers, super-rich non-doms and politicians. For every one of them, there are a hundred thousand ordinary people trying to make ends meet, and who have to put up with their ilk (well, except the non-doms whose empty flats are just there taking up space...).

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    For once I agree with Mr Cable. One only has to take a walk around inner London to see capital expenditure projects at every turn. The place oozes investment. Now stop off in Northampton, Nottingham or Newcastle and contrast the difference. Politicians of all parties need to realise there's life north of Watford. And an awful lot of untapped potential too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    Blumin' heck, if I hear the quote "need to connect to emerging markets" anymore I'm going to puke. If the people of the South East want to live in a giant car park then let 'em. We used to be told that the US was a 'brain drain' to the UK, well London IS a 'brain drain' to the rest of the UK. We need a more Federal approach to the UK, with regional powers for those in the North and West...

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    London and the South East are grossly overstretched in so many ways. The rest of the country has spare 'capacity'.

    In the 1960's there was proper regional policy, which encouraged much activity that didn't need to be in London out to the regions. Such policy should be a standard component of every government's portfolio.

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    On the topic of increasing the airports at Heathrow or Gatwick which appear to be favoured options. Some research into where people who use these airports are going to or coming form (within the UK) who I imagine show that there location is not best placed for the traveller. Extension to provincial airports so access to long haul flights is available for the population that use them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    We should do what Australia did and build a Capital city in the middle of the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    London sucking the life out of the rest of the country? It is an old argument - at least 350 years old (see "The Grand Concern of England Explained...." 1673). It has always been wrong. Does anyone really think Britain would be wealthier if London did not exist? Just the opposite - the country would be a backwater. Vince Cable is being uncharacteristically dim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    Must say the BBC is doing really this well, inciting now a hate of London as well as a HYS on generations that caused mayhem.

    The name of the game is divide and conquer. Unless we come together with a common cause, will will march, spitting and hissing at each other, into a totalitarian state the like we've never seen before.

    London is NOT the UK, it is an elitist playground

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    "Far from being a drain on the the rest of the UK London is helping to drive job creation and growth outside the capital as well as in it."

    Maybe somewhere else would do that, if it had a major airport. Maybe the job would be done better. What is does not tell us what might be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 841.

    Greater London is about 13% of the population and 18% of the GDP (not 80% as someone has incorrectly stated). Therefore, it clearly contibutes above the average. However, the danger of focussing in on one area is that we lose the potential of the whole of the UK. We need to recognise that London is the biggest contributor to the economy, but is still only a small part of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 840.

    London is such a nasty dirty hovel of a city, i do not know why anyoen would want to invest in such a concrete jungle, full of immoral bankers and politicians etc...
    we need to knock half of London down again it has become such a horrid place to go.
    always hated overcrowded big cities like this they are deviod of any real life or even anything nice to look at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 839.

    796.I am an Ape Man
    London. All fur coat and no knickers.

    You make that sound like that's a bad thing ; - )

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    Finally an MP saying what everyone outside of London has been saying for years!!! UK is dying yet London is thriving!!


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